Vol. 72

GPS and Geocaching Integration in Agriscience: The Impact on Critical Thinking

Rachel Hendrix, West Virginia University,

OP McCubbins, Mississippi State University,

John Ricketts, Tennessee State University,

PDF Available


Global Positioning System (GPS) technology has an important role in both agriculture and in everyday life. However, the effects of GPS integration into agricultural classrooms has never been fully explored. This study evaluated the potential for critical thinking skill development as a result of student participation in a GPS lesson and the GPS-based treasure hunting game of Geocaching. The GPS lesson for both groups combined, the treatment (integrated Geocaching) and control (no geocaching integration), yielded statistically significant improvements on student engagement, cognitive maturity, innovation, and total critical thinking disposition. However, there were no statistically significant improvements resulting from the Geocaching integration. The authors recommend additional research on the influence of Geocaching on other variables of student achievement (i.e., knowledge gained, mathematical processing skills, science processing). Geocaching can be designed to be educational and the authors contend it is a novel way to promote student engagement and reinforce academic content into the Agriscience classroom.


Treasure hunting is often imagined to be the sport of pirates and adventurers looking to strike it rich.  Now, thanks to the concept of Geocaching, anyone with a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver and Internet access can explore for hidden objects. Geocaching can serve as an enjoyable hobby, but can also be beneficial within various learning environments (Christie, 2007; Hendrix et al., 2011). This study introduced GPS technology and a modern-day treasure hunting activity, Geocaching, into the agriscience classroom.

GPS technology is a “navigation and precise-positioning tool” that was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1973 (Glasscoe, 1998, para. 1; “What is GPS?,” 2011).  Global Positioning System technology allows users to create accurate maps of their surroundings by receiving geographic information beamed down from satellites orbiting the Earth (Shaunessy & Page, 2006). One way to introduce GPS technology to students is through the game of Geocaching (Groundspeak, 2011).  Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt experience in which participants use GPS units to discover hidden objects known as Geocaches. Any member of the Geocaching community can hide a Geocache, although they must follow certain rules pertaining to safety and legal issues (Groundspeak, 2011).

The impact of technology integration in education has been studied widely, and results indicate that access to technology in education improved student motivation, self-esteem, technical knowledge, and interpersonal skills compared to students without access (U.S. Department of Education, 1998). Teachers who frequently use technology can aid in developing their students’ understanding of essential 21st Century Skills – skills regarding knowledge of technology, the developing world, communication, creativity, teamwork, and self-discipline (Grunwald & Associates, 2010).

Teaching with GPS “is an ideal context in which to develop critical thinking” (Schwartz, 2016, p. 13). “Students use critical thinking skills [when learning through GPS] to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources” (Schwartz, 2016, p. 13). According to Siegel (1988), critical thinking skills are an important component of life, and should be included in educational systems because young people deserve the chance to learn to think critically. Additionally, critical thinking has been included in frameworks to illustrate the skills students need to succeed in work and life (Crawford & Fink, 2020). A student’s mastery of critical thinking also helps them to improve control over their own lives and increase the quality of their life experiences (Paul, 1995).  In a 1991 report, the U.S. Department of Labor identified critical thinking skills as one of the foundational skills in which students should gain competency (Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills).

In addition to critical thinking, GPS requires a working knowledge of geography, math, and physical science. Therefore, GPS systems and tools are often utilized in classrooms in these subject areas. Geocaching adds to the teacher toolbox, allowing them to cover almost any topic in a fun and engaging manner (Dixon, 2011; Thorpe, 2006;). Related technology experiences have had significant impacts on the development of critical thinking in students (Duran & Sendag, 2012). Therefore, we tested the impact of integrating a GPS and geocaching lesson and activity in an agriscience course to determine if similar, positive critical thinking outcomes would be realized.

Conceptual Framework

Critical thinking has been defined as “a reasoned, purposive, and introspective approach to solving problems or addressing questions with incomplete evidence and information and for which an incontrovertible solution is unlikely” (Rudd et al., 2000, p. 5).  Angelo (1995) notes critical thinking involves “the intentional application of rational, higher order thinking skills” including “analysis, synthesis, problem recognition and problem solving, inference, and evaluation” (p. 6). Although these definitions are complex, when simplified, they reveal that critical thinking is the ability of a person to make a difficult decision after considering all people, situations, and options – a trait agricultural education students ought to reflect (Facione et al., 1997).

Effective critical thinking has positive effects across the aspects of one’s life. Murawski (2014) says that critical thinkers produce more ideas of higher quality than non-critical thinkers, and are more likely to set goals and overcome obstacles such as failure, distraction, and limitations. Ruggiero (2012) notes critical thinkers are better at demonstrating effective listening skills, identifying extreme views, avoiding emotionalism and stereotyping, seeing multiple perspectives, acknowledging limitations, and thinking before acting. Butler (2012) and Butler et al. (2015) found that critical thinking was more effective than intelligence at predicting life decisions. In their study, individuals possessing higher critical thinking scores reported experiencing fewer negative life events than those with lower critical thinking scores.

Critical thinking has benefits in the workplace (Ennis, 1987; Murawski, 2014; Willsen, 1995). Casner-Lotto et al. (2006) found that 92.1% of surveyed employers identified critical thinking and problem solving skills as “very important” to successful job performance for four-year college graduates (p. 20). Research shows that people who score well on critical thinking assessments are rated by their supervisors as possessing “good analysis and problem-solving skills,” “good judgment and decision making” skills, “good overall job performance,” “the ability to evaluate the quality of information,” “creativity,” “job knowledge,” and “the potential to move up” in the workplace (Harris, 2015, para. 9).

Leaders who exercise quality critical thinking on the job are better able to evaluate and mitigate risk, weigh options, and recognize the effect that consequences have on not only themselves, but on coworkers and stakeholders (Anderson, 2013; Murawaski, 2014). Unfit or hasty decisions result in real issues for businesses, which illustrates the need for employees who can gather information, consider outcomes, and make informed decisions. Thus, critical thinking – alongside related behavioral skills such as leadership, communication, collaboration, and innovation – are highly sought by employers when making hiring decisions (AACU, 2010; Casner-Lotto et al., 2006; Hendrix & Morrison, 2018; Landrum & Harrold, 2003).

While effective critical thinking is beneficial to students, it is a difficult skill to teach (Angelo, 1995). It does not often arise “simply as a result of maturation,” but rather through guided learning experiences that overtly highlight “active engagement” and “personal investment” in the learning activity, “comprehensible and timely feedback,” and cooperative work “with peers and teachers” (Angelo, 1995, p. 6). Yet students cannot simply be passive receivers of knowledge. Critical thinking is purposeful, and it requires the active use of information to make effective decisions – a process that includes application of knowledge in real-world circumstances, experimentation through trial and error, and reflection upon successess and failures (Murawski, 2014; Paul, 1995).

When measuring the critical thinking abilities of agricultural education students, Cano (1995) stated they were able to “think critically at various levels,” and that they tend to “score at higher percentages at the higher levels of cognition” (p. 29). These findings supported the earlier work of Rollins et al. (1988), who found agricultural education students able to successfully employ critical thinking skills when addressing problem-based situations. Akins et al. (2019) noted the use of case studies in agricultural communications courses increased students’ critical thinking, information-seeking, and interpersonal engagement behaviors.

Ricketts and Rudd (2004) found the National FFA Organization – a co-curricular organization for agricultural education students – to be fertile ground for critical thinking development. Student leaders in the National FFA Organization showed “high” levels of critical thinking, with scores in the “upper end of the range” for the sub-skills of analysis, inference, and evaluation (Ricketts & Rudd, 2004, p. 15). In contrast, Latham et al. (2014) found that critical thinking was occuring at a lower level among senior Texas FFA members than their counterparts. Latham et al. called for an improvement for critical thinking instruction within agricultural education throughout the curriculum.

