Text Varpu Somersalo
Starting from curricula reformations
AgriSCALE is a project for reforming agribusiness curricula in the partner universities, and central part of the reformations is guiding the teachers in using problem-based learning (PBL) methods. The trainings are about 21st century skills and competence-based curricula. PBL trainings started virtually in December 2020 with Gulu University, Uganda, and Jomo Kenyatta University, Kenya. In each training session, there were about 8–10 participants, from managers to students.
“The trainings are built so that the participants have an active role. First, there is a short theory session with examples. Then we have discussions and actual hands-on work with the curricula”, says PBL trainer Ulla-Maija Knuutti from Häme University of Applied Sciences.
“It is a fact well known that PBL must be the pedagogical base in the curriculum. We all – teachers and students – are too familiar with the teacher-centred and lecture-based approach, and there is a risk of going back there if there is no curriculum-level support and scaffolds for PBL. That is why the PBL trainings in AgriSCALE start from the curricula”, Knuutti continues.
A fruitful training session at Gulu University
Dr Basil Mugonola, Senior Lecturer in Rural Development and Agribusiness at Gulu University, was one of the participants. “During the training, we discussed the programme objectives and learning outcomes. Through the discussion, we discovered that our curriculum of BSc. in Agri-Entrepreneurship and Communication Management is short of the description of the graduate profile”, Dr Mugonola says.
“Going forward, we agreed to the need to better articulation of programme objectives and graduate profile. We will evaluate the learning outcomes reflecting Bloom’s taxonomy. We also need to reflect on our delivery methods especially in developing real-life cases for students. There is need for faculty-level collaboration for this development.”
In the future, generic problem cases can be developed and explored across different courses by different lecturers. Gulu University will also deepen the feedback mechanisms for students as well as other stakeholders.
“In essence, the training offered me an opportunity to reflect on the overall curriculum cycle from development to implementation and review”, Dr Mugonola summarises.
The role of the teacher remains the major determinant of the quality and success of learning outcomes when applying PBL methods in courses. The difference is that teachers become more of tutors than lecturers.
“That will be a big change in the identity of teachers. That is something we will start working on in the next trainings”, Ulla-Maija Knuutti says.