WOCAT in Education

Even though not planned originally, WOCAT has been used in education and training programmes in various countries, e.g. Thailand, U.K., Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Canada, etc. There is a general agreement on the suitability and feasibility of using WOCAT methodologies and products for educational purposes, especially in the undergraduate level as well as postgraduate level. The WOCAT tools can be used to improve teaching of SLM issues in the form of lectures and student exercises. WOCAT should not be educated as a subject in itself, but within a broader context and presenting it as a powerful tool in planning, evaluating and researching SLM.

So far, the general WOCAT tools and methods are used and adapted for educational purposes. WOCAT has not (yet) invested time in developing special educational tools. However, within a WOCAT taskforce it is planned to develop guidelines how to use WOCAT in education and research. 

Please send us your opinion and your experiences about using WOCAT in education. Or, send us any material you have developed/used for WOCAT in education, and we will provide it to other users here on the website.

Examples on how the WOCAT tools can be used in education (at University level):

a) If you have 15 students or so presenting different technologies, this can be very informative for the students. One could then imagine the presentations by the students to be followed by a wrap up session where the various technologies are compared and discussed. This could be very interesting especially if all the technologies relate to a specific climatic zone for instance, thereby making the comparative analyses more relevant. That's just one simple idea on how one might make a general course on SLM more lively through an analysis of practical examples.

b) The database can also simply be used as a "picture book" so students can have an overview of existing technologies while browsing through.

c) 1 hour introduction lecture on how to gather information on a very complex issue like soil and water management (conservation) and how to use this information for better decision making (with emphasis on the methodology, tapping the knowledge of experienced persons, showing the strength and weaknesses of the method).

d) Using WOCAT data for analysis by students: e.g. a cost / benefit analysis for SLM Technologies in Eastern and Southern Africa. Here students can spend 1-2 weeks analyzing data and presenting the results in a short report.

e) Students carrying out their master’s thesis and using the WOCAT methodology to collect information and analyze them with emphasis on selected interests e.g. grazing land Technologies and Approaches in South Africa.

f) The WOCAT/LADA questionnaire on SLM Mapping is very feasible to be used in a field course with students.

See below, what WOCAT users think about WOCAT in Education:

 “We need to repackage part of the WOCAT and convert it from an information source to an education tool of 'Best Management Practices'"

“The fact is - WOCAT is a tool. In education, we want to see how tools perform; at advanced level, we might want to critique the tool to see its strengths and weaknesses; we might want to compare it with other tools; and so on. What would be utterly wrong would be to present WOCAT as THE truth and the only way of going about organising complex information sources.”

”I really think that the best way to get WOCAT into the educational arena - which, by the way, is an excellent idea - is
(1) to make it readily available
(2) construct some simple exercises to use the WOCAT database: e.g. discuss the advantages and disadvantages of conservation approaches that might have applicability to xx climate and yy topographical conditions in zz continent.
(3) construct similarly some simple data-gathering exercises for primary fieldwork data collection by students in, say, 5 three-hour practical sessions. In other words, not the heavy approach of the real thing.
But a short-cut way which would reveal the essence of the procedures, but without the tedium.“

“I think that working with students using WOCAT tools, data and the network of SLM specialists is a good investment and a good opportunity for the students to get exposure to field reality and to the know-how of resource persons with a wealth of experience. It also exposes them to the problem of data collection, data quality and difficulties in finding solutions for improved land and water use under a given natural and human environment. On the other hand, WOCAT also benefits from the analysis and data collection by students. So we should also reflect on how to best use their experiences for the improvement of the WOCAT programme“.