Curriculum Revitalization Projects

In the late 1980s the W. K. Kellogg Foundation funded an initiative, Project Sunrise, to revitalize curricula at land grant colleges of agriculture on the campuses of University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, and University of Wisconsin. At each of the colleges, innovations led to both new methods of teaching and learning and new curriculum content.

At the University of Minnesota the project resulted in intensive faculty development in alternative learning strategies, such as cooperative learning, for teaching critical thinking, problems solving, and decision making. Ten new college and intercollegiate majors—including agribusiness management, agricultural education, agricultural industries and marketing, animal and plant systems, applied economics, food science, natural resources and environmental studies, nutrition, science in agriculture, and scientific and technical communications—reduced the number of majors and were designed to give focus to undergraduate education across departments.

The University of Nebraska project led to changing the College of Agriculture's name to the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. New general education requirements were developed that emphasized writing and communication and that met the test of new university-wide requirements. Case studies and computer simulations, as well as other new teaching and learning methods were introduced. New courses were established, including ethics in agriculture and natural resources, science of food, biological systems engineering, and quality of the environment. New programs of study included environmental studies, natural resources majors, and landscape architecture.

The University of Wisconsin's assessment of its curriculum led to, among other things, mini-grants to fund revitalization of courses and introduce new teaching strategies. Among the curriculum innovations was the development of an agriculture, technology, and society program that included 11 new courses and 2 existing courses and the development of a an interdisciplinary course for incoming students called "An Orientation to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences." The faculty improved their computer skills, audiotapes were developed and distributed to introduce faculty to the learning styles of "nontraditional" students, and videotapes were developed on how to cope with academic stress.

Among the lessons learned through Project Sunrise were the need for involving faculty in, and building faculty commitment to, change; the need for faculty development; the need for openness and communication regarding outcomes; and the need for flexibility in curricular designs and methods of operation so that adjustments can be made and tested easily.

Source: Povlacs Lunde, J., M. Baker, F. H. Buelow, L. Schultz Hayes. 1996. Reshaping Curricula: Revitalization Programs at Three Land Grant Universities. Bolton, Mass.: Anker Publishing.

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