Category

Teacher Education & School-based Ag. Education

Preservice Teachers’ Perceptions of their Ability to Use The AET as a Data Management System

Tyler J. Price, Oklahoma State University, tyler.price10@okstate.edu

Emily O. Manuel, Oklahoma State University, emily.manuel@okstate.edu

Emily A. Sewell, Oklahoma State University, easewel@okstate.edu

J. Shane Robinson, Oklahoma State University, shane.robinson@okstate.edu

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Abstract

An increased emphasis has been placed on teaching financial literacy at the secondary school level. As such, SBAE teachers have a unique opportunity to teach students about maintaining records and managing data through the Agricultural Experience Tracker (AET). AET has been used nationwide by SBAE teachers to teach students how to manage finances and maintain proper records. The purpose of the study was to describe the self-perceived and actual efficacy of preservice SBAE teachers toward operating and managing student projects through AET. Forty-two preservice SBAE teachers from Oklahoma State University were instructed in the use of AET. The study measured the students’ perceived self-efficacy to use AET at three points during the 16-week semester. Results showed that students’ self-perceived and actual abilities to use AET increased across all areas throughout the semester. However, although their actual ability to use Financial Applications in AET increased across all three observations, their mean scores were still below a 60%, indicating a failing grade. The state office of career and technical education in Oklahoma should be alerted to the actual competency and self-efficacy levels of the new teachers in the state so that appropriate professional development may be provided once these students enter the teaching ranks.

Introduction

Debate exists on whether financial literacy should be taught as a stand-alone course or by integrating it into other curricular areas (Totenhagen et al., 2015). Financial literacy is a critical aspect of being a productive member of society in a culture that requires fiscal responsibility to be self-sufficient (Shim et al., 2009). Therefore, it is imperative that adolescents learn about financial matters to prepare them for the transition to adulthood (Shim et al., 2009). The increased interest in teaching financial literacy in U.S. schools has been on the uprise since the 1990s (Walstad et al., 2010). What is understood about financial literacy is that educators should provide opportunities for students to invest their own money, make decisions, and apply concepts related to managing it appropriately, and at minimum should include course topics such as budgeting, saving, and investing, as well as understanding credit and how it is generated (Totenhagen et al., 2015). Parents, schools, and entrepreneurs should create partnerships that are dedicated to teaching youth sound financial practices (Shim et al., 2009). Walstad et al. (2010) identified that a properly implemented program designed to increase financial literacy can significantly impact the knowledge of high school students regarding their finances. The use of simulation-based learning methods has also shown to be a powerful educational intervention that creates environments conducive to student learning (Warren et al., 2016). Levant et al. (2016) posited that business simulations have the potential to benefit all students regardless of gender identities, cultural backgrounds, and previous experiences. Such simulations have shown promise in school-based agricultural education (SBAE) programs. Brown and Knobloch (2022) identified that the use of simulation by SBAE teachers to teach business management skills was better at increasing students’ financial literacy compared to playing a game about business management.

SBAE provides opportunities for students to manage data and maintain records on their agricultural enterprises and projects. In fact, The National Council for Agricultural Education (2011) found the topic so important they included personal financial planning and management as a mandate for each Foundational Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) for students. The goal of the National Council for Agricultural Education (2011) was to have 100% SAE engagement among students. A project known as SAE for All was developed to serve as a resource for SBAE teachers to use in their classrooms due to the need to help students acquire financial planning and management skills through their SAEs (The National Council for Agricultural Education, 2011). In addition to adding financial planning as a mandate for SAE projects, the National Council for Agricultural Education’s (2015) revision of the National Agriculture Food and Natural Resources (AFNR) Content Standards included adding the management of personal finances to the Career Ready Practices content standards. Even so, teaching financial literacy to students has been, and continues to be, a difficult proposition for SBAE teachers (Foster, 1986; Layfield & Dobbins, 2002; Miller & Scheid, 1984; Sorensen et al., 2014; Toombs et al., 2020).

One issue related to teaching financial literacy in SBAE has been the lack of emphasis placed on teaching it, as it remains a high inservice need of all teachers (Sorensen et al., 2014). Part of being an effective teacher is having the appropriate content and pedagogical knowledge necessary to effect student learning (Goodnough & Hung, 2008). Fortunately, teacher preparation programs can positively impact SBAE teachers’ ability to teach specific content (Rice & Kitchel, 2015). Teacher preparation programs are fundamental to teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (Rice & Kitchel, 2015). For this study, understanding preservice SBAE teachers’ experience using AET can help us identify their perceived self-efficacy using the software, which is imperative to enhancing the interests of students in entrepreneurship and business management and increasing their financial literacy (Brown & Knobloch, 2022).

AET

The AET program was released in 2007 as a data management system designed to assist SBAE instructors teach aspects of record keeping to students regarding their SAEs (The Agricultural Experience Tracker, 2017). Although numerous states have adopted AET as their primary data management system for FFA members, research continues to point to the fact that teachers are ill equipped for using it appropriately and need professional development (Ferand et al., 2020; Sorensen et al., 2014; Toombs et al., 2022). According to Aviles (2015), SBAE teachers found AET to be too complex and time consuming. Sorensen et al. (2014) found AET was one of the highest in-service needs of both early-career (i.e., those with less than six years of experience) and experienced agricultural education teachers (i.e., those with six or more years of experience) in Oregon. What is more, research has indicated that preservice teachers have a low amount of overall self-efficacy related to managing the financial data aspect (i.e., record books) of their students’ SAEs (Toombs et al., 2022), signifying a need for further inquiry in this field. As an interactive software for record keeping, Totenhagen et al. (2015) and Brown and Knobloch (2022) posited that the use of interactive learning experiences and curriculum integration are the best methods for delivering financial literacy content to students. Activities in AET such as the Personal Finance Lab, Practice AET Curriculum, and Agribusiness Management Resources provide SBAE teachers with the tools needed to teach financial literacy (AET, 2023b). Additionally, AET provides SBAE teachers with specific tools to assist in managing their chapter’s activities and students’ projects (AET, 2023a).

AET has been used nationwide by SBAE teachers and students to assist in the acquisition of record keeping skills in time and finance (Hanagriff, 2022). In 2021, more than 8,000 SBAE and FFA programs and 1.1 million SBAE students used AET to assist in tracking Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAEs), recording FFA activities, and creating and managing FFA award applications (Hanagriff, 2022). AET aligns with the three-circle model of agricultural education and was supported through the use of Perkins and state-curricular funding (The AET, 2023a). As a result, AET has been adopted by 91% of all SBAE and FFA Programs across the U.S. (Hanagriff, 2022). As such, it was recommended that teacher preparation programs prepare teachers to use resources, such as AET, to meet the goals of their students. The suggestion is imperative, as all teachers should be trained on how to access curricular resources and how to evaluate them for use with their students (Mercier, 2015). Despite the widespread adoption of AET by SBAE teachers across the country, little research existed regarding preservice teachers’ self-efficacy for using it. Additionally, research assessing teacher preparation programs’ ability to effectively prepare preservice teachers to instruct students in AET has been largely left out of the cannon of agricultural education research. With the heavy expectation to integrate AET into SBAE programs, what impact can a semester-long course have on students’ self-perceived and actual abilities to use it?

Theoretical Framework

Bandura’s (1977) self-efficacy theory guided the study. Self-efficacy is the belief a person has in his or her ability to perform a specific task or tasks (Bandura, 1977). It is advanced through the repetition of completing the task with the assistance of a mentor. Self-efficacy can increase with a person’s successes and decrease with their failures to complete the task (Wilson et al., 2020) and is largely dependent on an individual’s continual effort, devotion, and behavior toward completing the task (Walumbwa et al., 2011). Four sources impact a person’s self-efficacy (Bandura, 1994). These sources include mastery experiences, psychological arousal, vicarious experiences, and verbal persuasion. Mastery experiences provide the greatest opportunity for increased self-efficacy when individuals succeed at, or accomplish, a task. Vicarious experiences aid in improving self-efficacy when individuals are involved in the experience of observing others (i.e., models) successfully complete a task. Verbal persuasion is produced through encouragement and occurs when individuals are told they “. . . have what it takes to succeed” (Bandura, 1994, p. 3). Physiological arousal is related to how individuals react to the situations they encounter (Bandura, 1994). With the need to increase financial literacy among students across the U.S. school system, and the role SBAE teachers can play in creating such authentic learning opportunities and experiences, it was important to assess students who aspire to be SBAE teachers on their self-perceived and actual abilities to use AET.

Background of the Study, Purpose, and Objectives

Preservice students enroll in AGED 3203: Advising Agricultural Student Organizations and Supervising Experiential Learning during their junior year where they learn about various aspects of FFA and SAE. The course included laboratories where students engage with all aspects of the program, such as advising a local FFA Chapter, supervising student projects, and managing data through AET, as students log entries, produce reports, and complete award applications from fictitious data sets. These experiences were designed to prepare students for their future expectations as SBAE teachers once they enter the academy. As such, AGED 3203 sought to improve student knowledge and experiences related to financial literacy and data management using AET. The course description was as follows:

This course is designed to determine the resources and trends of local communities with respect to agricultural production and agribusiness. Emphasis will be placed on agricultural education program policies, FFA chapter advisement, planning and managing the instructional program, and the identification and completion of records and reports required of a teacher of agricultural education in Oklahoma. (Robinson, 2022, p. 1)

The larger aim of the course was to prepare preservice teachers for implementing effective FFA and SAE programs at the secondary school level. Such preparation includes teaching students to use AET to track their data in hopes of becoming financially literate. To do so, preservice teachers must feel efficacious at using AET. Yet, research has indicated that some people tend to overestimate their efficacy (Woolfolk Hoy & Spero, 2005). It may be possible others underestimate their efficacy. To support such a claim, Robinson and Edwards (2012) assessed the teaching self-efficacy of first-year traditionally and alternatively certified SBAE teachers. They found that traditionally certified teachers consistently outperformed their alternatively certified teaching counterparts when assessed by a third-party observer. Although their actual performance indicators were significantly higher statistically, their self-perceived ratings were lower when compared to their alternatively certified peers. We attributed this difference to the fact that alternatively certified teachers had not been prepared in pedagogy and as such did not know what they did not know about teaching (Robinson & Edwards, 2012). Therefore, this study sought to explore the self-perceived and actual efficacy of preservice SBAE teachers toward operating and managing student projects through AET. The study was guided by the following research objectives:

  1. Describe the personal characteristics of students enrolled in the course,
  2. Describe the perceived self-efficacy of preservice SBAE teachers to use AET for managing student projects; and
  3. Describe the abilities of preservice SBAE teachers to use and advise students in AET.

Methods

The study was approved by the Oklahoma State University (OSU) Institutional Review Board (IRB) on January 26, 2022. This manuscript was based on data presented at the meeting of the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists (Blinded Authors, 2023). All students (N = 42) enrolled in the junior-levelAGED 3203 at OSU during Spring 2022 were invited to participate in the study. Participation in the study was voluntary and students’ final grade was not affected by their consent to participate or not. Links to the questionnaire were made accessible to the students through the Canvas learning management system for one class day for students to complete. The use of classroom announcements and text reminders were used to recruit participants.

Three points of data were collected. The first data collection point (n = 41) occurred Week 1, the second (n = 41) occurred Week 8, and the third (n = 32) occurred Week 16 (the beginning, middle, and end of the semester). Students completed a questionnaire using Qualtrics regarding their perceived self-efficacy for using AET along with three AET Quizizz assessments.

The questionnaire included personal characteristic questions and 22 statements regarding their perceived self-efficacy to perform various competencies in AET. Each competency statement was rated on a 5-point, Likert-type scale ranging from 1= Strongly Disagreeto 5 =Strongly Agree. Statements were derived from AET Quizizz assessments. Twenty-two complementary statements were developed to determine the perceived self-efficacy of the participants when using AET. For example, one question on the Quizizz asked, “As an FFA officer, where do you record your officer meetings and chapter meetings?” The complementary perceived self-efficacy statement was “Log FFA Activities.” Another Quizizz example was, “After logging into your AET, (blank) should be completed 100% before beginning any other entries.” The complementary perceived self-efficacy statement was, “Create a student AET profile.”

After completing the questionnaire to measure their perceived self-efficacy, the participants then completed three AET Quizizz assessments to measure their actual self-efficacy. The three AET Quizizz assessments addressed student knowledge of AET icons, financial applications, and record book terms. The questionnaire and three assessments were all taken at each data collection point – Weeks 1, 8, and 16.

Face and content validity were assessed by a panel of five experts. In total, our panel possessed 17 years of secondary agricultural education teaching experience, and 23 years of postsecondary agricultural education teaching experience. Further, four of the five members have used AET as secondary agricultural education teachers, and all five currently teach preservice teachers to use AET. A pilot study was not conducted; therefore, we admit that reliability was a limitation of the study. However, the items we used in the Quizziz were taken verbatim from the AET. As such, we chose to treat the reliability as being criterion-referenced (CRT). Because the test followed the eight methods of reliability for a CRT, according to Wiersma and Jurs (1990), we deemed the study reliable.

