Test course analysis (Szent István University, Hungary)

Structure : Szent István University, Hungary
Subtitle / abstract : Analysis of the whole process of test-course elaboration in Hungary
Target group : Students
Duration : 10x 1,5 hours
Preamble : Nowadays, young people learn a profession from textbooks, notes, and different technical and technological guidelines instead of practice, though knowledge, methods and solutions exist which were used by previous generations, and these are still applicable.
Their significance is apparent - most notably in agriculture - as most of these economic solutions and tricks are the fundamental elements of environmental agriculture, and sustainable development.
We often note and write down how our ancestors were capable of living in harmony with nature, how they could produce without harming the living environment. While we say such things, we never stop to think how we could also integrate, understand, and use the outlook of said previous generations, even within the confines of modern technology.
A few examples: how should we start reaping, from the outside, or the inside? This is important for the ecosystem of the area to be harvested as well.
How can the flocks be herded for grazing, without conserving the area as much as possible?
Or we could take a look at conserving methods. How can fruits and vegetables be stored for winter without using preservatives? We have a rich treasury of solutions before us, all we have to do is get to know its contents, which is quite hard, to be honest. The reason is that we have to find people who are in possession of such practical skills, and are also able to share this knowledge. Therefore, transferring the informal knowledge of agricultural ecology is a challenge, but we also have to identify those who wish to learn such knowledge, and get to know their basic agricultural ecology skills.
Principles of action : Agriculture and rural life have professional quirks and knowledge which were hereditary before, but they seem to fade away in today's world, as they were left out of modern books. The experiences of many generations were piled upon each other, which is why this knowledge has to be preserved - moreover, integrated into education, using modern pedagogy.
Old memories still surface within many people even today - memories, which could be exploited - but the sad state of affairs is that these memories could follow these people into the grave any day now. Our goal is to collect these, and use them in the education, in other words, refreshing education itself.
Phases in the training pathway : 1. Identifying the knowledge of the target group (questionnaire)
2. Evaluation of basic knowledge measurements
3. Working out modules, based on lacking areas of knowledge
4. Finding professional tricks and knowledge which can be integrated into the training course and thematic, and can be inserted into the modules based on lacking areas of knowledge
5. Choosing an applicable methodology
6. Creation of movies, presentations, and other materials applicable to the methodology
7. Holding presentations and interactive exercises
8. Evaluation, discussion of questions.

Based on the questionnaire the following course modules were elaborated for testing:

1. module: Factors of sustainable agricultural production, its evaluation system and methods.
2. module: Agro-ecological knowledge and its employment in eco-farming.
3. module: Experiences of agro-ecological farming at Zsámbok's Organic Market Garden
4. module: Transferring traditional ecological knowledge, and its application regarding the preservation and utilisation of natural resources.
5. module: The role of Natural Parks in creating and structuring the ecological approach and thought process.
6. module: Applying sustainability and the ecological approach to agriculture; basic factors and the future (production, processing, sale, health, home economy)
7. module: Methods of agro-ecological knowledge transfer, and their application in education
8. module: Ways of introducing the ecological approach to food supply systems (bulk goods, local products, alternative routes)
9. module: Examples of agro-ecological farming throughout history, and the necessity of its revival today
10. module: Efficient plant protection by using homeopathy. Principals, implementation.

During testing, the following knowledge transfer methods were used:

- Personal interview
- Movie
- Making and discussing case studies
- Group work
- Cooperative group work
- Data collection, experience logging
After the training lectures, questionnaires are filled out. Our questionnaire was made up of four types of questions:
- Simple choice question
- Multiple choice question (multiple answers could be chosen)
- Evaluation scale
- Open question (descriptive answering).
After the training courses, a questionnaire was issued to gather the opinions of the students.
We evaluated the answers we were given using the SPSS statistics program package.
Of the students who applied for the test course:
- 127 were from the Faculty of Agriculture
- 27 were from the "Winter University" of Nyitra
- 14peoplewerefromthe Murray University
- 16 were foreign agriculture students on MSc, BSc and PhD? levels
- 86 were agricultural engineering teachers
- 110 were participants on the agricultural homeopathy faire
- 13 were agricultural technicians.
Observed interest of the training process : The aim of the program went beyond learning agricultural ecology, moving towards the adaptation to the EU's agricultural policy greenification programme, and familiarising with the requirements and interconnections of sustainable agricultural production, furthermore, gaining experiences for practical usage of ecological knowledge.