The conceptual framework for this study is supported by a National Delphi study conducted by Facione (1990), who defined critical thinking as “purposeful, self-regulatory judgment, which results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based” (p. 2). The Delphi study revealed a set of critical thinking dispositions that are inherent in critical thinking. Facione (2011) referred to the dispositions as approaches to life that characterize critical thinking. He developed an assessment of the following critical thinking dispositions: Truth-Seeking, Open-mindedness, Analyticity, Systematicity, Self-confidence, Inquisitiveness, and Maturity. 

This study utlized a model of critical thinking developed by agricultural educators at the University of Florida (UF). Researchers at UF developed an instrument that measured dispositions as Facione (2011) did, but in a more effective and efficient way (Irani et al., 2007).  Because of the length and amount of time Facione’s assessment took to complete and the suspect reliability of the scales on Facione’s California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI) (Moore et al., 2002), researchers developed the UF-EMI (Irani et al., 2007). For this study, changes in these dispositions were assessed utilzing a retrospective/post version of the UF-EMI (University of Florida – Engagement, Maturity, and Innovativeness) assessment (Ricketts et al., 2007) described in the methods section below.

The UF-EMI model of critical thinking assessment used to reach this study’s objectives contains three scales (Engagement, Cognitive Maturity, and Innovativeness). The Engagement construct measures a person’s ability to anticipate and seek out situations requiring logical reasoning, use existing critical thinking skills to confidently solve problems, and to be an effective group leader. The Maturity construct assesses a person’s awareness of their own biases, their environment, their opinions, and their influences on both their own lives and the lives of others. The Innovation construct assess a person’s desire to learn new information and to explore the world around them while continually seeking truth through research and questioning (Irani et al., 2007; Ricketts, 2003).

Purpose and Objectives

Despite existing literature illuminating how effective Geocaching can be as an educational activity (Christie, 2007; Dixon, 2011; Schwartz, 2016), its use has rarely been documented as a method of teaching agriculture. While this does not exclude the possibility that agriculture teachers have used Geocaching before, it does show a lack of knowledge about either the educational possibilities or the existence of the game in general.

Therefore, it is important that if GPS technology and Geocaching are to be used as an educational tool in agriculture classes, the possibilities are fully explored. Geocaching makes learning an active experience that requires the evaluation of ideas alongside problem-solving, decision-making. Therefore it is possible that students’ critical thinking will be impacted by the introduction of GPS in the agriscience education curriculum.

The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of Geocaching integration in an agriscience lesson plan. The primary objectives of this study were to:

  1. Describe the change in critical thinking dispositions as a result of the GPS lesson for both the treatment (Geocaching integration) and control (no Geocaching integration) groups in the agriscience courses.
  2. Compare the critical thinking dispositions of students of the treatment group who participated in the GPS lesson with integrated Geocaching activity against those the control group who participated in a GPS lesson void of Geocaching integration.


The first step undertaken in this study was the development of an introductory level GPS lesson which fit into a 50-minute class period. This lesson opened with a 20-minute lecture discussing GPS history, reading coordinates, usage in agriculture, and the game of Geocaching.Materials including an accompanying PowerPoint a coordinate worksheet, and a Geocaching worksheet were created as well.

Eight Garmin eTrex 10 GPS receivers and carrying cases were purchased for use in the study. These specific receivers were chosen due to their low cost, durability, and ease of use. Other purchased materials included Geocache container materials such as a plastic hide-a-key containter and a PVC pipe with one cap attached to the bottom. All materials were clearly labeled as Geocaches using official stickers purchased from Groundspeak (2021).

Five schools were contacted through email about participating in the study. On the day of each visit, the researcher arrived at the selected school approximately forty-five minutes early and proceeded to hide the Geocaches. When the selected classes began, the researcher allowed the teacher to perform any necessary duties before beginning the GPS lesson.

After the end of the introductory lecture, the students were introduced to their first activity. This activity was developed to introduce basic GPS ability and to reinforce the concepts of latitude and longitude. In this activity, students were placed into groups of two to five students, with each group given a GPS unit, a GPS Instructions page, and a Coordinate Worksheet. Each group was then led outside and asked to turn on their GPS unit. The teacher visited each group to ensure that everyone understood the directions and to minimize potential problems. After each unit had a successful lock on three or more satellites, the teacher asked students to write their current coordinates down on the Coordinate Worksheet. The students then moved to a new location not far away, and wrote down a new pair of coordinates. Again, the teacher visited each group, this time to discuss the results with the students. Discussion topics included uncovering which coordinate numbers changed, why certain numbers changed the way they did, and how the numbers indicated the students’ direction of travel. Then each group would compare their results with other groups before the Coordinate Worksheets were collected.

The next part of the GPS unit varied between classes. For those classes randomly chosen to be the control group, the GPS units were collected, the class returned to their classroom, and the paper-and-pencil based GPS Review Worksheet provided.

The treatment groups were instead allowed to keep their GPS units for a second activity in which they would experience the game of Geocaching.  The Geocaching activity began by dividing up students into three groups. Each group was given a different set of coordinates that were designed to lead them a Geocache. Although both their teacher and the researcher monitored the groups, the students were allowed to follow their GPS and search for the Geocaches on their own. If problems arose, students were given clues or hints to help them discover the final location of the cache. When the caches were discovered, students were instructed to sign the contained log sheet, take a few stickers as a prize, and then re-hide the cache back in its original location before returning to the classroom.

When either the Review Worksheet or Geocaching activity was complete, the students were given the GPS Test and survey instrument. The test was written with the specific intent of testing what knowledge was gained during both the lecture and activity portions of the lesson. It consisted of seventeen multiple choice questions that covered basic concepts regarding the history of GPS, the usage of GPS in agriculture, the workings of GPS technology, and also latitude and longitude. Students were not allowed to use notes during the test, and would be given as much time as needed to answer the questions and survey instruments. 

Following the end of the lesson, GPS units, tests and surveys were collected, and the remaining five to ten minutes left in each class period would be spent debriefing students about what they had learned and experienced. This was to help the students further retain what they had learned, and to give them a chance to offer their thoughts on the GPS unit as a whole.


This study utilized survey research and took place at [university] and in five different high schools in three counties in the [state]. These schools were chosen to participate in the study due to their proximity to [university], because they all had successful agricultural education programs, and because they offered agriculture courses that fit study criterion. In order to be selected, a school had to offer two of the same agriculture classes that were taught by the same teacher. This was done to minimize error and decrease the number of potential variables. Due to budgetary and time restraints, the selected classes were not the same in every school. A total of four different types of agricultural classes were visited overall – two agriscience classes, two agricultural mechanics classes, two floral design classes, and four small animal care classes.

Each class had a different number of students ranging between 13 and 21 students, with an average of 16.8 students per class. One hundred and fifty-five usable responses were collected, for a response rate of 92%. Of these usable responses, 79 were from female students and 76 were from males. Students ages ranged from 14 to 19 with an average age of 16.1 years.  One of the two classes at each school was randomly selected by a coin toss to serve as the test group that would receive the treatment Geocaching activity. The other class served as the control group and received a paper assignment in place of the Geocaching activity. Seventy-eight students who provided usable responses were members of the treatment group/classes, while seventy-seven were members of the control group/classes.

The survey instrument used to collect data was the EMI Critical Thinking Disposition Retrospective Post Instrument (Ricketts et al., 2007) as adapted from the original UF-EMI (Irani et al., 2007; Ricketts, 2003). This version was used for convienience since it has been found to be just as reliable as the original instrument. Reliability of the original UF-EMI ranges from (α = 0.79 to 0.94) (Irani et al.), and reliability of the retrospective post version, as used in this study, ranges from (α = 0.79 to 0.93) (Ricketts et al., 2007).

This instrument asks students to state on a six-point scale their agreement or disagreement with 26 statements in order to evaluate their level of critical thinking disposition. Because it was a retrospective post instrument, it asks students to first rate how they thought their critical thinking disposition was before participating in the study, and then to rate their disposition following the lesson. Retrospective post research designs are frequently used in Agricultural Education and Extension research and evaluation, specifically in regards to the effectiveness of educational programs (Klatt & Taylor-Powell, 2005). A retrospective post design was chosen for use in this study for two reasons.

