Learning about Complex Multi-Stakeholder Issues: Assessing the Visual Problem Appraisal

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This paper presents an evaluation of the visual problem appraisal (VPA) learning environment in higher education. The VPA has been designed for the training of competences that are required in complex stakeholder settings in relation to sustainability issues. The design of VPA incorporates a diversity of instruction strategies to accommodate the heterogeneous learning styles of students in the international and inter-cultural classroom. The focus is on visual learning. The core of the VPA comprises documentaries and filmed interviews that together simulate a consultancy assignment. Students are immersed in the reality of 'wicked problems' and complex multi-stakeholder settings. The VPA also provides feedback loops that pull students out of their comfort zones and makes them reflect on what they learn, how they learn and how they perform in a team. The study is based on experiences with the VPA 'Kerala's Coast'. The evaluation indicates that the VPA strategy creates a challenging though safe space that provides students with the opportunity to learn outside their comfort zones. They learn from their interaction with unfamiliar stakeholders and by dealing with wicked problems, whilst enhancing their critical reflection on learning and change routines. Students seem to acquire complex competences, such as the competence to reduce their self-referentiality. The study highlighted the need to reconsider lecturing and facilitation in new learning strategies such as VPA. Keywords: Film; Rural development; Visual problem appraisal; Reflective learning; Wicked problems; Mediated experiences
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-54
JournalJournal of Agricultural Education and Extension
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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