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An Irish example of National Permaculture Certification

In Ireland, the education certification body is called QQI. This body is the merger of the former awards councils, called the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) and Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC).

The National Framework of Qualifications

NQAI Fan Dec V3

There are individual training components (minor awards) as well as a combination of training components (major awards). There are two minor awards for Permaculture, others in Green Building and energy-related construction, land use, ecology, eco-tourism, etc. The majority of these courses are Level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications. This equates to a post-secondary school level.

FETAC is currently transitioning to a new awards system, called the Common Awards System. Because of this transition, awards are being revised. At the time of writing this article, both the old and new awards have been published. The significant difference is that the new (Common Awards System) awards are less prescriptive, with only top level learning outcomes defined. In the older awards, the learning outcomes were more detailed and divided into units. Additionally, in the older system, the assessed work was described. In the new system, it is the responsibility of the training provider to both conceptualise the assessment as well as develop the briefs and methodology for marking.

The information needed to deliver the FETAC awards is in individual documents called module descriptors. The module descriptors for all available FETAC awards can be found here. Under the old system, most minor awards were worth one credit. Under the Common Awards System most are worth 15 credits. This equates to approximately 150 learning hours, which can be divided between classroom hours and self-directed learning.

The requirement to give these awards is as follows:

  • Training and awards are given by training providers registered with FETAC or HETAC.
  • Registration requires a training provider to have a system of quality assurance agreed with FETAC or HETAC.
  • All learning outcomes must be met either through classroom learning or self-directed learning
  • Assessment must be completed – projects, assignments or other work as indicated in the module descriptor.
  • It is then the responsibility of the training provider and teachers to devise a programme that meets the learning outcome, to develop briefs for the assessed work and a methodology for fair and consistent marking, and to develop a time-table and materials that support the learning outcomes within the allowed learning hours.

The learning outcomes and assessment guidelines for the following are below: Permaculture Design (old system and Common awards system) and Applied Permaculture (old system and Common Awards System).

Permaculture Design / Level 5 / L21818

(Course Name/Level/Module Number)

(old system)
General Aims
Learners who successfully complete this module will:

  • develop an awareness of the importance of practical solutions-based approaches to environmental problems.
  • be familiar with the practical application of permaculture design to a wide range of situations
  • be capable of assembling the appropriate elements of a permaculture system in the most effective way possible
  • be able to carry out permaculture designs to a high standard
  • be empowered and inspired to apply what they have learned to their own lives.

Units

  • Unit 1 Permaculture principles
  • Unit 2 The Intensive Food Garden
  • Unit 3 The Green Home
  • Unit 4 The Sustainable Community
  • Unit 5 Sustainable Land Use
  • Unit 6 Practical permaculture design

Unit 1 Permaculture principles
Learners should be able to:

  • describe the environmental crisis and its many aspects
  • outline the principles and ethics of permaculture
  • carry out a simple ‘input – output’ analysis of any given element of a permaculture system
  • give a clear definition of what permaculture is
  • explain the difference between organic gardening, biodynamics and permaculture

Unit 2 The Intensive Food Garden
Learners should be able to:

  • interpret the principles of permaculture in the context of a food garden
  • identify a range of techniques and practices appropriate to an intensive food garden
  • design a small food garden and/or a Forest Garden
  • select species appropriate to an intensive food garden

Unit 3 The Green Home
Learners should be able to:

  • distinguish between the range of sustainable building materials and techniques
  • explain what differentiates a ‘green’ building from a conventional one
  • outline the principles of green design
  • draw up a strategy for ‘greening’ an existing house
  • devise strategies for reducing the amount of waste generated by a household
  • evaluate strategies for reducing a household’s energy consumption

Unit 4 The Sustainable Community
Learners should be able to:

  • identify ways in which permaculture can contribute to the ‘greening’ of local communities
  • distinguish between the various local currency systems available
  • identify a number of strategies for applying permaculture design to urban environments
  • recognise the importance of local food initiatives such as Community Supported Agriculture, Farmers Markets and co-operatives

Unit 5 Sustainable Land Use
Learners should be able to:

  • explain how permaculture principles can be applied to broadscale agriculture
  • list the range of potential uses for a well designed woodland
  • explain how good design can make the most of the wind and the water passing through a site
  • describe the importance and potential of aquaculture in a permaculture system
  • design simple aquaculture systems
  • outline strategies for integrating animals into a permaculture landscape

Unit 6 Permaculture design
Learners should be able to:

  • carry out site surveys and onsite observation exercises
  • conduct effective client interviews
  • assemble all that they have learned in the rest of the course into high quality permaculture designs
  • demonstrate their ability to use maps and site plans
  • outline in written form how the design will be implemented

Assessment
Project 50%
Assignments (2) 50%

Project
The internal assessor will devise a project brief that requires candidates to demonstrate:

  • understanding of the concepts of permaculture design
  • a clear understanding of the process of permaculture design
  • problem solving skills and team working

The project will focus on a broad range of specific learning outcomes from the full range of units. The candidates must prepare a site-specific permaculture design for presentation to a client.
Evidence presented will include:

  • a scale base map
  • a client questionnaire
  • final product – a full permaculture site design with relevant scales and keys
  • a brief report relating the clients responses to the finished design and any lessons that can be learned from that

The form in which the project is presented will allow for a number of media to be used; written, oral, graphic, visual or a combination of these as required. The project may be undertaken as a group or collaborative piece of work. The individual contribution of each candidate must be clearly identified.

