Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - 8:00 AM

Teaching Soil Science, Educating the Numbers.

Alfred Hartemink, ISRIC - World Soil Information, PO Box 353, Wageningen, 6700 AJ, Netherlands and Alex McBratney, Univ of Sydney, Faculty of Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources, 304, McMillan Building, A05, Sydney, Australia.

Soil science is taught in all habitable areas of the globe. It is differently taught in different areas and many of our soil science colleagues think that the number of students have gradually declined over the past 15 years or so. In this paper, we aim to give an overview of how soil science is taught at various universities: and the nature of the teaching methods, the books used, audio-visuals, computers (how and when), excursions, etc. And in particular: how this has that changed over time. This analysis will be largely based on narratives it will be anecdotal. Next, we will analyse trends in undergraduate student numbers over the past 10 to 20 years at universities across Europe, USA, and Australia. This will be linked to some of the changes in teaching methods and changes in the number of academic staff, but more importantly we will discuss the relation between teaching and research. In particular we are interested in the questions such as, is soil science education keeping pace with research developments? Are we teaching largely qualitative skills or are we developing quantitative skills? Is the new generation of soil scientists sufficiently equipped to tackle the issue of climate change, environmental degradation and restoration, and food production? At last, we will speculate about the future: what can we infer from the trends and what should soil science education do to make good soil scientists.

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