Descriptive statistics, including central modes of tendency (means and standard deviations) and variability (frequencies and percentages), were used to analyze the data. Personal characteristics included student type (traditional four-year or transfer), FFA degree(s) obtained, FFA office(s) held, and years of FFA experience. Student perception data were analyzed by recording the mean and standard deviation for the group at each of the three data collection points. The change in mean scores between observations one and three were calculated to determine the change in perceptions from the beginning to end of the semester.

 Results/Findings

Objective one sought to describe the personal characteristics of the students enrolled in AGED 3203. The personal characteristics of the students are presented in Table 1. One-half (f = 21) were traditional, four-year students with the other one-half (f = 20) being transfer students. Thirty-six (85.71%) of the students had received their Greenhand FFA Degree, and 16 (38.10%) had received their American FFA Degree. Thirty-two (76.19%) had served as a Chapter FFA Officer, two (4.76%) had served as a District FFA Officer, and three (7.14%) had served as a State FFA Officer. Seven (16.67%) had been a State Proficiency Finalist while 19 (45.24%) had been an FFA member for five years, and 15 (35.71%) had been a FFA member for four years (see Table 1).

Table 1

Personal and Professional Characteristics of Participants (N = 42)

Objective two sought to describe the perceived self-efficacy of preservice SBAE teachers to use AET for managing student projects. Mean scores were compared across observations. To determine overall change of students’ self-perceived efficacy in AET, mean difference (MD) scores were computed by subtracting the mean score in Data Collection 1 from the mean score in Data Collection 3 (see Table 2). In all, student perceptions ranged from the real limits of disagree to agree on all statements in Data Collection 1 and increased from neither agree or disagree to strongly agree in Data Collection 3.

Table 2

Perceived Self-Efficacy of Students (N = 42)

The highest mean score for students in Data Collection 1 was Log FFA Activities (M = 3.71, SD = 0.89), followed by Enter Journal Entries (M = 3.68, SD = 0.92), and Enter Financial Entries (M = 3.66, SD = 0.90). Advise students in Completing National Chapter Award Applications (M = 2.33, SD = 1.03) was the statement that had the lowest mean score for Data Collection 1 (see Table 2).

Regarding Data Collection 2, Enter Journal Entries (M = 4.36, SD = 0.61) had the largest mean score, followed by Enter Financial Entries (M = 4.29, SD = 0.76), and Create a Student AET Profile (M = 4.26, SD = 0.62). Advise Students in Completing National Chapter Award Applications (M = 3.19, SD = 1.18) was the statement that had the lowest mean score of Data Collection 2 (see Table 2).

Regarding Data Collection 3, Enter Journal Entries (M = 4.53, SD = 0.56) had the largest mean score, followed by Log FFA Activities (M = 4.34, SD = 0.59), and Enter Financial Entries (M = 4.25, SD = 0.83). Advise students in Completing National Chapter Award Applications (M = 3.59, SD = 1.31) was the statement that had the lowest mean score of Data Collection 3 (see Table 2).

Students experienced the greatest amount of perceived growth in the areas of National Chapter Award Applications (MD = 1.26), Use the Market Manager (MD = 1.23), and Advise Students’ Research SAEs (MD = 1.21). The least amount of perceived growth occurred in the ability to use AET to Log Community Service Activities (MD = 0.58), Enter Financial Entries (MD = 0.59), and Create a Student AET Profile (MD = 0.60). All statements experienced a positive increase in student self-efficacy mean scores from Data Collection 1 to Data Collection 2. The majority of the statements also experienced an increase from Data Collection 2 to Data Collection 3. However, Enter Financial Entries, Create a Student AET Profile, and Using the Breeding Herd Manager all experienced slight decreases in mean scores from Data Collection 2 to Data Collection 3, but these values were still greater than their mean scores detected in Data Collection 1 (see Table 2).

Objective three sought to determine students’ actual ability to identify features and use AET as a curricular resource for SAEs across the semester. The AET Quizizz were used to measure student knowledge of the data management program. Mean scores were compared across observations for each assessment as well as cumulatively (see Table 3).

Table 3

Actual Ability of Participants to Identify and Use Features within AET (N = 42)

At the time of Data Collection 1 students had a cumulative score of 57.40 (see Table 3). Regarding the quiz components, they collectively scored 62.20 on the Record Book Terms, 57.07 on AET Icons, and 55.80 on Financial Applications.

During Data Collection 2, students increased their cumulative score to a 65.93 (see Table 3). In the individual quiz areas, participants scored 74.86 on the Record Book Terms, 70.48 on the AET Icons, and 57.19 on the Financial Applications.

During Data Collection 3, students had a cumulative score of 65.02 (see Table 3). For the quiz components, they scored 69.49 on the Record Book Terms, 69.20 on the AET Icons, and 59.10 on the Financial Applications.

Students’ actual knowledge of AET Icons, Financial Applications, and Record Book Terms increased between Observations 1 and 2, with Record Book Terms and AET Icons both increasing by more than ten percent. However, during Data Collection 3, Record Book Terms and AET Icons exhibited a decrease in students’ actual ability to recall terms and identify icons. Although slight, actual ability to determine correct Financial Applications increased throughout all three observations. Cumulatively, students’ actual ability to use AET increased from Data Collection 1 to Data Collection 2, and then slightly decreased when evaluated in Data Collection 3. The greatest growth of AET Quiz Components from Week 1 to Week 16 was realized for AET Icons (MD = 12.13). In comparison, Financial Applications experienced the least amount of change (MD = 3.30) in students’ actual ability throughout the semester-long course experience.

Conclusions

Students failed to reach a level mastery of using AET Financial Applications across the 16-week instruction period.Although students’ actual ability to determine Financial Applications in AET increased across the three observations, their mean scores were still below a 60%, indicating a failing grade. Unfortunately, students were only able to increase their overall knowledge of AET by a total of eight and one-half points (a grade of D) from Week 1 to Week 16. Simply stated, participants were not proficient in the financial applications of AET, which is concerning considering the importance of teaching financial literacy in the current climate (Totenhagen et al., 2015). These results also showed that students were not able to master a core piece of the course’s purpose which was to identify and complete records and reports required of SBAE teachers using programs required in Oklahoma (Robinson, 2022). In addition to failing to meet the purpose of the course, these scores also show that many of the participants were unable to appropriately use AET as a chapter management tool (AET, 2023a). These poor scores were also concerning as fewer states look to add economics and personal finance courses to their graduation requirements (CEE, 2022). These findings also support those of Aviles (2015) who found that the areas of financial applications were areas where many struggled when utilizing the tools of AET.

Roughly one-half of the students began their undergraduate education at OSU. Three (7%) students were not FFA members in high school. In addition, 21% of the students did not receive their State FFA Degree, and only 17% had been a finalist for a State FFA Proficiency Award. Therefore, it is possible that a high number of students failed to have adequate experience with AET as high school students prior to this course. As such, it might be unfair to expect these students to obtain mastery (Bandura, 1994) in AET after one class. In addition, this lack of experience in the use of AET could have an impact on pedagogical content knowledge specifically (Rice & Kitchel, 2015).

Students’ self-perceived abilities to use AET increased across all areas throughout the semester, which supports Bandura’s (1977) assertion that self-efficacy is solidified through rich experiences of performing a particular task over time. Increases were detected across the semester in all 22 statements, indicating that the students improved their efficacy for using the software and advising student SAEs because of the course. The term Advising Students in Completing National Chapter Award Applications was rated lowest in self-perceived ability by students in all three observations. However, it was also the statement that experienced the greatest amount of overall mean difference change throughout the semester.

Students’ actual abilities also increased overall when compared across the three-point time series; however, the growth might not be sustained long term, as scores showed a decrease between observations two and three in comparison to those noted between observations one and two. It is possible that the results might be attributed to the timing of the presentation of content related to AET. Specifically, aspects of AET were emphasized heavily during the first one-half (eight weeks) of the semester, and then tapered off toward the end of the semester. The more elevated scores detected from Data Collection 1 to Data Collection 2 may be due to the recency effect of the emphasis of AET during that time frame.

Recommendations

The study was limited to the delivery of AET content and generalizability of its results. An assumption was made that the same content and activities featuring AET would be taught and implemented each week by the three teaching assistants charged with delivering content to their respective laboratories. Although weekly meetings were held throughout the semester to attempt to maintain fidelity and consistency of such, differences in teaching assistants’ personalities, teaching styles, and experiences using AET as former SBAE teachers themselves undoubtedly existed and could have impacted the study’s findings. participants’ prior experience in AET was not collected, and their experience may have impacted the findings. Therefore, we acknowledge the results of the study could be limited by these factors. Moreover, the study included a convenient sample of students enrolled in a required teacher preparation course offered at the junior level at one institution.

Given the results cannot be generalized to all preservice SBAE teachers across the country, it is recommended additional research on the self-efficacy and actual ability of preservice teachers to implement AET is conducted with a larger population of preservice teachers. We recommend other preservice institutions replicate this study to determine if the findings hold true across other university settings. We also recommend that correlational studies ensue to assess students’ abilities to effectively use AET based on their involvement in FFA activities at the secondary school level. Further research also should investigate whether the use of AET does in fact increase financial literacy. It is recommended that a financial literacy assessment be used to determine if the use of AET, SBAE’s version of a simulation-based method, improved financial literacy of the participants (Levant et al., 2016). These future studies should identify the effectiveness of the training resources provided by AET to instruct students in proper data management and record keeping strategies.

Regarding the course content, students need additional experience with the statement: Advising students in completing National Chapter Award Applications, as students consistently rated it as the lowest mean value in each of the three observations. Perhaps the reason for this poor rating was due to students not currently having the opportunity to work with actual data from FFA members. Students be paired with a mentor teacher and FFA members in SBAE programs so that they can experience a richer connection to AET and obtain real-world experience with advising students who are working on award applications as part of their SAE program. Providing dedicated time for students in this course to interact with FFA members while using AET would likely increase their readiness to learn and afford concrete experiences for preservice teachers to learn the content while using actual student data and working with a mentor teacher.

Further, it was important to determine the impact of this preparation on students as they enter the teaching profession. Are they better prepared for integrating AET into their classrooms and FFA programs having learned about and used it for multiple weeks as part of their preservice preparation? Or, is readiness to learn the criterion absent or minimized during this phase of their preparation? Regardless, AET should be a point of emphasis during the student teaching internship and again, as professional development, after students have accepted positions during their first year of teaching. Conducting a longitudinal trend study would provide comparisons between perceived and actual self-efficacy of teachers based on actual projects and experiences of their students and their readiness to learn such content. Finally, regarding teaching styles of graduate teaching assistants, a quasi-experimental study should be conducted in which different pedagogies are used to instruct students in the use of AET. A comparison of such across different laboratory settings could aid in identifying the most effective method of instruction for teaching students the importance of using AET and how to do so most effectively. Regarding states that do not use or require AET in the agricultural education program, it was recommended that a similar study be conducted to understand the perceived and actual self-efficacy of preservice SBAE teachers in using the software used within that state.

Discussion

The most effective ways of teaching young people to become financially independent, literate, and to make good investment decisions is an important topic that should continue to be discussed and considered by SBAE teachers. The current study provides additional insight into the practice of preparing SBAE teachers. The timing of when to teach certain topics to students is an imperative task for all teacher preparation programs. Perhaps students simply were not ready to learn all aspects of AET during the spring semester of their junior year. Based on the findings of this study, it is imperative that we, as a teacher preparation program, implement aspects of AET into other preservice courses, where appropriate, to provide students additional opportunities and iterations necessary for mastery experiences (Bandura, 1994). It is possible the students in this study experienced the largest growth in mean difference of perceived ability to complete National Chapter Award applications because of a project where they plan out mock events. Therefore, growth is observed in the preservice courses where opportunities to learn through doing is possible. In addition, regarding the practice of teaching SBAE, the state office of career and technical education in Oklahoma should be alerted to the actual competency and self-efficacy levels of the new teachers in the state so that appropriate professional development may be provided once these students enter the teaching ranks. Finally, it is entirely possible that students overestimate their abilities to perform certain tasks (Woolfolk Hoy & Spero, 2005), especially when interfacing with that content over the course of a semester. Therefore, it is necessary that continued follow-up training and support exist to ensure that perceived self-efficacy eventually leads to actual competence.

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Perceived Readiness of First Year Agriculture Teachers to Teach Low Socioeconomic Students

Rachelle Staehr, York High School, rachelle.staehr@yorkdukes.org

Nathan Conner, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, nconner2@unl.edu

Bryan Reiling, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, breiling2@unl.edu

Taylor Ruth, University of Tennessee, truth3@utk.edu

Jacob Goldfuss, Summerland Public School, jacobgoldfuss@summerlandbobcats.org

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Abstract

Approximately10.5% of children in Nebraska live in poverty. Poverty in a child’s life impacts both physical and cognitive development. This qualitative case study explored agricultural education teachers perceived confidence when teaching students who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Eight high school agriculture teachers were interviewed, and the following themes emerged from the data: (a) teacher emotions, (b) observations, and (c) accommodations. The teachers felt prepared to teach students that are impacted by poverty. It is recommended that teacher preparation programs select courses that specifically address working with students that are living in poverty. Additionally, exposure to students from low SES backgrounds early in their teacher preparation program will help them to learn how to build positive relationships with students and how to accommodate this population.