Assignments (2) The internal assessor will devise two briefs that require candidates to produce evidence that demonstrates an understanding and application of a range of specific learning outcomes.

Assignment 1 Candidates will carry out an investigation on the inputs, outputs and characteristics of potential components of permaculture designs.

Assignment 2 Candidates will investigate the principles o permaculture in action in three categories, Garden, Broadscale and Exciting.

The assignments may be presented in a variety of media, for example written, audio, graphic, visual or any combination of these. Any audio or visual evidence must be provided on tape.

Each assignment carries equal marks.

Permaculture Design / Level 5 / 5N1617

(Common Awards System)
Purpose
The purpose of this award is to equip the learner with the knowledge, skill and competence to work independently and under supervision in a permaculture design environment and be familiar with the practical application of permaculture design to a wide range of situations.

Learning outcomes
Learners will be able to:

  1. Investigate ways in which permaculture can contribute to the ‘greening’ of local communities
  2. Explore the principles and ethics of permaculture
  3. Examine the relationship between organic gardening, biodynamics and permaculture
  4. Distinguish between the range of sustainable building materials and techniques
  5. Explore the principles of green design
  6. Examine how permaculture principles can be applied to broadscale agriculture
  7. Summarise the importance and potential of aquaculture in a permaculture system
  8. Explore the range of potential uses for a well designed woodland
  9. Interpret the principles of permaculture in the context of a food garden
  10. Comment on a range of techniques and practices appropriate to an intensive food garden
  11. Select species appropriate to an intensive food garden
  12. Design simple aquaculture systems
  13. Carry out site surveys and onsite observation exercises
  14. Conduct effective client interviews
  15. Carry out a simple ‘input – output’ analysis of any given element of a permaculture system
  16. Design a small food garden and or a forest garden
  17. Draw up a strategy for ‘greening’ an existing house
  18. Devise strategies for reducing the amount of waste generated by a household
  19. Create strategies for integrating animals into a permaculture landscape
  20. Evaluate strategies for reducing a household’s energy consumption
  21. Analyse a number of strategies for applying permaculture design to urban environments
  22. Produce a high quality permaculture design report which exhibits an ability to use maps and site plans showing how the design will be implemented
  23. Evaluate the contribution of local food initiatives such as community supported agriculture, farmers markets and co-operatives in society
  24. Examine how good design can make the most of the wind and the water passing through a site

Assessment
Project 60%
Assignment 40%

Project
A project is a response to a brief devised by the assessor. A project is usually carried out over an extended period of time. Projects may involve research, require investigation of a topic, issue or problem or may involve process such as a design task, a performance or practical activity or production of an artifact or event.

Assignment
An assignment is an exercise carried out in response to a brief with specific guidelines as to what should be included. An assignment is usually of short duration and may be carried out over a specified period of time.

Applied Permaculture / Level 5 / L22107

(old system)
General Aims

  • identify a pathway for moving from a theoretical understanding of permaculture derived from FETAC module ‘Permaculture Design’ towards manifesting it practically in their own lives
  • develop an awareness of a deeper understanding of permaculture principles, based on ‘Permaculture – principles and pathways beyond sustainability’ by David Holmgren
  • develop good working practices as a professional permaculture designer
  • understand how permaculture principles can be applied to the formulation of a ‘Sustainability Strategy’ for a town or village

Units
Unit 1 Action Learning
Unit 2 Starting from the Backdoor
Unit 3 Pathways Beyond Sustainability
Unit 4 Design Practice
Unit 5 Permaculture in the Community

Unit 1 Action Learning
Learners should be able to:

  • define the principles and techniques of Action Learning
  • outline a Pathway for developing their own skills and achieving their life goals
  • convene an ‘Action Learning Guild’ within the student group as tool for learning and support

Unit 2 Starting at the Back Door
Learners should be able to:

  • evaluate the most effective strategies for applying permaculture to their lives
  • identify the activities which will have the most beneficial impact on their lives
  • identify their weaknesses and strengths as permaculture designers
  • formulate targets to work towards in their own lives

Unit 3 Pathways Beyond Sustainability
Learners should be able to:

  • explain David Holmgren’s new permaculture principles and how they have developed in recent times
  • explain the concept of EMERGY
  • distinguish the ways in which permaculture offers a more coherent model for sustainability than the more mainstream model
  • recognise how Holmgren’s ideas relate to the community around the college

Unit 4 Design Practice
Learners should be able to:

  • analyse the design challenges and opportunities presented by a given site (using Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats analysis)
  • display a professional approach to permaculture design work
  • advise clients as to the best choices for implementing permaculture on their site
  • prepare design work and reports to a high standard

Unit 5 Permaculture in the Community
Learners should be able to:

