The Institute of Food Technologists first established minimum standards for undergraduate curricula in food science in 1966, and over the years, they have evolved significantly. IFT reviews the minimum standards for approval of food science programs about every ten years. The major changes in the most recent revision (1992) were the addition of a capstone course requirement, a statistics requirement, and an emphasis on development of success skills (oral and written communication, critical thinking, and computer skills) within the curriculum.
Despite these changes, complaints about the minimum standards have arisen in the past few years for several reasons. Food science departments did not like the rigid nature of the requirements and the manner in which they were implemented. Perhaps more important, employers were questioning whether graduates truly had the skills necessary to start their careers in the food industry. In response to these pressures, IFT’s Executive Committee formed a task force in 1998 “to review and recommend outcome-based guidelines as compared to minimum standards to inspire excellence in food science education.” Thus, the Executive Committee decided that future education guidelines would be based on learning outcomes and not solely on a rigorously specified curriculum with predetermined course content.
The IFT Task Force on Evaluating Outcome-Based Measures of Learning considered various options for implementing new IFT education standards based on learning outcomes. A three-part approach was chosen as being most flexible, while maintaining the rigor of the previous minimum standards. In the first part, specific content areas and accompanying competencies are defined. Each of these content areas must be met for a program to qualify as an IFT-approved program. The second part requires that specific learning outcomes be written for each food science course and an assessment program be developed to measure how well students meet these learning outcomes. The third part requires that a formal program exists for curricular improvement based on the assessment data. As in the past, only students attending universities with IFT-approved programs are eligible for IFT scholarships.
In the new 2001 Education Standards, food science programs must still verify that they cover the material considered to be a minimum for a food science program. These include course content material divided into five categories: Food Chemistry and Analysis, Food Safety and Microbiology, Food Processing and Engineering, Applied Food Science, and Success Skills. The list of content material was based on the 1992 minimum standards, but several new requirements were added, including food law, quality assurance, sensory analysis, and current issues. Furthermore, additional success skills were identified, including professionalism skills (ethics, etc.), life-long learning skills, interaction skills (teamwork, etc.), information acquisition skills, and organizational skills.
Although there were additions to the content requirements, additional flexibility was built into the new standards. Instead of requiring specific courses on each topic, the standards allow programs to be flexible in how they choose to cover each content point. That is, as long as each content point and the accompanying competencies are covered in the curriculum, the program will be approved (assuming that the other elements are also met). A suggested approach to documenting that each content point is covered is to develop a spreadsheet that shows where the competencies are covered within the required courses of the curriculum. As long as each competency is covered in the required courses, the program meets the content requirements.
One of the major differences from previous years is the requirement of an assessment program for learning outcomes. The new standards require that (1) specific learning outcomes be developed for each required food science course (taught by food science faculty/staff), (2) specific outcomes for the overall program be developed, and (3) an assessment program be implemented to determine whether students meet these learning outcomes.
Once learning outcomes are developed for both the overall program and individual courses, the students must be evaluated according to these outcomes. Numerous methods of assessment are available, each of which provides different information about the skills of the students. Within the classroom, instructors can use a variety of techniques for evaluating student outcomes. These might include traditional quizzes and exams, homework assignments, weekly feedback, or student portfolios, but also should include the demonstration and use of more-complex skills (oral presentations, design or product development exercises, real-world problem solving, etc.). Furthermore, assessment methods such as exit interviews, alumni surveys, and employer focus groups provide broader information regarding the quality of the program as a whole. IFT recommends that a range of different assessment tools be used to provide the broadest spectrum of evaluation measures.
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The final part of the new education standards involves a formalized program for using the assessment data to continually upgrade and improve the curriculum. Each program must document how the assessment data are used to improve student learning within the curriculum, particularly in areas where student learning is far from expected outcomes. This may involve modifying course content or modifying classroom activities or laboratory experiments to improve specific aspects of student learning. An annual retreat, with either the department as a whole or a subset of the department, to discuss the assessment results and implement changes to address specific issues is one option for implementing change. Other methods also may be developed to meet this requirement.
The Committee on Higher Education is charged to provide assistance to each program to meet these new standards and is developing an assessment guidebook. The Guidebook for Food Science Programs will contain information and resources on assessment tools as well as examples and best practices from other food science departments. The guidebook will be available in the near future and updated on a regular basis as additional programs are evaluated and new assessment techniques are reported.
The 2001 IFT Education Standards have been approved by the Executive Committee, and evaluation of programs based on these standards is now beginning. Programs scheduled for review will be notified by the Committee on Higher Education during the year prior to their review so that sufficient time is given to prepare the materials for the committee. Since these new standards involve a substantial shift in emphasis from the previous version, the committee will work closely with each department to provide assistance as needed, especially in the first few years of implementation.
IFT Undergraduate Education Standards for Degrees in Food Science (2001 Revision)
Definition of the Field of Study
Food Science is the discipline in which the engineering, biological, and physical sciences are used to study the nature of foods, the causes of deterioration, the principles underlying food processing, and the improvement of foods for the consuming public.
Food Technology is the application of food science to the selection, preservation, processing, packaging, distribution, and use of safe, nutritious, and wholesome food.
In practice, the terms food science and food technology are often used interchangeably.
