Academic, industry and student perspectives on the inclusion of “vocational knowledge” in a ‘learning and teaching academic standards statement’ for agriculture

Tina Botwright Acuna, Jo-Anne Kelder, Amanda J Able, Glenn McDonald, Yann Guisard, Bill Bellotti, Paul Wormell, Richard Doyle, Holger Meinke

Abstract


We report on the perspective of academic, student and industry stakeholders in a national project that has developed a Learning and Teaching Academic Standards (LTAS) Statement for the Agriculture discipline. Agricultural research and teaching relies on strong links with industry due to the applied nature of the discipline. Without these links, sustainable and profitable practice change in agricultural systems cannot be achieved. A pilot project, in 2011-2012, with academic staff from three Australian universities identified vocational knowledge as a potential focus for a TLO. The AgLTAS project provided the opportunity to validate or refute this TLO by seeking input from a wider group of stakeholders, including industry. National consensus was sought by a process of iterative consultation with academics, students and industry stakeholders and tested across four Australian universities. We have collected qualitative and quantitative data from industry participants who attended a series of workshops across most Australian States and Territories. We also conducted an online survey. Surprisingly, and contrary to the findings of the pilot project, industry representatives considered vocational knowledge of lesser importance to the need for students to attain highly developed problem solving and communication skills that can generate new opportunities and innovation in agriculture. Industry-specific (vocational) knowledge was generally regarded as attainable during on-the-job training after graduation. This finding prompts the question whether the AgLTAS Statement should be linked to professional accreditation that may be attained either before or after graduation. The next phase of the project aims to trial the Standards Statement for Agriculture by benchmarking the academic standards achieved in four universities that teach Agriculture and related disciplines, using an online Curriculum Mapping Tool.

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