Learning how to become a Permaculture Teacher

Permaculture Teacher Matters course by Alfred Decker and Candela Vargas has given me a set of tools for developing my teaching PDC courses. This is what I want to share with you.

We were about 14 people who spent 8 days at Ankhult, a farm located in Skåne, Southern Sweden. Special thanks to the Swedish association and the volunteers who were cooking delicious and local food. Sambrukets cooperative farm in Sosdala and its mission is to catalyze the transition in its neighborhood, establishing connections between people and business as well as supporting them.

Sessions were filled with workshops that could suit many learning styles. Participants were invited to work in pairs or groups, and sometimes asked to come to the whole group and share ideas and receive feedback.

The structure of the course was divided in 6 days, differentiating six different topics: Learning space, learners, teacher, learning tools, teaching methods and PDC-wrap up and evaluation.

One of the very first sessions consisted of presenting the ethics, course culture, class code and objectives for this course and sharing the student´s hopes for teaching in the future and expectations of this course.

Along the whole week, we had 5 assignments to prepare, 3 individually, one in pairs and the last one in groups. For each session, almost one for each day, we were invited to choose a topic from a PDC and then, share it in small groups in the evening sessions. The last session consisted of designing a PDC curriculum and schedule and, then, presents it to the rest of participants. Along these assignments, we also learned the role of timekeeper, debrief and appraisal. These roles are so important and need.

We also learned valuable behaviors of effective teachers, which are a key to become an example for others and facilitate the learning process. For example, an effective teacher does not talk about the participants unless it is relevant; minimize verbal contributions to discussions when they are going well; hand over the pen or chalk; keep their attention on their students’ needs and; accept feedback and make adjustments.

Some teaching tools are: 1), audio-visual, slides, power-point and videos; 2), printed materials, books and diagrams; 3), lectures, debates and presentations; 4), groups, role-plays, international café; 5), demonstrations and practical work, and; 6), excursions and field trip. During this course, teachers have been using most methods or encouraged us to use as many of them as possible to become familiar with them. Since there are many teaching methods, it is recommend it to select one or more that matches the content, giving clear instructions and keeping the energy up.

We also got to practice the most important teaching method: questioning. Questioning reduces the amount of time that teacher speaks (max. 30% per session, 15 minutes without pause), keeps learners thinking and helps to develop confidence. There are two classes of questions: closed questions (with a right question, based on facts) and open questions (which call for experience and thinking). To be honest, this method was my favorite and I used along the course with different teaching tools as, for example, excursions, presentations or slides.

The last day, we presented our PDC schedule and curriculum to the rest of the group. It was really exciting as well as a challenge. After that, we also evaluated the course and think about next steps.

So for your next workshop, don´t forget to: prepare and present your ethics, learning outcomes, class code, and culture, choose appropriate learning tools and diverse methodology for different learning styles and remember to enjoy through the process.