First, it was selected to minimize the effects of response shift bias. Response shift bias occurs when a participant’s understanding of the construct being measured changes in response to the content of an educational program (Drennan & Hyde, 2008; Klatt & Taylor-Powell, 2005). In this study, the educational program was the introductory lecture and the Geocaching activity. Since students knew little about critical thinking or GPS technology prior to the introductory lecture and Geocaching activity, it is likely that students would have not possessed enough information to give an accurate picture of their understanding of these subjects on a true pre-test. By presenting students with the information and then asking them to compare their new knowledge with their prior state, the researchers were better able to compare the changes in critical thinking that occurred as a result of the educational program.

Second, the retrospective post was chosen due to convenience and time constraints. Retrospective post studies are versatile and can be used “to evaluate many types of programs for different audiences in varied settings” (Klatt & Taylor-Powell, 2005, p. 2). They are also “less burdensome and intrusive” for participants and take less time to administer, as all data are collected at the same time instead of at two different points (Klatt & Taylor-Powell, 2005, p. 2). This type of research design fit the needs of the study, since all participating schools used schedules that offered class lengths of only 45 to 60 minutes. Including a separate pre-test and post-test, alongside the introductory lecture and Geocaching activity, would not have fit into this single-class time frame. Separating the experience into two days was a possibility, but the researchers rejected this idea for being intrusive on participating agricultural educators, and to manage the potential for incomplete data due to student absences.

The standards for reliability for Cronbach’s alpha by Robinson et al.(1991) were utilized to assess the quality of the scales in the instrument: .80 – 1.00 – exemplary reliability, .70 – .79 – extensive reliability, .60 – .69 – moderate reliability, and <.60 – minimal reliability. Using these standards, all scales possessed exemplary or extensive reliability. Internal consistency coefficients for the subscales for the EMI Critical Thinking Disposition Retrospective Post Instrument were 0.89 for Engagement, 0.75 for Maturity, and 0.79 for Innovativeness.  Engagment was measured by 13 items on the instrument, Maturity by six, and Innovativeness by 11 (Irani et al., 2007; Ricketts, 2003).  The total possible score for Engagement ranged from 13 to 78, Maturity from 6 to 36, and Innovativeness from 11 to 66.  The total survey score ranged from 30 to 180.

Data were recorded in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which were later transferred to SPSS statistical software (SPSS, IBM Corporation, 2010) for further analysis. An alpha level of 0.05 was used, providing a 95% level of confidence.  Inferences (t-tests) were drawn by comparing critical thinking and leadership development mean scores of the different groups. 


Objective One

The GPS lesson for both groups combined yielded statistically significant improvements in the critical thinking dispositions of student engagement, cognitive maturity, innovation, and total critical thinking disposition, albeit with a small effect size according to Cohen (1988). The study participants as a whole scored a total Critical Thinking Disposition (CTD) mean of 90.88 (SD = 13.58) for the retrospective assessment, and a mean of 94.03 (SD =14.59) for the post-lesson assessment. The Engagement retrospective mean was 38.65 (SD = 6.80), and the post-lesson mean was 39.92 (SD = 7.10). The Cognitive Maturity retrospective mean  was 28.45 (SD = 3.99) and the post-lesson mean was 29.23 (SD = 4.42). The retrospective Innovation mean score was 23.79 (SD = 4.10), and the post-lesson mean was 24.88 (SD = 4.34)  (Table 1). 

Table 1
Critical Thinking Change Resulting from the GPS Lesson
Retro Total15590.8813.581.09-6.26154.000.23
Post Total15594.0314.591.17    
Retro Engagement15538.656.800.55-4.63154.000.19
Post Engagement15539.927.100.57    
Retro Maturity15528.453.990.32-5.04154.000.20
Post Maturity15529.234.420.36    
Retro Innovation15523.794.100.33-5.88154.000.27
Post Innovation15524.884.340.35    
Note. *p < .05, 2-tailed
**Cohen’s interpretation of effect size (d), 0.2 = Small, 0.5 = Medium, 0.8 = Large

Objective Two

To determine the influence of the integrated Geocaching activity, changes in critical thinking dispositions were measured by comparing the control group mean score and the treatment group mean score. The total mean score for the control group was 91.03 (SD = 12.80), and the total mean CTD score for the treatment group was 90.74 (SD = 14.40). The Engagement mean score was 38.86 (SD = 6.40) for the control group and 38.44 (SD = 7.21) for the group receiving the treatment. The Cognitive Maturity mean score was 28.42 (SD = 3.66) for the control group and 28.47 (SD = 4.32) for the treatment group. The Innovation mean score for the control group was 23.75 (SD = 4.19), and was 23.83 (SD = 4.02) for the treatment group (Table 2).

Table 2
Critical Thinking Change Resulting from Geocaching Integration
Control Total7791.0312.801.46-0.131530.890.02
Treatment Total7890.7414.401.63    
Control Engagement7738.866.40.73-0.391530.700.05
Treatment Engagement7838.447.21.82    
Control Maturity7728.423.66.47-0.091530.930.01
Treatment Maturity7828.474.32.49    
Control Innovation7723.754.19.48-0.121530.900.02
Treatment Innovation7823.834.02.46    

There were no significant differences between the group with the integrated Geocaching activity and the control group who received the GPS lesson minus the activity.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Although research has already shown that technology in the classroom has benefits (Duran & Sendag, 2012; Grunwald & Associates, 2010; U.S. Department of Education, 1998), the use of GPS technology is hasdistinct benefits to students’ critical thinking ability (Schwartz, 2006).  Using GPS technology requires students to solve problems, overcome obstacles, make decisions, participate actively in the learning process, and apply new uses to technology – all factors that play a role in the development and exercise of critical thinking skills (Angelo, 1995; Harris, 2015; Murawski, 2014; Paul, 1995; Schwartz, 2006).

Study results imply the introduction of GPS technology into the agriscience classroom has potential to improve student critical thinking, especially regarding the quality of Innovativeness. Innovativeness involves one’s desire to learn new information through exploration, truth-seeking, research, and questioning (Irani et al., 2007; Ricketts, 2003). Hands-on use of GPS systems required participants to exercise innovativeness as they experimented with unfamiliar tools and concepts and sought answers via trial and error. At first, student participants were unsure about their ability to navigate, but by the end of the lesson they could utilize concepts such as coordinate planes and latitute and longitude while connecting them to uses in the modern agricultural industry. This behavior demonstrates critical thinking as defined by Facione (1990) and Angelo (1995), who both included problem solving, analysis, evaluation, and inference as crucial parts of the critical thinking process. Students were able to quickly and correctly make use of new information and tools in order to gain new understanding.

The Engagement construct of critical thinking saw some development. Engagement concerns itself with a person’s ability to identify and solve situations that require logical reasoning, leadership, and critical thinking. Students in the coordinate activity worked in groups, with each group assigned only one GPS receiver. This naturally led to some students adopting an unofficial leadership position with the group. These leaders often took responsibility for determining positions using the unit while delegating other tasks such as writing coordinates, marking locations, or reading instructions to other members. While there were overall gains in engagement, some students were able to take greater advantage of the situation than others, and perhaps see higher gains in critical thinking than others.

The Cognitive Maturity construct saw the least amount of gain among the three EMI constructs.  This construct evaluates a person’s awareness of their own biases, their environment, their opinions, and their influences on both their own lives and the lives of others (Irani et al., 2007).  This study was not designed to focus on any of these aspects of the Maturity construct, which is most likely the reason that the gain in Maturity scores was the least of all critical thinking gains.

Integrating Geocaching into the lesson did not show any significant benefits to student critical thinking levels. This could potentially be because Geocaching is traditionally a recreational activity, and students saw it as such. Although there are some official Geocaches designed to be educational or to require complex research, inquiry, and puzzle-solving efforts (Groundspeak, 2020), the caches used in this activity were not of this type. Instead, they were representations of the simpler Geocaches that most typically populate the game. After using their GPS receiver to find the general location of a Geocache – a skill already demonstrated in the earlier portion of the lesson – students then physically searched for the hidden container. While this did require students to explore their school grounds and consider where objects could be hidden, usually only one student out of each group made the find while others were unsuccessful. It is possible that the finder alone saw some critical thinking development, or perhaps already possessed higher critical thinking abilities than the rest of their group.

