A View from the Other Side: High School Principals' Perceptions of Supervised Agricultural Experiences

Article excerpt

The origin of Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) has been well documented by historians and scholars in agricultural education. This rich history is ingrained in the tradition of the agricultural education community and is a source of pride for those who acknowledge SAE to be the first formal experiential learning model of instruction in Career and Technical Education (CTE). During the last forty years, many studies have identified SAE as the shrinking component of the agricultural education program.

Many researchers in agricultural education have questioned who is at fault for the decline of student participation in SAE. Dyer and Osborne (1995) conducted a synthesis of all research related to SAEs in which they identified the success of the SAE component to be dependent upon the teacher. They also concluded from many studies that teachers value the foundation of SAE but are not transferring this value into action by requiring students to participate in SAEs. More recently, Wilson and Moore (2006) found this to still be true. Other researchers believe that school principals can affect whether teachers choose to implement SAE. Dyer and Osborne (1996) concluded that opinions of administrators make a difference in the maintenance of agricultural education program quality. Wilson and Moore (2006) found that teachers believe that principals do not reward them for having their students conduct SAEs.

The rationale for this research was simple. In North Carolina, teachers self report their participation in SAE each year. In 2004-2005, only 37% of these teachers and in 2005-2006, only 43% of these teachers reported all students in their programs had an SAE program. Ninety-three principals responded to our survey and provided the following data: Seventy-six percent of the principals taught at the high school level before being a principal, only 10% had taught a career and technical education course at that level. While 16.5% of the principals who participated in the survey took an agricultural education course in high school, only 13.4% reported having either placement or entrepreneurship SAE project. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed indicated that the students at their school come from rural areas. Eighty percent of those surveyed reported that the agricultural education teacher(s) at their school are employed on 12 month contracts.

The principals in this study believe that SAE is important and valuable. Principals agree that SAE is important, realistic, and provides character education. They also believe that teachers should visit and supervise students conducting SAE and teachers should possess 12 month contracts to do so. Principals believe that the level of teacher involvement with SAE and the quality of these experiences is above average. Only 65% of the principals surveyed reported that the agriculture teacher(s) at their school have students conducting work-based agricultural education experiences. However only 5.2% think those work-based agricultural education experiences are available to all of their agricultural education students. Nearly 20% of these principals state that their agricultural education teacher(s) provides work-based learning opportunities for 25% or less of their students. Only five percent of the principals surveyed believe that the agricultural education teacher(s) at their school provides work-based learning opportunities for 100% of their students.

Even though principals believe in the importance and quality of SAE they do not believe teachers are visiting or grading the majority of student projects. Only 40% of the principals surveyed believe the agricultural education teachers at their school visit and supervise work-based learning experiences for a majority of their students. Fifty percent of those principals who reported having programs with work-based learning agricultural education programs said that their agricultural education teachers give students grades for their projects. …