Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education courses are developed using elements from pedagogical approaches that are recognized in educational literature as proven and effective modes of teaching and learning. This foundation ensures validity for CASE methodology and provides the recipe for the effectiveness of the CASE model. The CASE model is a careful blend of time-tested instructional strategies used to guide students in their studies to meet the demands of post-secondary education and careers in the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (AFNR) industries.
Two primary works are the basis of influence for CASE pedagogy and are used predominately in the overall philosophy of CASE curricula design. How People Learn (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000) defines the audience of learners and epistemological considerations that CASE writers use to reach learners in an effective manner. The second text, Understanding by Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) provides the road map used by CASE writers as they design specific lessons of instruction.
Because students learn in a multitude of ways, clear, discernable outcomes must be used to develop conceptual understandings with learners. Strategies are incorporated to help the learner organize information and properly situate knowledge in contexts that provide meaningful connections for the learner. Specifically, the strategies CASE uses include activities, projects, and problems crafted to address the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective domains of learners. More about activities, projects, and problems will be discussed in subsequent sections of this paper.
CASE provides learners very focused and direct concepts set within a relevant context for the learner. This makes learning objectives very clear to students and ensures that previous misconceptions related to the subject matter are corrected and no new misconceptions are fostered. To accomplish this, the lesson design methodology that CASE uses originates from Understanding by Design. This writing prescribes a backward design curriculum approach focusing the instruction on specific goals related to the topic of study. The goals represent the knowledge the learner must know about a topic, or depending upon the intent of the goal, the deeper understanding that students must draw from the topic studied. CASE refers to the learning goals as “concepts” that students will know and understand after completing the lesson. The concepts are the intended learning outcomes of the lesson and provide the basis for assessing student performance based on clear and concise goals.
The concepts for CASE curricula are developed from brainstorming sessions involving expert teachers and industry representatives. Once developed and organized into a logical sequence of instruction, the second design element of Understanding by Design is implemented. The second stage prescribes the collection of evidence for student assessment. How do the student and teacher know that learning is taking place and that goals are being met? CASE writers determine the criteria that align with each concept. Essential questions are designed to guide students during instruction. These essential questions provide formative assessment that students can use to ensure they are on the right track toward learning the intended knowledge about the topic. Essential questions are crafted in a way to inspire deeper thought about a concept and elevate student thinking about a concept from knowing to understanding. Knowing facts and knowing how those facts fit together to create understanding is one element of learning. However, developing a deeper understanding allows a student to transfer the learning experience to other situations.
In the third and final phase, the scope of the exercises required to meet the demands of the concepts is determined. For CASE, this step begins to identify whether activities, projects, or problems are best suited to reach the learning goals defined by the concepts. At this point, important considerations are made to ratchet up the rigor of the content and instructional strategies used to teach the identified concept. Holding true to the traditions of agricultural education, a blend of knowledge and technical skills is situated within the relevant, real-life context of AFNR subject matter. Students are immersed into learning by doing through rigorous activity-, project-, and problem-based exercises that facilitate instruction related to each concept.