The study of GMO between scholarly knowledge and knowledge to be taught An analysis of the didactic transposition process in a agro-ecological university course

Stefano Bocchi, Elisabetta Nigris, Franco Passalacqua


The need of investigating academic didactics has been highlighted
by many studies (Galliani, 2011; Felisatti, Serbati, 2014). This has been
further emphasized by the recent introduction of the academic
evaluation system, that ignites the debate on teaching methods
(European Commission, 2013).
The present research, conducted within the course of “Coltivazioni
Erbacee” (degree in Management of cultivated plants and landscaping;
Department of agricultural and environmental sciences,
production, landscape, agroenergy at the University of Milan) during
the academic year 2015/2016, has the purpose of testing and
evaluating teaching methods’ in an academic context. Specifically
the researchers have observed the outcomes in the first phases of
didactic transposition (Chevallard, 1985), in regard to the acquisition
of inter-disciplinary complex concepts that are characterized
as “socially acute questions”.
The researchers have conducted the didactic experimentation
with a double approach (disciplinary and didactic) towards the
transformation of “scholarly knowledge” in “knowledge to be
taught” (Chevallard 1985; Develay, 1995; Astolfi, 2008). For this purpose,
we have applied an immersive didactic methodology (Nigris,
2016; Rossi, 2012), built on the model of philosophical dispute (Nicolli,
Cattani, 2006) and embodied simulation (Rossi, 2012; Caracciolo,
The methodology chosen, referable to descriptive case study (Yin,
2006), has enhanced (according to Merriam 2002) both the use of
different research methods (semi-structured interviews, focusgroups,
semi-structured questionnaires) and interpretation perspectives
during the analysis phases.
Triangulation of data (Janesick, 2000) and investigators (Knafl, Breitmayer,
1993) enabled the identification and the dual reading – disciplinary
and didactic – of some critical questions of the didactic
transposition’s initial stage: the influence of the didactic dispositive
(philosophical dispute and embodied simulation) in the construction
of the learning objectives; the connection with the
concept of “socially acute questions” (Legardez, Simonneaux,

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