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CAREER EXPERIENCES OF NOVICE URBAN AGRICULTURE TEACHERS
WENDY JACKLYN WARNER
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Wendy Jacklyn Warner
To my parents, Ron and Brenda Warner
The completion of my j ourney through graduate school would not have been
possible without the support and encouragement of many incredible people. First I would
like to recognize my advisor, Dr. Shannon Washburn, who was always available to offer
feedback, encouragement, and on occasion, a box of Kleenex. I truly appreciate his
confidence in my abilities and commitment to my success. I am extremely grateful to the
members of my committee, Dr. Linda Behar-Horenstein, Dr. Jim Dyer, Dr. Tracy Irani,
and Dr. Ed Osborne. All of these individuals were not only outstanding teachers, but also
excellent mentors. In addition to the members of my committee, I would like to thank the
faculty and staff in the Agricultural Education and Communication Department and Dr.
Mirka Koro-Ljunberg for sharing her qualitative expertise. In my early years of school,
several teachers made a positive impact on my life. For this, I thank Mrs. Cramer, Mrs.
Butts, and Mr. Diley.
While I am excited to begin a new career, I am sad to leave all the wonderful
friends that I have made while in Gainesville. I have many fond memories from the
countless hours spent in 310 Rolfs Hall and at Dave's house. Thank you to Steve Rocca,
Shannon Arnold, Ann De Lay, David and Jennifer Jones, Travis and Lacy Park, Emily
Rhoades, Nick Fuhrman, Curt Freidel, Eric and Shevon Kaufman, Courtney Meyers, Kris
Ricketts, Amanda Ruth, and all the other graduate students I have been privileged enough
to get to know over the last three years. Also, thank you to my favorite grad school
roommate, Tania Flood, and her husband, Sam, and to Bridge Thapa for his endless
I probably would not have made the decision to begin this journey without the
rewarding teaching experience I had while at Corner Lake Middle School and Robert
Hungerford Preparatory High School. During my five years in the classroom, I had the
opportunity to learn from many talented teachers: Calvin Dillon, Meg Deering, Tracy
Ebert, Dean McCallum, Stephanie Shelley, Gail Sherman, Dev Kenney, and Tim
Vansant. I was also fortunate to have the support of my agriculture teacher network:
Susan Kelly, Neasa Kalme, John Cloran, Stacey Redditt, Samantha Dodge, Kim Acton,
Tonya Fitzgerald, Mark Mealo, Rick Stotler, and many other agriculture teachers from
around the state. However, my teaching career would not have been nearly as worthwhile
without all of my awesome students. My kids were truly the best teachers of all and they
made a lasting impression on my life.
I owe a great deal of gratitude to my family. I thank my uncle, Joe Yager, for
providing me with a place to stay while on my interview trips to Orlando. I thank my big
sister, Andrea Warner, for making me laugh with her funny phone calls. I thank my
grandparents, Ray and Maxine Warner, for taking an interest in my academic pursuits. I
thank my parents, Ron and Brenda Warner, for their continual encouragement and
unconditional love. I feel truly blessed to have such caring parents, who have always
supported me whether it meant sitting through hours of dance recitals, helping with my
4-H and FFA proj ects, or moving me across the country.
Finally, this dissertation would not have been a reality without my nine
participants. Thank you for sharing your stories.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENT S .............. .................... iv
LIST OF FIGURES .............. .................... ix
AB S TRAC T ......_ ................. ............_........x
1 INTRODUCTION ................. ...............1.......... ......
Benefits of Including Agricultural Education in Urban Schools ................. ...............2
Challenges to the Inclusion of Agricultural Education in Urban Schools ................... .4
Statement of the Problem. ................. ... ......... ......... ........ ...........
Statement of Purpose and Exploratory Questions Guiding Study ............... .... ........._..6
Definition of Term s .............. ........ ........ ............
Limitations and Assumptions of the Study ........._.._.. ....._.. ......__. ..........
2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ........._.._.. ...._... ....._.. ...........
Context of Urban Schools............... ...............8.
Preferred Teaching Location ................... ......... ... ...............11......
Preservice Teachers' Perceptions of Urban Schools .............. .....................1
Beliefs about Students ................. ...............13....__. .....
Beliefs about Parents ................. ...............13....... .....
Beliefs about Urban Teachers .............. ...............14....
Beliefs about Urban School Context ....._._._ ............ ......_. ..........1
Beliefs about Cultural Diversity ......................._._._ ........... ............1
Influence of Preservice Teachers' Experiences in Urban Schools ................... ..........16
Decision to Teach .............. ....... ...... ...............2
Decision to Teach in an Urban School. ............. ...............23.....
Decision to Teach Agricultural Education. ............. ...............24.....
Decision to Continue Teaching .............. ....... ..... ..... ........2
Decision to Continue Teaching Agricultural Education. ............. ...................26
Decision to Continue Teaching in an Urban School. ............. .....................2
Chapter Summary .............. ...............28....
3 RE SEARCH DE SIGN AND MET HOD S ................. ...............3.. 1............
Researcher Subj activity ................. ........... ...............31......
Epistemology and Theoretical Perspective............... ..............3
Qualitative Measures of Validity and Reliability ................ ................ ........ .37
Participant Selection ................ ...............38.................
Data Collection .............. ...............38....
Data Analysis............... ...............40
Chapter Summary .............. ...............41....
4 RE SULT S .............. ...............42....
Description of Participants .............. ...............42....
M s. Brown .............. ...............43....
M s. Campbell .............. ...............43....
M s. Carter ................. ...............43........_......
M r. H ill .............. ...............44....
M s. Fritz .............. ...............44....
M s. Taylor .............. ...............45....
M r. FI ood ........._... ...... ._ ._ ...............45....
M r. G all .............. ...............45....
M r. Linder................ .. .. .. .. .................4
Teachers' Decisions to Teach Agricultural Education............_.__ ............._._ .........46
Teachers' Decisions to Teach Agricultural Education in Urban Schools ..................51
Teachers' Experiences while Teaching in Urban Schools .............. ... .................6
Agriculture Teachers' Outlooks on their Teaching Tenures in Urban Schools..........83
Influences on Decision to Continue Teaching at Current School ............... .... ...........84
Grounded Theory ....._._................. ...............86.......
5 DI SCUS SSION ................. ...............90................
K ey Findings.............. .. ... ... ....... ...............9
Teachers' Decisions to Teach Agricultural Education ................. ... .....................91
Teachers' Decisions to Teach Agricultural Education in an Urban School ...............95
Teachers' Experiences while Teaching in an Urban School .................... ................104
Agriculture Teachers' Outlook on Their Teaching Tenure in Urban Schools .........118
Recommendations for Research and Practice..........._.._.. ................. ....__. 119
Recommendations for Future Research ........._..... ...._... ........_........119
Recommendations for Future Practice .............. ...............121....
A CODING ........._..... ...._... ...............124....
B GROUNDED THEORY ............... ............... 147
C EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE............... ............14
D INFORMED CONSENT ................. ...............150................
E IRB APPROVAL................ ...............15
F INTERVIEW QUESTION GUIDE ................. ...............152...............
LIST OF REFERENCES ................. ...............154................
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................. ...............163......... ......
LIST OF FIGURES
A-1 Influences on teachers' initial decisions to teach Agricultural Education. ............125
A-2 Influences on teachers' initial decisions to teach Agricultural Education in an
urban area. ............. ............... 127....
A-3 Agriculture teachers' current experiences in urban schools. .............. ...............133
A-4 Agriculture teachers' outlook on their teaching tenure in an urban school............1 45
B-1 Grounded theory of the career experiences of novice urban agriculture teachers .148
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
CAREER EXPERIENCES OF NOVICE URBAN AGRICULTURE TEACHERS
Wendy Jacklyn Warner
Chair: Shannon Washburn
Major Department: Agricultural Education and Communication
In an attempt to increase the number of Agricultural Education programs, diversify
the enrollment of Agricultural Education students, and make an effort to increase the
agricultural literacy of urban students, it is imperative to establish more agriculture
programs in urban areas. As a result, there must be an adequate supply of agriculture
teachers who are willing to pursue and maintain teaching positions in urban schools.
The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the decisions of agriculture
teachers to teach in urban schools. To carry out this study, a criterion sample was used to
select nine individuals who graduated from a teacher education program and had been
teaching in an urban school for one to eight years. Specifically, the interview process was
used to investigate the factors that influenced agriculture teachers' decisions to teach in
urban schools, the experiences that agriculture teachers have had while teaching in urban
schools, and the outlook on the longevity of their careers in urban schools.
The categories relevant to the teachers' decisions to teach Agricultural Education
included teacher background and decision to pursue teacher certification in Agricultural
Education. The categories significant to the teachers' decisions to teach Agricultural
Education in an urban school included prior experience in urban schools, desired
location, decision to teach in a particular school, level of influence from family,
participants' perceptions of urban schools, and participants' perceptions of Agricultural
Education in rural schools. The categories that emerged from the data specific to the
participants' experiences while teaching in an urban school included benefits to the
teacher, contribution of cultural diversity to the classroom environment, level of parental
support, administrative support for Agricultural Education, administrative obstacles to
teacher vision, Agricultural Education curriculum in urban schools, value of Agricultural
Education to urban students, FFA in urban schools, obstacles to FFA involvement,
Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) in urban schools, and school characteristics.
The category pertinent to agriculture teachers' outlooks on their teaching tenure in an
urban school identified multiple influences on the participants' decisions to continue
teaching at their current schools.
The call to include Agricultural Education in urban schools is not recent. In 1999,
the National Council for Agricultural Education published Reinventing Agriculture for
the Year 2020. Goal two of this document stated that, "all students should have access to
seamless, lifelong instruction in agriculture, food, fiber and natural resource systems
through a wide variety of delivery methods and educational settings" (National Council
for Agricultural Education, 1999, p. 4). In addition, one of the stated objectives is that
"all students in urban, suburban, and rural schools, have access to high-quality
agricultural education programs" (p.4). In 1988, the National Research Council
recommended "specialized magnet high schools for the agricultural sciences in maj or
urban and suburban areas" (p. 4).
Seven years after the distribution of Reinventing Agriculture for the Year 2020, it
appears that little progress has been made towards the goal of expanding Agricultural
Education programs in urban areas. The National FFA Organization (2004) estimated that
nationwide approximately 162,000 FFA members reside in urban or suburban areas.
Considering that there are 172,000 students enrolled in 10Oth -12th grade in the New York
City Public School District alone (Sable & Young, 2003), Agricultural Education is being
offered to a minute proportion of urban students. While the National FFA Organization
(2004) reported that there are FFA chapters in 11 of the 20 largest cities; including New
York, Chicago, and Philadelphia; the exact number of Agricultural Education programs
located in urban areas cannot be determined based on existing data.
Benefits of Including Agricultural Education in Urban Schools
The potential increase of urban programs offers numerous benefits to Agricultural
Education. A long range goal was issued at the National Agricultural Education
Inservice, held in February 2006, to have 10,000 quality Agricultural Education programs
by the year 2015. Currently, there are 7,210 Agriculture Education programs nationwide
(National FFA Organization, 2006). Therefore, prospective areas of expansion must be
Urban areas have witnessed a population explosion. The United States has seen an
increase in the percentage of the total population residing in metropolitan areas, from
28% in 1910 to 80% in 2000. Approximately 226 million people live in United States
metropolitan areas, which is nearly four times the population of non-metropolitan areas
(Hobbs & Stoops, 2002). The growth of metropolitan areas has resulted in an increase in
urban school student populations. During the 2001-02 school year, there were 47.7
million students enrolled in public schools. Fifty-seven percent of the schools were
located in large or midsize cities or their accompanying fringe areas and accounted for
69% of all public school students. In 2001-02, an estimated 1 out of every 6 American
students attended a large city school (Hoffman, 2003).
To account for the expanding student population, new schools are being built at a
rapid pace. The growing number of classrooms in metropolitan areas is evidence that the
need for new teachers will be the strongest in urban areas (Grant, 1989). On average,
urban schools have larger student populations than both suburban and rural schools
(Lippman, Burns, & McArthur, 1996; Sachs, 2004). In their study of rural and urban
schools in Ohio, McCracken and Barcinas (1991) reported that the average senior class in
rural schools consisted of 74 students compared to urban schools which averaged 333
senior class members. The inclusion of Agricultural Education classes in urban schools
provides access to a large student population and provides immense potential to increase
the current number of Agricultural Education programs.
While the inclusion of Agricultural Education in urban locations can potentially
increase the number of agriculture programs, it can also help diversify student enrollment
in agriculture classes. An obj ective included in Reinventing Agricultural Education for
the Year 2020 stated, "student enrollments in Agricultural Education should represent the
diversity of the school-aged population" (p.4). Currently, the demographic composition
of Agricultural Education students does not accurately reflect the demographics of the
general student population. Approximately 39% of United States public school students
are members of minority groups (Hoffman, 2003). Meanwhile, the National FFA
Organization (2004) estimates that approximately 23% of FFA members are minority
students. Considering 63% of students in large or midsize cities are minority students
(Hoffman, 2003), the initiation of urban Agricultural Education programs offers the
prospect of reaching a more culturally diverse group of students than is currently enrolled
in agriculture programs.
Offering Agricultural Education courses in urban schools can assist in the efforts to
increase the agricultural literacy of urban students. Agricultural literacy efforts are
needed to ensure that the general population understands and values the contribution that
agriculture makes to society. Malecki, Israel, and Toro (2004) contend that "increasing
agricultural literacy is important because it can help citizens make informed choices as
voters to support or oppose public policies on agriculture-related issues, such as
genetically-modified organisms in food production, food safety, and on food security,
environmental quality, and land use" (p.1). As the urban population becomes increasingly
removed from the farm, the promotion of agricultural awareness is a critical need. In a
study of the agricultural literacy of urban/suburban and rural 12th grade students, Pense,
Beebe, Leising, Wakefield, and Steffen (2006) reported that the rural students possessed
higher levels of agricultural knowledge when compared to the urban/suburban students.
While the aim of Agricultural Education is to educate society as a whole on the
importance of agriculture, this cannot be accomplished by leaving urban youth out of the
Challenges to the Inclusion of Agricultural Education in Urban Schools
The goal of increasing the number of urban agriculture programs is hindered by a
lack of prospective teachers. Agricultural Education is consistently faced with a shortage
of competent teachers. In 2001, 67 agriculture teachers were needed nationwide, but not
available and 35 agriculture departments did not operate due to the lack of a qualified
teacher (Camp, Broyles, & Skelton, 2002). Likewise, urban schools are facing unique
challenges related to school staffing due "to rapidly growing student enrollments,
accelerating rates of teacher retirement, class size reduction initiatives, and demanding
working conditions" (Urban Teacher Collaborative, 2000, p. 6). Administrators in urban
schools have reported a decline in the size of the teacher applicant pools (Krei, 1998).
They find it challenging to recruit new teachers when school districts in surrounding
areas offer higher salaries, better facilities, a less challenging student body, and are
perceived as less stressful working environments (Snipes, Doolittle, & Herlihy, 2002).
In addition to the challenges of teacher recruitment, teacher retention is another
obstacle in urban schools which face high rates of teacher turnover (Bruno & Negrete,
1983). Nationally, approximately one-half of beginning teachers exit the classroom in the
first six years. In urban districts this turnover occurs in five years. In some urban districts,
one-half of the beginners leave in a three to four year period (Haberman & Rickards,
1990). Using data from a study of teacher turnover, Rollefson (1990) concluded that rate
of teacher attrition increases with the growth of the minority population in a school.
Public schools with a 5% minority enrollment reported a teacher attrition rate of 7.4%.
Teacher attrition increased to 10.5% in schools when minority student enrollment was
50% or more. The urban school vacancies that result from this rapid rate of teacher
turnover are often filled with teachers who are not fully certified (Urban Teacher
Collaborative, 2000). In order to establish and sustain agriculture programs in urban
schools, a cadre of well-prepared Agricultural Education teachers who are willing to
accept and retain teaching positions in urban locations is desperately needed.
Statement of the Problem
In an attempt to increase the number of Agricultural Education programs, diversify
the enrollment of Agricultural Education students to reflect the general student
population, and make an effort to increase the agricultural literacy of urban students, it is
imperative to establish more agriculture programs in urban areas. As a result, there must
be an adequate supply of agriculture teachers who are willing to pursue and maintain
teaching positions in urban schools. Due to the high attrition rates of novice teachers, it is
important to examine why beginning teachers choose to teach in urban schools and the
influences on their teaching tenure in urban locations.
Minimal research has been conducted on Agricultural Education in urban schools.
Current literature focuses primarily on urban Agricultural Education students. The factors
that influence agriculture teachers' decisions to obtain employment in an urban school,
the unique experiences of urban agriculture teachers, and agriculture teachers'
expectations of their future teaching careers in urban schools have not been previously
examined in the Agricultural Education literature.
Statement of Purpose and Exploratory Questions Guiding Study
The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the decisions of agriculture
teachers to teach in urban schools. Specifically, the interview process was used to
investigate the factors that influenced agriculture teachers' decisions to teach in urban
schools, the experiences that agriculture teachers have had while teaching in urban
schools, and the outlook on the longevity of their careers in urban schools. The following
questions were used to provide direction to the research process:
Why did you decide to teach Agricultural Education?