Introduction

Children were the highest likely group of individuals to be living in poverty (Dornan, 2017). Talk Poverty (2020) identified that 10.5% of children in Nebraska public schools live in poverty. This correlates directly with Dornan’s (2017) identification of children being the highest likely group to live in poverty, as Talk Poverty (2021) ranked children at a higher rate of poverty than any other surveyed group. This growing issue was evident within Nebraska public schools and educators need to be prepared for it.

Throughout preservice teachers’ educational experiences, professors have utilized a variety of different methods to educate their students on this phenomenon. Cho et al. (2015) explored the option of educating teachers to be anthropologists in future encounters of student poverty, while Baggerly (2006) focused on the power of service-learning experiences. With a growing need for teacher confidence in the identification and accommodation of students of low socioeconomic status (SES), teacher educators must ensure they have prepared their students to effectively accommodate classroom instruction for students living in poverty.

Child poverty has reared its head as multidimensional poverty within American schools as students lack basic resources due to availability, location, and family structures (Dornan, 2017). Roelen (2017) discussed differences between children of monetary poverty and children of multidimensional poverty. Monetary poverty is described as strictly a measurement of household income and expenses and was also defined as indirect poverty because it is did not directly impact the resources of a family (Roelen, 2017). Roelen (2017) explained this concept by pointing out that not all financial funds accumulated by the household were used properly for the basic needs of all individuals within the household. Improper use of funds or lack of availability of basic needs within a community can create multidimensional poverty (Roelen, 2017). Multidimensional poverty was defined as the lack of and depletion of basic needs and resources (Roelen, 2017). This term was also referred to as direct poverty (Roelen, 2017). Each type of poverty is unique but not necessarily linked to each other depending on the economic status of the country inhabited (Roelen, 2017). 

Gupta (2017) gave readers a glimpse of a family’s life within poverty by providing a view of the assumptions and realities of their lives. America’s social work system has been known to sometimes forget to account for poverty when visiting families (Gupta, 2017). Gupta (2017) illustrated a situation in which individuals living in poverty were surrounded with assumptions of drug use and had parenting rights removed with little to no evidence. Thiede and Brooks (2018) outlined the correlation between immigration, family history, and poverty. This quantitative analysis identified that individuals of first and second generations who had two foreign born parents had a higher likelihood than other foreign individuals of living in poverty in America (Thiede & Brooks, 2018). This unfortunate relationship has been reality for many children in public schools and should be recognized by American school systems.

The direct relationship of poverty and its impacts on a child’s cognitive development was illustrated by Dolean et al., (2019) in a study done on the relation of socioeconomic status (SES) and development of reading and linguistic skills. SES was the likely root cause for many children’s inability to academically excel in the classroom (Dolean et al., 2019). Research identified frequent school absences, phonetic awareness, and bilingual homes to be largely impactful on the slow development of basic academic skills (Dolean et al., 2019). SES was directly linked to poor linguistic, phonetics, reading, letter knowledge, and nonverbal IQ (Dolean et al., 2019). Li et al. (2020) hypothesized that poverty and mental health have been negatively correlated. Li et al. (2020) survey asked school aged children about their access to common educational resources relative to their current mental health state. Anxiety and depression were common themes that manifested among students with lower SES, and poverty levels were associated with increased mental health issues in children (Li et al., 2020).

Over the past few years, school systems have subscribed to the ideas of Ruby Payne and her framework for understanding poverty (Osei-Kofi, 2005). These ideas were presented to communicate social norms and commonalities amongst those living in poverty (Osei-Kofi, 2005). Although these theories outlined positive things teachers can do for students, Osei-Kofi’s (2005) review identified its flaws of the framework in today’s world. Being a teacher himself, Osei-Kofi had a direct point of view on the impacts of Payne’s framework on his own school. He observed that the framework created biases around certain groups of people and the framework’s influence on the No Child Left Behind Act gave teachers almost impossible standards to reach (Osei-Kofi, 2005). The No Child Left Behind Act created a system in which standardized tests blamed teachers for any student failure (Osei-Kofi, 2005). Although much of Payne’s research was valid, she made assumptions that stretch teacher’s limits and impose unfair assumptions on students (Osei-Kofi, 2005). One example from Osei-Kofi’s (2005) review indicated  that Payne outlined children in poverty as inadequate and in need of repair from a teacher. The responsibility of the student’s so-called repair was placed solely on the teacher (Osei-Kofi, 2005).

An article by Payne and Ortiz (2007) outlined multiple factors such as socioeconomic status of a household and the talent of teachers as huge impacts on the success of students in the classroom. Many of those students who have struggled with standardized tests may also be victims of multidimensional poverty (Payne & Ortiz, 2007). Educators cannot solve child poverty; they do not have the responsibility of child poverty, but they have been  doing everything they can to help children living in poverty (Payne & Ortiz, 2007).

The exploration of child poverty, cognitive development, and educator limits lead us toward identification of applicable solutions for how America’s educational system can help children in poverty. Jackson (2014) explored the emotions of educators and students surrounding children living in poverty and found that there was a shocking overall acceptance of poverty by our society. Educators have a duty to promote proper emotional response to social injustices (Jackson, 2014). There was no shortage of sympathy amongst students and teachers, but empathy will be  needed to impact society (Jackson, 2014). Empathy is the initial step in the emotional process and is needed to enact change within society (Jackson, 2014).

Sato and Lensmire (2009) pointed out that teachers should be culturally responsive. While teachers may already do this, it needs to be an intentional effort to really assist students in poverty. For example, teachers need to recognize that not all students, based on factors such as SES, have the same prior knowledge or commonalities that were often assumed within the classroom (Sato & Lensmire, 2009). Students of poverty may not have these shared experiences (Sato & Lensmire, 2009). An empathetic and involving teacher is one who is also culturally aware throughout their curriculum (Sato & Lensmire, 2009).

The Poverty Simulation was a program utilized in the education of college students entering social work and health care fields (Vandsburger et al., 2010). This case study utilized three common scales used in diversity education: (1) the Critical Thinking Scale, (2) Understanding of Others Scale, and the (3) Active Learning Scale are used to measure the effectiveness of this simulation (Vandsburger et al., 2010). The simulation consisted of daily tasks and navigation through life for a given amount of time as an individual of poverty (Vandsburger et al., 2010). While 82.2% of individuals who participated in this simulation experienced further contemplation of poverty’s effects, only 58.4% of participants were moved to take social action (Vandsburger et al., 2010). Results of this study showed that the simulation was impactful in the education of college individuals, but true empathy was not always reached (Vandsburger et al., 2010).

Community connections and service learning are powerful educational tools that were explored by Baggerly (2006) in the setting of the education of preservice teachers. Service learning was outlined as a symbiotic relationship between urban communities and universities within them (Baggerly, 2006). A lot of students attending universities have minimal experience with poverty themselves, so properly designed service-learning projects can provide them exposure to the impacts of poverty (Baggerly, 2006). This experience was valuable for preservice teachers because it helped them understand the background of future students in poverty (Baggerly, 2006). Major goals of service learning should be for students to experience different cultures and to encourage students to take social action (Baggerly, 2006). These impactful projects can create knowledge that preservice teachers can draw from in their teaching careers (Baggerly, 2006). This experience was recognized as impactful in educating students about the realities of poverty (Baggerly, 2006).

Purpose

The purpose of this case study was to explore the perceived preparedness of first year agricultural teachers from the University of Nebraska to educate an increasing population of children of low socioeconomic status (SES) in Nebraska public schools. The preparedness of first year agriculture  teachers to educate students of poverty was defined as their feelings toward the accommodations they are able to make. The overarching research question was, do first year agricultural teachers who graduated from University of Nebraska feel prepared to educate students who are impacted by childhood poverty?

Methods

Qualitative research was conducted because it allows researchers to create a vivid interpretation of the world around them (Creswell & Poth, 2018). This qualitative study was working on the assumption that there was a growing need for first year agricultural teachers to be holistically educated on child poverty to increase their confidence in the identification and accommodation techniques for these students. A case study methodology was used in this study. As defined by Creswell and Poth (2018), a case study is the study of an actual, real life, case within a real context. A case study also takes place within a system that is bounded by a place and time (Crestwell & Poth, 2018). The bounded system recognized in this study, and hence the participation criteria for this study, was first year agricultural teachers from University of Nebraska who were employed by Nebraska public schools.

This study utilized purposeful sampling to select the individuals who provided experiences and information that were consistent to this bounded system. An initial recruitment email was sent to 28 agricultural teachers who met the participation criteria. There were only eight first year agriculture teachers from University of Nebraska that agreed to participate in the study. Creswell and Poth (2018) posited that five participants are adequate for a case study, however, we used eight participants to help achieve data saturation.

Participant/School Description

Teacher one came from a school in northeastern Nebraska and was the only agricultural teacher at this school. Student diversity included about a 69% population of white individuals and around a 22% population of American Indian individuals (Nebraska Department of Education, 2021). Teacher two was one of two agricultural teachers at a large high school in eastern Nebraska. This diverse school had a population of about 68% Hispanic students with 13% white as the next highest race within the population (Nebraska Department of Education, 2021). Teacher three came from a one teacher agricultural education program at a school in southeastern Nebraska with a high majority white student population (Nebraska Department of Education, 2021). The fourth, fifth and sixth teachers interviewed were also in one teacher programs at schools in the central (T4), northern (T5), and southern (T6) parts of Nebraska with high majority white student populations (Nebraska Department of Education, 2021). The seventh and eighth teachers came from small, one teacher program schools, while being located in western (T7) and central (T8) Nebraska schools. Both T7 and T8 were located at schools with a high majority white student population as well (Nebraska Department of Education, 2021).

Data Collection and Analysis

This qualitative case study used semi-structured interviews to collect data during September 2021. The semi-structured interviews took place over Zoom and lasted approximately 20 minutes. The interview questions allowed for open-ended answers that encouraged storytelling and real-life examples. The interviews were recorded and transcribed through Zoom. Data was analyzed for the emergence of themes. The transcripts were read three times and reoccurring words, phrases, and ideas were categorized together and used to identify the themes that emerged. Creswell and Poth (2018) stated, “themes are broad units of information that consist of several codes aggregated to form a common idea.” (p. 186). Codes were organized into themes using tables to help conceptualize the overarching concepts.

Trustworthiness

Trustworthiness measures were used to determine the truth, value, credibility, and reliability of the research study (Dooley, 2007; Erlandson, et al., 1993; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Triangulation was achieved in this study by use of multiple researchers (Dooley, 2007; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Peer debriefing was used and allowed a researcher that was not associated with the study to review the data and give insight on how the data was analyzed(Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Dooley, 2007).

Subjectivity Statement

As an agricultural education teacher at a public school and the lead researcher on this article, I have encountered a higher rate of students living in poverty or of low SES than I expected. This study was completed during my third-year teaching and I found myself still having to adapt to many new and shocking situations. For example, many of my students lack funds available to supply their own jeans and boots for welding classes and other students have told me about nights they spend in their cars. The reason why I wanted to select my sample specifically from agricultural teachers because in my personal experience, many disadvantaged students are ‘dumped’ in agricultural courses to explore careers. Even though school counselors have good intentions, students in poverty can easily fall behind in these hands-on classes. These students may have a difficult time purchasing or providing the extra supplies that are typically needed. As a teacher, I would like to be better prepared to help these students and to identify tools to help support them as an empathetic, positive role model in their lives.

Findings

The following themes emerged from the data: (a) teacher emotions, (b) observations of poverty, and (c) accommodations. Within these themes, various codes were identified to help sort and categorize data and commonalities throughout the interviews.

Theme #1: Teacher Emotions

The theme of teacher emotions was defined by the internal feelings’ teachers have as they navigate difficult decisions when working to accommodate students of poverty. During interviews, many emotions were discussed. Teachers identified common emotions of empathy, concern, and compassion. Empathy was expressed by T1, T2, T4, T5, and T8 when acknowledging that many students were in poverty situations through no fault of their own. T1 indicated that students were usually helpless in their own availability of resources. T2 explained that many students living in poverty missed out on opportunities teachers try to provide, this leaves teachers feeling heartbroken. T2 continued to explain their feelings on this issue by saying, “I know they’re going to have these struggles in life because they are already behind the eight-ball compared to many other peers, and for no reason than being born into the circumstances.” T2 and T4 also expressed an interest in breaking the cycle of poverty experienced by many of their students.

When the concerns of participants were addressed, the collective consensus of T1, T3, T6, and T7 was that all teachers feel the stress and difficulty of helping these students. T3 illustrated their own worry over the physical conditions these students live in each day and how the physical conditions impacted their abilities within the classroom. T3 and T7 both expressed a feeling of helplessness in many of the situations they encountered. Emotions of grace and compassion were also identified with T2 and T8. Prioritizing what was best for students and having a forgiving attitude was emphasized by T2. T8 described a deep respect for students who juggled the complications of a life in poverty yet maintain a positive influence within school.

