NPLK15010U  Agroecology: Working with the Complexity of Farming Systems

Volume 2017/2018

The course offers an introduction to the systems approach and complements specific disciplinary courses. An experiential learning approach is used (Kolb’s learning cycle) when working with examples from the real world. Cases based on a Danish organic dairy farm and a farm in Uganda, containing quantitative farm data as well as qualitative information from interviews with the farmer and his family, are the focal point of student work through the course. Theory is introduced through readings on systems thinking and agroecology, as well as mind-mapping and other tools.

Other questions focus on goal conflicts and the tasks of making sound recommendations to the farmer. This approach calls for students to put themselves into the roles of different players, including farmer and advisor. Students work both in groups and individually and keep learning logs through the course to ensure reflection on their own learning.

With concrete cases as starting points, the course deals with structure and functioning of agroecosystems as whole entities seen from different perspectives (ecological, economic, social, time and spatial scale, and organisational level perspectives). The students learn about and practice methods for describing and analysing the case and its goals, and they are expected to suggest improvements.

The course is based on case studies of a farm in Nordic Countries and in Uganda. Using these cases, students explore agroecosystems, multifunctional agriculture, and systems thinking.

Learning Outcome



After completing the course the student should be able to:

Demonstrate knowledge of key concepts and principles regarding structure and functioning of farming and food systems (agroecosystems).

Show ability to deal with goals and value bases of such systems.
Apply methods and tools for describing, analysing and improving farming and food systems.

Discuss and reflect on how to connnect theory to a practical case



Bachelor's degree or its equivalent in agriculture, plant science, economics, natural resources, human nutrition or other relevant social or natural sciences
This course is a 100% web-based, with faculty resources and students located in many countries. In order to effectively deal with the interdisciplinary nature of agroecology, teachers from the Nordic network of agroecology and ecological agriculture (Agroasis) provides guidance and feedback to the students.
Type of assessment
Description of Examination: Details for the portfolio assessment will be given at course start. Students will be assessed on written assignments, on understanding of the materials, on ability to conceptualise the course content and on making application to the case and to their current local situations. Submitted assignments, peer reviews, contributions to discussions and a final learning document will be the basis for a grade.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
1 internal examiner

Same as regular with resubmission of revised course assignments.

Criteria for exam assesment

Please refer to learning outcome.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 7
  • Theory exercises
  • 40,5
  • Exam
  • 10
  • Project work
  • 40
  • Preparation
  • 40
  • Total
  • 137,5