What influenced your initial decision to teach Agricultural Education in an
What kind of experiences have you had while teaching agriculture in an
What are your expectations of your future teaching career in an urban
Definition of Terms
AXIAL, CODING. A set of procedures whereby data are put back together in
new ways after open coding, by making connections between categories
(Strauss & Corbin, 1990, p.96).
NATIONAL FFA ORGANIZATION. Leadership organization for students
enrolled in Agricultural Education.
NOVICE URBAN AGRICULTURE TEACHERS. Individuals with 1-8 years of
teaching experience who are providing agriculture instruction in an urban
OPEN CODING. The process of breaking down, examining, comparing,
conceptualizing, and categorizing data (Strauss & Corbin, 1990, p. 61).
SELECTIVE CODING. The process of selecting the core category,
systematically relating it to other categories, validating those relationships,
and filling in categories that need further refinement and development
(Strauss & Corbin, 1990, p. 116).
SUPERVISED AGRICULTURAL EXPERIENCE (SAE). The actual, planned
application of concepts and principles learned in agricultural education.
Students are supervised by agriculture teachers in cooperation with
parents/guardians, employers and other adults who assist them in the
development and achievement of their educational goals. The purpose is to
help students develop skills and abilities leading toward a career (Barrick et
al., 1992, p.2).
URBAN AREA. Population of at least 400,000 people (National Center for
Education Statistics, 2000).
URBAN AGRICULTURE PROGRAM. Students receive systematic instruction in
an agriculturally related subj ect at a school located in an urban area
Limitations and Assumptions of the Study
This study sought to explain the unique experiences of each individual, so the
findings cannot be generalized to a larger population. Also, the participants were selected
from three different school districts and may not be representative of all urban
agriscience teachers. During the interview process, it was assumed that the participants
provided honest and accurate answers.
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
As stated in Chapter 1, there is a dearth of research about Agricultural Education in
urban schools. The relevant literature examined the barriers preventing urban students
from participating in successful Supervised Agricultural Experiences (Whaley & Lucero,
1993), the agriculture curriculum in urban programs (Russell, 1999; Russell & Trede,
1999; Soloninka, 2003; Soloninka & Connors, 2003; Trede & Russell, 1999), college and
career choices of urban Agricultural Education students (Esters, 2003; Esters, 2005;
Esters & Bowen, 2004), factors influencing urban students to enroll in an Agricultural
Education program (Esters & Bowen, 2004), opinions of urban Agricultural Education
students towards agriculture (Talbert, 1996; Talbert, 1997), and the major issues facing
urban agriscience teachers (Warner & Washburn, 2005). The aforementioned studies
focused primarily on urban Agricultural Education students, while research examining
agriculture teachers' beliefs about teaching in urban schools, experiences while teaching
agriculture in urban schools, and expectations about the future of Agricultural Education
in urban schools is absent from the literature.
Context of Urban Schools
In an effort to conduct an inquiry of Agricultural Education teachers' career
experiences in urban schools, it is important to gain a better understanding of the unique
context of urban schools. Urban schools commonly enroll students whose demographic
characteristics and home environment are markedly different than those of rural and
suburban students. These differences in student culture and experience have an inevitable
impact on the school environment. An ever-increasing population of racially diverse
students can be found in urban schools. Over the past decade, there has been an increase
in the number of urban school students who belonged to a Hispanic or "other" minority
group (including Asians and Pacific Islanders), while the proportion of Caucasian
students declined and the proportion of African American students remained stable
(Lippman, Burns, & McArthur, 1996). In several urban schools, minority groups
(American Indian/Alaska Natives, Asians/ Pacific Islanders, Hispanic, and African
American) constitute the maj ority of the student population. According to the Urban
Teacher Collaborative (2000), approximately 50% of the minority students in the nation
are enrolled in urban schools. The distribution of ethnically diverse students in urban
schools differs from student populations in non-urban communities. Over 80% of the
eighth graders enrolled in rural and advantaged suburban schools were Caucasian (Peng,
Wang, & Walberg, 1992). Likewise, the current Agricultural Education enrollment
consists primarily of Caucasian students (National FFA Organization, 2004).
Urban schools are faced with large numbers of immigrant and limited English
proficient students who require bilingual or ESOL (English for Speakers of Other
Languages) education (Montero-Sieburth, 1989). It is estimated that urban schools
nationwide are responsible for educating almost half of the students who are not
proficient in English (Urban Teacher Collaborative, 2000). Peng, Wang, and Walberg
(1992) reported approximately one-quarter of students who were classified as ESOL,
speak a language other than English in their homes. The number of students reported to
have difficulty speaking English is steadily rising. During the 2002-03 school year,
additional services were provided to 4 million ESOL students (Hoffman, Sable, Naum, &
Gray, 2005). According to Pallas, Natriello, and McDill (1989) the number of students
who speak a primary language other than English will triple by 2020. Even with the
assistance of full-time ESOL teachers and the inclusion of specific ESOL strategies in the
classroom, students with limited English proficiency often lack the necessary language
skills to be highly successful in the classroom and on standardized tests administered by
In addition to the language barrier faced by many urban students, as a group they
also face greater levels of economic hardship as compared to suburban and rural students.
An estimated 30% of urban children were likely to be living in poverty, which is more
than the 13% of suburban children or the 22% of rural children who lived in poverty.
Furthermore, urban children were more likely to qualify for free or reduced lunches.
Thirty-eight percent of urban students received a free or reduced lunch as compared to
16% of suburban students and 28% of rural students (Lippman, Burns, & McArthur,
Society has experienced a decline in the traditional family structure, especially in
urban areas. Urban students were less likely to reside in two-parent families when
compared to students in suburban and rural schools (Lippman, Burns, & McArthur,
1996). Similarly, the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988 reported a lack of
traditional family structure among urban eighth grade students. Approximately 44% of
the urban students resided with both biological parents, while 62% of students in other
communities lived with both their mother and father. Thirty-one percent of students in
inner-city schools resided with only their mother. Parents of urban students were also
more likely to be unmarried as a result of being divorced, separated, never married,
widowed or cohabiting (Peng, Wang, & Walberg, 1992). Lack of parental support can
pose a serious problem to the educational success of a child (Corcoran, Walker and
Preferred Teaching Location
In an attempt to increase the number of urban agriculture teachers, it is important
to understand several factors that influence their selection of a teaching position.
Prospective teachers have been found to highly value the location of the school when
searching for employment and traditionally tend to seek j obs in schools located very
close to where they were raised. In a study by Zimpher (1988), approximately 83%
(n=605) of the prospective teacher respondents were raised in suburban or rural
communities. When asked to express preferences regarding j ob placement, 84% (n=612)
of the respondents wanted to secure a teaching position in a rural or suburban area. Only
16% (n=1 17) of the respondents expressed a desire to teach in an urban or maj or urban
Some preservice teachers are adamantly opposed to the idea of taking a j ob in an
urban school. Gilbert (1995) conducted a study with preservice teachers who were
primarily from rural, small towns, or suburban areas. Of the 71 preservice teachers who
indicated that they attended rural schools, 47.9% (n=34) said they absolutely would not
teach in an urban school. The students voiced concerns about violence, the atmosphere of
urban schools, an inability to relate to urban students, and an aversion to city life (Gilbert,
This reluctance to teach in an urban environment is especially alarming when
considering the demographics of preservice agriculture teachers. In his study, Rocca
(2005) found that over 86% (n = 214) of preservice agriculture teachers grew up in a rural
setting; only 2.9% (n = 6) were raised in an urban location. Based on this finding, he
recommended comparing the geographic location of a preservice teacher' s upbringing
with the location where they would consider living and teaching (Rocca, 2005).
Many prospective teachers believe that returning to their hometown or a nearby
area will increase their rapport with the students due to similar backgrounds and
comparable school experience (Werner, 1993). Also, preservice teachers from
rural/suburban backgrounds feel they would be more efficacious when teaching in school
environments similar to their own (Easter, Shultz, Neyhart, & Reck, 1999). As a result of
their rural upbringing, many future Agricultural Education teachers may doubt their
ability to establish and maintain a successful connection with urban students and achieve
programmatic success in an urban school.
Preservice Teachers' Perceptions of Urban Schools
The perceptions and beliefs of preservice teachers may promote their unwillingness
to consider teaching in an urban area. An individual's beliefs about teaching effectiveness
and student behavior often develop over the course of their primary and secondary school
experiences and carry into their teacher preparation program (Paj ares, 1992). It is very
difficult to dispel the beliefs that students have formed based on their prior experiences.
From a synthesis of research on beliefs, Pajares (1992) concluded, "beliefs are formed
early and tend to self-perpetuate, persevering even against contradictions caused by
reason, time, schooling, or experiences" (p. 324). The media may also be responsible for
perceptions that individuals hold about the context of urban schools. With a lack of
experience in urban schools and limited exposure to urban locations, individuals may use
media images as the foundation for their beliefs. As explained by Grant (2002), "When
the experiences of young people differ widely from those of inner-city youth, they rely on
images in popular culture for information about worlds different from their own. These
images reflect and shape the assumptions with which preservice teachers enter urban
classrooms..."(p.78) Several researchers have concluded preservice teachers have
established beliefs about the students, teachers, and school environment in urban areas
even though they may not have personal experiences with such environments.
Beliefs about Students
Future teachers often regard urban students as apathetic individuals who possess
negative attitudes toward education. When asked to describe the attitudes and behaviors
of urban students, preservice teachers used adj ectives such as, "lackadaisical,
unmotivated, rougher, violent, more streetwise, emotionally unstable, and concerned with
survival" (Shultz, Neyhart, & Reck, 1996, p.4). Additional descriptors of urban students
included, "disruptive, disrespectful of teachers, having more problems, and exhibiting
worse behavior than suburban children" (Aaronsohn, Carter, & Howell, 1995, p.6).
Gilbert (1997) found that future teachers felt urban youth were more at-risk due to the
potential for gang membership and exposure to violence in their surroundings. Preservice
teachers also held opinions about the learning ability of urban students. Twenty percent
(n=50) of the participants in a study by Shultz et al., (1996) thought urban students would
have decreased academic ability when compared to other students.
Beliefs about Parents
Preservice teachers also expressed negative beliefs regarding the parents of urban
students. Parents have been viewed as unconcerned and unengaged partners in the
education of their child, who provided minimal support and guidance (Aaronsohn et al.,
1995). In a study of the attitudes of 140 preservice teachers, 24% (n=34) of the
participants felt urban parents had a vested interest in the education of their children as
compared to 72% (n=101) of the participants who felt non-urban parents took interest in
their children's education. Research has also indicated a notable difference in preservice
teachers' perceptions regarding urban and non-urban parents support of teachers,
assistance with the educational process, and support of their children (Socoski & Hynes,
Beliefs about Urban Teachers
Gilbert (1997) asked 345 preservice teachers to describe their perceptions about
urban teachers. Most of the responses focused on personal attributes of the teachers. The
respondents identified urban teachers as "young, middle-class, mostly minority females
who attended urban schools themselves" (p.86). The participants also predicted urban
teachers would encounter problems beyond the curriculum such as crime, drug use, teen
pregnancy, student behavior, and low socioeconomic status, so it was beneficial to be
strong-willed and streetwise (Gilbert, 1997). In a study by Socoski and Hynes (1991)
preservice teachers questioned the j ob satisfaction of urban teachers. Participants felt
urban teachers were more likely to experience teacher burnout and disillusionment than
teachers in non-urban areas (Socoski & Hynes, 1991). In addition, the true
responsibilities of teachers in an urban classroom were questioned. Tiezzi and Cross
(1997) concluded prospective teachers considered urban teachers to serve more "as
problem solver rather than facilitator of learning" (p. 117) or as a "police officer" or
"baby sitter" (Aaronsohn et al., 1995).
Beliefs about Urban School Context
In Gilbert' s (1997) study of prospective teacher beliefs, the respondents pictured
urban school buildings as aging, overcrowded buildings, comparable to jails. They also
characterized urban schools as a dismal environment containing minimal facilities and
providing limited opportunities for students. Undergraduate students also described a
bleak school location, in "a slum" with deteriorating buildings surrounding the school
(Aaronsohn et al., 1995).
Beliefs about Cultural Diversity
The maj ority of preservice teachers are single, Caucasian females, who are
approximately 25 years old and grew up in either a rural or suburban community
(Zimpher, 1988). In Agricultural Education, the typical preservice student is a Caucasian
female from a rural community. Only 6.6% (n= 14) of the 215 Agricultural Education
students who completed a teaching internship in Fall 2005 were members of minority
groups (Rocca, 2005). Camp et al. (2002) reported that Agricultural Education teachers
were predominately Caucasian males. Approximately 78% (n=7,536) of Agricultural
Education teachers were male and 22% (n=2,079) of Agricultural Education teachers
were female. Caucasian teachers represented 93.6% (n=9,067) of all Agricultural
Education teachers, with Hispanic teachers and African American teachers representing
3.2% (n=303) and 2.5% (n=245) of the Agricultural Education teaching force
Often, students reported they had little interaction with individuals from other
cultures. In Gilbert' s (1995) study of rural prospective teachers, 40% (n=77) of the
respondents had minimal interaction with students of different races and cultures. A
quarter of the students (n = 48) had not intermingled with an ethnically diverse group of
students during their time as a university student (Gilbert, 1995). Individuals who
welcome the contribution of cultural diversity to education generally have positive
attitudes towards social interaction with culturally different others (Dee & Henkin, 2002).
The monocultural upbringing of future teachers is likely to impact their perceptions of the
contribution that cultural diversity makes to the classroom environment. Some preservice
teachers consider the incorporation of culture to have a negative impact on classrooms
due to a lack of cross-cultural curriculum, potential prejudice of teachers, inconsistencies
in performance expectations and standardized test scores among different racial groups,
and negative effects of stereotypes (Shultz, Neyhart, & Reck, 1996). The cultural
stereotypes some teachers maintain have been found to limit their encouragement of
minority student participation in a variety of school activities and events. Larke (1990)
reported that 88.3% (n=46) of female elementary school teachers thought they would be
surprised if a minority student chose to participate in an activity that usually attracted
Influence of Preservice Teachers' Experiences in Urban Schools
The socialization process that takes place during early field experiences and student
teaching challenges the beliefs of preservice teachers and helps shape attitudes and
knowledge that will inspire their teaching (Smith, 2003). Heinemann, Obi, Pagano, and
Weiner (1992) stressed the value of early field experiences in an effort to diminish the
stereotypes and uncertainties of preservice students.
Fry and McKinney (1997) described how early preservice teaching experiences at
an urban school influenced the attitudes and teaching practices of 10 preservice
elementary education teachers. The participants were all Caucasian females who reported
that they had experienced minimal to virtually no contact with other racial groups. Prior
to their field experience, none of the 10 participants expressed a preference to teach in an
urban school and only two would consider working in urban settings. They attributed
their opinions to fear, a lack of familiarity with other ethnic groups and a preference for
residing in a rural or suburban area. The field experience site enrolled approximately 250
students and 99% of the students were African American. At the completion of the Hield
experience, nine of the students stated that they would consider teaching in a culturally
diverse, urban school. Two expressed their preference to teach in such a setting. The
students who completed the Hield experience were compared to 21 Caucasian, female
elementary education students who had a similar methods course, but did not complete a
Hield experience. None of these students expressed a preference to teach in an urban
environment and three of these students stated that they would consider teaching in a
culturally diverse, urban school because they were willing to take a job in any setting.
While the purpose of this study was not to generalize beyond the 3 1 participants, it does
provide some evidence that the completion of Hield experiences can influence preservice
teachers' beliefs about urban schools.
In an effort to examine the effect of an urban Hield experience on rural and
suburban preservice teachers in Minnesota, twenty-Hyve students completed an urban field
placement for one week in elementary schools around Chicago (Marxen & Rudney,
1999). Six months after the conclusion of the field experience, the participants wrote two
essays reflecting on their teaching experience in the city. From the responses, the
researchers identified three main areas of focus: Self, Students, and School. Every
participant described positive relations with the students in their classrooms. Many of the
preservice teachers identified disparities in access to materials, technology, and adequate
facilities among the different schools they were placed in among the city. Almost half of
the participants were surprised by their expectations and the reality of the school
environment. One of the preservice teachers discussed how the harsh environment of the
school neighborhood disappeared when she entered the school building. Initially, 33%
(n=8) of the preservice teachers were nervous about being a minority, but their initial
apprehension diminished as their comfort with the students and the school increased
(Marxen & Rudney, 1999).