Theme #2: Observations of Poverty

Observations of poverty was defined by the identifying factors of poverty teachers have witnessed within their first couple of months teaching. These observations were broken down into the following sub themes: physical observations, impacts of poverty, and lack of resources.

Physical Observations

Location of observations made by educators who participated in these interviews ranged from the general community to inside the school building. T1 reported their own physical observations of poverty by simply driving around town and seeing where students were living. Behaviors observed inside the schools by T1, T2, T5, T6, T7, and T8 included students missing school due to babysitting responsibilities, wearing old clothes every day, lack of hygiene, taking home school lunch to share with family, difficulties focusing, and a lack of engagement whenever money was mentioned in class. T6 stated, “As I discussed details for a fieldtrip, I watched a student physically slump in their chair when I requested students bring money for lunches.”

Impacts of Poverty

Many teacher observations were made individually through strong personal relationships built with students in poverty. Through relationships, students can reveal details about their lives that identify themselves as children of poverty. These conversations created observable information for teachers. T4 and T5 discussed being shocked at the sheer lack of confidence many students express during conversations with students of poverty. T2 described one situation by saying, “I’ve got one student, I know, that works until 11 o’clock every night to help her family pay the bills, so they have a lot of missing assignments.” T3 and T7 also could identify students in similar situations. T2’s students also expressed interests in being the first generation in their families to attend college or trade school. T1 theorized that many students living in poverty were highly motivated by simply wanting to break their own cycle. T4 expressed their observations of high levels of hard work and determination from students living in poverty. T3, T4, and T8 identified lack of sleep and emotional stress as two consequences of poverty. T3, T4, and T8 reported students helplessly falling asleep in class after working a long night shift. T3 also reported having students act distant and emotional due to the stresses of their everyday life. These two impacts had a severe negative toll on the student’s abilities to learn and participate in class. Through personal conversations with students T3 and T8 concluded students who were consistently overly tired in class usually spent time working to pay bills. Students could easily be overscheduled, and some employers may not recognize the demands on their time. T3 said, “Our school actually reached out and said, hey, just be aware that these are high school students and we know that they’re working a lot. First and foremost, they need to be students.” T3 and T4 pointed out that poverty may not allow children to experience as many opportunities.

Lack of Resources

All teachers interviewed identified examples of actual lack of resources from students in poverty. During the shutdown of many schools, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students were expected to learn from home using technology and the internet. However, T1, T2, and T4 identified the lack of reliable internet and technology was problematic for many students in poverty. T4 indicated that students living in poverty had issues sourcing these necessary resources and sharing them with siblings in the same situations. This lack of resources could include a lack of equipment within a household, lack of bandwidth, or lack of reliable internet. All teachers interviewed also indicated that transportation and financial support impact students’ school experiences. Although public education is free, extracurricular activities that compliment classroom learning are not. T2, T4 and T8 explained different situations in which students could not afford opportunities that FFA provides. However, these teachers made their own accommodations for these students.

Theme #3: Accommodations

The theme of teacher accommodations was defined as any adaptations or changes teachers made to help students of poverty. The different accommodations teachers made all fell into the following sub themes: (a) advocacy, (b) relationships, and (c) monetary support.

Advocacy

Some great points brought up through discussion with T3 included strong intentions to advocate for students. T3 stated: “I will do whatever I can to make sure that you’re (students are) supplemented with whatever you (students) need.” T1 stated that agricultural educators, have a unique advantage compared to other teachers because of their preparation to mentor a student to explore certain careers and trades. Agricultural educators teach classes directly tied to real life careers. Students who have taken agricultural classes were taught basic skills needed for entry level positions out of high school within agricultural careers or the trades. T1 also expressed focusing class content on trades that all students could explore. All teachers interviewed believed it was their job to advocate for their own students.

Relationships

Relationships, built through classroom experiences, were a huge asset when working with students. Through strong student relationships, T1, T2, T3, T4 and T6 provided examples of simple accommodations provided. Based on student suggestions, accommodations made by T1, T2, and T6 included virtualizing assignments for accessibility, providing class work time, and allowing retakes. These simple steps provided a more stress-free environment for students. T3, T4, T7, and T8 also accommodated students by providing all materials needed for class and creating an open line of communication where teachers can easily check in on students.

Monetary Support

T1 and T4 mentioned that FFA provided help to support students who cannot afford opportunities that exist within the organization. T5, T6, and T7 also discussed how they discretely provided extra cash to students who cannot afford lunches on trips and hold fundraisers for all students to provide free opportunities within FFA. These young teachers were already expressing the importance of finding a way to include all students in all activities to create a strong organization and environment.

Conclusions, Discussion, and Recommendations

Educators of today are almost certain to encounter a significant percentage of students living in poverty. America’s public school system has not clearly set the expectations of educator’s role in these student’s lives. Child poverty is a phenomenon that increasingly plagues our world and is currently being addressed through policy changes. These policy changes in our nation as well as others have the intent of bringing children out of poverty through economic focuses (Dornan, 2017). Nations are working to assist the growing population of children in poverty.

Teachers interviewed in this study were able to convey how they have felt while accommodating students of poverty. Emotional stress of teachers is a real issue and relating it to their education of students of poverty may be an indicator of their preparation to deal with this issue. Feelings of helplessness was a key concept identified through these interviews that could indicate deficiency in the preservice teacher’s education. When looking at the emotions reported by teachers interviewed, concern was likely stemming from the level of care they have for students. Most teachers interviewed appeared to genuinely care about their student’s wellbeing and little to no emphasis was placed on the teachers’ own feelings about their own abilities. Empathy was a concept utilized by all teachers interviewed. As Jackson (2009) mentioned, empathy is critically important in creating a learning environment that accompanies all students. The fact that all teachers interviewed were aware of and practicing empathy was a clear indication that they know what they need to do to help their students in poverty. However, teachers need to be taught how to take care of their own mental health needs. Agricultural teacher preparation programs should incorporate stress management techniques into their programing and develop units or workshops on how to take care of your mental health. A focus on taking of your mental health should be embedded into the entire agricultural teacher education program. Preservice agriculture teachers need to see positive examples of self-care and they also need structured opportunities throughout their program to practice self-care.

Although these young teachers were only a couple of months into their teaching career, they have been able to report a wide array of observations that can be used to identify students in poverty. Signs of poor health, both mental and physical, were used as identified by the teachers, which aligns with Li et al. (2020) assertion that students living in poverty struggle with maintaining their mental and physical health. All teachers interviewed had some sort of observation or story to report in which they identified poverty. These young teachers were able to see poverty in front of them; therefore, something in their education has prepared them for this issue. All of the teachers that participated in this study completed a 20-hour service learning project that required them to work with after school programs in a city. The service learning projects during their agricultural teacher education preparation program exposed the teachers to students of various social economic statuses. The incorporation of a service-learning project at after school programs is recommend for agricultural education teacher preparation programs to help expose the future teachers to a diverse group of students.

The accommodations explained by the teachers interviewed were both effective and creative in their nature. Financial, emotional, and health focused support was given by all teachers interviewed through simple accommodations they made in their classrooms and organizations. Teachers interviewed explained how they listen to student’s needs and communicate with them to create great relationships and effectively help students. This use of relationships to benefit students was a major sign of competency amongst these teachers. Similarly, this could be attributed to the service learning project that exposed the preservice agriculture teachers to students from diverse backgrounds.

Many children living in poverty not only lack financial resources, but also emotional resources, role models, and a general support system (Cuthrell et al., 2007). All of the teachers interviewed identified experiences they had in which positive relationships with students helped them provide individualized support to students in need. Positive relationships not only help students emotionally but will likely lead to higher academic achievement. It is recommended that agriculture teacher preparation programs emphasize the power of positive student teacher relationship and give the preservice teachers multiple opportunities to work with high school students so they can practice building relationships.

The young teachers interviewed demonstrated that they felt adequately prepared to deal with the realities of educating students of poverty. Although some indications of helplessness were communicated through interviews and many creative and adapting accommodations were discussed by each teacher. There were great solutions that already exist amongst this group of young agricultural teachers. Agricultural education is unique because it is so closely related to careers and hands-on opportunities. Because counselors push students of poverty towards career focused opportunities, many are enrolled in agricultural classes. These interviews revealed the young agricultural teachers were aware of this poverty issue, and they are up to the challenge of bettering student lives. We recommend that teacher preparation programs select courses that specifically address working with students living in poverty. Additionally, exposure to students from low SES backgrounds early in their teacher preparation program will help them to learn how to build positive relationships with students and how to accommodate them. The development of a sustained mentorship relationship between a preservice agriculture teacher and a low socioeconomic high school student is recommended. This mentor/mentee relation should be sustained over a long period of time so that the high school student and the preservice agriculture teacher can both experience growth and development. Ideally, the mentor/mentee relationship would start when the preservice teacher is in the first year of their program and the high school student is a freshman. If possible, the mentor/mentee relationship could last between two to four years depending on the duration of the agricultural teacher preparation program.

Future research that should follow up this study to include identifying what specific education methods for poverty education are the most impactful. A phenomenological case study should be conducted to better understand the feelings, perspectives, and needs of low socio-economic agriculture students.  An analysis of current poverty educational methods used may give teacher educators a better idea on how to create the most impactful experience for their students.

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How do Animal Science Standards Align: A Comparison of South Carolina Standards to AFNR Standards

Kayla N. Marsh, Oklahoma State University, Kayla.marsh@okstate.edu

Christopher J. Eck, Oklahoma State University, Chris.eck@okstate.edu

K. Dale Layfield, Clemson University, dlayfie@clemson.edu

PDF Available

Abstract

Content and performance standards were the basis on which school-based agricultural education (SBAE) teachers develop effective and relevant instruction. These standards prepare students for future agricultural careers and support the needs of the community. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which South Carolina SBAE standards align with the national AFNR standards for the animal science career pathway. This study implemented an existing data design, comparing the South Carolina animal science standards and the national AFNR animal science pathway standards through content analysis. Thirty-one percent of standards were written at or above the Applying level, as compared to 95% of the AFNR standards. The analysis of standards demonstrated the lack of rigor in current standards. Although this study highlights concerns with SBAE standards in South Carolina, additional research is needed to see how other states’ standards align with AFNR standards. It is further recommended that teacher educators develop preservice and in-service activities that will prepare SBAE teachers to plan activities and assignments at higher-order levels of thinking.

Introduction

“A standard is both a goal (what should be done) and a measure of progress toward that goal (how well it was done)” (Ravitch,1995, p.7). Standards help teachers design courses and develop objectives to deliver content and evaluate student learning (Nilson, 1998). Specifically, content and performance standards were the basis on which school-based agricultural education (SBAE) teachers, school districts, and state education departments rely. These standards develop effective and relevant instruction to prepare students for future agricultural careers and support the needs of the community (Molina, 2009; Swafford, 2018). To be effective, content standards need to be current to support effective SBAE teachers, build capacity for abstract learning, and prepare students for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) based agricultural careers (Swafford, 2018). Judson et al. (2020) defined the process of teachers adapting standards to meet the community’s needs, beliefs, culture, and values as the sensemaking of educational standards. This evidence suggested that strong state standards provide a needed structure to empower teachers while still giving the sensemaking freedom to implement and support student learning (Judson et al., 2020).

The push for national standards started in 1989 with policy goals focused on academic achievement and an increase of rigorous coursework for all students. They prompted the reform of learning expectations and assessment, which led to state and national debate over content, assessment, and evaluation in educational systems (Clune, 1993; Darling-Hammond, 1994; Ravitch, 1995). Many oppose the adoption of national standards for a multitude of reasons, including federal control of educational standards, weak or narrow standards due to political influence, controversial values imposed by the government, and diminishing of teachers’ creativity and ability to connect with students in the classroom because they were forced to teach to an assessment or examination (Ravitch, 1995). These concerns still exist, as well as evidence that strong educational standards indicate learning gains, equity for all students, and increased collaboration and communication of needs (Bloom, 1956; Judson et al., 2020; Ravitch, 1995). Sharing ideas between teachers and educational content developers (i.e., textbook writers, curriculum and software developers, and assessment companies) requires well-defined standards as a guide (Anderson, 2001; Darling-Hammond, 1994; Ravitch, 1995). The debate was further complicated by diverse types of standards that have been ill-defined and vaguely used, but each were essential when creating coherent educational expectations for students (Ravitch, 1995). Specifically, content standards are appropriate when discussing what students should learn, while performance standards relate to measuring the level at which it was learned (Ravitch, 1995). Interrelated but irrelevant without the other is the consistent relationship between content and performance standards, making the process of adopting and revising standards messy (Ravitch, 1995). Therefore, it has become best practice to address the complexity and develop content and performance standards that serve as a strong framework to support SBAE teachers, students, administrators, faculty, and content developers because vague non-measurable standards are an ineffective tool in supporting rigorous and relevant instruction and learning (Anderson, 2001; Judson et al., 2020; Ravitch, 1995; Swafford, 2017).

