Co-design of Adaptable Learning Outcomes for Sustainable Food Systems Undergraduate Education

Roland Ebel, Selena Ahmed, Will Valley, Nicholas Jordan, Julie Grossman, Carmen Byker Shanks, Mary Stein, Mary Rogers, Colin Dring

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Higher education institutions are increasingly offering Sustainable Food Systems (SFS) degree programs in response to societal demand for training a professional food systems workforce. As a relatively young field, there is a need for clearly articulated learning outcomes (LOs) for SFS education to define student learning through degree programs, design new programs, and evaluate and modify existing programs. New and established SFS programs are often fragmented over multiple academic departments which impedes the development of a coherent and holistic curriculum for approaching the complexity of food topics. Here, we address these needs through the co-creation of adaptable LOs for Baccalaureate degree-level SFS programs which are aligned to a SFS Signature Pedagogy and based on outcomes-based education toward contributing to a solid conceptual basis for SFS education. The SFS Signature Pedagogy is a framework that can be applied to develop students' systemic capacities, including holistic, and pluralistic ways of understanding sustainability challenges, multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinarity, experiential learning, and collective action projects. Our co-design of LOs was based on qualitative content analysis of existing LOs of established SFS programs, a cross-sectional survey with SFS educators and refinement of LOs from feedback in an expert panel. This process resulted in the eight adaptable LOs: (1) systems thinking, (2) critical reflection, (3) diverse ways of knowing, (4) practical application, (5) multi-context communication, (6) teamwork, (7) collective action, and, (8) advocacy for SFS. We anticipate the adaptable LOs proposed here to be applicable for diverse student communities and geographic respectively cultural contexts as well as to provide insight for sustainability-related academic programs toward developing professionals equipped with skills and capacities to address complex challenges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number568743
JournalFrontiers in Sustainable Food Systems
StatePublished - Sep 29 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the United States Department of Agriculture Higher Education Challenge (HEC) Grant, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Award No: 2018-70003-27649).

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2020 Ebel, Ahmed, Valley, Jordan, Grossman, Byker Shanks, Stein, Rogers and Dring.


  • co-design
  • collective action
  • curriculum assessment
  • curriculum development (education)
  • outcome-based education (OBE)
  • sustainable food systems education
  • sustainable food systems professionals
  • systems thinking and application


Dive into the research topics of 'Co-design of Adaptable Learning Outcomes for Sustainable Food Systems Undergraduate Education'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this