Wolffe (1996) assessed the influence of a two-day field experience in an urban
school on the attitudes that preservice teachers had about urban students. The
participants were junior elementary education maj ors who were enrolled in a small
college in rural Indiana. Eighteen students participated in the Hield experience which took
place in a magnet school with a population of nearly 50% African American students and
50% Caucasian students. The participants completed a ten question survey on two
different occasions a week prior to the urban experience and four days after returning
from the Hield experience. The Eindings revealed the students had a reduced level of low
expectations for urban schools, but they still held lower expectations for urban students
compared to other students. A comparison was made with 18 sophomores who intended
to maj or in elementary education. These students did not participate in the Hield
experience and had no significant change in attitudes. In addition, written excerpts from
the field experience participants provided the most convincing evidence of more positive
expectations of urban students at the conclusion of the teaching experience (Wolffe,
Student teaching experiences in an urban school can assist in the growth of self-
efficacy among preservice teachers. Rushton (2000) analyzed interviews, written
reflections, and group discussions of five preservice teachers to gain a better
understanding of their year-long internship experience in an inner-city school. Initially,
the participants shared a feeling of culture shock. The preservice teachers expressed
disbelief concerning the challenging lives that students had, the prominent display of
crime and violence in the community, and the disrespectful attitude of the students. As
the participants became more familiar with the school environment, they reported
feelings of increased self-efficacy. Rushton (2000) opined that "the severity of practice
teaching in inner-city schools speeded up the development of self-efficacy. By accepting
and embracing situations not normally considered conducive to building self-esteem the
interns were forced to master the situation" (p.3 82). The findings of this study are similar
to the findings of a later study by Rushton (2003).
Pagano, Weiner, Obi, and Swearingen (1995) examined the effect of an urban
student teaching experience on the career motivations of future teachers. The preservice
teachers credited their teaching experiences with a renewed commitment to a future
career in teaching. From interviews conducted with 38 teacher candidates, the most
common form of motivation cited by the teachers was their commitment to the students.
They also responded positively to the cultural diversity found in urban classrooms, which
encouraged several student teachers to desire a teaching position in an urban school
(Pagano et al., 1995). A follow-up study was conducted with the same group of
individuals two years after they had started teaching. The teachers' dedication to their
students was the factor deemed responsible for their continued commitment to teaching in
an urban location. Four teachers expressed a decreased level of motivation citing
unmotivated students and lack of support from the school administration (Pagano,
Weiner, & Rand, 1997).
In contrast, Haberman and Post (1992) found direct experience in urban schools
reinforced the preconceptions that preservice student had about urban students. Upon
completion of 100 hours of direct experience with low-income, minority students, the
preservice teachers reported increased negative attitudes towards the students.
Exposure to cultural diversity through experience. Prospective urban teachers
must be prepared and willing to embrace the cultural context of their classroom. Garmon
(2004) conducted extensive interviews with a teacher candidate who hailed from a small
rural community with a 1% minority population. Over the course of the teacher education
program, the researcher noted a dramatic change in the participant's beliefs and attitudes
towards racial/cultural diversity. Initially the participant intended to teach in a community
that reflected the community where she was raised. However, during the last year of the
teacher preparation program, the participant expressed an interest in teaching in an urban
location. From the interviews, the researcher deduced that six factors consisting of both
personal characteristics and relevant experiences facilitated a substantial change in the
participant' s viewpoint towards cultural diversity. The six important factors posited by
Garmon (2004) were
OPENNESS. Receptiveness to others' ideas or arguments, as well as
receptiveness to diversity (p.204).
SELF-AWARENESS/SELF-REFLECTIVENESS. Awareness and willingness to
critically evaluate one's own beliefs and attitudes (p.205).
COMMITMENT TO SOCIAL JUSTICE. A commitment to equity and equality for
all people in society (p. 206).
INTERCULTURAL EXPERIENCES. Opportunity for direct interaction with one
or more individuals from a cultural group different than one's own (p. 207).
SUPPORT GROUP EXPERIENCES. Individuals who encourage a person's
growth through the use of various activities and provide feelings of
acceptance, caring, safety, and support (p.209).
EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES. Class-related experiences that support and
extend learning (p. 210).
Considering the rural backgrounds of a maj ority of the preservice Agricultural
Education teachers, personal characteristics and appropriate experiences are crucial
factors in broadening perspectives about cultural diversity in the classroom. Only about
half of the Agricultural Education programs require teacher education students to
complete field experiences in schools with a diverse student population. Over 50%
(n=28) of the student teaching sites lack student diversity commonly found in urban
schools (Wakefield & Talbert, 1999).
Decision to Teach
With a shortage of teachers, it is important to examine the impetus behind the
decision to pursue a teaching career. According to Moran, Kilpatrick, Abbott, Dallat, and
McClune (2001) factors that individuals credit for their decision to teach can be classified
into three areas as defined by Kyriacou and Coulthard (2000),
ALTRUISTIC REASONS. Reasons that deal with seeing teaching as a socially
worthwhile and important j ob, a desire to help children succeed, and a
desire to help society improve (p. 117).
INTRINSIC REASONS: Reasons that cover aspects of the j ob activity itself,
such as the activity of teaching children, and an interest in using their
subject matter knowledge and expertise (p. 117).
EXTRINSIC REASONS: Reasons that cover aspects of the j ob which are not
inherent in the work itself, such as long holidays, level of pay, and status
The motivation of altruistic, intrinsic, and extrinsic reasons is commonly
acknowledged in the literature on the career decisions of prospective teachers. In Lortie' s
(1975) sociological study of teaching, he concluded that individuals were attracted to the
teaching profession because they had a desire to work with young people, viewed
teaching as a valuable service, felt they could express interests in the school setting,
preferred the hours and vacation time, and felt a sense of job security. Using Lortie's
study as a framework, Morales (1994) investigated the career decision of 102 teacher
education maj ors from four different counties. The participants indicated that the maj or
reasons influencing their career choice were needs for service and power and the ability
to influence others.
In a study of education students at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Hayes
(1990) reported that the most frequently mentioned reason for entering the teaching
profession was the opportunity to provide a positive and nurturing environment for the
students. The college students also expressed a love of children and felt that they would
have the opportunity to express their creative abilities in a classroom. Contrary to the
Lortie study, none of the participants mentioned the promise of job security as a factor
that influenced their decision to teach. The students also acknowledged the influence of
others on their personal decision to teach. Thirty-two percent of the students had at least
one parent that was a teacher and 54% were encouraged to enter teaching by a former
While African American teachers indicated intrinsic motives for their pursuit of a
teaching career, they also embraced the opportunity to serve as a social change agent and
contribute to the improvement of the educational system for minorities. King (1993)
examined why a cohort of African American teachers decided to enter teaching. Initially,
the primary attraction to teaching for 83% of the participants was the opportunity to work
with young people. However, the factors that they cited as most influential in their
decision to actually teach was the lack of minority teachers who could serve as exemplary
role models for the students. When comparing Caucasian and minority students' reasons
for entering teaching, both groups indicated intrinsic motives, but had distinctly different
ideas as to their contributions to students (Su, 1996). Caucasian students believed that
they could exert a positive influence on the lives of their students and make a significant
contribution to society. Minority students felt a need to enter teaching in an effort to
provide adequate educational opportunities for poor and minority students and offer a
curriculum that would be relevant to minority students' experiences (Su, 1996).
Science teachers who participated in Eick' s (2002) study described their initial
intrinsic reasons for selecting a teaching career. They expressed a desire to exert a
positive influence on their students. Females felt they should teach for learning and
success, while males felt that they should help prepare students to become productive
Decision to Teach in an Urban School.
After the completion of a field experience in a multicultural setting with students of
varying ages and academic abilities, preservice teachers were asked to respond to the
following question: "What aspects of your teaching experience would encourage you to
consider teaching in an urban setting?" (Proctor, Rentz, & Jackson, 2001, p. 223).
Responses to this question indicated preservice teachers possessed a desire to help
underprivileged students by supporting their academic learning and establishing a
concerned and loving relationship. They also appreciated urban students' responsiveness
and enthusiasm and valued the multicultural differences among the elementary school
students (Proctor, Rentz, & Jackson, 2001). Urban elementary teachers considered their
decisions to take jobs in urban locations as a contribution to society through their
assistance to students and devotion to providing quality learning opportunities to students
of low socioeconomic backgrounds (Olsen & Anderson, 2004).
When Gilbert (1995) examined the beliefs that rural students had towards teaching
in urban schools, 95 of the 193 participants expressed an interest in teaching in an urban
school. Twenty-six of the students were motivated to teach in an urban area due to social
or altruistic reasons. They indicated a belief that, "urban children deserved good teachers
and good teaching and wanted to help the children or give back to the area where they
had grown up" (p. 297). The respondents also identified several personal reasons that
would help their decision to teach in an urban school including satisfaction with any
teaching job, desire of a personal challenge, increased quality of life, and the potential
opportunity for a higher income.
Decision to Teach Agricultural Education.
Several studies in Agricultural Education focus on the academic abilities, such as
high school rank, ACT scores, grade point average, of preservice teachers who enter the
teaching profession compared to preservice teachers who enter a different career (McCoy
& Mortensen, 1983; Muller & Miller, 1993; Wardlow, 1986). In an effort to examine the
impact of student teaching experience and other personal characteristics, Hovatter (2002)
surveyed 75 preservice Agricultural Education teachers about their decision to pursue a
teaching career. The most influential factors on the teachers' career decisions were a
desire to interact with people and the opportunity to teach students valuable life skills
through different components of the program.
Decision to Continue Teaching
If long term retention of teachers is a potential solution for the teacher shortage,
research findings paint a bleak picture about the length of teacher tenure. Typically
teachers exit the profession early in their careers. Henke, Zahn, and Carroll (2001) found
that 20% of new teachers leave within their first three years of teaching. In order to
maintain the current number of Agricultural Education programs, a high percentage of
teacher retention is necessary. The exit of qualified Agricultural Education teachers
coupled with the inability to produce enough graduates to fi11 current teacher openings
could have negative consequences. Existing programs could potentially close and school
districts may be dissuaded from starting new programs due to a lack of well-prepared
teachers. To help combat such a problem, there is a need to examine why a teacher
decides to continue teaching.
Johnson and Birkeland (2002) conducted interviews with 50 first and second year
teachers who obtained teacher certification through a variety of methods (teacher
preparation programs at public or private universities, state-sponsored or within-district
charter schools, or alternative certification) and who decided to accept teaching positions
in a wide range of public schools (urban and suburban; elementary, middle, and high
school; large and small student populations; conventional and charter). Follow-up
interviews with 13 teachers who were satisfied with teaching and planned to stay in the
school where they began teaching for an indefinite amount of time revealed that these
participants were highly efficacious in their ability to be successful teachers and sought
out opportunities for professional growth and development.
The administration also contributed to the teachers' career satisfaction. The
principals encouraged assistance from outside sources and established expectations that
supported an orderly learning environment and maximized student achievement. This
study also identified the importance of providing new teachers with an appropriate
assignment and realistic workload, accessibility to adequate educational resources, and a
school environment that promoted collegiality (Johnson & Birkeland, 2002).
Wilhelm, Dewhurst-Savellis, and Parker (2000) conducted a 15 year longitudinal
study with 156 teachers. Every five years, the researchers collected data on careers, social
networks, and coping styles used when stressed or depressed to make comparisons
between individuals that remained in the teaching profession and those individuals who
left the teaching profession. Teachers cited income, holiday and leave conditions, making
a difference in students' lives, and student feedback as influential factors in their
decisions to continue teaching.
Decision to Continue Teaching Agricultural Education.
In 1980, Reilly and Welton conducted a study to determine why vocational
agriculture teachers remained in the teaching profession. In a survey of 80 Kansas
teachers, factors that encouraged teachers to continue teaching were specific to people in
general, students, and the teaching environment. The participants expressed that they
enjoyed working with a few specific groups of people: rural people, young people, and
other vocational agriculture teachers. As well, the teachers attributed intrinsic rewards
such as the satisfaction associated with helping students mature and learn and providing
guidance to young people (Reilly & Welton, 1980).
By comparing Agricultural Education teachers who remained in the profession with
Agricultural Education teachers who left teaching, Grady (1990) concluded that
experience and perceived self-efficacy can influence career decisions. Individuals who
continued teaching credited a positive learning experience and sound educational
preparation for their competence in the classroom. Furthermore, the teachers who
remained in the classroom described a much more positive experience during their first
year of teaching when compared to the recollections of the teachers who left (Grady,
Cole (1984) conducted a similar study using certified Agricultural Education
teachers who had graduated from Oregon State University over a 12 year period.
Respondents included graduates who had never entered teaching, graduates who started
teaching and left the profession, and teachers who remained teaching at the time of the
study. Similar to the Grady (1990) study, teachers who were still teaching recognized the
contribution of their teacher education program in curriculum development and teaching
methods and the experience gained through student teaching. These teachers also enjoyed
the hands-on and scientific aspects of teaching agriculture mechanics (Cole, 1984).
Edwards and Briers (2001) identified several characteristics that helped explain
teachers' predictions about the longevity of their teaching career. Gender and agricultural
work experience were identified as significant predictors of the number of years that
teachers' anticipated remaining in the profession. Males and individuals with a higher
level of agricultural work experience expected to remain agriculture teachers for the
longest period of time. If this study holds true broadly throughout the profession, the
dramatic increase of female preservice teachers and female agriculture teachers could
create future concerns for teacher retention.
Decision to continue teaching in an urban school. Using interviews and questionnaires,
Shann (1998) evaluated the satisfaction of urban middle school teachers. The participants
identified the students as the most enj oyable aspect of their j ob. They stressed the importance
of maintaining a good relationship between teachers and students and felt most satisfied with
this facet of their teaching careers (Shann, 1998).
Teacher confidence and competence in the classroom can help extend the length of
a teaching career. Chester and Beaudin (1996) were interested in how teacher
characteristics and school practices affected self-efficacy beliefs of novice teachers in
urban schools. New teachers who perceived high levels of cooperation among faculty and
administration reported higher levels of self-efficacy than new teachers who were
isolated from other teachers in the school. As well, new teachers who were observed by
an administrator multiple times throughout the school year reported a positive change in
their self-efficacy as compared to their counterparts who were not observed. The
supportive and collaborative nature of a school, in addition to observation and feedback
from administrators can successfully support the induction process of new urban
The purpose of this chapter was to provide a review of research that is relevant to
the research study. Urban schools commonly enroll students whose demographic
characteristics and home environment are different than those of rural and suburban
students. The populations of urban schools are often composed of a large percentage of
culturally diverse students. Additionally, urban schools reported higher levels of ESOL
students and students residing in non-traditional families.
Preservice teachers often seek teaching positions near their hometowns. Due to the
rural or suburban upbringing of many preservice teachers, they are often disinclined to
consider teaching positions in urban areas. The perceptions and beliefs of preservice
teachers could support their aversion to teaching in urban schools. Literature documents
the beliefs that preservice teachers had regarding urban students, the parents of urban
students, urban teachers, the urban school context, and cultural diversity. The inclusion of
field experiences in teacher preparation courses challenged some of the pre-existing
beliefs of preservice teachers and encouraged some preservice teachers to consider
teaching positions in urban schools. Also, Hield experiences exposed preservice teachers
to the cultural diversity commonly found in urban classrooms.
There are multiple influences on teachers' decisions to teach. Teachers often cite
the impact of altruistic, intrinsic, and extrinsic reasons on their career decisions.
Preservice teachers are often attracted to urban schools because they feel they are able to
make a contribution to society by assisting with the academic growth of urban students.
Other factors that encouraged preservice teachers to accept teaching positions in urban
schools included j ob opportunities, desire for personal challenge, increased quality of life,
and possibility of a higher income. Most of the research literature on individuals'
decisions to teach Agricultural Education focus on academic measures such as
standardized test scores and grades. However, Hovatter (2002) reported that Agricultural
Education preservice teachers were drawn to the profession by a desire to work with
Teacher retention is a challenge facing the education profession. Research reports
have indicated a high percentage of teacher attrition. Teachers who continued to teach
reported high levels of self-efficacy, support from administration, desire to participate in
professional development offerings, opportunity to influence the lives of students, and
personal benefits. Agricultural education teachers were encouraged to continue in their
profession by the opportunity to work with students, people in the community, and in a
particular teaching environment. The influence of agriculture teacher' s teacher
preparation courses and the success of their first year of teaching also contributed to their
decisions to continue teaching. Similarly, teachers in urban schools credited rapport with
students and confidence in the classroom for their decisions to continue teaching.
In summary, this chapter details many of the characteristics that are unique to urban
schools and to Agricultural Education. However, as previously mentioned, minimal
research has been conducted on Agricultural Education programs in urban schools. In
order to advance efforts to place and retain urban agriculture teachers, research is needed
on the distinct characteristics of Agricultural Education programs in urban schools and
how these characteristics influence preservice teachers' decisions to teach in an urban
school, their urban teaching experiences, and their decisions to continue their teaching
career in an urban school.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
In order to better understand why an agriculture teacher chooses to teach
Agricultural Education in an urban school, a qualitative approach was utilized for this
study. As defined by Denzin and Lincoln (1994), qualitative research is
multimethod in focus, involving an interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subj ect
matter. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings,
attempting to make sense of or interpret phenomena in terms of the meanings
people bring to them. Qualitative research involves the studied use and collection
of a variety of empirical materials that describe routine and problematic moments
and meaning in individuals' lives. (p.2)
More specifically, in-depth interviews were used to develop an understanding of
career decisions of urban Agricultural Education teachers by exploring: the perceptions
that the teachers held prior to accepting a teaching position in an urban school, the
teachers' experiences while teaching in an urban school, and the teacher's outlook on
their future career within an urban school context.
