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Enhancing peer learning for sustainable agriculture. On-farm demonstrations as spaces for embedded, embodied and transformative learning.
Book - Dissertation
Peer-to-peer approaches seem promising in enhancing sustainable agricultural systems. However, the kind of learning processes that are effective in farmer-to-farmer settings such as on-farm demonstrations (OFDs) have not been sufficiently studied. Central to this dissertation is the question how peer-to-peer learning among farmers can foster learning for sustainable agriculture. An in-depth literature research was conducted and focused on three main subfields addressing key effective learning processes: peer learning, adult learning theory and education for sustainable development (ESD). Furthermore, to better understand how OFDs can support competencies towards sustainable agriculture, we approached OFDs both as tactile spaces and as spaces fostering transformative learning. The framework resulting from the in-depth literature research provided a means to guide our empirical study of 30 OFDs selected within the context of a European project. We used a mixed methods design to study these 30 OFDs. Our data gathering tools consisted of (1) pre and post demonstration surveys for attendees and demonstrators; (2) an observation tool filled in by researchers; (3) structured telephone surveys conducted six months later; and (4) three video recordings of Flemish OFDs. The qualitative method of video analysis was specifically chosen to reflect on OFDs as tactile spaces.As our main result, we present and discuss insights on key essential interrelated processes that ideally are stimulated during OFDs. Key processes include embedded and embodied interactive knowledge creation. This entails methods to stimulate interactions among people, for example, through facilitated discussions and sensory interactions with the surroundings. Findings also indicate the importance of engagement and trust. Furthermore, we define four competencies to stimulate during an OFD, for all those who take part: (1) Connecting and positioning in relation to others and the knowledge shared during the OFD; (2) Integrating new knowledge through building on previous knowledge; (3) Critically reflecting on current and new practices and (4) Change making based on new insights. Methodologically, we highlight the value of video data gathering for evaluating OFDs and guidelines to guide future evaluation of OFDs using video data.In conclusion, we advocate to organise embedded on-farm demonstrations (EOFDs). We define these as authentic learning spaces where farmers and other stakeholders can explore and discuss agricultural practices together in a socially embedded and physically embodied manner.