To support these efforts, the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (AFNR) content and performance standards were developed and supported by the National Council for Agriculture Education (2015). AFNR standards provide a baseline to support SBAE career clusters that incorporate STEM integration for multiple agricultural career pathways (The Council, 2015; Swafford, 2018). The eight different SBAE career pathways align AFNR standards with the components of a comprehensive SBAE program for instruction, career and leadership development (FFA), and Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAE) with the following national standards to ensure a robust framework of rigor and relevance for SBAE programs: Common Career and Technical Core (CCTC), Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Common Core Mathematics (CCSS), Common Core English Language Arts (ELA), National Standards for Financial Literacy and Green/Sustainability Knowledge and Skill Statements (The Council, 2015; see figure 1). Not only were the AFNR standards a thoroughly crafted framework for SBAE teachers, students, and support professionals for classroom instruction, but they were purposely constructed to support the comprehensive model for secondary agricultural education developed by Baker et al. (2012), which includes supervised agricultural experiences (SAE) and leadership and career development through the national FFA organization.

Figure 1
Comprehensive Model for SBAE (Baker et al., 2012)

“Adoption and use of these standards is voluntary; states and local entities are encouraged to adapt the standards to meet local needs” (The Council, 2015, p. 2), ultimately allowing SBAE teachers to prepare students for future STEM careers by providing rigorous and relevant instruction while also meeting the needs of the community and program (Baker et al., 2012; Judson et al., 2020; Ravitch, 1995; Swafford, 2018). According to Swafford (2018), at least one STEM component (i.e., science, technology, engineering, or math) was directly aligned with AFNR standards within each pathway, with science the most prevalent as it was found in six of the eight pathways. Therefore, comprehensive SBAE programs were supported by strong content and performance standards with increased levels of rigor and career preparation through the relationship between AFNR and STEM standards (Baker et al., 2012; Judson et al., 2020; Swafford, 2018).

Theoretical and Conceptual Framework

This study was undergirded by Bloom’s (1956) taxonomy, which established distinct levels of learning and engagement as a hierarchical structure representing six categories, ranging from basic learning objectives (i.e., knowledge of content) to higher-order learning (i.e., synthesis and evaluation; Bloom, 1956; Clemons & Smith, 2017). Bloom formed the basis for early work on the development of instructional objectives, standards, and learning goals for classes and curricula, providing a framework and shared vocabulary for teachers, school districts, and educational content developers (Anderson et al., 2001; Bloom, 1956; Krathwohl, 2002). Each of the six categories of Bloom’s Taxonomy has been defined and represented by an action verb that distinguishes the level of learning and retention taking place, as represented in Figure 2.

Figure 2
Bloom’s (1956) Cognitive Taxonomy

The rigor, relevance, and retention of the content and skills learned increase as we move to the pinnacle of the pyramid represented by the action verb create from the base represented by the action verb remember (Anderson et al., 2001; Bloom, 1956; Krathwohl, 2002). Remember represents cognitive tasks that are more concrete and less abstract, including memorization, recall, and labeling as learning activities. Understanding demonstrates concrete learning through cognitive activities of comparing, contrasting, and explaining. Applying is achieved by organizing, developing, or utilizing concrete concepts learned in a new and abstract situation. Analysis reflects when learning activities ask students to analyze content to make assumptions, conclusions, and simplifications. Evaluation is an abstract process of detailed parts or critical elements to criticize, defend or justify within the learning activity. Create is the abstract use of many dissimilar sources to build, invent, solve, or test within the learning activity (Anderson et al., 2001; Bloom, 1956; Krathwohl, 2002). According to Anderson et al. (2001), we should approach this taxonomy as a guide to communicating the cognitive rigor expected from content and performance standards to construct relevant and effective learning activities and content materials. While the action verb is our first indicator as to the level of rigor associated with a learned activity, the context in which the action verb was used in the standard will impact the level of rigor of the task (Anderson et al., 2001; Bloom, 1956; Krathwohl, 2002). For this study, the hierarchical structure was used to determine the cognitive level of animal science standards in South Carolina compared to that of the national AFNR standards.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which South Carolina SBAE standards align with the national AFNR standards for the animal science career pathway. Three research objectives guided this study: (1) What percentage of South Carolina SBAE standards align with the AFNR standards for animal science; (2) At what level of Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy are the South Carolina SBAE standards written; and (3) How does the level of rigor compare between the South Carolina SBAE standards and AFNR standards?

Methods and Procedures

This study implemented a non-experimental existing data design (Privitera, 2020), comparing the South Carolina animal science standards and the national AFNR animal science pathway standards through content analysis. A content analysis allows researchers to analyze written records that outline detailed content (Privitera, 2020), in this case, educational standards. The publicly available electronic documents served as the existing data (Privitera, 2020) being analyzed, which included South Carolina SBAE standards for the Animal Science Career Pathway (South Carolina Cooperative Extension, 2021) and the national AFNR Standards for Animal Science (The Council, 2015).

The research team evaluated the state and national standards to determine the alignment between South Carolina standards and national AFNR standards. The research team consisted of a graduate student with nine years of SBAE teaching experience and two faculty members in agricultural education with over 40 years of combined experience in teaching and preparing students to be effective SBAE teachers. The team aimed to answer the three proposed research objectives through collaborative content analysis. Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956) was the lens used to evaluate the state and national standards by the research team. Using the complete research team to analyze the existing data helps the researchers overcome the potential experimenter bias (Privitera, 2020).

Microsoft Excel was implemented to categorize, compare, and analyze animal science standards through the lens of Bloom’s taxonomy (1956). As the research team analyzed each South Carolina standard, the standard was categorized into one of the 20 performance indicators associated with the eight AFNR content standards for the animal systems career pathway (see Table 1).

Table 1
Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (AFNR) Animal Systems Pathway Content Standards

AFNR Standard AFNR Performance Indicator
AS.01. Analyze historic and current trends impacting the animal systems industry AS.01.01. Evaluate the development and implications of animal origin, domestication and distribution on production practices and the environment.
  AS.01.02. Assess and select animal production methods for use in animal systems based upon their effectiveness and impacts. 
  AS.01.03. Analyze and apply laws and sustainable practices to animal agriculture from a global perspective.   
AS.02. Utilize best-practice protocols based upon animal behaviors for animal husbandry and welfare.    AS.02.01. Demonstrate management techniques that ensure animal welfare.   
  AS.02.02. Analyze procedures to ensure that animal products are safe for consumption (e.g., use in food system, etc.).  
AS.03. Design and provide proper animal nutrition to achieve desired outcomes for performance, development, reproduction and/or economic production.      AS.03.01. Analyze the nutritional needs of animals.      
  AS.03.02. Analyze feed rations and assess if they meet the nutritional needs of animals.  
   AS.03.03. Utilize industry tools to make animal nutrition decisions.   
AS.04. Apply principles of animal reproduction to achieve desired outcomes for performance, development and/or economic production.   AS.04.01. Evaluate animals for breeding readiness and soundness.  
  AS.04.02. Apply scientific principles to select and care for breeding animals   
   AS.04.03. Apply scientific principles to breed animals   
AS.05. Evaluate environmental factors affecting animal performance and implement procedures for enhancing performance and animal health.   AS.05.01. Design animal housing, equipment and handling facilities for the major systems of animal production.  
  AS.05.02. Comply with government regulations and safety standards for facilities used in animal production  
 AS.06. Classify, evaluate, and select animals based on anatomical and physiological characteristics.     AS.06.01. Classify animals according to taxonomic classification systems and use (e.g. agricultural, companion, etc.).
   AS.06.02. Apply principles of comparative anatomy and physiology to uses within various animal systems.     
  AS.06.03. Select and train animals for specific purposes and maximum performance based on anatomy and physiology.    
AS.07. Apply principles of effective animal health care.    AS.07.01. Design programs to prevent animal diseases, parasites and other disorders and ensure animal welfare.   
  AS.07.02. Analyze biosecurity measures utilized to protect the welfare of animals on a local, state, national, and global level.    
AS.08. Analyze environmental factors associated with animal production.    AS.08.01. Design and implement methods to reduce the effects of animal production on the environment.   
  AS.08.02. Evaluate the effects of environmental conditions on animals and create plans to ensure favorable environments for animals.   

To address the second research objective, the research team evaluated each South Carolina standard and categorized the taxonomical level (i.e., remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, or create) at which the standard aimed to represent. The percentage of standards at each taxonomical level was then compared to address the final research objective using Microsoft Excel.

Results

Research Objective 1: What Percentage of South Carolina SBAE Standards Align with the AFNR Standards for Animal Science

The first objective sought to identify the percentage of South Carolina SBAE standards aligning with the AFNR standards for animal science. The South Carolina animal science pathway included 19 courses and 150 standards that were analyzed in comparison to the AFNR animal science pathway, which consists of eight standards and 20 performance standards. Ninety-five percent of the AFNR standards were written at or above Bloom’s applying level of taxonomy; in comparison, only 39% of South Carolina standards were written at a comparable level. The majority (57%) of South Carolina standards fell in the lowest taxonomy levels, including 12% at remembering and 45% at the understanding level. Additionally, 14% of the South Carolina standards were written at the applying level, 5% at the analyzing level, 3% at the evaluating level, and 20% at the creating level. Although 20% of South Carolina standards were representative of creating based on the action verbs used, 17 of the 31 (11%) used “Discuss” as the verb, when really it was being used to represent explain, which suggests that the South Carolina SBAE standards belonged to the t (Anderson et al., 2001; Bloom, 1956; Krathwohl, 2002). Sixty-eight percent of South Carolina SBAE standards were at or below the understand level compared to five percent of the AFNR Standards for the animal science pathways after the verb meaning adjustment (see Table 2).

Table 2
Comparison of State SBAE Standards and AFNR Standards at Each Level of Bloom’s Taxonomy

StandardIIIIIIIVVVI
AFNR
    Standard
0%5%35%30%20%10%
South Carolina 
     SBAE
     Standard
     with Adjusted
     Verb Meaning
  12%      56%  14%      5%  3%  9%

Research Objective 2: At what Level of Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy are the South Carolina SBAE Standards Written

The second objective explored South Carolina SBAE standards for animal science to be analyzed using Bloom’s taxonomy shown in Figure 1 (i.e., remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create). The South Carolina standards align to remember (12%) and understand (56%) levels of rigor, which were limited to basic cognition tasks representing knowledge (Anderson et al., 2001). In addition, the wording of South Carolina SBAE standards and action verbs indicated the intended level of rigor at basic knowledge levels of remember and understand. Eleven percent of standards used the action verb discuss to represent lower cognitive tasks.

Furthermore, South Carolina SBAE content and program standard’s strength and value were hard to measure due to the limited number of standards per each of the 19 courses in the animal science pathway. Courses within the South Carolina SBAE animal science pathway ranged from 46 to zero standards, with an average of eight and a median of six. Additionally, five of the 19 South Carolina SBAE animal science pathway courses had no animal science standards. Table 3 compares the number of standards at each of the six levels of Bloom’s (1956) taxonomy with each of the 19 courses in the animal science career pathway in South Carolina.

Table 3
Comparison of South Carolina SBAE Course Specific Standards at Each Level of Bloom’s Taxonomy                                                                                               

 South Carolina SBAE courseIIIIIIIVVVITotal Standards per course
5624 – Agricultural Science
     and Technology
2400006
5691 – Agricultural and
     Biosystems Science
0720009
5620 – Agricultural Science
     and Technology for the
     Workplace
0000011
5600 – AgriBusiness and
     Marketing             
0000000
5614 – Agricultural Crop
     Production and
     Management
0301105
5660 – Agricultural
     Mechanics
     and Technology
0000000
5663 – Aquaculture3140008
5692 – Biosystems Mechanics
     and Engineering
0000000
5679 – Equine Science212210219
5657 – Food Processing0100001
5646 – Cattle Production06121111
5647 – Farm Animal
     Production
0320027
5612 – Small Animal Care630220646
5613 – Introduction to
     Veterinary Science
55100213
5627 – Soil and Water
     Conservation
1030004
5630 – Soil and Soilless
     Research
0000000
5603 – Animal Science04213010
5621 – Equipment Operations
     and Maintenance
0000000
5608/5609a – Animal Science
     for the Workplace I and II
08200010

Note. aCourse codes 5608 and 5609 represent the same course that is to be taken concurrently within an academic year. For the purpose of our standard analysis, they have been counted as a single and complete course.

Research Objective 3: How does the Level of Rigor Compare Between the South Carolina SBAE Standards and AFNR Standards

The final objective compared the level of rigor between the South Carolina SBAE standards and AFNR standards for the animal science pathway. Ninety-five percent of AFNR standards for the Animal Systems Career Pathway have expected student learning outcomes at or above the applying level, whereas 31% of South Carolina SBAE Animal Science standards were found in corresponding levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Conclusions, Recommendations, and Discussion

Thirty-one percent of South Carolina animal science standards were written at or above the applying level of Bloom’s Taxonomy compared to 95% of the AFNR standards. The analysis of standards demonstrated the lack of rigor in current South Carolina standards, as they were primarily written at or below the understanding level. Comparatively, the AFNR standards were written at or above the applying level of Bloom’s Taxonomy, allowing students to integrate the new knowledge in the future, draw conclusions, and produce their own products. Unfortunately, the South Carolina standards asked students to memorize or recall basic information or describe the material, with students very rarely (less than 31%) getting to the application level. Furthermore, the South Carolina SBAE standard’s strength and value are hard to determine due to the apparent lack of consistent standards or expected quality of written standards in the animal science pathway. The number of standards spanned from zero to 46, with an average of eight standards per course. Additionally, five of the 19 animal science courses had no animal science standards, which represented a vague attempt at a rigorous and relevant framework for supporting SBAE students, teachers, school districts, content developers, and community needs (Molina, 2009; Ravitch, 1995; Swafford, 2018). The concept of vague standards was further exacerbated by unclear and misaligned action verbs with the expected student learning activity, where discuss was used at the level of create to represent higher-order learning activities that were truly explaining basic knowledge at the understanding level (Bloom, 1956; Clemons and Smith, 2017; Judson et al., 2020).

