Competencies for a U.S. horticulture undergraduate major: a national delphi-study



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Texas Tech University


Competency-based curriculum involves defining set knowledge, skills and values for a particular education. Many technical undergraduate majors have developed a list of competencies for evaluation, assessment, and improvement of higher education curriculum.

This national Delphi-study is the first a concise list of competencies described for a horticulture curriculum. A sample of horticulture educators within the U.S. (N=22) were selected as experts in horticulture education and curriculum improvement through an email requirement letter sent to each university chairperson. Average panel member was a 51-60 year old Male, with a Ph.D. in Horticulture. Panel members had an average of 21 years of teaching experience and their department had been involved in assessment for 6-20 years. Institutional average size was 15,000-25,000, with a departmental enrollment size of 50-200. Age, teaching position, bachelor�s degree earned by panel member and department size did not significantly impact the panel members' decision on ranking of competencies. The three round Delphi-study results provided a list of competencies considered to be important or not important in the general horticulture education field. Final competencies described a total of 108 competencies, with 41 horticulture technical competencies, 34 life science technical competencies and 33 professional competencies.

A competency skill survey was given to seniors in the Plant & Soil Science Department the following semester enrolled a capstone course (N=20). Results showed a significant difference between Horticulture and Agronomy students mainly in horticulture competencies, but Agronomy student rated their skills lower in other important competencies as well.

Overall, the described competency skills list may be used for future assessment and development. Horticulture programs may start with confidence in having learning outcomes approved from horticulture experts throughout the United States.