This chapter describes the research design and methods that were employed during
this study. A discussion of researcher subj activity, theoretical perspective, measures of
validity and reliability, participant selection, data collection, and data analysis are
included in the chapter.
When contrasting the positivist and naturalist paradigms, there are several widely
accepted principles that are in conflict. The belief about the role of values in inquiry has
incompatible views on the function of the research methodology and the researcher
(Lincoln & Guba, 1985). The positivist approach promotes the use of research
methodology that is obj ective and value-free. Conversely, the naturalist approach
acknowledges the multiple influences that the researcher imposes on a research study
(Lincoln & Guba, 1985). As a result, it is essential that the researcher becomes personally
aware of his/her subj activities and allows the reader to understand the subj activity of the
researcher. By documenting tacit knowledge and beliefs, the researcher is better able to
monitor perspectives that could manipulate the interview process and distort the data
analysis and research findings (Glesne, 1999). The subjectivity of the researcher is
I was born and raised in Fayette County, Ohio. When I looked out any of the
windows of my childhood home, I saw acres of corn and soybeans. A gravel lane
stretched a quarter of a mile behind my house. At the end of the lane was my
grandparent' s house, which was surrounded by a barn, feeding floors, and several fields
that my dad and grandpa used to raise pigs. On the mile stretch of road where I grew up,
there were a total of six houses. My family lived about eight miles from the county seat,
Washington Court House, which had a population of about 15,000. On the outside of the
city limits lived another 15,000 residents.
From 1990-1994, I attended high school at Miami Trace High School. Built in
1962, the high school was the newest of all nine schools in the district. My rural high
school enrolled approximately 800 students in grades 9-12. With a student body that was
99% Caucasian, I received minimal exposure to other cultures. There was not much for
teenagers to do in a small town, so my friends and I stayed busy with extracurricular
clubs. On the weekends, we attended local sporting events such as football or basketball,
or spent a few hours burning gas while cruising around town.
When I started ninth grade, I was excited to enroll in an Agricultural Education
class and join FFA. During my four years as an FFA member, I had the opportunity to
participate in a variety of FFA activities. I was a member of the parliamentary procedure
and dairy foods judging teams, served as a chapter officer, attended FFA camp for four
summers, and traveled to Kansas City for the National FFA Convention. My active
involvement in FFA encouraged my decision to maj or in Agricultural Education while at
During my undergraduate career, I fulfilled the requirements necessary to complete
my degree, but I did not have a vested interest in teaching agriculture. In my first two
years of the program, I assumed that I would find a j ob teaching in a small town close to
my hometown, teach for a few years, and then enter a new career path. As my graduation
date got closer, I decided to explore job opportunities beyond the state of Ohio. My
family thought I would relocate to either Indiana or Missouri and were very surprised
when I expressed an interest in finding a job in Florida.
In May 1998, I flew to Orlando to interview for agriculture teaching positions. I
had four interviews; one for a middle school position and three for high school positions.
I departed Orlando with a job at Corner Lake Middle School, which was a brand new
school located on the east side of Orlando. I would be teaching agriculture as an
exploratory subject to approximately 500 6th-, 7th-, and 8th- grade students.
I was excited to teach in Orlando. My aunt and uncle lived on a golf course in an
affluent suburb of Orlando, so I assumed that all my students would come from similar
environments. Was I in for a surprise! During the middle of the pre-planning frenzy, my
principal loaded all of the teachers on school buses so we could become acquainted with
the area where our students lived. The homes ranged from small, dilapidated houses, to
crowded apartment complexes, to extravagant homes with well manicured lawns and
swimming pools in the backyard. The make-up of my classes was just as diverse as the
homes that we saw on the bus tour. My students were from diverse cultures, family
structures, and economic backgrounds.
My two years of teaching at Corner Lake were challenging. I was faced with large
class sizes and students who lacked skills that were appropriate for their grade level. Our
school was on a 9-week block schedule, so it was often difficult to build rapport with
each student in only 22 days. At the end of my second year of teaching, I decided that I
wanted to teach high school and obtained a job at Robert Hungerford Preparatory High
School. This school was a stark contrast to the high school that I had attended. The
campus was located in Eatonville, Florida, which is the oldest incorporated black
municipality in the United States. The student population was made up of 42% African
American students, 33% Caucasian students, and 23% Hispanic students. Over half of the
students qualified for free or reduced lunches.
Initially, I was a little nervous about how my lack of cultural exposure might
influence my interaction with the students in my program. I was also worried about my
ability to deliver an agriscience curriculum that would meet the expectations of the
students and administration. The three years I spent teaching at Hungerford Prep were
extremely demanding, but rewarding. My students were enthusiastic and involved in
many activities and proj ects. In addition to the day-to-day routine of the classroom, the
program housed a plethora of animals: chickens, sheep, hamsters, rabbits, Eish, and a
prairie dog. We were fortunate to receive administrative approval to travel the state and
beyond the state line. We attended the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky;
visited many sites in Central Florida; and spent a few weeks every summer at leadership
and forestry camps. The students were also enthusiastic FFA members. They loved
competing in the forestry contest, the parliamentary procedure contest, and in ornamental
horticulture demonstrations. The students also enjoyed contributing to the community
through involvement in community service events, from serving dinner in a homeless
shelter to assisting with the Adopt-A-Highway program.
Teaching agriculture in an urban school was an enriching experience for me. My
students were so thoughtful and appreciative of even the smallest things that I would do
for them. The students invited me to attend activities that were significant to them, such
as church services, sporting events, and music recitals. At one church service I attended, I
was one of only two Caucasians in the entire sanctuary. I had grown used to teaching in a
school where over half the student population was comprised of African American and
Hispanic students. Nevertheless, during that church service I was able to identify with
feelings of being a minority.
As an urban agriscience teacher, I truly felt like I was able to make a difference in
the lives of my students. I felt like more than just a teacher, I filled the role of a parent or
an older sister for many of my students. I often find myself looking at pictures of my
former students to remind myself of the positive impact that a diverse group of Orlando
high school students made on my life.
The use of a qualitative methodology allowed for the human as instrument (Guba &
Lincoln, 1981), in the retelling of the participants' career stories. While the researcher
attempted to maintain obj activity throughout data collection and data analysis, the
researcher' s prior experience as an urban agriculture teacher could have potentially
influenced the probing questions included in the interview process. However, the
researcher employed several measures that are discussed later in the chapter, in an
attempt to provide an accurate representation of the participants' career decisions and
Epistemology and Theoretical Perspective
Epistemology is concerned with "the nature of knowledge, its possibility, scope,
and general basis" (Hamlyn, 1995, p. 242). Constructionism recognizes that meaning
occurs as a result of our engagement with the realities in our world. As described by
Schwandt (1994), "knowledge and truth are created, not discovered by the mind" (p. 125).
A theoretical perspective is "a way of looking at the world and making sense of it.
It involves knowledge and embodies a certain understanding of what is entailed in
knowing, that is, how we know what we know" (Crotty, 2003, p.8). Constructivism was
the theoretical perspective guiding this research study. The use of constructivism focuses
on the unique experiences of each individual and acknowledges the validity of each
person's method of making sense of the world (Crotty, 2003). Through the use of in-
depth interviews, the researcher and the participants were engaged in the construction of
a narrative to detail the participants' perspectives of their teaching experiences in an
urban agriculture program. Each of the participating teachers had the opportunity to share
their distinct beliefs and individual experiences specific to their career in an urban school.
Qualitative Measures of Validity and Reliability
In quantitative research, the quality of the research is measured using the following
criteria: internal validity, external validity, reliability, and objectivity. As Lincoln and
Guba (1985) pointed out, "criteria defined from one perspective may not be appropriate
for judging actions taken from another perspective" (p.293). Guba (1981) proposes four
criteria that are more appropriate for qualitative research: "credibility in place of internal
validity, transferability in place of external validity, dependability in place of reliability,
and confirmability in place of obj activity" (p.219).
When considering the credibility of a qualitative research inquiry, "it is assumed
that reality is constructed, multidimensional, and ever-changing; there is no such thing as
a single reality to be observed and measured. In a sense, the researcher offers his or her
interpretation of someone else' s interpretation of reality" (Merriam, 1995, p. 54).
Member checks, peer/colleague examination, and the creation of a subj activity statement
were used in order to strengthen the credibility of the current study. Prior to beginning the
study, the researcher articulated her personal experiences and biases so that the reader
would better understand the interpretation of the data. After the interviews were
transcribed, the participants were asked to complete a member check and verify the
accuracy of the transcripts. Throughout the process of axial coding and selective coding
and during the stages of theory development, a colleague scrutinized the data and
critiqued the emerging theory and research Eindings (Merriam, 1995).
Dependability seeks to ensure the findings of a study reflect the data collected from
the interview participants. In addition to using peer examinations, an audit trail was
maintained to establish consistency between the interview data and the proposed Eindings
(Merriam, 1995). The researcher documented the data collection process, the
development of the open codes, selective codes, and axial codes, the progression of
theory development, and any other decisions pertinent to the research process (Merriam,
While quantitative research stresses the importance of generalizability, the goal of
the qualitative approach is "to understand the particular in depth, rather than finding out
what is generally true of many" (Merriam, 1995, p.57). In order to achieve a sound
understanding of the research, thick description was used to detail the participants'
beliefs and experiences. The inclusion of detailed description allows readers to easily
transfer the research Eindings to comparable situations (Merriam, 1995).
Purposeful sampling was used to identify and select potential interview participants
for the study. This type of sampling advocates the selection of information-rich cases for
study to provide thorough understanding and insight rather than empirical generalizations
generated by quantitative studies (Patton, 2002). More specifically, a criterion sample
(Patton, 2002) was used to select nine individuals who had graduated from a teacher
education program and had been teaching in an urban school for one to eight years. The
potential interview participants were initially contacted through email to explain the
purpose and importance of the study, the value of their participation, and the data
collection methods. After receipt of the initial email, interview dates and times were
arranged using the telephone or email. Email correspondence can be found in Appendix
The first step in the data collection process was to create research questions that
were appropriate for the theoretical perspective guiding this study. The use of
constructivism allowed for the participants to express their perceptions about the decision
to take a job in an urban school and continue teaching in an urban school. Also, the
inclusion of questions about the teachers' experiences in an urban school allowed them to
explain how pertinent experiences impacted their perceptions of their current careers and
future tenure in urban schools. After the interview question guide was designed and
reviewed by a panel of experts, the IRB protocol and informed consent was submitted to
IRB for approval. The interview informed consent document can be found in Appendix
D, IRB protocol approval can be found in Appendix E, and the interview question guide
can be found in Appendix F. In early February 2006, the protocol was followed in a pilot
study conducted with three middle school urban agriculture teachers. This allowed the
researcher to make appropriate modifications to probing questions that were asked in the
For the present study, nine interviews were conducted from February April 2006.
The use of interviewing allowed the researcher to understand the experience of other
people and the meaning they construct of that experience (Seidman, 1998). Interviews
were conducted in order to describe how each teacher made meaning of their teaching
experience in an urban school. A semistructured format was used to organize the one-
hour interview. The researcher used a set of guiding questions during the interview, but
used probing questions to expand and clarify statements made by the participants (Hatch,
2002). Seven of the interviews were conducted in the teacher' s classroom. Due to
extenuating circumstances, one interview was conducted in the teacher' s home and one
interview was conducted in a restaurant selected by the teacher. With the consent of the
participants, all of the interviews were audio taped for transcription at a later time.
The process of grounded theory allows for the development of theory using data
that were systematically gathered and analyzed. This method allows for the establishment
of a close connection between the data collection, analysis, and resulting theory (Strauss
& Corbin, 1998) and encourages the researcher to create a conceptual understanding of
concrete realities that were expressed during interviews (Charmaz, 2003). The use of
grounded theory offers the following benefits to a research study,
Theory derived from data is more likely to resemble "reality" than is theory derived
by putting together a series of concepts based on experience or solely through
speculation. Grounded theories, because they are drawn from the data, are likely to
offer insight, enhance understanding, and provide a meaningful guide to action
(Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 12).
The use of grounded theory requires a concurrent effort to collect and analyze data
in the initial stages of the research process. A benefit to this effort is that it "keeps
researchers close to their gathered data rather than to what they may have previously
assumed or wished was the case" (Charmaz, 2003, p.312).
Two different approaches to grounded theory are commonly used. When using
obj activist grounded theory, the researcher takes a positivist approach to uncover an
external reality that is already in existence. This method requires the researcher to remain
distant from the research participants and serve as an external and detached authority on
the participants and their realities (Charmaz, 2003). In contrast, the constructivist
approach to grounded theory acknowledges that the data and analysis are co-constructed
using the shared experiences of the researcher and participants. The researcher does not
seek to discover an external reality using only the collected data. Instead, the data
analysis is a reflection of researcher' s thinking which may not strictly adhere to the data
alone (Charmaz, 2003). Due to the researcher' s prior teaching experience in an urban
school, objectivist grounded theory was used to ensure that the data and analysis were a
collective representation of the participants without manipulation from the researcher.
After the data were collected and transcribed, open coding was used to break the
data down into smaller, more distinct segments that could be used to identify similarities
and differences in the data from each individual interview and across all nine interviews
(Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Once the researcher completed open codes of all the interview
data, axial coding was used to create a category that encompassed all of the codes that
were appropriately related. Finally, selective coding was used to begin integrating the
identified categories into an initial theory. The open codes, axial codes, and selective
codes generated from the data can be found in Appendix A. Memos and diagrams were
used to assist in the process of data analysis and help create a conceptual understanding
of the developed theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
This chapter described the research design and methods that were employed during
this study. A discussion of researcher subjectivity, theoretical perspective, measures of
validity and reliability, participant selection, data collection, and data analysis was also
included in the chapter.
The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the decisions of agriculture
teachers to teach in an urban school. At the conclusion of the transcription process, 178
pages of text were included in the data analysis process. From the data, categories
emerged specific to the teachers' decisions to teach Agricultural Education, the teachers'
decisions to teach Agricultural Education in an urban location, the experiences of the
teachers while teaching agriculture classes to urban students, and the teachers' outlook on
their teaching tenure in an urban school. The use of coding resulted in the emergence of
two selective codes relevant to teachers' initial decisions to teach Agricultural Education,
six selective codes relevant to the influences on teachers' initial decisions to teach
Agricultural Education in an urban area, eleven selective codes relevant to agriculture
teachers' current experiences in urban schools, and one selective code relevant to
agriculture teachers' outlook on their teaching tenure in an urban school. The figures
included in Appendix A depict the relationships between the open codes, axial codes, and
selective codes. Also presented in this chapter is a grounded theory to illustrate the career
experiences of the nine participants in the study.
Description of Participants
To provide more detail of the participants' backgrounds and teaching careers, brief
biographical sketches of each participant have been included below and in Table 4-1. In
an effort to protect the confidentiality of the participants, pseudonyms have been used.
Ms. Brown has always lived in a metropolitan area of Florida. She attended a
suburban high school where she was enrolled in Agricultural Education and was a
member of FFA. She completed her student teaching experience in an urban middle
school and has been teaching at her current school for three years. Currently, Ms. Brown
is teaching agriculture as a semester long elective class at an inner city, Title I school to
6th-, 7th-, and 8th- graders. In addition to her responsibilities as an agriculture teacher and
FFA advisor, Ms. Brown has served as the head track coach for the last two years.
Ms. Campbell grew up in a suburb of a Midwestern city and never had the
opportunity to enroll in Agricultural Education as a high school student. She relocated to
Florida to attend college. She initially maj ored in Food Science and Human Nutrition, but
was encouraged by her faculty advisor to consider a career in Agricultural Education. She
completed her student teaching experience in a rural school, but has been teaching in an
urban district for five years. Ms. Campbell began her teaching career in a middle school,
where she taught for four years, before transferring to her present middle school prior to
the 2005-2006 school year.
Ms. Carter grew up in a small town and did not enroll in Agricultural Education
while in high school. After earning her bachelors degree in animal science, she worked
on a swine farm in a Midwestern state prior to earning her teaching certification. Ms.
Carter returned to the high school she attended to complete her student teaching. She first
moved to an urban area to take a position teaching agriculture as part of an exploratory
wheel to middle school students. After teaching middle school for four years, Ms. Carter
accepted a position at a high school in the same county, teaching Veterinary Assisting.
Currently, she is teaching Veterinary Assisting to 10th-12th grade students.