The movement from teacher-led learning activities to student-led learning creates higher-order learning activities that allow students to use and process information abstractly (Baker et al., 2012; Judson et al., 2020; Swafford, 2018). Upon further evaluation of South Carolina SBAE standards, they should be considered incomplete, according to Ravitch (1995), since complete standards must include content and performance standards. Content standards describe what was taught, and performance standards describe the depth and use of that learning (Ravitch, 1995). The two types of standards were connected, and South Carolina standards currently lacked both. Despite the current South Carolina SBAE standards weak level of rigor and clarity in both content and performance standards, standards remain essential for effective teaching (Nilson, 1998), furthering the need to evaluate and revise these standards to provide relevant and purposeful standards for SBAE teachers across the state (Kraftwohl, 2002; Ravitch, 1995).

Perhaps this misguided attempt was purposeful to allow teachers creative freedom in their SBAE program content and teaching, but the current South Carolina standards burden SBAE teachers with the search for relevant frameworks to align content due to its incomplete, weak, and confusing nature. Ravitch (1995) found that teachers and administrators who argue against national content and performance standards actively seek curriculum, textbooks, industry certification, or mandated exams to align their course content. SBAE teachers need and deserve the support provided by clear, consistent, and measurable content and performance standards (Judson et al., 2020; Ravitch, 1995). Further demonstrating that a strong and clear framework of standards can support all involved, but vague, unclear, and unmeasurable standards have little value for teachers and students when it comes to designing lessons that promote abstract learning for STEM integration. This lack of alignment limits the ability to meet the rigor and relevance needed to support SBAE teachers in preparing students for future STEM-based agricultural careers (Baker et al., 2012; Judson et al., 2020; Swafford, 2018).

Developing strong, clear, and realistic content and performance standards can be a messy and complex process, but it is essential to support the success of our SBAE students, teachers, programs, and communities (Judson et al., 2020; Molina, 2009; Ravitch, 1995). Perhaps South Carolina should consider adopting or cross-walking the AFNR standards to support their SBAE programs, as reevaluating and updating the state-level standards will allow teachers an opportunity to increase further the rigor and relevance of SBAE programs across the state. To accomplish this task, it is recommended that a team of SBAE teachers, state agricultural education staff, and faculty be developed. Further research should investigate the level of rigor taught in SBAE classes across South Carolina, comparing the rigor established in the state standards with what has been taught in classrooms. Although this study highlighted concerns with SBAE standards in South Carolina, additional research is needed to determine how other states’ SBAE standards align with AFNR standards. SBAE standards provide a structure for teachers, but the impact of these standards on student performance and outcomes remains unknown, although Swafford (2018) connected the implementation of cross-walked AFNR standards in SBAE teacher preparation programs to increased preparation and STEM integration.

Preservice teacher preparation programs should consider preparing SBAE teacher aspirants to recognize and utilize rigorous and relevant higher-order learning standards. Ultimately allowing them to understand and be better prepared to adapt and find support when standards do not provide enough support, such as those identified in this study. Additionally, SBAE teacher aspirants should be familiar with AFNR standards, as they are aligned with the complete SBAE program (i.e., classroom/laboratory instruction, FFA, and SAE), which serves as a valuable resource. SBAE teacher preparation faculty should consider the current standards in their state and how professional development opportunities cross-walking AFNR standards could benefit the rigor and relevance of SBAE teachers and programs across their state.

Parallel to the recommendations for preservice programs expanding instruction on higher-order learning standards, readiness to teach specific agricultural and natural resources content at higher levels could be an equally challenging issue. In a study by Snider et al. (2021), preservice teachers were surveyed to assess their self-perceived competence to teach different topics in the AFNR standards. Students were found to have a “need for competence enhancement in the Power, Structural, and Technical Systems and the Biotechnology Systems Pathways,” (Snider et al., 2021, p. 44). Other areas preservice teachers indicated gaps in were Agribusiness Systems and Food Products and Processing Systems. In contrast, preservice teachers indicated greater competence in the Natural Resources Systems, Plant Systems, and Animal Systems pathways. Snider et al. discussed that pathways such as Animal Systems were an established curriculum in their state and that preservice teachers sought out skill development opportunities in these pathways. Does self-efficacy of specific AFNR pathways influence the level that state standards were written? 

The Agribusiness Systems career pathway has been noted to have great inservice need for years (Radhakrishna & Bruening, 1994; Joerger & Andreasen, 2000; Layfield & Dobbins, 2002). Further, preservice agricultural education programs have called for increased coursework offerings in agribusiness recently (DiBenedetto et al., 2018; Snider et al., 2021). Might these needs have impacted the lack of alignment between the state and AFNR standards for the Agribusiness and Marketing courses, as shown in Table 3? It is recommended that future research in self-efficacy of AFNR skills areas have any influence on those writing standards for state and national curricula.  

Whether the state program adopts the AFNR standards or chooses to revise its current work, this does not guarantee that the new/revised standards will be taught at the higher levels. Ulmer and Torres (2007) found that SBAE teachers exhibit lower-order (knowledge and comprehension) teaching 83% of the time. The same study found that this is not isolated to agriculture teachers, as science teachers were at the lower levels 84% of the time. Similarly, Cano and Metzger (1995) also found that horticulture teachers were at the lower levels 84% of the time. All of these researchers recommended that SBAE teachers were engaged in professional development that would assist them in developing student activities and assignments that encourage higher-order thinking skills. It is recommended that teacher educators develop purposeful professional development that will prepare SBAE teachers to plan activities and assignments at higher-order thinking levels.

Future research should consider the replication of this study on a state-by-state basis as deemed necessary. Additionally, a mixed method approach could be beneficial to assess teachers’ current level of self-efficacy to implement STEM-based higher-order instruction in SBAE, aligning with Bloom’s (1956) cognitive taxonomy. This study could also establish a repository of resources, materials, and curriculum currently being utilized as a framework to deliver STEM-based higher order instruction, helping prepare future SBAE teachers. Researchers should also consider exploring teachers’ content needs, current curriculum resources, and their perspectives on content and performance standards through qualitative interviews. Finally, as state-level changes are made related to SBAE, teachers’ perceptions of current standards should be considered to support and improve the adoption of new state standards.

References

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Technical Professional Development Needs of Agricultural Education Teachers in the Southeastern United States by Career Pathway

D. Barry Croom, University of Georgia, dbcroom@uga.edu

Ashley M. Yopp, Florida Department of Education, ashley.yopp@fldoe.org

Don Edgar, New Mexico State University, dedgar@nmsu.edu

Richie Roberts, Louisiana State University, roberts3@lsu.edu

Carla Jagger, University of Florida, carlajagger@ufl.edu

Chris Clemons, Auburn University, cac0132@auburn.edu

Jason McKibben, Auburn University, jdm0184@auburn.edu

O.P. McCubbins, Mississippi State University, am4942@msstate.edu

Jill Wagner, Mississippi Department of Education, am4942@msstate.edu

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Abstract

Determining the professional development needs of teachers framed through the national career pathways of agricultural education has become imperative for modern classrooms. Participants in this study were from six Southeastern U.S. states. Most were female educators, with the largest group having teaching experience between 11-20 years. Participants indicated their professional development needs regarding technical content in the seven agricultural education career pathways. Based on the findings, the researchers concluded that participants needed professional development in plant science, followed closely by animal systems. The least beneficial area for professional development was power, structural and technical systems, and food products and processing systems. No differences existed between male and female teachers regarding their technical professional development needs except within the power, structural, and technical pathway. Teachers with less than 10 years of teaching experience reported a greater need for professional development in animal science than their more experienced counterparts. Finally, participants in rural school systems were more likely to desire professional development on natural resources.

Introduction and Review of Literature

Teachers with a high level of content knowledge are better equipped to help their students succeed academically and can be more effective as educators (National Research Council, 2010). The content knowledge held by teachers has been shown to have a statically significant effect on student learning. When content knowledge is of sufficient depth and quality, the impact on student learning has also been positive (Ambrose et al., 2010). As teachers employ high-quality pedagogical strategies, their content knowledge helps students improve knowledge retention and learning transfer (National Research Council, 2010). In agricultural education, teachers need content knowledge of sufficient depth and breadth to meet the current and future demands of the agricultural industry (Solomonson & Roberts, 2022).

Facilitating Understanding

Teachers with quality content knowledge can help students understand the material more deeply and meaningfully. They can explain concepts clearly, provide relevant examples, and confidently answer questions (Driel, 2021; Gess-Newsome et al., 2019). On this point, Harris and Hofer (2011) found that teachers with more content knowledge were more strategic in selecting learning tasks, created more student-oriented learning activities, and were more deliberate in planning lessons. Pursuing this further, Marzano (2017) proposed that teachers with a high level of content knowledge were more capable of helping students detect errors in their reasoning and successfully solve problems in the real world. Teachers often use content knowledge to guide students to examine how new technical content differs from their existing assumptions. This strategy deepens their understanding of key concepts (Dean & Marzano, 2012; Walshaw, 2012). Ambrose (2010) suggested that content knowledge and intellectual proficiency were key drivers in a teacher’s ability to successfully use technical content to facilitate students’ learning in the classroom. 

Adaptability

Adaptability refers to the ability of teachers to modify their teaching strategies to meet the needs of their students. Teachers with content knowledge can be more adaptable in their teaching. They can adjust their teaching strategies and methods to suit the needs of their students and make adjustments when necessary (Bolkan & Goodboy, 2009). Edgar (2012) postulated that the more content knowledge a teacher possesses, the more likely the teacher would employ varying means to teach the content.

Building Credibility

Building credibility as a teacher has become essential to creating a positive and effective learning environment. Teachers with content knowledge are more credible to their students, parents, and colleagues. The rich source of content knowledge that teachers can draw upon in the classroom has become the source of most of this credibility (Forde & McMahon, 2019). They can speak with authority on their subject matter and inspire confidence in their teaching (Bolkan & Goodboy, 2009; Finn et al., 2009).

Effective planning

Teachers with content knowledge can also create more effective lesson plans and assessments and deploy more effective teaching strategies (Orlich et al., 2012; Senthamarai, 2018). For example, they can design activities and assessments that accurately measure student learning and identify the essential concepts students need to learn (Hume et al., 2019). Previous research has suggested that teacher preparation programs must focus more on understanding how teachers acquire technical content knowledge and support their ability to communicate such to their students (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017; Levine, 2008). For this study, technical knowledge referred to the lesson elements designed to provide students with instruction, practice, and review of information regarding the agricultural sciences.

Agricultural Education Teacher Professional Development Systems

Agricultural education teachers who were traditionally certified often receive technical content training during their initial teacher preparation phase. Formal teacher preparation traditionally begins during college coursework (Croom, 2009). During this period, the preservice teachers are inducted into teaching through training and development (Talbert et al., 2022). However, concerns arise about the ability of novice teachers to deliver content-rich lessons (Roberts et al., 2020a, 2020b). Induction follows the competency-building stage, where technical content skill development continues. This phase is where most professional and skill development occurs (Croom, 2009; Fessler & Christensen, 1992).

Professional development usually involves teachers attending professional development sessions based on their perceived technical content deficiencies (Smalley et al., 2019) because teachers sense their need to address technical content deficiencies through continuous professional development (Easterly & Myers, 2019). Despite this desire to develop technical skills, previous research has found a significant gap in agricultural mechanics skill development and other technical agriculture concepts (Easterly & Myers, 2019; Yopp et al., 2020).

Conceptual Framework

Darling-Hammond et al. (2017) proposed that teacher professional development proceeds through seven elements (see Table 1). Effective professional development employs strategies that deepen a teacher’s technical content knowledge. However, this is not enough. Teachers also need sustained professional development activities of sufficient duration that demonstrate how to teach technical content. Darling-Hammond et al. (2017) further proposed that teachers were best served by professional development provided in a social environment, with teachers collaborating and exploring effective instructional models under expert coaches’ guidance. Teachers needed to reflect on their performance to internalize new content knowledge and the strategies for teaching it (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017). This model for professional development begins with developing technical content knowledge (Darling-Hammond et al., 2017). The research team focused on this element of the model because we contended that professional development was grounded in content skill development applied through effective teaching strategies.