  • interpret the designs behind permaculture sites visited during the course
  • recognise the relevance of what is practiced on the site visited to the wider community
  • assemble, from a number of site visits, a ‘toolbox’ of strategies and principles proven to work in our climate
  • present a body of work representing their own application of Permaculture Principles in one of Holmgren’s “7 Domains of Permaculture activity”
  • demonstrate the relevance of this work to the development of Permaculture practice

Assessment
Project 50%
Assignments (2) 50%

Project
The internal assessor will devise a project brief that requires candidates to demonstrate:

  • understanding of the concepts of permaculture design
  • a clear understanding of the application of permaculture in one or more areas of activity;
  • problem solving skills and self-motivation

The project will focus on a broad range of specific learning outcomes from the full range of units. The candidates must choose from one of Holmgren’s seven “Domains of Permaculture Activity” and develop an activity based around this, clearly demonstrating how they have applied permaculture in their lives and work.

Evidence presented will include a written report detailing the design and implementation of the project, the factors that helped or hindered its development, and a review showing what was learned in the process.

The form in which the project is presented will allow for a number of media to be used; written, oral, graphic, visual, or a combination of these as required. The project may be undertaken as a group or collaborative piece of work. The individual contribution of each candidate must be clearly identified.

Assignments (2) The internal assessor will devise two briefs that requires candidates to produce evidence that demonstrates an understanding and application of a range of specific learning outcomes

Assignment 1 Candidates present an Action Learning Plan, identifying their strengths and weaknesses as a permaculture designer, and their intentions for developing their skills over a defined period.

Assignment 2 Candidates will present a written record of three site visits undertaken by the group, as well as identifying a ‘Tool Kit’ of techniques and practices which could have a wider applicability.

The assignments may be presented in a variety of media, for example written, audio, graphic, visual or any combination of these. Any audio or visual evidence must be provided on tape.

Each assignment carries equal marks.

Applied Permaculture / Level 5 / 5N1553

(Common Awards System)
Purpose
The purpose of this award is to equip the learner with the knowledge, skill and competence to work independently and under supervision in an applied permaculture environment and develop good working practices as a permaculture designer.

Learning outcomes
Learners will be able to:

  1. Distinguish the ways in which permaculture offers a coherent model for sustainability
  2. Define the principles and techniques of action learning
  3. Examine the theory and development of a range of new permaculture principles including Holmgren
  4. Examine the concept of “emergy”
  5. Analyse the design challenges and opportunities presented by a given site using strengths, weaknesses, opportunities threats (SWOT) analysis
  6. Recognise how permaculture principles relate to a range of communities and the relevance of what is practiced on site to the wider community
  7. Interpret the designs behind a range of permaculture sites
  8. Assemble a “toolbox” of strategies and principles proven to work in the Irish climate
  9. Advise clients as to the best choices for implementing permaculture on their site
  10. Prepare design work and reports to a high standard
  11. Use learning activities and strategies appropriate to the principles of permaculture to develop skills and goals which will have a beneficial impact on a personal and community level
  12. Evaluate the most effective strategies for applying permaculture to a range of personal and practical situations
  13. Analyse personal weaknesses and strengths as a permaculture designer
  14. Exhibit a professional approach to permaculture design work.

Assessment
Assignment 50%
Project 50%

Assignment
An assignment is an exercise carried out in response to a brief with specific guidelines as to what should be included. An assignment is usually of short duration and may be carried out over a specified period of time.

There are two assignments.

Project
A project is a response to a brief devised by the assessor. A project is usually carried out over an extended period of time. Projects may involve research, require investigation of a topic, issue or problem or may involve process such as a design task, a performance or practical activity or production of an artifact or event.


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Update – How have the Permaculture Educational Structures changed in Ireland in the years 2012 – 2014?


Davie Philip, CULTIVATE Ireland, May 2014 interviewed by Monika Frank

Ireland has no national organisation of PC education and only two diploma holders. The partner of the EPT was CULTIVATE Ireland, a NGO based at an ecovillage and learning centre.

The EPT has helped to learn as well from already established educational systems like in Britain or Germany as well as from emerging structures like in Bulgaria, what a national association can be and do. This resulted in talking to other parters in IRE to create a loose national association in order to ensure a diploma pathway. Davie is enrolled on the pathway of the British system.

Other useful: As we design PDC, we have two accreditaed PC-courses (for unemployd people); shared with the EPT, accreditation reviewed, and reviewed the content, partnership has helped.

Despite the economic situation in Ireland going dramatic, the interest in Permaculture has not increased, people are not taking initiative to change their lifestyles and become more self organised. ?Permaculture is often not the best term? thinks Davie. The content and the benefit for the participants is not obvious. Sometimes it is better to undertitle it ?a course in ecological design to make it more mainstream and more accessible.

More permaculturists have stepped up to teaching; people who have come to the EPT meetings are more confident to teach now. The meetings have also identified teachers from other countries to come and teach in Ireland.

CULTIVATE has learned how to structure courses and how to teach certain elements in a more impactful way.


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Dialogue & Reflections