The researchers recommend further study into the use of GPS technology in agricultural education. Global Positioning Systems play a large role in modern agriculture (, 2018), yet this technology not frequently addressed in agricultural education programs. The researchers recommend course developers in agricultural education consider including lessons and applications for GPS/GIS in agriculture. These lessons should focus on (a) developing critical thinking dispositions in students and (b) exposing students to career-relevant technology and content that will enhance those critical thinking dispositons.

The researchers recommend attempting to study GPS integration outcomes with the use of more GPS units. This was a limitation for the study, as not every student participant was able to personally interact with their assigned GPS receiver for the duration of the lesson. Possessing enough GPS receivers to allow students to work in pairs, or perhaps individually, might impact the level of critical thinking that occurs.

Researchers recommend further study to identify the effectivness of Geocaching and other game-based learning methods with the use of a true pre-post design rather than the retrospective-post design. While a retrospective-post design was chosen to minimize response shift bias bias and fit the needs of the study, the format had a downside. Klatt and Powell-Taylor (2008) report that reflecting upon and evaluating one’s prior knowledge can be a difficult task, making a retrospective-post design “difficult or inappropriate for certain learners” (Klatt & Powell-Taylor, 2008, p. 2). A true pre-post design would eliminate this issue and measure student critical thinking growth in a more straightforward manner.


Akins, J., Lamm, A., Telg, R., Abrams, K., Meyers, C., & Raulerson, B. (2019). Seeking and engaging: Case study integration to enhance critical thinking about agricultural issues. Journal of Agricultural Education, 60(3), 97-108.

Association of American Colleges and Universities. (2010). Raising the bar: Employers’ views on college learning in the wake of the economic downturn. AACU Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative. AACU.

Anderson, A. (2013) What are the benefits of critical thinking in the workplace? http://

Angelo, T.A. (1995). Beginning the dialogue: Thoughts on promoting critical thinking: Classroom assessment for critical thinking. Teaching of Psychology, 22(1), 6-7.

Butler, H.A. (2012). Halpern critical thinking assessment predicts real-world outcomes of critical thinking. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26(5).

Butler, H.A., Pentoney, C., & Bong, M.P. (2015). Predicting real-world outcomes: Critical thinking ability is a better predictor of life decisions than intelligence. Thinking skills and creativity, 25.

Casner–Lotto, J., Barrington, L., & Wright, M. (2006). Are they really ready to work? Employers’ perspectives on the basic knowledge and applied skills of new entrants to the 21st Century U.S. workforce. New York, NY: The Conference Board. www.conference–

Center for Assessment and Improvement of Learning, Tennessee Tech University. (2013). CAT Training Manual. Version 8.

Christie, A. (2007). Using gps and geocaching engages, empowers, and enlightens middle school teachers and students. Meridian Middle School Technologies Journal, 10(1).

Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.

Crawford, P. & Fink, W. (2020). From Academia to the Workforce: Critical Growth Areas for Students Today. APLU

Dixon, V. (2011, July 20). Geocaching: technological treasure hunt unearths bounty of skills. Chicago Tribune.

Drennan, J. & Hyde, A. (2008). Controlling response shift bias: the use of the retrospective pre‐test design in the evaluation of a master’s programme. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 33(6), 699-709.

Duran, M., & Sendag, S. (2012). A preliminary investigation into critical thinking skills of urban high school students: Role of an IT/STEM program. Creative Education3(02), 241.

Ennis, R.H. (1987). A taxonomy of critical thinking dispositions and abilities. In J. B. Baron & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), Series of books in psychology. Teaching thinking skills: Theory and practice (p. 9–26). W H Freeman/Times Books/ Henry Holt & Co.

Facione, P.A. (1990). Critical thinking: A statement of expert consensus for purposes of educational assessment and instruction (The Delphi Report). Academic Press.

Facione, P.A., Facione, N., & Giancarlo, C. (1997). The motivation to think in working and learning. In E. Jones (Ed.), Preparing Competent College Graduates: Setting Newer and Higher Expectations for Student Learning. (pp. 67-79). Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Facione, P.A. (2011). Critical thinking: what it is and why it counts. Insight Assessment,

Glasscoe, M. (1998, August 13). What is GPS?. (2018). Agriculture.,weed%20infestations%20in%20the%20field.

Groundspeak, Inc. (2020). Geocache Types.

Groundspeak, Inc. (20201). Geocaching 101.  Geocaching – the official global gps cache hunt site.

Grunwald and Associates. (2010). Educators, technology and 21st century skills: Dispelling five myths. Walden University, Richard W. Riley College of Education.

Harris, B. (2015). The status of critical thinking in the workplace. Pearson Education.

Hendrix, R.E., & Morrison, C.C. (2018). Student perceptions of workforce readiness in agriculture. Journal of Agricultural Education, 59(3), 213-228

Hendrix, R.E., Parks, C., & Ricketts, J.C. (2011). Agricultural educaching: using geocaches in the classroom.  Abstract posted online at

Irani, T., Rudd, R., Gallo, M., Ricketts, J., Friedel, C., & Rhoades, E. (2007). Critical Thinking instrumentation manual.

Klatt, J. & Taylor-Powell, E. (2005). Using the retrospective post then pre design. University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension.

Landrum, R.E., & Harrold, R. (2003). What employers want from psychology graduates. Teaching of Psychology, 30(2), 131-133.

Latham, L., Rayfield, J., & Moore, L.L. (2014). Influence of FFA Activities on Critical Thinking

Skills in Texas Three-Star FFA Chapters. Journal of Agricultural Education, 55(5), 126-139.

Moore, L., Rudd, R., & Penfield, R. (2002).  Scale reliability and validity of the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory. Unpublished manuscript, University of Florida, Gainesville.

Murawski, L.M. (2014). Critical thinking in the classroom…and beyond. Journal of learning in higher education. 10(1),

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2008). 21st century skills, education, and competitiveness.

Paul, R. (1995). Critical thinking: How to prepare students for a rapidly changing world. Foundation for Critical Thinking.

Ricketts, J.C. (2003). The efficacy of leadership development, critical thinking dispositions, and student academic performance on the critical thinking skills of selected youth leaders. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Florida)

Ricketts, J.C., Pringle, T. D., & Douglas, J. (2007). Comparing traditional pre-post to retrospective-post analysis of critical thinking dispositions: An animal science example. NACTA Journal, 51(2).

Ricketts, J.C. & Rudd., R.D. (2004). Critical thinking skills of National FFA leaders. Journal of Southern Agricultural Education Research, 54(1).

Robinson, J.P., Shaver, P.R., & Wrightsman, L.S. (1991). Criteria for scale selection and evaluation. In J. P. Robinson, P. R. Shaver, & L. S. Wrightsman (Eds.).  Measures of personality and social psychological attitudes (pp. 1-16). Academic Press.

Rollins, T.J., Miller, W.W., & Kahler, A.A. (1988). Critical thinking skills of agriculture students. Proceedings of the National Agricultural Education Research Meeting, St. Louis.

Ruggiero, V.R. (2012). The art of thinking: A guide to critical and creative thought. (10th ed.). Longman.

Rudd, R., Baker, M., & Hoover, T. (2000). Undergraduate agriculture student learning styles and critical thinking abilities: is there a relationship? Journal of Agricultural Education, 41(3), 2-12.

Shaunessy, E., & Page, C. (2006). Promoting inquiry in the gifted classroom through gps and gis technologies. Gifted Child Today, 29(4),

Schwartz, J. E. (2016). Unlocking thinking through and about gps. Children’s Technology and Engineering, 20 (4),12-15.

Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills. (1991). What work requires of schools: a SCANS report for America 2000. Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, US Department of Labor.

Siegel, H. (1988). The justification of critical thinking as an educational ideal. In V. H. a. I. Scheffler (Ed.), Educating Reason: Rationality, Critical Thinking, and Education. Routledge.