Table 1
Elements of Effective Professional Development adapted from Darling-Hammond et al. (2017)

The connection between professional development in the content taught is that both are needed to support effective teaching practices. Teachers who have a strong understanding of the content they are teaching and who have the skills and knowledge needed to teach that content effectively will be better equipped to meet the needs of their students and support their learning (Ambrose et al., 2010; Darling-Hammond et al., 2017). Additionally, ongoing professional development and content training can help teachers stay up-to-date with the latest research-based practices, teaching strategies, and techniques, which can further improve their teaching practices over time (Darling-Hammond et al., 2002).

The agricultural education curriculum covers a range of grade levels and a wide range of technical content. It provides students with knowledge as the content transitions from more basic to advanced skill development through pathway progression. As a result, secondary agricultural education teachers must provide essential knowledge and experiences through advanced instruction in animal science, agricultural engineering, plant and soil science, forestry, natural resources, food processing, and agricultural business management (Talbert et al., 2022). Therefore, secondary students must have the skills to navigate complex problems regarding agriculture, food, and natural resources using good reasoning skills (Figland et al., 2020). Table 2 illustrates the seven areas of agricultural sciences as identified by Advance CTE (2018) and describes the primary learning attribute guiding the learning activities.


Table 2

Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources Career Pathways adapted from Advance CTE (2021)

Purpose and Objectives

This study aimed to investigate the professional development needs of teachers in the Southeast United States regarding the national career pathways for secondary agricultural education. After describing the demographics of teachers who participated in the study, the objectives were to:

  1. Determine the professional development needs of teachers in the Southeastern region of the United States in each of the seven career pathways described by Advance CTE, and
  2. Compare the professional development needs of teachers by gender, years of teaching experience, and community setting.

Methods

This descriptive study sought to determine teacher perceptions regarding professional development needs as framed by the seven career pathways in the agricultural education curriculum. We distributed an instrument Yopp et al. (2020) developed to the target population of agricultural science teachers in six Southeastern states. We used each state’s directory of agricultural science teachers provided by state agricultural education authorities to define the target population.

We developed the questionnaire to address each research objective, including demographic questions. We included 54 Likert-scale items based on seven career pathways developed by Advance CTE (2018): Power and Technical Systems (16 items), Plant Systems (8 items), Natural Resources (4 items), Food Products and Processing (7 items), Environmental Service Systems (5 items), Animal Systems (7 items), and Agribusiness Systems (7 items). We asked participants to rate each item based on its perceived benefit level using this scale: 1 = not beneficial to 5 = essential. We entered data into SPSS® version 24.0 to calculate means and standard deviations. We conducted further analysis through t-tests to determine the significance between variables of interest.

A panel of agricultural teachers with expert knowledge of Advance CTE career pathways examined the questionnaire for content and face validity. Using methods proposed by Creswell and Creswell (2017), we pilot-tested the questionnaire with a sample of 14 pre-service agricultural education teachers using the test re-test method. These test measures yielded Cronbach’s alpha coefficients ranging from .83 to .91 (.70 or higher acceptable range). Our post-hoc reliability analysis of the instrument yielded an overall valid measure (α = .86).

Guided by Dillman et al. (2014) tailored design method, researchers administered the instrument to prospective participants via email using each state’s unique agricultural education teacher listserv. The research team sent an initial invitation to participate in the study. We followed this with a second message to engage participants through an opt-in email directing them to a Qualtrics hyperlink specific to their respective instrument by state. Lastly, the researchers sent two follow-up reminder emails to non-respondents over four weeks. Previous instrument implementation (Yopp et al., 2020) yielded Cronbach’s alpha coefficients ranging from .83 to .91 (Creswell & Clark, 2017). Post-hoc analysis of the instrument based on the population of interest revealed an overall α = .81.

Due to the nature of school-based agricultural education (SBAE) and participants’ ability to respond in a timely manner, early and late responders were evaluated to determine whether response differences occurred (Lindner et al., 2001). Analysis revealed no differences (p = .45) in the population of interest. The final response rate gained was 52.24 %. We anticipated this because decreased response rates to web-based instruments have been reported, especially in recent decades, with the influx of messaging in professional environments. Baruch (1999) noted that rates have declined from approximately 65% to 48% when using electronic survey methods. On this issue, Fraze et al. (2003) found that SBAE teachers responded less frequently to electronic surveys, possibly due to overloaded work schedules.

Findings

Female participants outnumbered male participants in this study, and most participants were still in their first 10 years of teaching. Most participants received formal training to become teachers through a traditional undergraduate program in agricultural education. Many teachers (n = 107) earned their teacher certification through an alternative certification program. The majority of teachers in this study taught in rural schools. Urban agricultural educators made up the smallest percentage of participants in this study. Table 3 provides a detailed representation of the socio-demographic characteristics of participants.

Table 3
Socio-demographic Characteristics of Participants

Objective One: Professional Development Needs in the Seven Career Pathways

Based on data gathered from SBAE teachers and guided by the career pathway to frame the professional development needs, we found that the essential area was that of Plant Systems (M = 4.17, S.D. = .78) and closely followed by Animal Systems (M = 4.14, S.D. = .98). The career pathway with the least beneficial area for professional development was Power, Structural & Technical Systems (M = 3.26, S.D. = 1.02) with Food Products & Processing Systems (M = 3.46, S.D. = 1.02) having a similar response by respondents. The two lowest career pathways also displayed the most variation of answers, as identified by participants. Table 4 shows the professional development needs of agriculture teachers based on career pathways in agricultural education.

Table 4
Professional Development Needs of Agriculture Education Teachers Based on Career Pathways

Note. 1 indicates a scale used from 1 = Not beneficial to 5 = Essential with 3 = No opinion

Objective Two: Professional Development Needs of Teachers by Gender, Years of Teaching Experience, and Community Setting.

The research team collected data on the professional development needs of participants aligned with career pathways and disaggregated based on gender. Two pathway areas had statistically significant differences based on gender. We found significant differences between genders within the Power Technology (p = .000) and Natural Resources (p = .005) pathways. The remaining pathways did not reveal significant differences based on gender. Table 5 displays the needs for professional development in career pathways by gender.

Table 5
Needs for Professional Development in Career Pathways based on Gender

Note. 1 indicates a scale used from 1 = Not beneficial to 5 = Essential with 3 = No opinion

The research team gathered data on the professional development needs of participants aligned with career pathways and analyzed it based on years of experience. The Animal Systems pathway has significant differences based on experience (p = .005). Although the means reported were similar (4.14 and 4.13), the associated standard deviations were dissimilar (1.07 and 0.86), resulting in statistically significant differences between the groups regarding experience. The remaining pathways did not have substantial differences based on experience level. Table 6 details participants’ professional development needs based on years of teaching experience.

Table 6
Needs for Professional Development in Career Pathways Based on Experience

Note. 1 indicates a scale used from 1 = Not beneficial to 5 = Essential with 3 = No opinion

Participants reported their professional development needs regarding career pathways based on the impact of the community setting. The Natural Resources pathway (p =. 049) indicated significant differences based on the community setting. Table 7 displays the needs for professional development based on the community type.

Table 7
Needs for Professional Development in Career Pathways Based on the Community Type

Note. 1 indicates a scale used from 1 = Not beneficial to 5 = Essential with 3 = No opinion

Conclusions & Implications

This study aimed to investigate the professional development needs of teachers in the national career pathways in agricultural education. The divisions of gender and years of experience do not represent a generalizable representation of each state regarding the professional development needs of agriculture teachers. Participants in this study were from six states in the Southeastern United States. Most respondents were female, with the largest group having teaching experience between 11-20 years. Respondents were experienced and prepared mainly for their teaching career through traditional means.

Participants were asked to indicate their professional development needs regarding technical content in the seven career pathways. Based on the findings, we concluded that professional development was most needed in the specialized content area of plant science, followed closely by animal systems. Meanwhile, we also conclude that the least beneficial areas for professional development were Power, Structural & Technical Systems, and Food Products & Processing Systems. Concerning Power, Structural & Technical Systems, the findings are inconsistent with the results of similar studies (Easterly & Myers, 2019; Smalley et al., 2019) that have reported a significant gap in teacher preparation in this area. However, we conclude from our findings that teachers do not perceive technical training in Power, Structural & Technical Systems to be a significant need.

Further conclusions evoked through this research population werethat no differences exist between male and female teachers regarding their technical in-service training needs, with two exceptions. More males than females found the need for training in natural resources and power and technical systems. Further, teachers with less than 10 years of teaching experience need more training in animal science than their more experienced counterparts. This is consistent with the teacher development model developed by Fessler and Christensen (1992). The only significant difference among respondents for this research objective was that rural teachers rated natural resources training higher than their urban counterparts. We found that teachers in rural schools were more likely to require training on natural resources. This could result from rural teachers’ access to more natural resources and, therefore, more opportunities to teach this content area than a teacher in an urban setting.

Recommendations for Future Research

Based on the conclusions from this study, this study should be replicated in other regions of the United States to gain a clearer picture of the professional development needs of agricultural education teachers. Agriculture operations vary across the United States due to climate, arable land, geography, and access to infrastructure that supports markets and transportation. The teachers in one region may have different professional needs from those in another. This study should be replicated in the future to determine if teacher training needs have changed. The agriculture industry uses human ingenuity and innovation to power new and better methods for producing food, fiber, and natural resources. Consequently, agricultural educators must be well-equipped to educate students using innovative technology.

This study found differences between male and female teachers in power, structural and technical systems, and natural resources. Additional research in this area may help determine why these differences exist. Furthermore, we noted differences between new and experienced teachers concerning animal science. This begs the question as to whether Inservice training needs should be customized based upon the years of experience. Researchers should conduct follow-up studies to determine if this would benefit teachers.

References

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Investigating Science Efficacy Before and After a Professional Development Program focused on Genetics, Muscle Biology, Microbiology, and Nutrition

Jesse Bower, Fresno State, jessebower@csufresno.edu

Bryan A.  Reiling, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, breiling2@unl.edu

Nathan W. Conner, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, nconner2@unl.edu

Christopher T. Stripling, University of Tennessee, cstripli@utk.edu

Matthew S. Kreifels, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, matt.kreifels@unl.edu

Mark A. Balschweid, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, mbalschweid2@unl.edu

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Abstract

This study investigated teachers’ levels of Personal Science Teaching Efficacy (PSTE) and Science Teaching Outcome Expectancy (STOE) using the Science Teaching Efficacy Beliefs Instrument (STEBI). The population included 10 teachers completing an Increasing Scientific Literacy through Inquiry-Based Professional Development in Genetics, Muscle Biology, Microbiology, and Nutrition. Assessments were made at two points. First, the participants were assessed by using a pretest followed up by a posttest 12 months later after implementing the new curriculum. The teachers experienced gains during the professional development on both their personal science teaching efficacy and their science teaching outcome expectancy. However, the mean differences were not statistically significant. Results of this study indicate that the Increasing Scientific Literacy through Inquiry-Based Professional Development may be used as a tool to increase PSTE and STOE in agricultural educators and science teachers.

Introduction/Theoretical Framework

In the 2020-2021 school year, the Nebraska student-centered assessment in the area of science indicates that only 50% of high school students meet the science expectation (Nebraska Department of Education, 2022). The lack of science proficiency is not surprising given the statistics from 2017 indicating students’ proficiency gradually decreases between 5th grade, 8th grade, and 11th grade (Nebraska Department of Education, 2017). In 2017, 28% of 5th graders were below proficient, 32% of 8th graders were below proficient, and 39% of 11th graders were below proficient (Nebraska Department of Education, 2017). Proficiency scores indicate that science efficacy needs to be addressed at all grade levels, but specifically at the high school level. Based on research and theory, it is determined that outcome expectancy (OE) and science efficacy (SE) are complementary factors in determining the success of teachers in a science-based classroom. (Stripling & Roberts, 2013)

Teacher self-efficacy relates to progressive teaching behaviors and positive student outcomes. Therefore, the social cognitive theory serves as the theoretical framework for this study. The social cognitive theory identifies the capabilities of humans, and their purposeful intentions, that can and will affect their course of action (Bandura, 1977, 1997). This process is called triadic reciprocal causation and was developed by Albert Bandura (1977, 1997). Triadic reciprocal causation suggests three interrelated factors that mutually impact people: environmental, behavioral, and personal factors (Bandura, 1977, 1997). These three factors determine what a person believes about themselves and aide in their decision-making process (Bandura, 1977, 1997). Triadic reciprocal causation advocates that no one single factor determines a person’s behavior, instead, it is the combination of all three factors (Bandura, 1977, 1997). When determining OE and SE, behavior could be predicted (Bandura, 1997) and efficacy beliefs help dictate motivation (Maehr & Pintrich, 1997; Pintrich & Schunk, 1996). Self-efficacy theory helps outline what motivates a person (Graham & Weiner, 1996), and so, the theory can be applied to any behavioral task and predict what will take place.

