School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Education Experts from Iowa State Contribute to Professional Development

The Improved Masters in Cultivar Development for Africa (IMCDA) programme in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) recently hosted Dr Judith Levings and Iowa State University’s (ISU) Dr Greg Miller. Levings, a Professional Learning Community (PLC) specialist and Miller, who is from the Department of Agricultural Education and Studies in the School of Education at Iowa State University (ISU) spent time with postgraduate students from the IMCDA and from Disciplines including Agricultural Economics, Animal Science, Crop Science, Horticultural Sciences and Plant Breeding.

Levings gave the students insight about preparing polished presentations. She focused on steps to take in preparing a presentation and on the structure required for it, with and without slides. Students were also encouraged to prepare and present mock presentations to apply the techniques taught.

The visiting education experts sat in on a class given by an academic in Crop Science to observe instruction given at UKZN in agricultural science studies.

A session facilitated by Levings with staff from various agricultural disciplines at UKZN involved a review of the basics of creating good lesson plans, beginning with writing objectives, and progressing to a discussion of tips and tools to improve lectures to make them more learner-centred.

Miller co-ordinated a workshop with UKZN staff in the Agricultural disciplines, focusing on classroom response systems. Participants covered material intended to create awareness of how classroom response systems can be used to enhance teaching and learning, and to stimulate interest in using classroom response systems. He also covered the assessment of student learning using multiple choice questions (MCQs) and rubrics; participants investigated how MCQs and rubrics can promote and evaluate learning, and then applied principles for designing better MCQs and rubrics. The workshop also involved analysing and evaluating MCQs and rubrics.

One participant said of the workshops, ‘While both sessions were very captivating and informative, what interested me the most was Dr Greg Miller’s session on teaching with classroom response. I must say if I had learnt using such systems I would have had more fun with learning. I now understand the power of MCQs and how to structure them. I am sure we will all apply what we have learnt.’

The pair also engaged in group and one-on-one consultations with faculty on how to enhance the use of the Plant Breeding E-Learning in Africa (PBEA) modules and their own teaching.

Levings previously visited in March 2017 with another colleague to spend time with students, network with educators and observe teaching done using PBEA modules at UKZN.

ISU partners with UKZN on the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)-funded IMCDA, and have facilitated the development of e-learning modules used in courses, and have provided professional development to faculty members of the three partner universities, namely UKZN, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana and Makerere University in Uganda.

The visit resulted in the identification of UKZN’s needs for ongoing professional development for staff members, and the need for sustained use of the PBEA modules.

Words and photograph: Christine Cuénod