SPSS, Inc. (2010).  Statistical Software Package for the Social Sciences.  Version 19.  IBM Corporation, Somers, NY.

Thorpe, N. (2006). Treasure hunting and other fun science labs with gps/gis: geocaching method of introducing modern technology in the classroom.

U.S. Department of Education. (1998, December). Effects of technology on classrooms. /EdTech/effectsstudents.html

What is gps? (2011).

Willsen, J. (1995). Critical thinking: identifying the targets. In R. W. Paul, Critical thinking: How to prepare students for a rapidly changing world. Foundation for Critical Thinking.

Measuring Effective Teaching Components of School-Based Agricultural Education Teaching Aspirants During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Christopher J. Eck, Clemson University,

Jessica M. Toombs, California State University, Chico,

J. Shane Robinson, Oklahoma State University,

PDF Available


Defining, identifying, and evaluating teaching effectiveness is a difficult proposition; however, measuring  the effectiveness of school-based agricultural education (SBAE) teachers is even more difficult considering the diversity of programs nationwide. Faculty in the agricultural education teacher preparation program at Oklahoma State University sought to measure the effective characteristics developed during the Spring 2020 semester, using the effective teaching model as a frame for this study in conjunction with the Effective Teaching Instrument for SBAE Teachers (ETI-SBAE). This approach allowed the research team an opportunity to further investigate the preparedness of SBAE teacher aspirants during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A descriptive research design was implemented with SBAE teacher aspirants at Oklahoma State University with a junior- or senior-level classification (N = 72). The SBAE pre-service teachers at Oklahoma State University identified a high sense of effectiveness based on the ETI-SBAE instrument. In this group of pre-service teachers, all participants scored an overall teaching effectiveness score of strong to very strong, with the overwhelming majority (79.2%) planning to enter the teaching profession. Additionally, there was a relationship between intention to teach and teaching effectiveness scores, with those who intend to teach reporting higher teaching effectiveness scores. The ETI-SBAE holds utility for SBAE teacher preparation programs.


Multiple perspectives exist regarding the design and implementation of school-based agricultural education (SBAE) teacher preparation programs (Darling-Hammond et al., 2002). Some have suggested teacher candidates must receive additional coursework or experiences focusing on the development of personal qualities (Roberts & Dyer, 2004), while others have recommended the essential skills for teaching effectiveness revolve around instructional planning (Phipps et al., 2008).

During their college years, students make the pivotal decision to focus their energy and attention on a major program that will shape their future. In turn, these programs provide direction and requirements intended to help students achieve their academic goals. (Kohn, 2018, p. 1)

Regardless, students come to “each new task or problem [with] a set of skills, performance standards, and values” (Krumboltz et al., 1976, p. 73); although, for this discourse to be effective, students must engage in the learning environment, “which incorporates behavioral, emotional, and cognitive aspects” (Marx et al., 2016, p. 213).

Although numerous scholars have attempted to define effective teaching throughout the decades, it has been referred to as “an elusive concept” (Hayes, 2006, p. 43). Rosenshine and Furst (1971) found that effective teachers are those who are clear, infuse a variety of teaching methods and media, are enthusiastic about teaching their subjects, remain on-task throughout the duration of the lesson, and provide students ample opportunities to apply their learning, to name a few. Steele (2010) identified effective teachers as those who exhibit servant leadership, a strong sense of personal self-efficacy, and nonverbal communication skills. Farrell (2015) suggested that effective teachers must be “multidimensional” in their ability to teach students. Despite the rich amount of scholarship and literature devoted to and written on effective teaching, various opinions exist regarding the competencies teachers need to possess to be deemed effective at their profession (Hayes, 2006). 

When considering the uniqueness of SBAE teachers, the problem becomes even more difficult due to the added expectations of the complete program (i.e., Classroom and Laboratory Instruction, Supervised Agricultural Experiences, and the FFA) outlined by the National FFA Organization (2015). SBAE teachers are expected to be effective in community relations, marketing, professionalism, program planning, and possess the personal qualities  necessary to perform the job well (Roberts & Dyer, 2004). In addition, SBAE teachers should be effective in leading classroom instruction, maintain a proper work-life balance, and focus on diversity and inclusion of all students in their programs (Eck et al., 2019).

Defining SBAE teacher effectiveness is a challenging proposition, but evaluating the effectiveness of SBAE teachers is perhaps even more difficult due to the diversity of programs nationwide (Enns et al., 2016; Roberts & Dyer, 2004). In light of these variations and challenges, SBAE teacher preparation programs must continually consider how teacher aspirants are prepared for a successful career in agricultural education.

The semester in which this study was conducted was Spring 2020, which had its own set of challenges due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators across the country scrambled to quickly overhaul and restructure their course delivery to virtual learning platforms (Daniel, 2020), leading Hodges et al. (2020) to coin the term: Emergency Remote Teaching. At Oklahoma State University, educators were forced to overhaul their classes to a complete online delivery of instruction in one week. Although some teacher educators at Oklahoma State University had experience delivering instruction online, the circumstances were vastly different among the faculty. The change in instructional delivery certainly added a challenge to preparing SBAE teacher aspirants for their future careers. Considering the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the multitude of developmental needs of SBAE teacher aspirants, a need existed to determine the essential components of an SBAE teacher developed during the Spring 2020 semester at Oklahoma State University. Understanding the deficiencies in perceived competence of these teacher aspirants as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is imperative for us to know if and what types of professional development may be needed for these teachers in the future.

Theoretical/Conceptual Framework

The human capital theory was used to frame this study, as human capital evaluates education, training, and skills obtained related to future employment (Becker, 1964). In the case of this study, the education, training, and skill acquisition is related to SBAE teacher aspirants’ enrollment in the agricultural education teacher preparation program at Oklahoma State University. The human capital development of SBAE teachers begins at Oklahoma State University with specific skills embedded in our teacher preparation program in the areas of teaching, supervising, and advising, and are continued and enhanced during the clinical teaching internship (NCATE, 2010). The human capital students acquire assists them in their future employment (Robinson & Baker, 2013). Human capital can also impact student success, as Pil and Leana (2009) connected teachers’ application of their human capital to a positive impact on student outcomes.

Although similarities exist in preparation of SBAE teacher aspirants across the U.S., the demands placed on SBAE teachers once they enter the classroom vary greatly (Roberts & Dyer, 2004). Therefore, specific evaluation metrics appropriate for SBAE teachers and their human capital development are necessary. To that end, the effective teaching model for SBAE teachers (Blinded for Review) was implemented to help frame the development of effective teaching components in SBAE teacher aspirants (Figure 1).

Figure 1
The Effective Teaching Model for SBAE Teachers

As SBAE teachers represent such a diverse landscape (Roberts & Dyer, 2004), there is no one-size-fits-all formula for the preparation, support, and evaluation of effective teachers (Steele, 2010). Using the effective teaching model (Figure 1) as a frame for this study in conjunction with the Effective Teaching Instrument for SBAE Teachers (ETI-SBAE) developed by Eck et al. (2020) allows us the opportunity to further investigate the preparedness of SBAE teacher aspirants at Oklahoma State University during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

 Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study was to measure the development of effective teaching principles in SBAE teacher aspirants at Oklahoma State University. Four research questions guided this study:

  1. Identify the effective teaching principles developed by SBAE teacher aspirants at Oklahoma State University during the Spring 2020 semester,
  2. Determine the teaching effectiveness score for SBAE teacher aspirants,
  3. Determine SBAE teacher aspirants’ intent to teach SBAE after graduation, and
  4. Identify the impact of career intent on SBAE teacher aspirants teaching effectiveness.

Methods and Procedures

A descriptive research design was implemented for this non-experimental study, as there were no circumstances being manipulated within the population of interest (Gay et al., 2012). The population of interest was all SBAE teacher aspirants at Oklahoma State University with a junior- or senior-level classification (N = 72) during the Spring 2020 semester. Therefore, these students were either enrolled in AGED 3203 (n = 45) or were actively encountering their clinical teaching experience in a secondary agricultural education program (n = 27). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, data collection occurred virtually using dedicated time during a scheduled Zoom meeting to allow participants to follow a weblink or scan a quick response (QR) code to complete the instrument via the Qualtrics data collection form. As the SBAE teacher aspirants were a captive audience during this meeting, this study resulted in a 100% response rate, as all 72 teacher aspirants participated.

