Factors Contributing to the Decline of Males Entering the Agriculture Teaching Profession

By: Dr. John Williams, Fresno State University, State CATA Secretary

Most of you are aware that I have recently completed a Doctorate of Education this past May. The process of earning a doctorate has been both stressful and rewarding, as I feel that I have learned many new things about myself and the students we all teach. This article is a brief summary of my research that I used to write my dissertation. I did not want to submit all 80 pages to the Golden Slate as it is incredibly boring to read about the methodologies, theories, and relevant research that is included throughout each chapter.  In this article, I am sharing with you the abstract from my dissertation. The abstract is a brief summary that explains the study and some of the findings. A brief explanation after the abstract is also included in this article. I am interested to hear feedback from all of you and am hopeful for future discussions on how we can address the male teacher shortage in agricultural education.  

Abstract:

This phenomenological qualitative study examines the factors contributing to why males are not entering the agriculture teaching profession. This study also illustrates the value of the agriculture education three-component model and its impact on college and career choice of secondary agriculture education students. The agriculture teacher shortage in California is also addressed in this study. Fifteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with three subgroups of participants that included males who earned a degree in agriculture education but did not become teachers, current students enrolled in a mechanized agriculture course, and leaders within agriculture education in California.

Six themes were found throughout the research: Agriculture Teachers Influence on Career Choice, Career Choice Dissatisfaction, Hands-On Learning through SAE, Personal Goals, FFA Involvement Sparks Interests, and No Shortage. These themes were developed through the coding processes which also reported twenty-eight subthemes. Findings of the study suggest the males do not like the extra responsibilities of agriculture teachers. The SAE component was most impactful on career choice reported by participants. The agriculture teacher shortage in California is not a current issue as has been reported in previous years. The study also identified the FFA impacts a student’s decision to be active in agriculture education, but does not make an impact on the decision to go to college. Agriculture teachers motivate students and are a positive factor in why students choose the agriculture teaching profession. 

Explanations:

This study was based upon phenomena of the lived experiences of agriculture students whose career goal was to become high school agriculture teachers.  Other participants of the study included leaders of agricultural education and alumni of agricultural education majors who were male and chose not to become agriculture teachers. The study gives us an opportunity to look at our rewarding careers and determine if there is a need to change the way we do things.  It is important to know that I love the fact that a majority of our profession is female and all the great things all teachers in our association do for students.  The purpose of why I chose this topic is because we are at risk of losing positive male role models for students. If we continue on the trend we are seeing now, it will become much harder to recruit and retain males in our profession, which may make it hard for us to recruit and retain male students in our programs.  

Agricultural education is diverse, from the students who participate to the teachers in our classrooms and to the members of our organization. That is a fantastic highlight to our profession and something we need to continue to build. Forty years ago our profession was much different and we are constantly pushing the limits of ourselves and our students, and students see the time we put in, which may be a detriment for many students who thought they wanted to be a teacher.  

The other aspects of the study dissected the three-component model and tried to determine which of the three components was the most impactful on student success. Most people I have talked to have said they thought the FFA component made the most impact, but responses in this study highlighted that the FFA was a contributing factor in being active in agricultural education, not necessarily an impact on career choice or the decision to go to college. The findings outline that the SAE component is the most impactful on career choice and weigh heavily on a student’s decision to attend college. For those of you who do not stress the importance of SAE projects, you may want to change your perception as research, in this case, reports that the SAE component has a much higher impact on student success than the two other components of the model.  

Lastly, the classroom component was very rarely referenced in the participant interviews, but the impact a teacher has on success was reported in almost every participant’s explanation on why they chose to become an agricultural teacher. This confirms that we as teachers are doing a great job.  It is my hope that those of you reading this know that you are doing great and you are making an impact.  The relationships we build with students have a long-lasting effect and it is something our students carry with them for a long time.  If you have any questions or comments on this article, or on my research, please let me know. 

For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit http://calagteachers.org/

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