The primary objective of the educational program of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is the professional development of food scientists. To this end, IFT has developed these Education Standards to provide assistance to colleges and universities for evaluating the effectiveness of academic selection, guidance, and preparation of undergraduate students. The IFT Executive Committee has adopted these Education Standards as the core competencies required of all undergraduate food science students.
Application of these education standards is intended to promote continued excellence in food science education. Students with the skills designated by these standards will have the foundation for continued professional development. It is the intent of these standards to foster rigorous scientific training and to develop professional skills for students enrolled in a Bachelor of Science food science curriculum.
These standards are valuable as a guide for:
• Colleges and universities to evaluate existing food science programs or establish new programs.
• Students to select approved food science programs.
• Government and industry to realize the basic standards of professional competence for the graduates of approved food science programs.
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Education Standards: Administrative and Physical
Organization and Budget. The instructional program will preferably be administered by an independent administrative unit, ideally a separate organized department with an identifiable budget adequate to sustain a quality academic program.
Faculty. The food science faculty will be of a size and competence commensurate with the diversity of courses deemed necessary to meet the desired competencies. Most faculty members should have earned doctoral degrees; some may have extensive professional experience in lieu of a doctoral degree. A minimum food science faculty of four, in addition to faculty from other departments of the institution, is recommended to adequately assist students in learning the skills and competencies outlined in these standards. The fields of faculty specialization must be distributed over the subdisciplines required for the food science courses. In general, courses will be taught by faculty whose graduate training or recent experience has involved specialization in the area of the course.
Where it is not practical to include all of the faculty in a single administrative unit, the college or university administration must define a faculty with the qualifications outlined to perform the necessary functions of supervising, teaching, and guiding the program.
Facilities. Teaching laboratories will have up-to-date and adequate facilities and equipment to conduct the chemical, engineering, processing, and microbiological exercises. Pilot-plant facilities will be available to teach principles of unit operations and unit processes involved in food science. Library facilities and holdings concerning food science need to be adequate to support, encourage, and stimulate independent study and research by both students and faculty.
Education Standards: Curricular
The “Core Competencies in Food Science” (see table on next page) provides guidelines to prepare students for the B.S. degree in food science. The curricular standards encompass two elements: specific curricular content and desired competencies of student learning. Note that the competencies listed are quite broad and it is expected that each food science program will develop its own set of detailed outcomes for each food science course and for the program as a whole. The term “outcomes” refers to measurable results of learning. Outcomes need to specify the level of learning, based on Bloom’s Taxonomy or a similar approach. Each program also will need to develop the assessment tools used to measure the learning outcomes. The Committee on Higher Education is available to provide assistance in developing specific outcomes and methods of assessment.
For food science students to meet the core competencies, several background courses will be necessary. These will generally include:
Chemistry. Two courses in general chemistry followed by one course each in organic chemistry and biochemistry. Analytical chemistry and physical chemistry are recommended.
Biological Sciences. One course in biology, and one course in general microbiology that has a laboratory.
Nutrition. One course dealing with the basic concepts of human nutrition and the relationship of consumption of foods to health and well-being.
Physics and Mathematics. Two courses in calculus and one in general physics.
Statistics. One course.
Communications. Two courses, generally taught outside of the food science program, that provide the fundamentals of speaking and writing skills.
The choice of background courses for a program will be based on the resources available at the university and any constraints within which the program must operate (e.g., credit hour limitations). The Committee on Higher Education will work with each program to ensure that the courses selected provide the necessary background for students to meet the food science competencies.
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Use of the Standards
The IFT Committee on Higher Education will use these Education Standards to assist colleges and universities in gaining approval of their food science programs. For a program to obtain approval, the following documentation needs to be submitted for review by the Committee on Higher Education. Refer to the Guidebook for Food Science Programs for further details. Only students in approved programs are eligible for IFT scholarships.
Each program needs to document:
1. That the organization and budget, teaching faculty, and physical facilities are appropriate.
2. The curriculum required for graduation.
3. That each content element is covered in the curriculum.
4. That learning outcomes have been established for each course in the food science curriculum.
5. That the learning outcomes of each course are assessed using multiple tools such as portfolios, oral presentations, papers, reports, projects, academic journals, quizzes and exams, etc.
6. That the curriculum outcomes for graduates have been defined and are evaluated using tools such as exit interviews or examinations, alumni surveys, employer surveys, food industry advisory boards, etc.
7. That the results of outcome assessment are used to improve student learning.
A worksheet is provided to assist programs in meeting these standards.
The IFT Committee on Higher Education will:
1. Assist programs, through assessment of learning outcomes, to enhance excellence in food science education.
2. Assist programs to gain IFT approval.
3. Review approved programs every five years, ensuring that they continue to adhere to these Education Standards.
4. Review the Education Standards at least every ten years, making needed changes as appropriate.
5. Continually review, improve, and/or add best practices to the Guidebook for Food Science Programs.
For a copy of the Guidebook for Food Science Programs or other information concerning approval of undergraduate programs in food science, contact the Scholarship Dept., Institute of Food Technologists, 221 N. LaSalle St., Chicago, IL 60601 (phone 312-782-8424, fax 312-782-8348, e-mail [email protected]).
by Richard W. Hartel
The author, a Professional Member of IFT and Chair of the IFT Task Force on Outcome-Based Measures of Learning, is Professor of Food Engineering, University of Wisconsin, 1605 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706.