The instrument used in this study was the (ETI-SBAE) developed by Eck et al. (2020). The 26-item instrument spans six components including intracurricular engagement, personal dispositions, appreciation for diversity and inclusion, pedagogical preparedness, work-life balance, and professionalism (Eck et al., 2020) as detailed in Table 1.

Table 1
Effective Teaching Components and Item Descriptions (26 items)
Component Title Item Corresponding Item Description
1. Intracurricular Engagement IE_1 I instruct students through FFA.
  IE_2 I advise the FFA officers.
  IE_3 I advise the FFA chapter.
  IE_4 I facilitate record keeping for degrees and
  IE_5 I am passionate about FFA.
  IE_6 I instruct students through SAEs.
  IE_7 I use the complete agricultural education 3-
     component model as a guide to   
     programmatic decisions.
2. Personal Dispositions PD_1 I am trustworthy.
  PD_2 I am responsible.
  PD_3 I am dependable.
  PD_4 I am honest.
  PD_5 I show integrity.
  PD_6 I am a hard worker.
3. Appreciation for Diversity
        and Inclusion
 AD_1 I value students regardless of economic status.
  AD_2 I value students of all ethnic/racial groups.
  AD_3 I value students regardless of sex.
  AD_4 I care about all students.
  AD_5 I understand there is not an award for all
     students, but that does not mean they are not
4. Pedagogical Preparedness PP_1 I demonstrate classroom management.
  PP_2 I demonstrate sound educational practices.
  PP_3 I am prepared for every class.
5. Work-Life Balance B_1 I have the ability to say no.
  B_2 I lead a balanced life.
  B_3 I am never afraid to ask for help.
6. Professionalism P_1 I have patience.
  P_2 I show empathy.

With any psychometric design, validity and reliability are important considerations (Privitera, 2017). To determine validity and reliability of the ETI-SBAE, a national census study was conducted using the instrument developed from the findings of a nationwide Delphi study which identified the key components of an effective SBAE teacher (Eck et al., 2019; 2020; 2021). The results deemed the instrument to be reliable (Blinded for Review) with an acceptable Cronbach’s alpha of 0.87 (Nunnally, 1978). This instrument included a four-point Likert-type scale (i.e., 1 = very weak; 2 = somewhat weak; 3 = somewhat strong; 4 = very strong) for the SBAE teacher aspirants to self-assess their preparedness to be a SBAE teacher after graduation. In addition to the ETI-SBAE, aspirants were asked to identify their intent to enter the SBAE teaching profession, in which they were asked to select: Yes, No, or Undecided.

Data were analyzed using SPSS Version 26 for descriptive statistics for the first three research questions and the analysis of variance (ANOVA) included in the final research question. In addition to SPSS, Microsoft Excel was used to calculate the overall effectiveness scores of each of the 72 SBAE teacher aspirants at Oklahoma State University, as the 26-items were evaluated on a four-point Likert-type scale, providing a potential effectiveness score range from 26 (very weak) to 104 (very strong). The calculated effectiveness score was then used in the ANOVA to compare teacher aspirants’ effectiveness based on their career intent (i.e., Yes, No, or Undecided).

Although the research team of this study served as instructors and university supervisors for SBAE teacher aspirants at Oklahoma State University, the completion of the ETI-SBAE was not connected to any course grade or evaluation score. Participants were asked to consider the instrument as a measure of growth as an agricultural education student at Oklahoma State University and their preparedness as a future SBAE teacher.


Research Question 1: Determine the effective teaching principles developed by SBAE teacher aspirants at Oklahoma State University during the Spring 2020 semester

The ETI-SBAE was distributed for self-evaluation to pre-service SBAE teachers at the end of the Spring 2020 semester during online instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. SBAE teacher aspirants identified themselves as least prepared to instruct students through the FFA, advise the FFA chapter, facilitate record keeping for degrees and awards, demonstrating classroom management, being prepared to teach every class, having the ability to say no, leading a balanced life, not being afraid to ask for help, and having patience based on the frequency of participants marking very weak or somewhat weak (Table 2). These nine items resulted in mean scores ranging from 3.03 to 3.39, with the lowest mean score (3.03) resulting from the item related to leading a balanced life as an SBAE teacher aspirant. Mean and standard deviation scores of all 26-items from the ETI-SBAE are displayed in Table 2.

Table 2
Effective Teaching Results for SBAE Teacher Aspirants at Oklahoma State University (N = 72)
Component Item Description 
 I instruct students through FFA. 3.38 .57
  I advise the FFA officers. 3.44 .58
  I advise the FFA chapter. 3.39 .57
  I facilitate record keeping for degrees and
 3.14 .68
  I am passionate about FFA. 3.89 .32
  I instruct students through SAEs. 3.57 .55
  I use the complete agricultural education 3-
     component model as a guide to   
     programmatic decisions.
 3.56 .50
 I am trustworthy. 3.96 .20
  I am responsible. 3.86 .35
  I am dependable. 3.89 .32
  I am honest. 3.93 .26
  I show integrity. 3.93 .26
  I am a hard worker. 3.97 .17
Appreciation for
     and Inclusion
 I value students regardless of economic
 3.96 .20
  I value students of all ethnic/racial groups. 3.96 .20
  I value students regardless of sex. 3.97 .17
  I care about all students. 4.00 .00
  I understand there is not an award for all
     students, but that does not mean they are
     not valuable.
 3.96 .20
 I demonstrate classroom management. 3.38 .64
  I demonstrate sound educational practices. 3.60 .52
  I am prepared for every class. 3.39 .72
 I have the ability to say no. 3.17 .80
  I lead a balanced life. 3.03 .75
  I am never afraid to ask for help. 3.14 .89
Professionalism I have patience. 3.38 .64
  I show empathy. 3.57 .58
Note. 1 = very weak; 2 = somewhat weak; 3 = somewhat strong; 4 = very strong

Research Question 2: Determine a teaching effectiveness score for SBAE teacher aspirants

The 26-items associated with the ETI-SBAE (Eck et al., 2020) were evaluated on a four-point Likert-type scale, with a perfect effectiveness score of 104 (very strong) and a minimum effectiveness score of 26 (very weak). Effectiveness scores for SBAE teacher aspirants at Oklahoma State University ranged from 79 to 104 with a mean of 94.28 (SD = 5.98). Therefore, participants considered themselves to be strong to very strong in terms of their preparedness to be an effective SBAE teacher. SBAE teacher aspirants deemed themselves most effective in their appreciation for diversity and inclusion, followed by their personal dispositions. Work-life balance, on the other hand, received the lowest average effectiveness score from the SBAE teacher aspirants.

Research Question 3: Determine SBAE teacher aspirants’ intent to teach SBAE after graduation

The majority (79.2%)of SBAE teacher aspirants at Oklahoma State University selected “Yes” regarding their intent to become a SBAE teacher after graduation. Table 3 outlines the aspirants’ intentions related to becoming an SBAE teacher after graduation (i.e., Yes, No, or Undecided).

Table 3
Oklahoma State University SBAE Teacher Aspirants’ Intention to Enter the SBAE Profession (N = 72)
Yes 57 79.2
No 3 4.2
Undecided 12 16.6

Research Question 4: Determine the impact of career intent on SBAE teacher aspirants’ teaching effectiveness

To consider the impact of career intent on teaching effectiveness, participants’ response to the question: “Do you intend to become a SBAE teacher after graduation?” was used as the independent variable with answer choices of Yes, No, or Undecided. The dependent variable was the composite effectiveness score (ranging from 79 to 104) of SBAE teacher aspirants. Normality and homogeneity of variance were assessed with all responses being normally distributed and a non-statistically significant (p > .05) Levene’s test statistic. Therefore, a one-way ANOVA was conducted in SPSS, which resulted in a statistically significant difference based on composite effectiveness scores F (2, 65) = 4.66, p < .05. To further understand the statistical significance of the ANOVA output, a post-hoc analysis was conducted. Based on the ability to control for Type I error, a Bonferroni post-hoc analysis (Field, 2009) was used. A 95% confidence interval for the post-hoc analysis resulted in a statistically significant difference based on the SBAE teacher aspirants’ intent to enter the SBAE teaching profession (Table 4).

