Education resources to engage students in grains
A GRDC-supported study has provided new insights into how the story of grain growing can be incorporated into education through school subjects such as geography, biology, maths and home economics.
The three-year GRDC project included a survey of more than 340 teachers. This information was used to develop new resources and fact sheets for teachers.
The work was conducted by education consultancy AgCommunicators. Education manager Belinda Cay says there were several themes as to why grains did not feature more regularly as a context for teaching.
“Grains are rarely included in primary or secondary school mainstream subjects because teachers do not have the confidence, background knowledge, resources, budget or agronomic support required,” Mrs Cay says.
“Only 35 per cent of the secondary school teachers surveyed were confident about incorporating grains into their teaching. And these were mostly specialist agricultural teachers or home economics teachers, who predominantly taught about wheat and other grains in the context of the food pyramid.
“Only eight per cent of primary school teachers include any information on agriculture or grains in their teaching.”
As a result, the GRDC invested in developing eight new teaching units and fact sheets for teachers.
GRDC research manager for capacity building and national programs Isa Yunusa says each of the curriculum-linked resources incorporates a range of lesson plan. These explore the latest science, technology, engineering, mathematics, nutrition, research and innovation in the Australian agricultural industry.
“The resources present the professional nature of grain production and reference the types of technology grain growers use on-farm. They will enable teachers to teach mainstream subjects using grains as a context.”
Mrs Cay says teachers are able to use the free resources as a unit or select components to complement their teaching plan: “So far we have given out over 1500 hard copies of the resources and have been promoting both the resources and new ways to incorporate grains into mainstream teaching.
“We took a strategic approach to the resource development, working closely with a teacher reference group, which reviewed each resource for content, learning principles and curriculum links. We also ensured each resource was reviewed by scientists.”
Mrs Cay says the project’s research components were instrumental in understanding what teachers want from new resources: “It also helped us understand perceptions of the grains industry, which we would then address through the language and content of the resources.”
Key issues identified include:
- teachers generally have positive attitudes about growers and farming, although knowledge of production techniques is low. Concerns included chemical use, land clearing and burning, and the appearance of the industry’s stronger focus on profitability than sustainability;
- teachers want hands-on activities that include the latest developments in research and science – interactivity is a must;
- teaching resources must incorporate enquiry-based learning principles and be linked to the new national curriculum;
- teachers value an industry contact and classroom support to implement new knowledge; professional development to build background knowledge is also important, and;
- teachers would like to receive new resources, preferably in hard copy or emailed directly to them, to increase the grains and agricultural content taught in Australian schools.
The research, by AgCommunicators and the University of Adelaide, has been the largest of its kind in investigating teachers’ perceptions of grains and agriculture in Australia.
More information:Belinda Cay, AgCommunicators,
08 8332 3277,
GRDC Project Code ACO00004