What "Branding" Do Students in Your Agricultural Education Experience?

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What "Branding" Do Stu- dents in Your Agricultur- al Education Experience? Are your students immersed in learning experiences that develop skills which can be turned into marketable conversations with employers? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Think about how your students would respond if a business person were to walk in on one of your lessons and ask the following question: "What are you learning today and where is it applied outside of this classroom?" Could your students come up with an answer other than "It's going to be on the test?" As a former agricultural science ed- ucator, I have to admit there were a number of times I was certainly glad no business person, administrator or anyone else randomly walked into my classroom and asked stu- dents that question. The fact is, sometimes I was more focused on activities that would keep students busy for the entire period, rather than evaluating whether those ac- tivities had meaningful application. In my later years of teaching, I start- ed asking myself a simple question as it related to the content I was teaching, "Would I find a practi- cal application of this concept or idea in the real world today?" If the answer was no, I quit teaching it. It has always been the intent of agricultural education to develop practical skills applicable in the real world. This requires that ag- ricultural science educators con- stantly evaluate content as it ap- plies to a rapidly changing industry. Another critically important evalu- ation is checking to see if students really understand what they are learning, and I'm not just refer- ring to a test on technical skills. Allow me to explain. Agricultural education is filled with opportuni- ties for students to develop technical skills, but more importantly, trans- ferrable skills. Here's an example. Let's say you teach welding and the local chamber of commerce has ap- proached you about building four metal signs to display the logos of the various service organizations in town, such as Rotary, Lions, etc. The signs are to be located along each highway coming into town. You decide to take this on as a class project where students can apply the technical skill of weld- ing. You form teams of students to plan and construct the signs. At the completion of the project, stu- dents will have had the opportunity to apply welding skills in building the signs. If orchestrated correctly, students will also experience de- velopment of transferrable skills in problem solving, communication, team work, responsibility - just to name a few. All of these are highly sought after by employees. How- ever, which skills will most likely be assessed by the average agri- cultural science educator? My guess would be the welding skills. Now you might be saying, "So what's your point? We already know that students develop trans- ferrable skills in our programs." Maybe so. But the real ques- tion is: Do the students know it? My experience as a former agri- cultural science educator suggests they don't. If you doubt this, try lis- tening to the answer students give when someone asks why they are enrolled in Agricultural education and the FFA. It sounds something like this: "It's a lot of fun." If they are asked what they learn, the reply is often, "We learn about agriculture and leadership stuff. …