Table 4
Multiple Comparisons Mean Differences of SBAE Teacher Aspirant Effectiveness Based on Intent to Become an SBAE Teacher (N = 72)
Career IntentYesNoUndecided
Note. * = p < .05. Values identify the mean difference between groups.


The SBAE teacher aspirants at Oklahoma State University identified a high sense of effectiveness based on the ETI-SBAE instrument. The mean score for each item ranged between the somewhat strong (3) to very strong (4) scale. Each participant rated the item, I care about all students,as very strong in their capacity to be an effective teacher. The components of, Appreciation for Diversity and Inclusion,as well as, Personal Dispositions, received the highest scores of perceived effectiveness in this group of teacher aspirants. These findings resonate with today’s generation of college students who are among the most diverse populations in history and express greater appreciations of diversity and inclusion than previous generations (Sanchez et al., 2018). Personal dispositions such as work ethic and trustworthiness are largely developed in childhood and adolescence (Syed et al., 2020). Therefore, the teacher aspirants in this study likely possessed these characteristics prior to their enrollment in the SBAE teacher preparation program at Oklahoma State University. Regardless, Darling-Hammond and Bransford (2005) stated that diversity and inclusion and personal dispositions should be highlighted by teacher preparation programs. Fortunately, the SBAE teacher preparation program at Oklahoma State University emphasizes diversity and inclusion through its international agriculture, special education, and adolescent psychology course requirements. Such opportunities for students to experience, learn, and practice such characteristics should continue.    

SBAE teacher aspirants rated record keeping, exhibiting patience, pedagogical preparedness, and work-life balance with a greater frequency of very weak (1) and somewhat weak (2). This conclusion aligns with work by Toombs and Ramsey (2020) and Toombs et al. (2020) that also found a lack of confidence in keeping financial records for Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) projects in SBAE pre-service teachers. Some of the teacher aspirants in this study identified a lack of patience in their professionalism component. This may be contributed to Generation Z’s scarcity of patience in their digital native world (National Retail Federation, 2017). It is possible a shortage of clinical and preclinical experiences may have contributed to the reported lack of confidence in pedagogical preparedness, specifically as it relates to classroom management and class preparation, as 62.5% (n = 45) of the teacher aspirants were still one or more semesters away from their clinical teaching experience. Additionally, the teacher aspirants encountering their student teaching experience (n = 27) were removed from their internship sites early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These experiences are vital to developing mastery and vicarious experiences to build teacher self-efficacy in managing student behavior and preparing instruction (Bandura, 1997; Smalley & Retallick, 2012). Some of the study’s participants questioned their ability to maintain a work-life balance before they had entered the teaching profession. All three items in this component, ability to say no, leading a balanced life, and willingness to ask for help were rated as very weak (1) or somewhat weak (2) by a significant portion of individuals. This may be problematic regarding the retention of these future SBAE teachers (Crutchfield et al., 2013). Though the mean scores were high for each item, frequency of low effectiveness responses should not be ignored.

The teaching effectiveness score was calculated by adding together the participants’ effectiveness score for each of the 26 items, with a maximum possible effectiveness score of 104. In this group of teacher aspirants, all participants scored an overall teaching effectiveness score of strong to very strong (i.e., ranging from 79 to 104) indicating these future SBAE  teachers are confident in their ability as they near entrance into the teaching profession. The aforementioned responses of very weak and somewhat weak were not sufficient to reflect a low teaching effectiveness score for any participant. A person’s positive view of his or her own ability is important in career choice and early career self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997). These neophyte teachers may be more resilient with a greater likelihood of being retained in the teaching profession than their less confident peers (Redman, 2015).   

The extreme score of 104 on the ETI-SBAE is worth mentioning. Two possible explanations exist for this data point. It is possible this individual is very confident in their ability to be an effective SBAE instructor. It is also possible this individual could have reported a very strong (4) sense of effectiveness to each item with little to no regard to the item in question. Still, Liu et al. (2017) found extreme cases to have little impact to their overall findings.

Of the 72 SBAE teacher aspirants who participated in this study, only three (4.2%) reported they did not intend to teach SBAE. Even with another 12 (16.6%) being undecided, the overwhelming majority (79.2%) plan to enter the SBAE teaching profession, which surpasses national data from 2018 that found 77% of agricultural education graduates entered the teaching profession (National Association of Agricultural Educators, 2019) and from 2001 that found only 59% of graduates were entering the teaching ranks (Camp et al., 2002). It also surpasses research conducted by Eck and Edwards (2019) who found that six out of ten SBAE teacher aspirants who encountered a teacher preparation program actually entered the teaching profession. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, mandated distance learning, and a shortened student teaching internship, most SBAE teacher aspirants envisioned a future as a SBAE teacher. Considering a SBAE teacher shortage across the nation, SBAE graduates who are interested in teaching jobs are likely to be hired as an SBAE instructor (Camp et al., 2002).

In comparing teaching effectiveness scores across intention to teach groups, a statistically significant difference was found in the one-way ANOVA. Post-hoc analysis revealed statistically significant differences between those who intend to teach and those who do not. Uneven group sizes (Yes = 57, No = 3) were mitigated by homogeneity of variance within the groups. No statistically significant differences were found relating to the undecided group. Therefore, a relationship exists between intention to teach and teaching effectiveness scores, with those who intend to teach reporting higher teaching effectiveness scores than those who do not. This finding corroborates with Bandura’s (1997) theory of self-efficacy and the connection of higher self-reverent beliefs and motivation.


The ETI-SBAE holds utility for SBAE teacher preparation programs. Peer institutions are encouraged to conduct similar survey research studies of their own teacher aspirants to compare populations across institutions. The same instrument could be used to assess the efficacy beliefs on entrance to the teacher preparation program, at the completion of pre-clinical experiences, and again after the conclusion of the student teaching internship to track human capital development throughout the SBAE teacher preparation program. Participants also could be followed into the novice years of their SBAE teaching careers. Additional qualitative data would add context to explain participants’ rankings of their efficacy beliefs and ability. The findings of such research could impact course content, delivery, and pacing within SBAE teacher preparation programs.

Specific to the agricultural education teacher preparation program at Oklahoma State University, teacher educators should analyze existing instruction relating to the area’s participants marked as somewhat weak and very weak. Specifically, topics of record keeping, maintaining patience, pedagogical preparedness, and work-life balance need to be emphasized and reinforced in the curriculum. Perhaps current in-service SBAE teachers could be recruited as guest speakers to speak on record keeping systems and work-life balance. Further, teacher aspirants should have the opportunity to prepare and present lessons from various agricultural pathways before student teaching but specifically in regard to record keeping (i.e., data management). This mastery experience could be designed to build pre-service teachers’ confidence in teaching in a variety of agricultural classes (Bandura, 1997) and build human capital in all areas of the SBAE curriculum.

To better interpret extreme responses in future studies, one or more items on the instrument could be reverse coded (Liu et al., 2017). This would eliminate the confusion on the true state of self-reverent beliefs in relation to teaching effectiveness. Although these teacher aspirants held a high sense of their ability to be effective SBAE teachers, they had yet to test their true abilities as a practicing SBAE teacher. Still, this belief in their ability to be successful should be fostered by teacher educators (Clark & Newberry, 2018). A positive self-perception of a person’s ability to be successful is a necessary ingredient to sustained motivation (Bandura, 1997).


Despite the Spring 2020 semester rapidly changing due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, SBAE teacher aspirants at Oklahoma State University developed the necessary human capital based on the results of the ETI-SBAE. Oklahoma State University faculty worked diligently to provide effective and timely instruction throughout the pandemic, even as they were forced to quickly restructure their course delivery to virtual learning platforms (Daniel, 2020), which may have led to this positive development of necessary human capital skills. Considering the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the multitude of developmental needs of SBAE teacher aspirants, the data tend to be favorable despite the circumstances.