In the teacher efficacy belief literature, two dimensions of teacher self-efficacy, including Teaching Efficacy (Outcome Expectancy) and Personal Teaching Efficacy (Self- Efficacy), have been defined and utilized in subsequent studies. Several studies suggest that teacher efficacy beliefs may account for individual differences in teacher effectiveness (Armor et al., 1976; Berman & McLaughlin, 1977; Brookover et al., 1978; Brophy & Evertson, 1981). Student achievement has also been shown to be significantly related to teacher efficacy beliefs (Ashton & Webb, 1983). The measurement of Personal Teaching Efficacy has been used to predict teacher behavior with accuracy (Ashton et al., 1983).

Teachers’ content knowledge affects student learning (Ballou & Podgursky, 1999; Ma, 1999; Podgursky, 2005); therefore, science teachers are expected to be highly qualified in the subject area in which they teach. Not only do teachers need to have a high level of comprehension in the content area, but they also need to display passion and enthusiasm. Additionally, standardized tests, only prove that students can memorize and focus on the content because the performance goals measured only address low levels of learning (Meece et al., 2006).

Teacher self-efficacy has also been connected to beginner agriculture teachers’ pledge to the teaching career (Knobloch & Whittington, 2003). Teaching efficacy is a more specific type of self-efficacy (Stripling & Roberts, 2013; Stripling et al., 2008), and is a teacher’s belief in their competence to facilitate the learning environment and produce desired learning results (Guskey & Passaro, 1994; Soodak & Podell, 1996). Beginning teachers who are more efficacious tend to have a greater obligation to teaching than those who are not as efficacious and consequently are more motivated to remain in the teaching profession (Whittington et al., 2003). In fact, beginner teachers could have an exaggerated sense of self-efficacy because of their student teaching experience (Knobloch, 2006).

This professional development program utilized inquiry-based learning as the main instructional approach. There have been numerous studies that show inquiry-based learning is an effective method for teaching science (Keys & Bryan, 2001). Inquiry-based learning requires students to manage their own learning and their success will be based on their engagement in the lesson through active listening and problem solving. Inquiry-based learning opportunities provide the foundation for students to make observations, pose questions, compare evidence, predict outcomes, and communicate research results (National Research Council, 2000).

Purpose/Objectives

The purpose of this study was to determine the teachers’ level of science efficacy in the agricultural education and science classrooms and compare the results as the teachers progressed through the yearlong professional development. The modified science teaching efficacy scale (based on Enochs & Riggs, 1990) consists of both personal science teaching efficacy (PSTE) and science teaching outcome expectancy (STOE).

Objectives include:

  1. Investigate secondary life science teachers’ personal science teaching efficacy (PSTE) within the sciences before and after the Increasing Scientific Literacy through Inquiry-Based Professional Development in Genetics, Muscle Biology, Microbiology, and Nutrition.
  • Investigate secondary life science teachers’ science teaching outcome expectancy (STOE) before and after the Increasing Scientific Literacy through Inquiry-Based Professional Development in Genetics, Muscle Biology, Microbiology, and Nutrition.

Two null hypotheses were used to guide this inquiry:

H01: There is no significant difference in the personal science teaching efficacy (PSTE) of life science teachers before and after the Increasing Scientific Literacy through Inquiry-Based

Professional Development in Genetics, Muscle Biology, Microbiology, and Nutrition treatment.

H02: There is no significant difference in the science teaching outcome expectancy (STOE) of life science teachers before and after the Increasing Scientific Literacy through Inquiry-Based

Professional Development in Genetics, Muscle Biology, Microbiology, and Nutrition treatment.

Methods/Procedures

Professional Development

This professional development (PD) program provided an opportunity for high school agricultural education teachers and science teachers to participate in a 12-month long PD. Applicants were encouraged to join the program with both a science and agriculture teacher from their school. The purpose of this was to bridge the gap between agriculture and science disciplines. After applications were submitted, there were not enough paring entries from all the same schools, so science and agriculture teachers were coupled from different schools (N = 10). For this study, the participants will be referred to as life science teachers. Applicants were recruited in the Spring of 2017. The project was divided into three phases.

Phase I

The PD program began in summer 2017 with a one-day workshop that took place at three different locations throughout Nebraska. The workshop introduced information centered around how students learn, more specifically, experiential learning, short-term and long-term memory, Bloom’s taxonomy, and learning styles. From there, the inquiry-based learning teaching method was introduced. All learning activities that were developed and used in this PD incorporated inquiry-based learning and allowed teachers to experience learning activities as students.

Basic scientific disciplines including biology, chemistry, and mathematics are interrelated in the growth and development of living beings.  For this reason, scientific units of study that focused on the Scientific Principles of Food Animal Systems were developed. The following units were included:

  1. Genetics
  2. Growth & Development / Chemistry of Muscle Biology

3)   Microbiology of Food Safety

4)   Physiology and Chemistry of Nutrition

Each unit provided basic content knowledge, hands-on inquiry-based learning activities, and student reflection instruments.  Content knowledge included educational videos and PowerPoint slides that could be used to introduce high school students to the topic and provided the scientific basis of the topic and related activities. Instructional materials also included a listing of necessary supplies and equipment, ordering information, and easy-to-follow instructions.  For those secondary life science educators that participated in the PD, selected supplies that would not normally be present in a typical high school science laboratory were provided to facilitate the small-group student learning activities. 

Finally, through inquiry-based learning, it is imperative that high school students be asked to reflect upon what they’ve just learned; to evaluate the results and to project how those results might relate to new situations or scenarios (Kolb, 1984).  To facilitate this final component of inquiry-based learning, instruments were developed to encourage high school students to reflect upon what they just learned and how that new knowledge may be applied to different situations in the future. Scientific principles related to genetics, muscle biology, microbiology, and nutrition were used to demonstrate a hands-on, inquiry-based learning pedagogy. 

Phase II

The program continued throughout the 2017-2018 academic year. Conference calls through Zoom, a video conferencing platform, took place in August and December of 2017, and April of 2018. The calls were used to discuss how life science teachers were implementing the prescribed learning activities that focused on genetics, muscle biology, microbiology, and nutrition.

Phase III

Life science teachers were placed in small teams and asked to develop additional inquiry-based learning activities that were presented during the final PD session in June of 2018. Each team was assigned a specific unit (genetics, muscle biology, microbiology, or nutrition) to focus their efforts.  The overall purpose of this activity was to help life science teachers learn how to develop their own inquiry-based learning activities and share their activities with a broader audience.

Data Collection

Quantitative methods were used to determine the change in teachers’ science teaching efficacy by using a modified science teaching efficacy scale (based on Enochs & Riggs, 1990). The instrument used for data collection was created by Enochs and Riggs (1990) to measure the self-efficacy of science teachers, called the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument (STEBI). Additionally, the data collected for this study was part of a larger data set.

The STEBI consisted of 23 questions scaled from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Terminology was adjusted by researchers to accommodate for high school teachers instead of preservice elementary science teachers. Example questions from Enochs and Riggs (1990) include “I will continually find better ways to teach science,” “The inadequacy of a student’s science background can be overcome by good teaching,” “The low science achievement of some students cannot generally be blamed on their teachers,” and “When a low achieving child progresses in science, it is usually due to extra attention given by the teacher.”

The STEBI (Enochs & Riggs, 1990) is comprised of two scales that measure the constructs personal science teaching efficacy (PSTE) and science teaching outcome expectancy (STOE).

All items use a 5-point rating scale (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree). The following item was modified from Enochs and Riggs (1990) by removing the word elementary: “I understand science concepts well enough to be effective in teaching elementary science.”

Additionally, Enochs & Riggs (1990) stated reliability analysis produced Cronbach’s alpha coefficients of .90 for PSTE and .76 for STOE. Post-hoc reliabilities for PSTE and STOE were .799 and .732, respectively. These measures of internal-consistency are acceptable given the nature of the constructs and present reliabilities on comparable measures (Ary et al., 2014).

Data Analysis

Data were analyzed using IBM SPSS version 20. Descriptive statistics (i.e., frequencies, percentages, and means) were used to describe the science teaching efficacy data. Additionally, based on Haynes and Stripling (2014) and Dossett et al. (2019), low, moderate, and high self-efficacy was defined as 1.00 to 2.33, 2.34 to 3.67, and 3.68 to 5, respectively. Data was summarized using descriptive statistics (i.e., frequencies, percentages, and means). Paired samples t-tests were utilized to determine if a significant difference existed in science teaching efficacy and outcome expectancy (OE).

The STEBI contains 23 items in the survey and 13 are designed to address science teachers’ level of belief that they can teach science (Personal Science Teaching Efficacy or PSTE) and 10 assess the respondents’ belief that their teaching will have a positive effect on the students they are teaching (Science Teaching Outcome Expectancy or STOE). Paired t-tests were run on the pre and post survey scores for the PD. The PSTE and STOE section, scores were analyzed separately. Therefore, all analyses of group mean differences were done as two tailed tests.

Results/Findings

The first and second objectives were to investigate the level of PSTE/STOE of the professional development participants before and after the PD. During the first phase of the study teachers reported before the PD, they had a mean personal science teaching efficacy (PSTE) score of 3.83 (SD = .27) and an outcome expectancy (OE) of 3.35 (SD = 0.48). The second phase conducted after the 12-month PD teachers reported an increase in both areas with a mean PSTE of 3.95 (SD = 0.33) and an OE of 3.47 (SD = 0.47).

Means and analysis results for the surveys are presented in Table 1 and Table 2. Analysis of surveys from the PD indicated no significant pre/post shifts on PSTE or STOE scores, however there were small actual mean differences.

Table 1

Personal Science Teaching Efficacy Scores 

LowModerateHigh
MSDf%f%f%
Pretest3.830.2700.0330.0770.0
Posttest3.950.4800.0110.0990.0
Note. 1.00 to 2.33 = low efficacy, 2.34 to 3.67 = moderate efficacy, 3.68 to 5 = high efficacy.

Table 2

Science Teaching Outcome Expectancy Scores 

  LowModerateHigh
 MSDf%f%f%
Pretest3.350.4800.0660.0440.0
Posttest3.480.4700.0660.0440.0
Note. 1.00 to 2.33 = low efficacy, 2.34 to 3.67 = moderate efficacy, 3.68 to 5 = high efficacy.

The mean differences between the pre and post teaching efficacy scores for PSTE and STOE are in Table 3. Analysis revealed a .11-point increase in PSTE, a .13-point increase in the STOE. However, the mean differences were not statistically significant. Thus, the null hypotheses were not rejected.

Table 3

Summary of Paired Samples t tests

 Mean differenceSDSEtp
PSTE posttest – pretest.11.20.061.79.11
STOE posttest – pretest.13.51.16.79.45

Conclusions/Recommendations/
Implications

The purpose of administering the modified STEBI (based on Enochs & Riggs, 1990) was to investigate teachers’ level of science efficacy in the agricultural education and science classrooms and compare the results as the teachers progressed through the professional development.Personal science teaching efficacy (PSTE) slightly increased from pre and posttest and science teacher outcome expectancy (STOE) also changed during the PD.

Analysis revealed a .11-point increase in PSTE, and a .13-point increase in STOE. However, the mean differences were not statistically significant. Thus, the null hypotheses were not rejected. Results of this study indicate that the Increasing Scientific Literacy through Inquiry-Based Professional Development program may be used as a tool to increase PSTE and STOE in life science teachers. Professional development opportunities focused on teaching science through inquiry-based learning could be a way to increase science efficacy (SE) and outcome expectancy (OE) over time. If professional development workshops could continually increase SE and OE, the SE and OE could be used to help determine teacher success in a science-based classroom, thus aligning with Stripling and Roberts’ (2013) assertion that OE and SE can be used to determine teacher success. Teacher educators should purposefully design teacher professional development programs to allow teachers to practice their science teaching skills, thus providing an opportunity for the teacher to increase their SE and OE. To align with Kolb (1984), the professional development should be designed to have purposeful reflection activities that allows the teachers to critically examine their ability and confidence when teaching science concepts.

We found life science teachers in this study to be moderately efficacious in their ability to teach science concepts before and after the conclusion of the PD. However, 20% of the life science teachers in this study moved from moderate to high efficacy with PSTE. According to Bandura (1997), self-efficacy influences behavior. Thus, theoretically, being highly efficacious in PSTE should positively impact the teaching of contextualized science in school-based agricultural education and science programs; on the other hand, being moderately efficacious may negatively impact the teaching of contextualized science. Additionally, educating life science teachers in technical science content aligns with Ballou and Podgursky, 1999, Ma, 1999, and Podgursky, 2005 assertion that teachers content knowledge impacts student learning. Therefore, we recommend the continuation of professional development programming that aims to increase technical content knowledge. Providing in-depth technical content knowledge should allow the teachers to increase their confidence because they will have a better understanding of the technical content and will feel more comfortable teaching the technical content in the classroom. It is important to note that the small sample size limits the generalizability of the findings.

Future research should be conducted to determine why approximately an equal number of teachers are moderately or highly efficacious in PSTE and determine if moderate self-efficacy negatively impacts the teaching of contextualized science. In regard to science teaching outcome expectancy, a majority of the life science teachers were moderately efficacious in STOE. Theoretically, being moderately efficacious in STOE may negatively impact the teaching of contextualized science. The said research will also aid the planning of professional development for agricultural education and science teachers and can be used to guide experiences offered in agricultural and science teacher education programs.

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