Developing Threshold Learning Outcomes for Agricultural Science

Tina Acuna, Jo-Anne Kelder, Peter Lane, Greg Hannan


Learning and Teaching Academic Standard (LTAS) Statements have recently been published across a number of disciplines and have contributed to the national regulation and quality assurance framework being developed by the Higher Education Standards Panel. The Science Standards Statement (SSS) contains a statement on the Nature and Extent of Science and articulated Threshold Learning Outcome (TLOs) statements representing the minimum levels of achievement expected of a bachelor level Science graduate. Our project aimed to adapt the SSS, in particular, the TLOs for Science to the Agricultural Science discipline to reflect the discipline-specific attributes and to achieve a measure of national consensus on Agricultural Science TLOs including endorsement from the Australian Council of Deans of Agriculture. We report on the process and outcomes of developing a draft Agricultural Science Standards Statement (AgSSS). The project method broadly followed that of the national LTAS Science project (2010/11) on a smaller scale. A targeted consultation process through facilitated workshops with teaching academics from the University of Tasmania’s School of Agricultural Science provided qualitative data. This data informed the adaptation of the survey used by the LTAS Science Project to include Agricultural Science. The Agricultural Science survey was administered to staff of the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture and two interstate universities. Key findings are that a statement on the nature and extent of Agricultural Science needs to capture its multi-disciplinary nature and that TLOs should incorporate minimum levels of achievement in vocational knowledge. Project outcomes will contribute to the future renewal and revitalization of the Agricultural Science curriculum and facilitate meeting reporting requirements, such as those required by the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA). The process can serve as one model for wider dissemination and adapting the Science TLOs within UTAS and other universities. The next phase of the project is to define course-level learning outcomes more specifically for Agricultural Science degrees at UTAS as a first step towards aligning our curriculum and assessment with nationally-agreed Agriculture TLOs.

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