Mr. Hill was raised in a rural area of a Midwestern state, but did not grow up on a
farm. He was enrolled in Agricultural Education classes throughout all four years of high
school. After graduating from a land-grant institution, he worked in agribusiness for one
year then returned to the university to complete his teacher certification. His student
teaching experience was completed in a rural high school. Mr. Hill started his teaching
career at a charter middle school. After one year, he moved to his current district and has
been teaching for four years. Mr. Hill's program is an Agricultural Biotechnology magnet
program that has approximately 90 students enrolled. He teaches Agriscience
Foundations, Agricultural Biotechnology 2, Plant Biotechnology, and Animal
Ms. Fritz was raised in a rural area, but did not grow up on a farm. She attended a
high school with a large Agricultural Education program and enrolled in an agriculture
class during her junior year of high school. During college, she changed her maj or from
animal science to Agricultural Education and completed her student teaching in a rural
school. Ms. Fritz began her teaching career at the high school where she is currently
teaching and has been there for five years. She teaches an agriculture class for
Exceptional Student Education (ESE) students, Agriscience Foundations, and Veterinary
Ms. Taylor grew up in a rural area, but attended elementary school and middle
school in town because she had access to after-school care. Ms. Taylor entered a rural
high school and enrolled in an agriculture class as a freshman. While in college, she
considered maj oring in nursing, but selected a maj or in Agricultural Education. Ms.
Taylor completed her student teaching experience at the urban high school where she
currently teaches. Upon her graduation from college, Ms. Taylor moved to a western state
to work as a horse trainer. In January 2006, Ms. Taylor started her teaching career in
Florida. Her teaching responsibilities include an ESE Agriscience Foundations class,
Agriscience Foundations, and Aquaculture Foundations.
Mr. Flood was bomn and raised in a metropolitan area. In sixth grade, he enrolled in
the agriculture magnet program at the middle school where he currently teaches and
attended an agriculture magnet program during high school. He completed his student
teaching internship at an urban middle school and then returned to his hometown to
accept a teaching position. Mr. Flood has been teaching 8th grade for two years. The
magnet program in which he teaches enrolls approximately 440 of the school's 1200
middle school students. During his first year, Mr. Flood had the opportunity to teach
three exploratory agriculture classes for students in the general school population.
However, due to an increase in student numbers, he is currently only teaching magnet
Mr. Gall grew up in a rural area and was a student and FFA member in a very
active Agricultural Education program. He completed his student teaching experience in
a rural high school, but relocated to an urban area to teach in a newly opened school. This
is Mr. Gall's second year of teaching. He is currently teaching Agriscience Foundations,
Agricultural Biotechnology, an ESE Agriscience Foundations course, and two sections of
Mr. Linder grew up in a small, rural town with a rich tradition of Agricultural
Education programs and FFA involvement. He estimated that there were 21 agriculture
teachers in his hometown of 27,000 people. Mr. Linder was very active in FFA during
middle school and high school. He completed his student teaching experience at a magnet
program in an urban high school and accepted a teaching position at a new middle school
in the same urban district. Mr. Linder is in his first year of teaching and teaches a year-
long agriculture elective class to a mix of 6th-, 7th-, and 8th- graders. Currently, he has
about 190 students in his agriculture classes.
Table 4-1 Description of Participants
Name Teaching High School Student Ag Ed/FFA
Experience Attended Teaching Involvement as
(years) Location Student
Ms. Brown 3 Suburban Urban M. S. Yes
Ms. Campbell 5 Suburban Rural H.S. No
Ms. Carter 6 Rural Rural H.S. No
Mr. Hill 5 Rural Rural H.S. Yes
Ms. Fritz 5 Rural Rural H.S. Yes
Ms. Taylor 1 Rural Urban H.S. Yes
Mr. Flood 2 Urban Urban M. S. Yes
Mr. Gall 2 Rural Rural H.S. Yes
Mr. Linder 1 Rural Urban H.S. Yes
Teachers' Decisions to Teach Agricultural Education
The categories relevant to the teachers' decisions to teach Agricultural Education
included teacher background and decision to pursue teacher certification in Agricultural
Education. A framework detailing the relationships between the open codes, axial codes,
and selective codes is shown in Figure A-1. Each specific category is detailed below.
Teacher background. The category, teacher background, was comprised of three
axial codes including involvement in Agricultural Education, involvement in FFA, and
lack of involvement in Agricultural Education/FFA. All of the participating teachers who
had been enrolled in Agricultural Education in middle school and/or high school reflected
on their individual experiences in Agricultural Education and FFA. However, enrollment
in Agricultural Education and participation in FFA was not an influential factor on all of
the teachers' decisions to teach as two had not been enrolled as students.
The axial code, involvement in Agricultural Education, emerged based on the
discussion of seven participants regarding their personal experiences as Agricultural
Education students. While the paths taken to enroll in Agricultural Education were found
to be unique for all participants, Mr. Flood described the unusual circumstances that led
to his enrollment in Agricultural Education,
I landed in the class by accident. I think what happened was I was in physical
education and we had to buy a uniform and that kind of thing and a student, I think,
stole my uniform, so I didn't have anything to dress out in and I got a zero for the
day and then they had this new agriscience class but they didn't have any
enrollment so they came to us and said look some of you guys probably don't want
to be here and so we have this new class, they go on field trips and have a lot of
fun. I said sure why not. And ended up in the class. Knew nothing about
agriculture at all.
Although this participant did not have prior knowledge about agriculture, he found
the curriculum to be novel and exciting. Similarly, Mr. Hill also ended up in an 8th grade
agriculture class by chance, but his respect for the teacher and interest in the subject
matter encouraged him to enroll in high school agriculture classes,
The last nine weeks of 8th grade, we were on an exploration wheel and they stuck
me in this ag class. Everybody had to take it, but it was my last nine weeks and I
liked the teacher, I thought it was interesting. I didn't grow up on a farm, I mean I
grew up in the country, but it wasn't by any means farming and I just liked the way
the classroom was. I liked the teacher and realized that was a good place for me.
Another teacher who was recruited into a high school agriculture class by her friend
revealed that she "loved ag class" and "loved being around the animals." Mr. Hill felt a
sense of comfort and security that was established through strong bonds with the one
agriculture teacher that he had for four years and referred to his Agricultural Education
class as a "home base."
The seven former Agricultural Education students also discussed their involvement
in FFA. In the hometown of Mr. Linder, "FFA is very, very big and basically dominates
the culture." In this same community, there was an expectation for high-achieving
students to "just j oin FFA." Ms. Brown touted her former FFA chapter as an "amazing
FFA program." The seven participants took part in a variety of FFA activities ranging
from competing in Career Development Events (CDEs), to showing livestock, to serving
as a chapter FFA officer and as a state FFA officer. One participant even credited her
FFA involvement for "forming who I am today." The prior experiences that these seven
participants had in Agricultural Education and FFA influenced their decisions to teach
In contrast, two of the participants never enrolled in an agriculture class while they
were in school. For Ms. Campbell, there was never an opportunity to take an agriculture
class. Due to the increasing urbanization of her hometown, the agriculture program was
eliminated prior to her entry into high school. Ms. Carter had aspirations of becoming a
veterinarian, but expressed a lack of knowledge about the course offerings, "no one ever
talked to me about FFA or agriculture" and a lack of interest in large animals, "I didn't
want to have anything to do with cows or pigs." Consequently, she never enrolled in the
agriculture classes offered at her high school. These participants' lack of experience in
Agricultural Education and FFA did not deter their decisions to become an agriculture
teacher. Both participants were encouraged to pursue a teaching certificate by faculty
advisors, which will be discussed later in the chapter.
Decision to pursue teacher certification in Agricultural Education. The
category, decision to pursue teacher certification in Agricultural Education, was
comprised of three axial codes including opportunity to work with kids and animals,
influence of agriculture teacher, and influence of college advisor. Several of the
participants anticipated the opportunities a career in Agricultural Education would afford
them to work with an audience of interest, either children or animals. Also,
recommendations and advice from former agriculture teachers and college advisors
encouraged the teachers to prepare for a teaching career.
Two of the participants credited their love of children for their decision to pursue a
teaching career in Agricultural Education. Ms. Brown stated, "basically the key thing is
that I enj oy being around kids" and Ms. Taylor described her lasting affinity for working
with children, "I've always loved kids. Children are my passion". When considering
obtaining a degree in education, Mr. Hill thought that as an agriculture teacher he could
make the biggest difference in the lives of his students, "if I want to influence children,
where else can you do it except in the ag classroom because you see them for four years.
You don't see those kids in an English classroom or a math classroom." Ms. Carter
thought teaching agriculture would allow her to interact with animals, "I wanted to teach
animal science because even though I wasn't going to be a vet, I still wanted to work with
Former agriculture teachers made a lasting impact on five of the participants and
helped shape the participants' career decisions. While Mr. Flood was enrolled in
agricultural education for seven years, he initially had no intention of becoming a teacher,
yet, his Agriculture Education teacher' s promotion of teaching influenced Mr. Flood' s
Up until my senior year of (high school), I had no interest in teaching at all, but
after talking to several of my agriculture teachers who kind of convinced me or
kind of gave me some of the benefits of teaching ag...I thought what a better thing
to do than teach agriculture?
While wrestling with the decision of what to do at the conclusion of high school,
Ms. Brown consulted with her agriculture teacher and took his advice,
One day I went to my agriculture teacher and said I don't know what I want to do
when I graduate and he told me, you should be an agriculture teacher. I was like are
you serious? That changed me. I decided, okay this is what I want to do.
Three additional participants described the positive impact and lasting impression
that their agriculture teachers made on their lives. As described by Mr. Linder, "my
teacher really inspired me, he believed in me and treated me like I had never been treated
College advisors were responsible for the transition of three participants from other
maj ors or careers into the Agricultural Education maj or. Ms. Carter had already been
working on a pig farm in another state when she became interested in the possibility of
becoming an agriculture teacher and contacted a faculty member in the Agricultural
Education department, "and told him I was interested in maybe teaching ... we talked on
email and said what I needed to do, how I need to get certified, so I just decided to do
that." For Ms. Fritz, her work experience made her realize she was pursuing the wrong
career path, "I was going to go into the dairy industry and the more I worked at the dairy
research unit, the more I realized I did not want to be on a dairy." Her faculty advisor in
the Agricultural Education department assisted her in developing a schedule that would
allow her to complete her teacher certification in a reasonable amount of time. Ms.
Campbell had always considered becoming a teacher, but she was concerned that she
would be "stuck in a classroom." When she was contemplating a possible maj or change,
Ms. Campbell's advisor from the Food Science and Human Nutrition department
happened to be a former agriculture teacher and suggested that she consider teaching
Agricultural Education. Since Ms. Campbell had no prior experience in Agricultural
Education, her advisor recommended that she visit a few agriculture programs. While
visiting the programs, Ms. Campbell realized that teaching Agricultural Education did not
adhere to her initial perception of teaching and appealed to her as a future career,
The moment I walked in, I was hooked. I was like these kids are outside, they're
getting their hands dirty. Oh my gosh, it' s hands-on, this is perfect, this is everyday
life, that's where I want to be.
The opportunity to work with a particular audience of interest and encouragement
from a former agriculture teacher or a college advisor encouraged the participants to
pursue teacher certification in Agricultural Education.
Teachers' Decisions to Teach Agricultural Education in Urban Schools
The six categories relevant to the teacher' s decisions to teach Agricultural
Education in an urban school included prior experience in urban schools, desired
location, decision to teach in a particular school, level of influence from family,
participants' perceptions of urban schools, and participants' perceptions of Agricultural
Education in rural schools. A framework detailing the relationships between the open
codes, axial codes, and selective codes is shown in Figure A-2. Each specific category is
Prior experience in urban schools. The category of prior experience in urban
schools consisted of the axial codes including no prior experience, "guest" experience,
and internship experience. Two of the participants stated that they did not have any prior
experiences in urban schools. Mr. Hill and Mr. Gall both grew up in rural areas and
completed student teaching internships in rural schools.
Several of the participants gained exposure to urban schools through various "guest
experiences". While Ms. Campbell and Ms. Fritz completed their student teaching in
rural schools, they participated in an Agricultural Education field trip to urban schools.
Ms. Brown took the initiative to visit other inner-city schools and urban schools while
looking for a job in the urban county where she currently teaches. Mr. Linder spent about
three weeks volunteering in urban schools to gain some initial experience in an urban
classroom. The participants did not reflect on the impact of this "guest" experience on
their eventual career decision.
Four of the participants had the opportunity to complete their student teaching
experience in an urban school. For Ms. Taylor, she returned to teach in the same urban
program where she completed her student teaching. Mr. Linder described the impact that
his student teaching experience in an urban school had on his eventual career decision,
My original plan, up until student teaching, was to go to (state) and teach there. I
student taught and I just liked it a lot, way more than I thought I would. I thought it
was very, very productive. I thought the FFA was even better than I realized, as a
teacher. I enjoyed it a lot more because I was able to see it from a different
perspective how much children can be helped by it.
Ms. Brown felt that the exposure she had to students with "different ethnic backgrounds"
helped prepare her for an urban teaching position. While not all of the participants
correlated their internship experience in an urban school with their decision to teach in an
urban school, their internship experience did not discourage them from seeking a
teaching position in an urban program.
Desired Location. The category of desired location was comprised of the
following axial codes: desired teaching location and desired living location. The
environment where the participants wanted to live combined with the location of the
school resulted in the teachers' desired locations to look for j ob opportunities.
Four of the participants expressed a desire to live in an urban area due to their prior
experience in an urban area, their reluctance to live in a rural area, or for a change from
their current living location. Ms. Brown expressed her preference for a city lifestyle, "I
like living in the city, I don't want to be living out in the middle of nowhere." Ms. Fritz
also wanted to avoid moving to a rural area, "I don't want to be in a big farming area."
Mr. Hill thought that relocating to an urban area would be a "neat place" in closer
proximity to the ocean and would offer a better climate, "I just got tired of the snow." As
well, Ms. Carter couldn't specifically explain what led her to seek employment in a city,
but noted "I just wanted to get away from where I grew up." Even though Ms. Carter,
who teaches in Orlando, was eager to move away from her hometown, she would have
been reluctant to move to certain cities in Florida, "Orlando is a big city, but it' s not
really a big city...Miami would scare me." One participant, who teaches in Miami,
explained that he would have never imagined himself living in an urban area, "I didn't
really want to be a part of it. Like when I think about really metropolitan urban areas, like
downtown Miami and New York City, LA, I still can't see myself living in those places."
He further explained that he did not want to live in close proximity to others, "When you
grow up on a farm and your closest neighbor besides your grandma is a half a mile away,
having somebody to the right and left and above and below, that is kind of restrictive. "
Eventually, this participant decided to move to an urban center to teach a specific
curriculum offering, which will be discussed later in the chapter.
Decision to teach in a particular school. The category decision to teach in a
particular school was comprised of the following seven axial codes: the need for an
agriculture teacher, influence of agriculture supervisor, influence of other teacherss,
curriculum offerings, professional network, social network, and personal control.
Six of the participants responded to the publicized need for an agriculture teacher.
At her first school, Ms. Campbell was compelled to take the job because the "program
was being threatened to close." The position at another school was "posted for two or
three years" before Ms. Brown accepted the j ob. Ms. Taylor felt the other agriculture
teachers "needed my help" after another agriculture teacher left the school early in the
academic year. Although Mr. Hill attended college in a Midwestern state, he learned
about the j ob opportunities in Florida through a j ob posting board,
I walked through the hallways at (land grant institution) and they had postings for
the teaching jobs and there was a job in Orlando...I said, you know that' s a good
idea, maybe I'll just teach in Orlando or maybe I'll just teach in Florida.
Four of the participants discussed the influence of the Agricultural Education
supervisor in their respective school districts. Ms. Carter described the effective
recruiting strategies used by the supervisor in her county, "I think (supervisor' s name)
was one of the main reasons that I came to (city). She contacted me, she was very helpful,
and she sold the program in the county." Mr. Gall was recruited by the county supervisor
during his student teaching experience and the supervisor "took me to a couple different
schools", one of the three schools that the participant visited is where he eventually
accepted a teaching position. These participants would not have been aware of the
teaching possibilities in urban counties without the communication from the county
Five of the participants taught in single teacher departments, while only three of the
participants were teachers in a two-teacher agriculture department and one of the
participants worked with four other agriculture teachers. Two of the participants were
attracted to an urban school through the influence of the other teacherss. When
interviewing for the teaching position at her current school, Ms. Fritz had the chance to
meet the other agriculture teacher who made the position "very attractive. He offered me
class choices on whatever I wanted to teach. He said you can coach whichever FFA
teams. I knew I would have a lot of choices and options for what I wanted to do here."
Ms. Taylor considered her colleagues, "awesome people to work with" and stated, "I
chose to come here because I chose to work with the kind of people that work here." This
level of comfort with the other teachers) made the urban teaching positions appealing for
Three of the participants wanted to teach specific curricula that were not offered in
all Agricultural Education programs. Due to his interest in plant biotechnology, Mr.
Flood knew he would have limited j ob opportunities,
I knew that the track that I wanted to teach was plant biotechnology and I pretty
much knew that if I wanted to teach that, I was going to have to go to a more urban
setting because most of the rural schools were still very traditional in their program
Although he had been a student in a production-focused agriculture class in a rural area,
Mr. Hill thought he would be well-suited for his teaching position because "it was very
science based and not necessarily your traditional agriculture program." Ms. Carter
believed teaching the vet science curriculum would be the "perfect job" due to her love of
animals. The ability for urban schools to offer very specialized curriculums assisted in the
recruitment of the three participants.