In summary these are the results we learnt during the test-courses:

- Case studies and movies help greatly in deepening the theoretical knowledge material, and placing it within the bounds of practice.
- There was no significant difference between the knowledge levels of foreign and Hungarian students, most of the foreign students would like to create a foothold in their own country for informal knowledge transfer.
- They want even more actual experience, more "traditional" knowledge in the seminars.
- Students found the case studies to be very good, and enjoyed the discussion about them, the comparison between literature sources, graphs, illustrations, etc.
- Students would like to learn more using this method.

With these gained results we concluded the following:

- It does serve ecological knowledge transfer, and they advise to use pedagogy methods which help knowledge transfer.
- The special education method should be integrated into high-school and higher education levels (f. e.: thought mapping, CLIM method).
- One primary result of the SAGITER project is that ecological knowledge not present in the textbooks of higher education is taken into consideration, and we try to make a framework for informal, experience-based knowledge and knowledge transfer which makes it possible for this kind of knowledge to survive, while also integrating it into courses of high school education, higher education, and training courses.
- The methodological knowledge base assembled for educators, based on international experiences can serve as a great tool for delivering the important elements of agricultural ecology to students.
- This makes it possible to combine traditional knowledge usually based on experiences with no scientific basis, otherwise known as informal knowledge, with formal scientific knowledge based on research.
- The work of educators and trainers is aided using education modules which show the complexity of agricultural ecology.

Based on the results, we can see that there was a significant difference between the levels of knowledge students hold, which can be attributed to the general composition of their respective Bachelor courses, their educational level, and their year, while the sex of the participants also played a role. We could see how students do know the environmental effects of the method, but have no idea as to the social and economic impacts. The most notable factor of their knowledge is the experiences and personal memories they acquired during their previous time spent with agriculture. The results of the survey also strengthen the idea that there's a need for higher education to move towards a more practical-oriented course scheme. To resolve this issue, we worked out an educational palette, in which modules cover the lacking areas of knowledge, most importantly for agro-ecology's economic and social aspects, apart from environmental protection.
Limits and difficulties encountered : These case studies and methods aren't always applicable to the length and thematic of courses held in universities and high schools. Also, there was a need to create training courses / compulsory courses that further expand the methodological and agricultural ecological knowledge of lecturers teaching the target group, and to teach them a holistic approach.
Recommendations : Keeping the principles of sustainable agricultural development in mind, we aimed to create an education guideline which makes use of various pedagogy methods to teach, develop and use agricultural ecology.

We wanted to facilitate a discussion between partners about the questions related to the definition and concept of agricultural ecology, and about methods of pedagogy which may be integrated into the guideline. We worked out the methods for transferring the knowledge material, which makes it possible for the lecturer to make a transition from teacher (the one giving the knowledge) to facilitator / mediator. This also helps them offer aid to those taking part in training courses, so that they can learn the knowledge by themselves. This is an educational strategy which is based on all-encompassing, overall analyses, the best practices we gathered, good examples, and the opinions and experiences of farmers. In order to make sure development happens, the knowledge we collected is continuously integrated into the education of teachers / trainers. We developed educational tools which can be used during informal knowledge transfer to a satisfactory degree, and which take prior informal knowledge into consideration, thereby leading from scientific results to a state where other knowledge is also acknowledged.
Speakers : Dr. István Fehér, Dr. Apolka Ujj, Dr. Ákos Malatinszky, Dr. Nikoletta Mihály, Dénes Saláta, Dr. Zsolt Molnár, Anna Varga, Matthew Hayes
Website : http://www.szie.hu
Contact email : ujj.apolka@mkk.szie.hu

Location of the training session

Adress : Páter K. u.1.
Post code : 2100
City : Gödöllő
Country : Hungary