Welcome to the 2006 International Society for Plant Pathology Teaching Symposium Archive

On-line from May 15th to June 4th, 2006


About the Symposium

This ISPP symposium was an opportunity for plant pathology teachers, no matter where they were in the world, to share their ideas, tips and techniques.

Each week as indicated, the papers listed were made available for viewing and discussion. Also a weekly forum was opened on the topics indicated. At the end of each week, discussion closed and a new set of papers and a new forum went live.

The symposium is now closed but will remain at this address as an archive for the foreseeable future. You are welcome to read the papers and the (now read-only) discussion. Please be aware that URLS listed in the papers or discussion were current at the time of the symposium, but these may, over time, become broken. However, an email to the author or contributor should point you to any updates.

Official Time Zone

Dates and times during the Symposium were in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The time and date stamped next to a contribution in the paper discussions or forums is in GMT.

Student-Centered Learning Techniques to Convey Plant Pathology Concepts to Pre-College Teachers

Elizabeth Little
Department of Plant Pathology
University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia


In Spring Semester of 2006, a new course entitled “Plant Pathology for Teachers” was developed and taught at the University of Georgia. Its goal is to convey plant pathological and agricultural concepts to in-service teachers who are already teaching and pre-service teachers who are in training in a format that allows the concepts and laboratory exercises to be brought back to the primary and secondary [Kindergarten (K) – 12; students 5-18 years of age] school classroom. In-service K – 12 science teachers pursuing graduate degrees often have difficulty finding graduate-level science content courses for which they have the necessary pre-requisites. In addition, most courses are offered at times or in a format that does not accommodate their work schedules. Therefore, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of Georgia has requested faculty to develop science courses specifically for in-service teachers. These courses are taught in the evenings, in the summers, or on-line. Student-centered learning techniques allow the students in the course to explore plant pathology-related topics and determine what material is appropriate to take back to the classroom. The spring semester class meets one night a week for content lectures and lab exercises to accommodate students who teach during the day. Course offerings on-line or during the summer, when most K-12 schools are on break, will offer even greater flexibility to in-service teachers. The course is supplemented with on-line discussions and student projects. This paper discusses the use of two student-centered learning techniques, the on-line discussions and student projects. Both techniques incorporate distance-learning technologies to enhance the learning outcomes.

On-line discussions

On-line discussions are an excellent format to engage the students. Plant pathology discussion topics are selected based on the impact of the topic on society and/or the potential for controversy. A sample of topics includes organic vs. sustainable vs. conventional agriculture, the scientific and legal basis of the citrus canker eradication program in Florida, genetic engineering for pest control, and the use of antibiotics in agriculture. The discussions take place asynchronously using the WebCT discussion tool over a period of 10 to12 days. Discussions are graded based on participation and the quality of the postings. Students must stay within the structure of the discussion, which calls for an initial posting, responses to the postings of the other students in their group, and a final posting based on what was learned in the discussion. However, the students are allowed a certain amount of freedom to take the discussion into related topics. Students often become so excited and engaged that they will poll their peers and acquaintances on their opinions and report their findings. The students in this course come with diverse backgrounds and the discussion benefits from their many viewpoints and experiences. Discussions allow them to explore the ways that plant pathology and agriculture touch their lives.

Student Projects

Another requirement is for each student to take a plant pathology concept and design a learning module that can be brought back to the K – 12 classrooms. Interactive learning is encouraged within the contents of their projects. In-service teachers pursuing graduate degrees must also assess their project for the state-mandated performance standards for meeting the educational needs of their students. Appropriate concepts for the classroom include the biology of microorganisms (fungi, bacteria, nematodes, viruses) as well as pesticide usage, world hunger, biotechnology, and sustainability. The in-service teachers are generally familiar with learning theories, state requirements, and the mechanics of designing interactive science modules for the classroom, and are willing to assist the students who are not familiar with designing learning modules. The level of expertise is also considered when evaluating the projects, given the diversity of student backgrounds. The students submit an outline and a proposal to ensure that the plant pathology components of their project are feasible, but the development of the project is mostly self-directed. Students use the presentation area on WebCT to share their projects and ideas. At the end of the semester they present and demonstrate their project to the class.


This course appears to have a wide appeal to an enthusiastic pool of education majors. Offering this type of cross-college course has resulted in mutually beneficial outcomes for the students and for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. It meets the needs of in-service teachers pursuing an advanced degree, while the College fulfills its goal of bringing agricultural concepts to a generation of youths who are all but detached from the science and practice of food production. The use of student-centered learning techniques assisted in translating the plant pathology content into a student-friendly format for the classroom. Future directions include expanding the on-line features of the course to further accommodate the busy schedule of the in-service teachers.

Date: 22nd May, 2006

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