Funding from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council for a national soil science curriculum.

17 November 2009

Professor Alex McBratney, working with Dr Tony Koppi and Dr Damien Field, has been awarded a grant from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council to research the development of a national soil science curriculum in response to the needs of students, academic staff, industry and the wider community. Faced with the challenge of falling student enrollments and dwindling expertise in any one institution a consortium has been formed with the soil science staff in the Universities of Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, Queensland and Western Australia. A comprehensive curriculum needs input from the wider community, so a group of industry and professional bodies has also been organised to participate.

Both Professor Lynn Abbott and Dr Cameron Grant, from the Universities of Western Australia and Adelaide respectively, agree that working as a team to build a national curriculum will bring renewed excitement to the teaching. They also believe that by sharing their individual knowledge, expertise and resources, while listening to the needs of students and industry, there is the opportunity to produce confident work-ready graduates with the interdisciplinary knowledge needed to solve complex problems. A national curriculum that produces competent soil science graduates is also supported by Dr David McKenzie, as chair of the Certified Professional Soil Science Board. Dr Anthony Weatherley, from the University of Melbourne, believes a curriculum that aids student mobility across Australia to tackle cases studies with a wide geographic base will produce graduates with a truly Australia wide perspective rather then a parochial focus.

All members of the consortium believe that the problems facing soil science are not uncommon to the educational needs of the broader agriculture sector and its many disciplines. It is hoped that the research will serve as a pilot project to identify the analogous issues and challenges facing the agriculture sector, and the solutions found will be generic, or at least adaptable enough, for use by a range of disciplines in agriculture.

Contact: Dr Damien Field

Phone: 02 9351 2527

Email: 57481f460b5d0d2b043f2957473207371b350357