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Report, 2020

D3.4: Report on educational strategy, year 2

Breland, Tor Arvid; Lenaerts, Lutgart; Steiro, Åsmund Lægreid ; Nicolaysen, Anna Marie; Lieblein, Geir; Rastorgueva, Natalia; Migliorini, Paola; Madzaric, Suzana; Lamberti, Lamberto; Melin, Martin


A new way of doing education will be important to cultivate the competences needed
to deal with the challenge of sustainability in agrifood and forestry systems. Overall,
the new educational approach is characterised by 1) a shift from theory to phenomenon
and action as the starting point for the learning process (‘experiential learning’, ‘action
learning’) and 2) a shift from knowledge to competence as the focus of the educational
activities. The Nextfood project aims at contributing to these shifts by facilitating
according to a master manual worked out by the project (deliverable D2.2) a transition
to action learning in twelve educational cases in Africa, India and Europe.
Simultaneously, research is done according to an action research protocol (deliverable
D2.1) on the case transition process and on effects of action learning on students and
involved stakeholders. The present report on the implementation of this educational
strategy in the twelve cases focus on:
(1) the case development process (main challenges and supporting forces
associated with implementation of the Nextfood approach)
(2) the students’ experiences and learning outcomes (their development of key
competences and transition to an experiential learning mode)
(3) benefits of involving non-university stakeholders (their learning outcomes and
The cases have collected data on the development and implementation of the intended
educational activities. In a separate section of the case development reports
(deliverable D2.6), the cases have been asked to report on how these data were
collected, the analysis process, what the data indicate and whether there were any
significant factors influencing the validity and reliability of the findings. These data form
the basis for the findings reported in this document.
Data on the process of implementing action learning showed that a major challenge is
to build an understanding of the need for interdisciplinary, systems-oriented, selfdirected, group and peer action learning having as primary focus the training of key
competences needed for sustainable development. To a varying degree this has been
experienced in several cases with academic institutions, teachers, students and offcampus stakeholders involved in the education. This indicates a need for a shift in
culture and mindset at several levels to remove the formal and practical obstacles
identified and to create a favourable environment and motivation for a different kind of
learning and assessment strategy. Although the reported challenges outnumbered the
supporting forces, the latter included interest and support for systems-oriented action
learning among institutions at various levels of governments and educational
institutions and among individual stakeholders and commercial actors. Several
scientific reports also strongly support the implementation of this approach.
Data from the students’ self-assessment and information extracted from their reflection
documents suggested a variable effect of action learning on the students’ selfdevelopment of key competences. Possible causal relationships have not been
explored so far, but it seems likely that the extent to which the action-learning approach
has been implemented in a case, plays an important role. So do probably also factors
such as pre-knowledge about and motivation for action learning among teachers,
students and other stakeholders involved. 
When it comes to students’ transition in mindset and mode of learning, there was
indication that reflection was valued as a competence on which development of all the
others depend, and several students praised the effect improved reflection
competence had on their lives outside university. In several cases, students that came
into the course with expectations to gain certain pieces of knowledge or technical skills,
gradually focused less on those aspects and more on developing the core
competences. Further, several cases reported increasing enthusiasm about action
learning among students, but also examples of students that had the same questions
after the course as they had before. The causal factors for this variability are probably
similar to those mentioned above regarding competence development but were not
Information about involving non-university stakeholders strongly suggests that they
consider their interaction with students as useful learning opportunities enabling them
to see their situation in different perspectives, that students were perceived as partners
with important knowledge, and that the process of experience sharing worked in both
directions. Similarly, their contributions are highly valued by course facilitators and

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Publisher: NextFOOD

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