An established professional network helped three participants transition into their
teaching career in an urban school. Ms. Campbell credited the success of her first year to
teachers she had become acquainted with during her teacher preparation program, "I was
very fortunate that some teachers here are some teachers I had classes with, so I already
had some teacher base or some help. If it wasn't for them...the first year would not have
been successful." She also appreciated the guidance she received from the other middle
school agriculture teachers in the county when she was planning her curriculum. Mr.
Flood returned to teach in the middle school that he attended because "my mentors were
here." He also felt the school would be an ideal place to teach because "I'd have a lot of
support in this school versus going to a school where I didn't know anybody and start
from scratch." The reassurance of having an established professional network helped ease
the fears of these new teachers.
Mr. Flood also described the comfort of having an established social network in the
city where he returned to work. Although he considered teaching jobs in another urban
location, he felt "compelled to come back" to this particular city because "I've always
had family down here and my whole life is down here." Also, the idea of relocating to a
new and unfamiliar area concerned Mr. Flood. He explained, "getting started and not
really having much to start with, it would be very difficult for me to make a living in
(city), not ever being from (city) or having anybody there who could help me out."
Mr. Gall and Mr. Hill felt that the opportunity to be a single teacher in a new
program allowed them a great deal of personal control. Mr. Gall liked that he would be
responsible for the success or failure of the program without having any established
expectations created by the former agriculture teacher,
I wanted basically to start my own program that I could say at the end if it was a
success, then that was not because of what was already there. If it was a failure then
it was my failure. I wasn't being set up for failure by a previous teacher. I knew
there weren't really many opportunities for that, usually you have to deal with the
teacher before that was great or the teacher before that was horrible.
Mr. Hill also believed that students benefited from the exclusive rapport they could
establish and maintain with one agriculture teacher, "I feel like the kids, even though they
are getting more opportunities at these big schools who have seven ag teachers, I feel like
those kids are missing out a little bit too because they're not developing those strong
bonds necessarily with one teacher." The expansion of Agricultural Education programs
in urban areas allowed these two participants the opportunity to be the sole Agriculture
Education teacher in a brand new program.
The participants cited a variety of factors that compelled then to seek employment
in a specific urban school. These factors included the response to a publicized need for an
agriculture teacher, the influence of the agriculture supervisor for the county, recruitment
from the other teacherss, the opportunity to teach a particular curriculum, the existence
of a professional and social network, and personal control over the program.
Level of influence from family. The category level of influence from family was
comprised of axial codes including experiences of family, support from family, and
opinions of family. Only Ms. Brown discussed the career experiences that her family
members had in urban areas, "My mom taught in an inner-city school so that kind of got
me prepared. My brother works in inner-city Miami as a police officer." Not even the
"horror stories" that her mother had from her teaching career in an urban school, deterred
Ms. Brown from obtaining employment in an inner-city school.
The families of three of the participants were quite surprised by their decisions to
become Agricultural Education teachers. Members of Ms. Campbell's family even made
jokes about her career choice, "my mother's joke was, what you are going to teach cows
how to read?" Her family members were also unaware of the j ob responsibilities
associated with teaching agriculture and inquired, "What are you going to do in teaching
agriculture?" The family of Mr. Gall, "thought I had lost my mind when I said I wanted
to be a teacher in the first place" and Ms. Brown's mother "was quite surprised when I
said I wanted to be an agriculture teacher." The families of these participants seemed so
shocked at the career choice of these participants that they did not question their desire to
teach in an urban school.
Even though the families of some of the participants questioned their career paths,
several of the participants felt their families were supportive of their decisions to move to
a city. While Mr. Hill's mother "was a little bit sad in her own way", she supported her
son's relocation because she "wanted me to do whatever was going to make me happy."
The families of Ms. Carter and Mr. Gall did not express any opinions about life in an
urban area but were concerned about the distance from home. As Mr. Gall explained, "for
my family it was a matter of being six hours away. I'd never lived that far away since I
grew up literally 45 minutes from where I attended college." Only Ms. Fritz described
how her parents tried to reverse her decision to teach in an urban school,
My parents wanted me at a rural school. They wanted me at (name of rural high
school), they wanted me at (name of rural high school) because they thought I
would be happiest there. The perception is that if you teach agriculture, you need to
go where agriculture teachers belong. That was their perception.
Mr. Hill and Mr. Gall also described how the support of their spouses allowed them
to accept teaching positions in urban schools. The wife of Mr. Gall had already been
accepted to a master' s program at the University of Florida. When the participant initially
interviewed at his current school, his wife "sat in on my interview and agreed to apply to
a local university. That was one of her biggest drawbacks to moving down." Mr. Hill
expressed his surprise at the decision of his girlfriend (now wife) to move from the
Midwest to a city in Florida,
She just up and moved. She's crazy. I have no idea why she moved with me. I
guess she loved me. Guess she just wanted to adventure. We were kids, we were
young and we had lived a simple life and we just wanted some adventure.
The families of the participants had minimal input on their decisions to teach in urban
areas. This implied support of the family made it easier for the participants to relocate or
return to urban areas for a teaching position.
Participants' perceptions of urban schools. The category teachers' perceptions of
urban schools consisted of axial codes including perceptions of school environment,
perceived student interest in FFA, and expectations of student demographics. Four of the
participants shared the perceptions of urban schools that they had prior to starting to teach
in urban schools. The perceptions they previously held focused on the school
environment and student demographics. When considering the school environment, Mr.
Linder thought it "could be more challenging" to teach in an urban school and "more
difficult than working with a bunch of country white folks like myself." Ms. Taylor
predicted that her school "would have more problems inside" and "would be a whole lot
rougher." She felt that teaching at her current school would adequately prepare her to
teach at other schools in the future, "my philosophy is, if you can teach at a rough school,
you can teach anywhere."
Two of the participants believed that urban programs would not have much FFA
involvement and were surprised at the student interest in FFA. Ms. Fritz was impressed
with all the activities in which FFA members participated, "...there was one point where
I remember being surprised that there was as much FFA interest as there was. The other
teacher would start telling me about the stuff that they did and I was like, Wow! "
Likewise, Mr. Hill found that his students were eager to take part in FFA activities such
as land judging,
One of the things that I thought was surprising was that kids were willing to jump
on the FFA scenario...they were willing to participate in things like land judging
where you are digging a hole and going outside and so I think it surprised me, their
willingness to participate.
Unfortunately, not all of the participants found it so easy to secure student participation in
In relation to student demographics, Ms. Brown thought "being White was going to
be hard for me because 85% of our school is Black. That kind of intimidated me, I guess.
I thought there would be problems and I've never had a problem." Mr. Hill did not
"expect the ethnic diversity, maybe naively I thought that there would be more white
people." He expressed his initial shock at his first experience with feeling like the
minority, "my first day of school, homeroom is first here at (school name) and I was the
only White person in the room. I wasn't ready for that. I wasn't expecting that." While
the participants had some preconceived ideas about the school environment, student
interest in FFA, and student demographics, their perceptions failed to discourage them
from accepting employment in an urban school.
Participants' perceptions of Agricultural Education in rural schools. The
category participants' perceptions of Agricultural Education in rural schools consisted of
axial codes including perceptions of rural students and perceptions of rural schools. Four
of the participants questioned their own ability to teach in a rural school because they felt
rural students would be more knowledgeable than the teacher about agriculture due to the
students' likely involvement in production agriculture. As Ms. Fritz explained,
If I had gone to a rural school, I would have had all those kids telling me what I
needed to know. They would have all known more than me about producing a steer
or if I'm trying to talk about landscaping in class, there's going to be somebody in
there who's been doing that since they were young. They're going to know more
than I do.
Although he was raised in an rural area, but not on a farm, Mr. Hill felt more comfortable
teaching in a city school because he thought most of the students would possess little
prior knowledge about agriculture,
One thing that I guess made me feel better about teaching in an urban school was
just maybe the ignorance of the students when it comes to agriculture and that
anything was educational to them versus if I'm in rural (state) teaching and I want
to talk about a moldboard plow, well everyone in the room knows what it is.
Mr. Hill was concerned that if he did teach in a rural school, "there was going to be some
kids sitting there knowing more than I did." Ms. Brown, who was raised in a city, echoed
the previous statement,
Like schools like (school names), it just didn't interest me. It' s like you have all
these kids that have an agricultural and farming background. I was never raised on
a farm and it just bothers me that maybe the kids know more than me. Like over the
weekend, I went to the state fair and kind of helped with the dairy skill-a-thon and I
never knew how to tag a cow and the kids taught me how to tag a cow. I just think,
hey I'm an ag teacher, I should know how to do that.
Contrary to the beliefs of the aforementioned participants, when Mr. Flood had the
opportunity to work with rural students, he found "many students in the rural programs
surprisingly just didn't know anything about agriculture." Mr. Gall also felt that "even in
rural areas there' s ignorance about the breadth of agriculture. People just see what' s out
in the fields and they associate that with agriculture."
Ms. Carter elaborated on her perception of the role of FFA in the agriculture
curriculum at a rural school compared to an urban school. She felt that "some rural
programs were relying too much on FFA" and some rural teachers consider themselves to
be "an FFA teacher" whereas she is "an ag teacher." Ms. Carter also mentioned how
some of the emphasis on FFA is a result of parent expectations, "If I were sent to a rural
school, I would be expected by the parents to be an FFA teacher. Well, where's this team,
where' s this team, where's this team..." In contrast, Mr. Linder thought it would be much
easier to establish an active FFA program in a rural area because "the principal's
probably been in FFA." The participants' perceptions of rural students and rural schools
encouraged their decision to teach Agricultural Education in an urban area.
Teachers' Experiences while Teaching in Urban Schools
The current experiences of an agriculture teacher in an urban school can influence
their eventual decision to remain teaching at their current school, depart for another
teaching position or even consider a new career path. The categories that emerged from
the data specific to the participants' experiences while teaching in an urban school
included benefits to the teacher, contribution of cultural diversity to the classroom
environment, level of parental support, administrative support for Agricultural Education,
administrative obstacles to teacher vision, Agricultural Education curriculum in urban
schools, value of Agricultural Education to urban students, FFA in urban schools,
obstacles to FFA involvement, Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) in urban
schools, and school characteristics. A framework detailing the relationships between the
open codes, axial codes and selective codes is shown in Figure A-3. Each specific
category is detailed below.
Benefits to the teacher. The category benefits to the teacher were comprised of
three axial codes including urban teachers can separate personal life from professional
life, personal rewards, and collaboration with other agriculture teachers. Ms. Brown
appreciated that she could "leave the students at the end of the day" and "go home and
have another life." If she had decided to teach in an rural area, Ms. Carter thought that
she would not be able to achieve a division between her personal life and her career. She
further explained, "at a small school you are under a microscope whereas in a large
school there is more autonomy and less parental pressure. In a small school, parents
expect Agricultural Education to be your life." The two participants valued the ability to
isolate their personal life from their professional life and determine their level of
engagement in the community.
Two participants shared opinions about the personal rewards they received from
teaching in an urban school. Ms. Brown found her interaction with students to be
I guess I can tell just everyday that I make a change. I feel like I make a difference
in somebody's life. A lot of the kids, they don't have families at home, so they look
to me like I'm their mom...I can see why because either the mom or dad is in jail
or you're raised by grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles.
Mr. Linder enjoyed the urban environment and emphasized how "fun" it was to "teach
and live in an urban area." Such personal rewards made it very satisfying for the two
participants to work in an urban location.
Three of the participants discussed the support and assistance they received from
other agriculture teachers, either in their school or within their county. Ms. Brown, a
middle school teacher, appreciated the assistance she received from a high school
agriculture teacher, "he' s awesome and I get a lot of good stuff from him" and the
exchange of ideas with another middle school teacher, "I'm really close with (teacher
name), me and her have always shared ideas and she always has good ideas." In Ms.
Campbell's school district, informal meetings were held among the middle school
agriculture teachers to plan for FFA events, welcome new agriculture teachers to the
county, share lesson plans and curriculum ideas, and locate appropriate resources and
materials. She elaborated on the benefit of these meetings,
at the beginning of the year, we always try to have the middle school ag teachers
meet. The big thing is all of us work together about sub-districts because we always
put on one big event. So we always talk about that. And then we
always...especially with new teachers, we try and introduce all of ourselves. We
also bring in lesson plans and ideas and make sure we are all using the same book
we need to, so we do some curriculum alignment across the board and if
something's working here, why isn't it working there, what can you do different,
swap, and exchange lesson plans...pool resources and materials because (teacher
name) has this whole shed of knowledge, I need to check out this and borrow that.
You have your veteran teachers who have been doing it for 30 years and knows
what works and doesn't work.
Knowing that another agriculture teacher would always being willing to help was
reassuring to Ms. Taylor, "There's a lot of assistance, like if I need help with something,
it is readily available, somebody will help me." While only two of the participants
identified the existence of a professional network as an influence on their decision to
teach in an urban school, several participants discussed the personal benefits that resulted
from collaboration with other agriculture teachers in the county.
Contribution of cultural diversity to the classroom environment. The category
contribution of cultural diversity to the classroom environment was comprised of the
axial codes cultural diversity of students, teacher appreciation of cultural diversity, and
contribution of individual student culture to the classroom. All of the schools were
composed of students from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Mr. Linder estimated his
school to be "98% minority." Mr. Gall and Ms. Carter reported a high enrollment of
Hispanic students. At Mr. Gall's school, approximately "84% of the students were
Hispanic" while Ms. Carter estimated that half (n=1750) of the student body at her school
were Hispanic. At both Ms. Brown and Mr. Hill's schools, over 75% of the student
population was African American. The cultural diversity of the general student
population was reflected in most of the participants' classes. Mr. Flood noted the
importance of recognizing students' individual heritage, "Some of everybody is here.
There's a Venezuelan, and a Honduran, a Cuban, a Puerto Rican, a Jamaican, and no one
wants to be grouped with anybody else." He also stressed the importance of
"understanding the different cultures and why students do the things they do and why
parents behave the way they do sometimes."
Three of the participants felt that the cultural diversity of their students was a
valuable asset to both the teacher and the students. Ms. Brown appreciated "hearing about
different places" and "learning about different cultures." Ms. Campbell and Mr. Linder
also enjoyedd the diversity of urban students." These three teachers explained how the
incorporation of the various backgrounds of the students improved their classroom
curriculum. Several of Ms. Brown's students shared about their families involvement in
agriculture in Puerto Rico, "I've had a few kids that lived on farms in Puerto Rico...their
experiences help out a lot, bringing that in here." Students in Ms. Campbell's classroom
also shared about agriculture from their cultural perspective, "because you are in (city)
and you have every single race possible, that enhances culture. It's really neat agricultural
wise...this is how my grandparents or great-grandparents did this or this is how we've
done this, my culture, my history. When the students in Mr. Linder' s class completed
horticulture demonstrations, he encouraged them to draw upon their cultural heritage,
I specifically told them that one of their main advantages that they have over
country white folks like me is to bring a dish or technique or something that is used
in their home country. I don't really even know my heritage 100% and these kids
are either first or second generation from whatever country they're from.
The participants found that their personal interest in cultural diversity and the mix of
cultures among their students was an asset to the classroom environment.
Level of parental support. The category level of parental support was comprised
of the axial codes including low level of parental support and high level of parental
support. There was an evident disparity in the parental involvement at some schools
compared to others. Ms. Brown tried unsuccessfully to get the parents involved with the
FFA chapter, "I tried the first two years to have a parent FFA meeting. I've seen other
chapters have parent meetings, but that doesn't work here. The only way to get a parent
out here is to have some kind of feast." Not only was Ms. Brown frustrated by a lack of
parental interest in FFA, she was surprised at their disinterest in the education of their
children, "I'm amazed by parents, lack of parent support here and even with field trips,
it' s so hard to get any kind of parent out here."
Mr. Flood had a much different experience with the level of parental involvement.
He explained the tremendous amount of support that parents provided to the school,
parents are here all the time. I think that these are the types of parents who are pro-
education for their students. No matter what, it's for their child and it involves me
having to come out here on a Saturday and help out, they're usually here.
It is important to note that this overwhelming support was provided by the parents of the
magnet students at Mr. Flood's school. When teaching an exploratory class for the
general student population, Mr. Flood faced struggles with parental involvement, similar
to what was described by Ms. Brown. He attributed this difference to the work schedules
of parents, "My parents in the standard program are parents who are working all day,
can't come in."
Administrative support for Agricultural Education. Most of the participants
were positive about the amount of support that was provided to the program by their
principals. However, Ms. Brown explained how the level of administrative support
increased when her first principal left the school. She doubted that the first principal
"would have hired me" and thought "that he didn't want agriculture." In contrast, Ms.
Brown' s current principal "really supports the ag program" and "really enj oys what I do."
Mr. Gall credited his principal's "farming background" and previous administrative
experience at a high school with a very traditional agriculture program for the support of
his current program.
Mr. Flood explained how his administration was extremely supportive of the
program because they considered FFA to be a retention tool for students in the magnet
program. When Mr. Flood offered to cancel a trip to an FFA event because it was being
held a few days before the FCAT (standardized exam), his principal responded, "No,
whatever keeps those kids happy and in the program."
