Are We Preparing Agricultural Education Teachers to Collaborate?

Article excerpt

T he value of collaboration has been well documented in agricultural education programs. Agricultural education teachers have many opportunities to successfully collaborate with other professionals in their school and community. As teacher educators, are we preparing our students to foster the collaborative spirit when they enter the workforce?

As a young and inexperienced county extension agent in Turner County, Georgia, I remember one of the first relationships I formed was with the local young farmer/agricultural education teacher, Chuck Majeski. There were many instances during the next three years where the two of us shared resources, served as a resource person, held joint meetings for clientele and worked collaboratively for the youth of our county. Was this just a chance happening? Does collaboration simply happen with little or no effort? These questions must be posed to our pre-service, apprentice and beginning teachers to facilitate collaborative efforts in their communities.

When I reflect on those experiences, it is clear that there were many underlying factors that influenced this collaborative relationship. We had a common goal. Our main concern was for all youth from our county to be successful, regardless if they were a member of 4-H or FFA. There was a history of collaboration in this program. The agricultural education program and the extension service had worked together for years in this county and that tradition was still strong in the community. Communication between the two organizations was great! Chuck and I visited informally weekly and formally met to collaborate monthly. This along with many other factors led to a healthy collaborative relationship.

Mattessich and Monsey (1992) identified 1 9 factors that can influence collaboration and grouped the factors into six categories: environment, membership characteristics, process/ structure, communication, purpose, and resources. Although these factors are documented in the literature, do teacher educators share these with student teachers or first year teachers? I would say that my positive collaborative experience just fell into my lap. One major void in our teacher preparation programs is placing a strong emphasis on collaboration and the positive impact it can have on a program and career.

In a recent study conducted at Texas A&M University by Murphrey, Harlin and Rayfield (2010) agricultural education teachers reported they collaborated most during: 1) livestock shows and fairs, 2) serving as a volunteer, 3) being a guest or expert speaker and 4) sharing equipment and facilities. With these areas of collaboration in mind, how can we clearly communicate the value of collaboration to our young professionals?

Be willing to share resources. For years we (Chuck and I) shared a set of scales that we both used to weigh swine and sheep projects. We would typically travel together to visit the youth who had these projects and work together rather than steering our programs in different directions. This sharing of resources was embraced by the local board of education and the county commission who provided funding for both programs. …