Half the Battle

Article excerpt

Recruiting students to teach secondary agricultural education is a critical component in maintaining and growing agriculture programs across the country, but it is just half of the battle we face. As high school teachers, teacher educators, and stakeholders in agricultural education we need to begin looking more closely at what draws students into the agricultural education major, and then into the profession.

To begin, we need to first identify factors that influence a student's decision to become a secondary agriculture teacher in the first place. A 2009 research study sought to identify the beliefs, attitudes, and intentions of 145 senior agricultural education majors at 19 institutions in nine states throughout the Midwest. The following summarizes the findings of that study.

Who are they?

The majority of these students (college seniors, majoring in agricultural education) had been enrolled in high school agricultural education for four years, were members of the FFA, had an SAE project, and were members of 4-H.

* What do they believe about teaching agricultural education?

These students' beliefs about teaching reveal that they consider teaching agricultural education as a highly skilled occupation that has a high social status. Additionally, they perceive it to be a career in which teachers have high morale.

* What is their attitude about teaching agricultural education?

These students' attitudes about teaching agricultural education indicate that they view teaching as a way to make contributions to society, they have had positive prior teaching and learning experiences, they believe that they have the ability to teach, they enjoy working with adolescents, and find intrinsic value in the career.

* What is their intention to teach?

These students, typically, are satisfied with their choice to become an agriculture teacher, and the majority plan to pursue a career in teaching after student teaching and graduation.

* Does their background play a role in their attitude, beliefs, and intent to teach?

NO! No difference was found in students' intent to teach and their gender, how long they were enrolled in agricultural education courses, how long they were members of the FFA, participation in SAE, or their years of 4-H membership.

What does this mean for teachers, teacher educators, state staff, and other stakeholders interested in recruiting the next generation of agricultural educators?

1. Keep recruiting from high school classrooms.

Because the majority of the current agricultural education majors come from high school agriculture programs, efforts should be made to continue to recruit students from these tried and true sources. However, as agriculture continues to grow and change, we should begin to explore recruiting from other populations including urban, suburban and rural areas where there is a high need for agriculture teachers and programs specifically where there are currently no programs in place. Recruiting agriculture teachers from the other sciences such as biology, environmental science or physical science could be explored as an alternative recruitment approach as well.

2. Provide students with opportunities to teach, early.

These students believed that teaching agricultural education was a highly skilled career and that they possessed the skills to be successful. Most likely, these beliefs developed from positive teaching experiences and interactions with children and adolescents throughout 4-H and FFA involvement, community activities, or employment. High school teachers should continue to capitalize on agricultural education SAE, PALS, and other informal teaching opportunities and provide high school students with the chance to test the waters. Teacher educators should concentrate on enhancing early, positive field experienees to maximize students' knowledge of teaching agriculture prior to student teaching. …