The clinical teaching experience has been referred to as one of the greatest benefits of a traditional teacher preparation program (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 2010). Fortunately for some of the teacher aspirants, they were able to continue delivering content through online modules, live class meetings using synchronous learning platforms, or sending homework packets to their students each week. All of these opportunities allowed for essential human capital development as it relates to preparedness for establishing teaching effectiveness. Some teacher aspirants had the opportunity to hold synchronous meetings with FFA officers, prepare career development teams, and host chapter meetings and banquets using online platforms. Unfortunately, for others, the clinical teaching experience ended as school districts failed to have the necessary resources to provide virtual instruction or offer other distant delivery methods. Although the SBAE teacher aspirants deemed themselves effective based on the ETI-SBAE, how should professional development opportunities for these first-year teachers be developed to offset the potential gap that was left at the beginning of the pandemic? As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, how should SBAE teacher preparation programs change to best prepare future teachers? Perhaps it is time to consider preparing teacher aspirants to become familiar with and use various online learning management systems, such as Google Classroom, Canvas, Moodle, and Docebo, to teach and deliver content, advise student learning, and supervise student projects, as other studies have identified (Eck, 2021). Maybe teacher preparation programs need to include training on teaching curriculum using a hybridized and flexible delivery system (i.e., synchronous and asynchronous teaching strategies). Although this study identified the SBAE teacher aspirants’ self-perceived effectiveness as being strong to very strong, agricultural education teacher preparation faculty need to consider the future effectiveness of this group and others as they enter an everchanging education system. 


Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. W. H. Freeman and Company.

Becker, G. S. (1964). Human capital: A theoretical and empirical analysis with special reference to education. National Bureau of Economic Research. 

Camp, W. G., Broyles, T., & Skelton, N. S. (2002). A national study of the supply and demand for teachers of agricultural education in 1999-2001. Agricultural Education Division of the Association for Career and Technical Education.

Clark, S., & Newberry, M. (2018). Are we building preservice teacher self-efficacy? A large-scale study examining teacher education experiences. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 47(1), 32–47.

Crutchfield, N., Ritz, R., & Burris, S. (2012). Why agricultural educators remain in the classroom. Journal of Agricultural Education, 54(2), 1–14.

Daniel, S. J. (2020). Education and the COVID-19 pandemic. Prospects, 1–6. 10.1007/s11125-020-09464-3

Darling-Hammond, L. & Bransford, J. D. (Eds.). (2005). Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do. Jossey-Bass.

Darling-Hammond, L., Chung, R., & Frelow, F. (2002). How well do different pathways prepare teachers to teach? Journal of Teacher Education, 53(4), 286–302.    https://doi:10.1177/0022487102053004002

Eck, C. J. (2021) Implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on school-based agricultural education teachers in South Carolina. Advancements in Agricultural Development, 2(2), 25–35.

Eck, C. J., & Edwards, M. C. (2019). Teacher shortage in school-based, agricultural education (SBAE): A historical review. Journal of Agricultural Education, 60(4), 223–239.

Eck, C. J., Robinson, J. S., Cole, K. L., Terry Jr., R., Ramsey, J. W. (2020). Validation of the effective teaching instrument for school-based agricultural education teachers. Journal of Agricultural Education, 61(4), 229-248.

Eck, C. J., Robinson, J. S., Cole, K. L., Terry Jr., R., & Ramsey, J. W.  (2021). Identifying the characteristics of effective school-based agricultural education teachers: A national census study. Journal of Agricultural Education, 62(3), 292-309.

Eck, C. J., Robinson, J. S., Ramsey, J. W., & Cole. K. L. (2019). Identifying the characteristics of an effective agricultural education teacher: A national study. Journal of Agricultural Education, 60(4), 1–18.

Enns, K., Martin, M., & Spielmaker, D. (2016). Research priority 1: Public and policy maker understanding of agriculture and natural resources. In T. G. Roberts, A. Harder, & M. T. Brashears (Eds). American Association for Agricultural Education national research agenda: 2016-2020. (pp. 13-18).Department of Agricultural Education and Communication. 

Farrell, T. S. C. (2015). It’s not who you are! It’s how you teach! Critical competencies associated with effective teaching. RELC Journal, 46(1), 79–88. 

Hayes, D. (2006). Effective teaching: An elusive concept. Teacher Development, 10(1), 43–54. https://doi:10.1080/13664530600587196

Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T., & Bond, A. (2020). The difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning. EDUCAUSE Review.

Kohn, K. P. (2018). Connecting chemistry and biology: Exploring students’ perceptions of college courses, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.

Krumboltz, J. D., Mitchell, A. M., & Jones, B. (1976). A social learning theory of career selection. The Counseling Psychologist, 6(1), 71–81.

Liu, M., Harbaugh, A. G., Harring, J. R., & Hancock, G. R. (2017). The effect of extreme response and non-extreme response styles on testing measurement invariance. Frontiers in Psychology, 8.

Marx, A. A., Simonsen, J. C., & Kitchel, T. (2016). Undergraduate student course engagement and the influence of student, contextual, and teacher variables. Journal of Agricultural      Education, 57(1), 212–228.

National Association of Agricultural Educators. 2019 agriculture teacher supply and demand overview nationwide.

National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). (2010). The CAEP standards. 

National FFA Organization. (2015). Agricultural education. Author. 

National Retail Foundation (2017). Uniquely Gen Z.

Pil, F. K., & Leana, C. (2009). Applying organizational research to public school reform: The effects of teacher human and social capital on student performance. Academy of Management Journal, 52(6), 1101–1124.

Phipps, L. J., Osborne, E. W., Dyer, J. E., & Ball, A. (2008). Handbook on agricultural education in public schools (6th ed.). Thomson Delmar Learning.

Privitera, G. J. (2017). Research methods for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Sage. 

Redman, S. F. (2015). Self-efficacy and teacher retention: Perception of novice teachers on job preparation, job support, and job satisfaction [Doctoral dissertation, East Tennessee State University]. Digital Commons at East Tennessee State University.

Roberts, T. G., & Dyer, J. E. (2004). Characteristics of effective agriculture teachers. Journal of Agricultural Education, 45(4), 82–95. 

Robinson, J. S., & Baker, M. A. (2013). The effect of human capital on principals’ decisions to interview candidates in agricultural education: Implications for pre-service teachers. Journal of Agricultural Education, 54(1), 140–152. https://doi:10.5032/jae.2013.01140

Rosenshine, B., & Furst, N. (1971). Research on teacher performance criteria. In B. O. Smith (ed.), Research in Teacher Education – A Symposium (pp. 37–72). Prentice Hall. 

Sanchez, J. E., DeFlorio, L., Wiest, L. R., & Oikonomidoy, E. (2018). Student perceptions of inclusiveness in a college of education with respect to diversity. College Student Journal, 52(3), 397–409.

Smalley, S. W., & Retallick, M. S. (2012). Agricultural education early field experience through the lens of the EFE model. Journal of Agricultural Education, 53(2), 99–109.

Steele, N. A. (2010). Three characteristics of effective teachers. MENC: The National Association for Music Education, 27(2), 71–78.

Syed, M., Eriksson, P. L., Frisén, Hwang, C. P., & Lamb, M. E. (2020). Personality development from age 2 to 33: Stability and change in ego resiliency and ego control and associations with adult adaptation. Developmental Psychology, 56(4), 815–832.

Toombs, J. M., Eck, C. J., & Robinson, J. S. (2020). Preservice teacher SAE self-efficacy [Paper presentation]. Western Region American Association for Agricultural Education (AAAE) Research Conference.  

Toombs, J. M., & Ramsey, J. W. (2020). SBAE student teachers’ sense of importance and competence per selected National Quality Program Standards indicators: A then-now Borich needs assessment [Paper presentation]. American Association for Agricultural Education (AAAE) Annual National Research Conference.