565 Use of Cooperative Learning Exercizes to Introduce Concepts in Potted Plant Production Classes

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  • 1 Dept. of Horticultural Science, University of Minnesota, 1970 Folwell Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108

In production classes, students often commence the class by learning complicated crop-specific production cycles. Rarely are they afforded the opportunity of spending several class periods to first understand the major differences between commercial crops for production time, labor input, and market share. A cooperative learning exercise was created for the first week of lectures in potted plant production class (Hort 4051) at the Univ. of Minnesota (n = 18 students). Students were assigned to working groups for discussion and synthesis of the assignment. One week later, each group turned in their recommendations and one lecture session was devoted to in-class discussion of their answers. The exercise was in the form of a memo from a commercial company, Floratech, addressed to the students as the newly hired potted plant production specialists. In the memo, a graphical summary was presented of 13 major and minor potted crops, contrasting total production time, labor input, and market share for each crop. As production specialists, the student's primary task was to interact with all staff (other students role-playing various positions within the company) to answer the following question: “What is the most realistic, cost-effective location on the graph that Floratech should aim to move all crops?” Group discussions, both within and outside of class, focused on the noticeable trends depicted by the graph and the limiting factors that prevented crops from moving to the ideal location. Growers and breeders were quizzed on what factors kept each crop in the specific locations on the graph. The majority of student chose the midpoint of the graph as the best location. The exercise successfully peaked student's awareness of crop differences and the limiting production factors. Throughout the semester, students referred back to this graph to pinpoint the location for each crop covered.

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