Two participants shared the methods they used to try and garner the support of their
principals. Ms. Carter and her FFA officers met with the principal to "do a song and
dance" and share information about the agriculture program and FFA. Due to his concern
abut standardized testing, the principal was more interested in "Well, how is your class
affecting FCAT scores? What are you doing strategically for FCAT?" In return, Ms.
Carter provided her principal with a chart that displayed the FCAT performance of all her
students. Ms. Brown tried to gain the support of her principal by integrating other
subj ects into her curriculum, "there is science and I am doing math and I am doing
reading and doing all this stuff, so I want you to keep me". These two participants found
that documenting their efforts to include other curriculum subj ect areas and prepare
students for FCAT were helpful in obtaining additional support from their principals.
The level of support from assistant principals was deemed important by three of the
participants. Even while Ms. Brown struggled with her principal, her assistant principal
was "really, really, really, supportive. Without him I wouldn't be able to do anything."
She further explained how her assistant principal made an effort to learn more about
The assistant principal, he' s kind of got a clue of everything that' s going on. He's
gone and visited schools with me. He's gone to FFA events with me, he's gone to
workshops and stuff like that with me, so he kind of has a clue of what is involved.
He's gone over and seen several schools.
Likewise, when Mr. Linder was trying to start his FFA chapter and encountered
some initial reluctance from his principal, he found support from his assistant principal
who had been at another middle school with an active FFA chapter and had "a very
positive image in his mind of what FFA is and what agriscience is." One of Ms. Fritz 's
assistant principals had been one of the agriculture teachers at that school and was very
helpful with the agriculture facilities, especially when Ms. Fritz encountered problems
with the greenhouse. Many of the participants communicated more frequently with an
assistant principal than a principal and found the assistant principals to be very supportive
of the program.
Administrative obstacles to teacher vision. The category administrative obstacles
to teacher vision was comprised of six axial codes including administrative transition,
administration' s vision for the program, lead teacher' s vision for the program, county
supervisor' s vision for program, absence of appropriate equipment and supplies, and
misperceptions at district level. The five participants that had been teaching for over three
years expressed high levels of administrative turnover. In Mr. Hill's school, "we have
seven administrators in the front office, one of them was here on my first day. In (my)
Hyve years (here), we will have completely rolled over the administration, some of them
more than once." For Ms. Brown, the departure of her first principal was seen as
fortunate because the replacement principal was much more supportive of the agriculture
program. However, in Ms. Carter's school, the principal who was instrumental in the
implementation of the vet science curriculum was replaced by a principal who was not
perceived to have a vested interest in the success of the agriculture program. This rapid
rate of administrative turnover made it difficult for the participants to maintain consistent
levels of administrative support.
Three of the participants faced challenges related to the principal's vision for the
program. Mr. Hill's principal had been a former agriculture teacher at the school and
looked at the program from "a definite production agriculture side. He feels that there
needs to be more outside, getting dirty here. He feels that these kids that are even from
this area can gain something from learning a little bit about hard work." Yet, Mr. Hill
desired to have an agriscience curriculum that was relevant to the students, so he
challenged the vision of his principal,
I say we are not going to raise cows in the ghetto. I just tell him that's not where
this program is going. This is a magnet program and if you get a kid to ride the
school bus for two hours and then he goes home and tells mommy that we were
outside playing in the garden all day...I think that' s going to cause some problems.
When she started teaching at her current school, Ms. Brown was looking forward to
keeping animals on campus to supplement her curriculum. She valued the experience she
gained from working with animals while she was a student in Agricultural Education and
hoped to provide her students with a similar opportunity. However, the principal would
not allow animals on campus which "crushed her a bit."
In addition to principals, other administrators can have an impact on the vision of
the program. The vision that Mr. Gall's lead teacher had for the agriculture program
caused her to question the necessity of an agriculture class. Mr. Gall described his
attempts to educate her about the importance of agriculture to the county and to the state,
She's been a real challenge to try and educate on what I'm trying to do as far as
what the vision of where the program should be going. She sees the program as
very, very traditional. Once she said that her grandfather grew up on a farm and
grew tomatoes in his backyard, so she knew what agriculture was. She told me one
time that she didn't really understand why they started my program because there
wasn't any agriculture in (county) so there was no need for jobs, for students to be
trained in agriculture. When I told her there was, (county) was number two in
receipts for agricultural sales, she said that didn't really matter because there wasn't
any agriculture in Florida.
When planning facilities and ordering supplies, Mr. Hill's county supervisor had a
different perspective on what was needed in the program. Mr. Hill desired to have an
innovative agriscience program, while the county supervisor was perceived as trying to
establish a program similar to other programs that were already in the county. Mr. Hill
I think we still hold on to that this is the way that it' s always been idea. Just like
when my supervisor, who is a great man, was wanting to build this school, he had
on his plans, this is the way that it' s always been done, so we have got to have it.
We've always had drill presses, so you need one. He wanted to give me a welder
and I said I'm not going to be splicing genes with a welder, so I don't know why I
With his knowledge of plant molecular biology, Mr. Gall was looking forward to
teaching plant biotechnology. When he arrived at his school he found that there was an
absence of appropriate equipment and supplies to begin the program that he had
It wasn't really set up to be a biotechnology lab. It was kind of like the view of
what plant biotechnology was supposed to be, very limited around plant tissue
culture and that was pretty much it. Even then a lot of the equipment that was
ordered was not even sufficient to teach that.
Mr. Gall had a different idea of the essential equipment, "When I think about plant
biotechnology, I think about genetic engineering and transformation and analyzing DNA
and the equipment to do that", but the necessary equipment had not been ordered by the
admini strati on.
Mr. Gall also shared the misperceptions that county level administrators had about
the potential careers in the agricultural industry, which was evident when they created a
proposed list of career academies,
they did include agricultural science..., it was an academy in basically food and
agriculture related...the first option was a culinary option...the other one was
agriculture. The first career that they listed there was farming and not as agriculture
production or anything but farming. That's just not, from a marketing standpoint,
that' s not very good because of the agriculture illiteracy of the public, but also that
is very unrepresentative of what career paths are available for students in an
agricultural career. There was no mention of the science, the biotechnology,
This publication reinforced the perception that students who enroll in agriculture classes
are preparing to be farmers, which was a stereotype that Mr. Gall was trying to overcome
in his urban classroom.
Several obstacles including administrative transition, the principal's vision for the
Agricultural Education program, the lead teacher' s vision for the program, and the
absence of appropriate equipment and supplies hindered the teacher' s vision for the
Agricultural Education program.
Agricultural Education curriculum in urban schools. The category Agricultural
Education curriculum in urban schools was comprised of axial codes including teacher
flexibility within school restrictions, student-centered curriculum, and curriculum
content. As previously mentioned, Ms. Brown was eager to teach about animal science,
but her principal would not allow animals to be housed on the school campus. Although
she was initially discouraged by this administrative mandate, it did not deter Ms. Brown
from going "gung ho about plants" and focusing on horticulture and aquaculture. She
realized that "we are going a different route because I can't have the barn I really thought
I would have."
Ms. Fritz and Mr. Linder stressed the importance of a student-centered curriculum
in an urban Agricultural Education program. Mr. Linder involved his students in
curriculum planning by asking for their input on what they would like to learn about
specific topics, "The first thing I do before I'm going to teach about plants, animals, or
the environment is I ask them what they want to know. Then I just combine that with
what I think they should know." Ms. Fritz described her goals for trying to make the
curriculum more relevant for her students,
I'm trying to get a dog grooming business going here because I feel like that's the
future of agriculture at (school) and this area, it' s getting the kids working with
small animals. I don't think the future is there in those cows and stuff...I think the
focus as far as me appealing to the masses of this student population, it' s going to
have to be through the small animals stuff. Most of my kids, 90% of my kids have
never been within five feet of a bovine animal in their life. Probably never will be
after they leave my class. But 80 to 85% of them have a cat or dog at home. I think
it' s making agriculture relatable to those kids and it's not through production.
Definitely not in the urban area.
Through his teaching experience, Mr. Flood learned the importance of having a practical
application so students could comprehend and retain the subj ect matter,
I don't have the resources to have large animals here or a very large animal facility,
so it's very hard for me to convey my message when I don't have anything for
students to apply it to. And I'm learning that as the year goes by that I need to...if
I'm going to teach something I need to have an application. That' s the purpose of
me teaching an applied science, if the students can be able to apply what they're
learning somewhere else. And when I was teaching last year, I was teaching more
production. I was teaching the production of large animals...I talked about the beef
industry, the hog industry and I had nothing to apply it to. I felt like it just went
through one ear and out the other for some students.
Mr. Gall and Mr. Linder also offered their opinions on the appropriate curriculum content
for urban schools. Mr. Linder discussed the importance of making the subj ect matter
relevant to the students, while incorporating traditional agriculture, "I mean I think it is
important to work in traditional agriculture. That can't be your main focus, you know you
have to teach it from the community or the consumer based." Mr. Gall re-emphasized the
value of implementing "more relevant, consumer based programs." He described several
changes that could be made to the agriculture curriculum to ensure that it was appropriate
for urban students,
Changing some of the other programs even that we have like the environmental
horticulture programs, they can be good for students in urban settings, but as long
as there is a focus on interiorscaping, small-scale specialty production of things,
basically in places where there is not a lot of space. Hundred acre shade houses of
two or three different crops, that' s not practical for an urban student. They can't
really wrap their mind around operating something like that. If you are talking
about animals then more companion animals. Plants need to be houseplants,
ornamental plants and just keeping the science in it and get back to the business
side as well. Honestly, I don't know if I can justify teaching my students about
ruminant nutrition in-depth because none of them have ever had any experience
raising cattle. It is beneficial for them to have kind of an understanding of how that
is different, but I'm not going to spend a lot of time telling them about roughage to
grain ratios...because they are never going to be doing that. Just making it more
relevant to urban settings.
Mr. Hill argued that agriculture programs needed to move away from a more traditional
curriculum with an agriculture production focus to a curriculum that emphasized science
I think agriculture itself, education has to get out of the good old boy mentality. We
have to step back and make this the science that it is. Agriculture is the original
science. We've got to let people know that Agriculture Education is about everyone
and not some country thing. We have got to focus on the kinds of programs like I
have...we've got to get rid of those ag welding classes and stuff like that that are
just promoting a stereotype. We've got to train students to become scientists, not
production farmers. Nobody needs training in being a production farmer, they are
already doing it. If somebody is going to be a farmer, then they are coming from a
farm and they already know how to do it. So we need to focus our vocation on
scientists who are going to better our plants and animals.
In contrast, Ms. Taylor promoted the inclusion of production agriculture in the
I know the big fad is not production ag, but consumption ag, but I don't think the
interest is there for consumption ag. There is to an extent, but we need to change
things and not be so old-fashioned that it's just a crop field and it' s just steers and
heifers. I don't think we need to sacrifice our roots for urban schools by any means.
We are living proof that you can have kids in the ghetto in an ag class, playing in
the dirt. I don't think we need to get so far away from that to change everything to
consumption ag. I don't think that' s the way.
While Ms. Taylor felt that urban students were interested in production agriculture, Mr.
Hill was not so optimistic about the level of student interest in a traditional agriculture
curriculum in his school,
I just think the kids interests are not in agriculture...so it' s an elective. They don't
have to take it. When it comes to, do I take art and sit inside where it' s air
conditioned all day or go outside and get sweaty and dirty, the kids that go to this
school don't want to get sweaty and dirty. Period.
The participants reinforced the importance of implementing and delivering a student-
centered curriculum, but reported conflicting views on the appropriate curriculum content
for an urban agriculture classroom.
Value of Agricultural Education to urban students. The category value of
Agricultural Education to urban students consisted of axial codes comprised of students
enrolled in Agricultural Education classes, students' perceptions of agriculture, student
reaction to subj ect matter, and student application of subj ect matter. When asked about
their students, the participants responded very positively with statements such as "these
are the best kids I've worked with and I've worked with over 250,000 kids", "great kids",
"awesome students", "well-behaved", "love students", and "I look forward to the
students." Ms. Campbell even appreciated her "urban students' lack of agricultural
knowledge." This limited awareness could contribute to the students' perceptions of
agriculture that they carried into the classroom. The participants felt that the students
entering their classrooms have "no concept of agriculture", "no understanding of the
everyday impact on their lives", and consider agriculture synonymous with "farming."
Mr. Hill explained the confusion that one of his students experienced when she received
her class schedule,
When she was recruited to be here, in the biotech program, the word agriculture
wasn't mentioned. When she came in for her first day of classes or got her schedule
and it said Agriculture Foundations, she almost left (school name) and she is one of
our most active FFA members.
Likewise, Mr. Linder's students were "really upset" when they were placed in his
elective agriculture class at the beginning of the school year.
Despite the initial perceptions that students may have about agriculture, three of the
participants discussed the positive reaction of the students to the subj ect matter. Ms. Fritz
I like the fact that these kids are hungry for what we are trying to teach them. Joe
Smith that has grown up on a dairy farm is not going to be that excited about
learning about strawberries. But most of my kids here are. When I show these kids
something, it would be minimal more than likely at a rural school, but to them it' s
very exciting and it' s very new and it's something that they don't know.
Mr. Flood had the opportunity to teach agriculture to both magnet students and students
in the general school population. He found that both groups of students "embraced the
subject matter and wanted to learn more about it." Even after the initial disappointment
that Mr. Linder' s students expressed towards being enrolled in an agriculture class, he
witnessed a drastic change in the students' attitudes toward learning about agriculture. He
felt his class gave the students "the chance to experience something different." The
students in Ms. Fritz's class were very excited about learning and receptive to the
veterinary science curriculum, "I attract the kids that want to learn, that want to know
what I am talking about, that are hungry to leamn that material, that want to know about
small animals, that want to learn dog breeds..." Ms. Brown was proud when she
witnessed a former student applying the subj ect matter that she learned in her middle
school agriculture class,
She works at a daycare now and the kids are always landscaping the daycare, they
are always playing with plants and she's invited me over there to see. She works
with their five year olds, they are little kids and they are always playing in the dirt
and growing plants and flowers and it' s just great to see, hey she' s doing something
that I taught her.
Although Ms. Brown's former student was not involved in the agriculture industry, she
was able to transfer skills that she had learned in her agriculture class to her current j ob.
The value of Agricultural Education to urban students was demonstrated by the quality of
the students enrolled in the Agricultural Education classes, the students' previous
misperceptions of the agriculture industry, the positive reaction of the students to the
subj ect matter, and student application of the subj ect matter.
FFA in urban schools. The category FFA in urban schools was comprised of four
axial codes consisting of FFA activities, student involvement, student achievement and
alternative view of the importance of FFA. There were varying FFA enrollments among
the nine schools, from a chapter with 10 to 12 active members, to a chapter with 438
middle school FFA members.
The FFA members in each of the participants' schools participated in a variety of
FFA events including opening and closing ceremony contest, public speaking, vegetable
identification, horse judging, quiz bowl, ornamental horticulture demonstrations, and land
judging. Due to the active involvement of his FFA members, Mr. Flood was better able to
identify the contests that his students did not participate in,
We haven't done forestry in awhile, we haven't done citrus, or the land judging, but
everything else we've done. And we have students who are interested to do that.
It' s kind of hard to prove to our administration that we're going to do two contests
a year with 437 students. It just doesn't make any sense, so we do almost all of
Ms. Fritz stated that she found that the students' interests in particular FFA events
fluctuated from year to year and she was willing to help them prepare for any contests
that they were interested in, "I tell my kids I'll do any contest they want to do and I'll say
all it takes is for you to get four people together and show up for practice twice a week
and we'll do it."
Several of the participants were excited to share about their students' successes in
FFA, despite the students' limited agricultural experience. Ms. Campbell was pleased
with the accomplishments of her extemporaneous speaker, "our state winner in
extemporaneous, she had no prior ag background and she gets to go to state. So seeing
that is a huge accomplishment in itself ...she was nervous like anyone would be, but she
did great." Mr. Hill bragged on his land judging team,
Try this on for size, in the middle of the city and a bunch of kids that have never
had any experience with agriculture, we have one of the most successful land
judging teams in (city). (School name), they are the kings, they have been doing
this for many years, but the last two years in a row we have come in second only to
(school name) in land judging. We have a very strong land judging team.
Even though her extemporaneous speaker did not win a speaking contest, Ms. Brown was
proud of her speaker' s desire to compete in the event, in spite of her limited English
The girl that did do extemporaneous, she's mainly a Spanish speaking girl, so it
was really cool for her to learn all the stuff and be speaking in English. That was a
challenge for her. Her English is not very good, so it was really cool, you always
Ms. Campbell summed up how rewarding FFA success could be for agriculture students,
"seeing their reaction when they place or get an award, they see all their hard work pay
off...seeing them get so excited about that recognition or that acknowledgement of their
While Ms. Brown's FFA members participated in traditional FFA activities, she
also had an alternative perspective on the value of FFA for her students. FFA meetings
were an opportunity to "keep them (students) off the streets mainly." She explained the
structure of the bi-monthly FFA meetings,
We have fun. We've played soccer before. They like playing Uno, Monopoly.
We'll always order a pizza and just chill and hang out. Usually we do it on
Fridays...we'll stay until like 7:30, playing...It' s fun, it gives them something to
do, keep them out of trouble. Whatever they decide they want to do, I'm all about
Ms. Brown felt that this unconventional approach to FFA meetings was the most
effective in getting her students involved in the organization.
Obstacles to FFA involvement. The category, obstacles to FFA involvement, was
comprised of four axial codes consisting of student opportunities and involvement,
turnover of student population, transportation obstacles, and promoting involvement in
FFA. Mr. Gall felt that the multitude of extracurricular activities and social opportunities
available to students hindered their involvement in FFA. He explained, "they have so
many different things that they can do on the weekends or after school" and "they have so
many other opportunities. at school competing for their time." Similarly, Ms. Carter
explained that not all paid FFA members attended FFA meetings because "they're high
school kids, they've got lives and j obs and things like that." Ms. Brown found it difficult
to maintain an active FFA chapter due to the high turnover of the student population,
"since Christmas, I've had four of my six officers move and it' s like okay, I have two
kids left, what do I do? Do I go out and start and get new officers?"
Transportation obstacles also limited student involvement in FFA. Both Mr. Hill
and Mr. Flood taught in magnet programs and had students enrolled in their programs
who lived in all areas of the county and often far away from the school. Mr. Flood
explained the reluctance of the parents to allow their children to participate in after-
school activities, "The parents are like no, you need to be on that bus at 3:40 and get
home because if I have to leave you at school till 4:30 or 5:00, you're not getting home
until 6 or 7 and that' s hard to sit in traffic and everything else it takes to get back down
there. I lose a lot of students because of transportation." Ms. Taylor elaborated on the
challenges of preparing a horse judging team, "a lot of these kids don't have a ride to get
anywhere. They can't even stay after school because they don't have anybody to pick
Three of the teachers discussed some of the misconceptions that they had to
overcome in order to promote student involvement in the FFA. At her first school, Ms.
Campbell found it very difficult to educate the students about FFA,
About breaking down the stereotypical redneck farmers that I guess condescending
lingo, um, it was difficult trying to come over that barrier and educate them. This
is the benefit of this and this is the...what the leadership of that, this is how much
fun you can have doing this and showing them and ...it was difficult every year.
In comparison, at Ms. Campbell's current school the FFA membership is four times
(n=45) the FFA enrollment of her first school, an increase she credits to family
involvement, "a lot of their families are vested in it and they came in wanting to be in
FFA." She emphasized the importance of "showing them other avenues and options that
FFA has to offer" because often her students are under the impression that they "have to
show an animal at the fair to be in FFA." Mr. Gall faced similar obstacles when trying to
organize the FFA chapter at his school. He had three students who had been FFA
members in middle schools and were excited about continuing their participation in high
school, but encountered reluctance from his other students,
Everybody else was just kind of like this is the farming club and that was an
automatic perception. So defeating that perception even amongst students that I
would consider more open-minded and thinking, being able to think outside the box
or beyond themselves have had trouble getting past that perception of it' s the
Multiple obstacles to FFA involvement were identified including multiple student
opportunities, high turnover of student population, transportation obstacles, and FFA
promotion to urban students.
Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) in urban schools. The category SAE
in urban schools consisted of SAE opportunities for students and lack of parental
involvement in SAE. The SAE involvement of the students varied among the nine
schools. Three of the teachers required all of their students to complete SAE proj ects. Mr.
Flood required his students to "identify an SAE they can do at home and bring a report
in." Mr. Linder offered his students two options for completing their SAE proj ects. The
students could choose to complete either an "agriscience proj ect or a community service
proj ect." Likewise, the students in Ms. Campbell's classes could select an activity to
complete for their SAE. The seventh graders could either research an agricultural career
or detail the care that they provided for their pet (s). Ms. Campbell explained how a
proj ect as simple as raising a turtle could become an appropriate SAE,
But with turtles, there's not as much care as caring for a dog, so I always add a
little bit more research aspect to them, what' s the breed of turtle, how do you clean
the tank, more care aspects....what' s their diet, what happens if they do get sick
and what are the illnesses of that breed, a little bit more research-based than the
The 8th graders also had two options related to pet care or home improvement,
They can do a very similar animal care, animal training, but a little more in-depth
or if they don't have a pet, there' s three home improvement options. They can do
lawn care, you know mow lawns, they have to do the proper maintenance or their
lawn equipment, talk about related j obs, things like that. There' s landscaping where
they can re-landscape an area of their house and talk about plants, are they native,
non-native, seasons, why would you plant this here and then the last would be a
garden. They could do a vegetable or herb garden and why did they choose that, is
it the right season, are they getting pesticides or herbicides if so, if not, what' s the
benefits and non-benefits of that.
Three of the participants described how many of their students' SAEs were conducted at
school due to the limited amount of space they had at home. Mr. Gall explained that the
most common SAEs for his students were,
agriscience proj ects and then some others doing small animal projects for the fair
like a chicken or a rabbit or raising plants for the fair. Most of the students either
live in apartments or condos or houses that are built on 60 by 100 square foot lots
and so there' s not much space for them to be able to have any kind of proj ect at
The barn facilities on the school campus made it possible for the "subdivision and
apartment kids" at Ms. Fritz's school to have large animal SAEs, which were more
popular than small animal SAEs. Many of the students at Ms. Taylor' s school also kept
their SAE proj ects at school, which "puts a whole lot more work on the teachers." Ms.
Carter emphasized the importance of helping students identify practical SAEs that would
be beneficial in the future,
Like these kids that are doing pig proj ects, unless you live in Iowa or Kansas or
some place you're not going into the pig industry. So having a SAE in a vet
proj ect, you know, we're working with aquaculture maybe breeding Eish or doing
horticulture stuff, that' s so much more practical as far as whether you go to college
or not, but you know, a lot of the kids...I have maybe Hyve kids that work at vet
offices. So they're able to apply what they're learning.
Two of the participants felt that a lack of parental involvement was a maj or barrier
to the implementation and completion of SAE proj ects. Ms. Fritz described the
"resistance on the parent' s part" as "one of the biggest barriers to the kids doing a
proj ect." She thought that since "it is not a way of life for these kids, it' s not something
that these parents did when they were in school and they realize the value of." Ms. Fritz
also shared her perception about rural parents increased involvement in SAE,
it' s almost like in a lot of rural schools it' s understood, if you want your steer to be
weighed at the market, you're going to find a truck and a trailer and you're going to
take it over there. For us it' s more of the student coming to you and saying, can you
haul my steer?
Ms. Taylor also attributed the lack of parental interest for limiting SAE opportunities,
"you can't really get too creative with SAEs because no one is going to help. I mean you
can only help so much as their advisor."
School characteristics. The category school characteristics was comprised of two
axial codes including size of school and pride in school. All nine of the schools had large
student enrollments. Mr. Flood's middle school had 1,200 students enrolled, with almost
440 students in the magnet program. Currently in its third year, Mr. Gall's school had
2,600 students. What he found surprising was,
My high school that I teach at now, I can stand on the roof of that and I can see
three other high schools that have 5,000 students. By the time it is all said and
done, my high school is also expected to be 5,000 students.
With 3,500 students, Ms. Carter' s school was so large that they divided the campuses into
a campus specifically for 9th- grade students and a campus for 10th- 12th- grade students.
This division of the campuses eliminated the opportunity for 9th grade students to enroll
in her vet science course, "freshman can't come over to the main campus which is where
my class is, so they can't take vet one until they are sophomores" which "hurts our
program big time." The large student enrollment in Ms. Brown's school resulted in class
sizes so large that not every student could have a chair,
I have one [class] that' s 30 and I may have one that is 31. Every day we just pray
that somebody is absent so everybody can have a seat. When they are getting their
new schedules in January, I had like 40 and I'm like okay, let's start sitting on the
ground. It was terrible and I finally had to complain, I'm like I can't have kids
sitting on the ground.
Two participants discussed the impact of the school culture and the physical
environment of the school on school pride. Mr. Hill attributed the high rate of teacher
turnover at his school to recurring problems in the school environment. One specific
problem that was identified was related to student behavior, "our school has had more
referrals and more suspensions than any other school in the county." Even though Mr.
Hill did not encounter any student problems in his classroom, he was still affected by the
total school environment,
If I could have my kids and never leave my room, I would teach at this school
forever. What gets under your skin, the thorn in your side at this school, is when
you have to leave the room and when you have to go deal with those discipline and
problems that exist outside this classroom that you don't see in here.
Ms. Brown felt that the level of school pride was diminished due to the physical
appearance of the school campus. Initially, she thought the school "was a j ail. It was
horrible. It' s kind of scary." Also, she discussed how landscaping would improve the
appearance of the school grounds, "this year I think definitely we need to do [landscape]
our own school. Our own school is looking trashier and trashier, it looks terrible and for
them to have an ag program and look terrible."
Agriculture Teachers' Outlooks on their Teaching Tenures in Urban Schools
The category relevant to the agriculture teachers' outlook on their teaching tenure
in an urban school was influences on decision to continue teaching at current school. A
framework detailing the relationship between the open codes, axial codes, and selective
codes is shown in Figure A-4.
Influences on Decision to Continue Teaching at Current School
The category of influences on decision to continue teaching at current school was
comprised of eight axial codes including desired characteristics of new school, current
outlook on continuation of urban teaching career, current outlook on departure from
urban teaching career, curriculum offerings, influence of family, concern for job security
at particular school, opportunity to educate urban students about agriculture, and level of
administrative support. Three of the participants had differing outlooks on their future
careers in an urban school. Ms. Fritz intended to "stay as long as they let me" while Mr.
Linder "would not teach forever in an urban school." Although Ms. Brown predicted that
she would "always teach in an urban school", she felt she would not "always teach at her
current school." Ms. Carter stated that her decision to continue teaching in an urban
school was going to be influenced by the curriculum that she would be able to teach. She
planned on continuing at her current school as long as she could teach,
yet science or any kind of animal science. Obviously vet science because I like the
curriculum because that's what I did before I started teaching. I don't think I could
teach horticulture. I could teach it, but I probably wouldn't like it because it' s not
my background. I'm qualified in Ag 6 through 12, so that means I can teach
anything, but if it' s not in my background then why...why would you? I mean
sometimes it comes down to, do you want a job or do you not want to have a job.
So, hopefully I won't be in the situation where I have to teach something I don't
want to because I need the money.
Four participants mentioned the influence of family on their future career plans.
Mr. Gall felt that it would be more difficult to move from his current urban location if his
family was "settled in. If we have children and they start school here, it will be really
difficult to move most likely." Although Mr. Hill enjoyed living and teaching in the city,
he acknowledged that "I still have some things about the country that I like." Similarly,
Mr. Linder planned to eventually relocate to a more rural area because "I don't think a lot
of country folk want to raise their families in big cities." Ms. Brown expected that she
would move due to "j ob opportunities" for her husband. Mr. Flood felt his career decision
was contingent on the level of support that he received from his administration,
I feel like in an urban school, it' s challenging enough to interest students and to
really get them involved in agricultural activities and if we have an administration
who are unsupportive, it makes it really difficult because it's like how can we get
these students involved when you're saying we can't do this, that, and the other. So
I think the most important thing as far as me staying here will be support from my
admini strati on.
The rapid growth in urban areas has led to a dramatic increase in the number of
schools in urban school districts. This expansion put the j obs of two participants at risk to
be eliminated. Ms. Taylor enjoyed teaching at her school, but was uncertain about her
future there, "I'm kind of in a hard spot because they are opening two new schools. I'm
probably going to get cut based on numbers alone." Ms. Carters's job was threatened as a
result of the school budget, "when the new principal came, he had to make some cuts and
we were potentially on the chopping block." With the elimination of current positions,
the participants were going to be forced to seek employment in another school.
Although, Ms. Fritz had been offered jobs in rural programs, she made the decision
to continue teaching in her current school because of the value of Agricultural Education
to urban students,
I was offered positions at (high school name) and (high school name) since I've
been teaching at least three years out of the five and I did not want to go. I wanted
to stay here because I feel like this is where Ag Education is needed. It' s needed in
the urban areas.
Mr. Hill explained the characteristics that he would seek in a new teaching position,
Everything I have here without the things that I don't like. I would be looking for
something that is more well-balanced in its student population, something that is
more well-balanced in its faculty. We have a very universe faculty, myself being
the minority. I would like a more stable principal or not principal, but
administration. I would like a place that has less-turnover and more respectability.
The participants identified multiple influences on their anticipated teaching tenure
including curriculum offerings, influence of family, concern for job security, level or
administrative support, and desired characteristics in an a new school.
From the data analysis, a grounded theory was developed to describe the career
experiences of the nine novice urban agriculture teachers who participated in the study.
Strauss and Corbin (1990), defined grounded theory as,
A theory that is inductively derived from the study of the phenomenon it
represents. That is, it is discovered, developed, and provisionally verified through
systematic data collection and analysis of data pertaining to that phenomenon.
Therefore, data collection, analysis, and theory stand in reciprocal relationship with
each other. One does not begin with a theory and then prove it. Rather, one begins
with an area of study and what is relevant to that area is allowed to emerge (p. 23).
Charmaz (2003) stressed the importance of using the analyzed data to create theoretical
categories instead of trying to "fit" the data into pre-existing categories. She also alluded
to the adaptive nature of grounded theory, "grounded theory is durable because it
accounts for variation; it is flexible because researchers can modify their emerging or
established analyses as conditions change or further data are gathered" (Charmaz, 2003,
p. 252). While a reference citing a specific number of participants needed to create a
grounded theory was unattainable, Strauss and Corbin (1990) emphasized the importance
of theoretical saturation. In order to reach saturation, the researcher used probing
questions for continued expansion of the participants' responses, until new and relevant
information was no longer provided by the participants. The grounded theory presented
conceptually in Appendix B illustrates the multiple influences that made varying impacts
on the participants' past, present, and future career experiences.
The personal influences and human influences that encouraged the participants'
decisions to teach Agricultural Education are included in Circle A and Circle B of Figure
B-1. The positive experiences that the participants had while they were Agricultural
Education students and FFA members inspired them to pursue a teaching career. The
chance to work with children and animals was also identified as an influence. Former
agriculture teachers and college advisors were the primary human influences that led to
the participants' career decisions.
The personal influences relevant to the participants' decisions to teach Agricultural
Education in urban schools are depicted in Circle C of Figure B-1. Several participants
expressed a desire to live and teach in an urban area. The participants were also drawn to
an urban school by the opportunity to start their own program and teach a specific
curriculum, such as plant biotechnology or veterinary science. Also, the established social
and professional networks in urban areas supported the participants' decisions to accept
teaching positions in urban schools. While prior experiences such as field experiences
and student teaching experiences encouraged some of the participants to teach in an
urban school, such experiences did not discourage participants from urban teaching
In Circle D, the human influences related to the participants' decisions to seek
employment in urban schools are noted. Participants responded to the publicized need for
an agriculture teacher at a particular urban school and were actively recruited by the
county supervisor for Agricultural Education. The participants' families also supported
their move to an urban location.
The perceptions that the participants held about urban and rural schools are
included in Circle E. The few expectations that the participants had about the school
climate and student demographics did not discourage their career decisions. The
participants' perceptions regarding rural schools reinforced their decisions to teach in
The current experiences of novice agriculture teachers in urban schools were
categorized into encouraging and discouraging experiences. The encouraging experiences
could potentially support a teacher' s decision to continue teaching at their current school,
while a discouraging experience could potentially encourage a teacher to leave their
current position. Some current experiences could either be considered encouraging or
The encouraging current experiences are illustrated in Circles F, G, H, I, and J. The
participants found personal benefit in their ability to separate their personal life and their
professional life and in contributing to the well-being of their students. As well, the
presence of cultural diversity and its inclusion in the curriculum was beneficial to both
the teachers and the students. The participants also stressed the value of Agricultural
Education in educating urban students about the importance of agriculture. Participants
were encouraged by the level of administrative support that they received for their
programs, level of parental involvement, and the opportunity to make the curriculum and
SAE meaningful for their students.
The discouraging current experiences are depicted in Circles K, L, M, and N. The
administration' s value of the Agricultural Education program was continually viewed as
being in a state of flux due to the high rate of administrative turnover and differing, and
sometimes conflicting visions, for the Agricultural Education program. Lack of parental
involvement and school characteristics such as school size and the level of pride in school
were also identified as discouraging experiences. With the level of importance placed on
FFA, attempts to overcome the multiple obstacles to student involvement in FFA was
viewed as very discouraging. Also, participants described difficulties they faced with
delivering an appropriate curriculum and identifying relevant SAE opportunities for
urban students. However, these discouraging experiences may be considered encouraging
experiences with the teachers' abilities to maintain a successful Agricultural Education
program in spite of the challenges.
The influences on the participants' decisions to continue teaching in urban schools
are included in Circles O, P, Q, and R. One participant identified student, faculty, and
administrative characteristics that he would seek in a new school. Also important to the
participants was level of administrative support, curriculum offerings, level of job
security, and raising a family.