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The Essence of Secondary Agriculture Teachers' Experiences with Teacher Collaboration

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0022076/00001

Material Information

Title: The Essence of Secondary Agriculture Teachers' Experiences with Teacher Collaboration
Physical Description: 1 online resource (164 p.)
Language: english
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: agriculture, career, collaboration, development, phenomenology, professional, retention, satisfaction, teacher
Agricultural Education and Communication -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Agricultural Education and Communication thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: This qualitative study examines experienced secondary agriculture teachers? perceptions of teacher collaboration. Nine interviews were conducted with three experienced secondary agriculture teachers, using phenomenological research methods. The participants included two males and one female with an average of 15 years teaching experience. Two questions guided this study: (a) how do experienced secondary agriculture teachers perceive teacher collaboration and (b) how do experienced secondary agriculture teachers experience teacher collaboration? Findings suggest teachers had positive feelings regarding teacher collaboration. Participants felt their experiences working with other teachers were a source of professional revitalization and fulfillment. Greater career satisfaction was an important byproduct of their interaction. The teachers contended agriculture teachers? responsibilities are unique to those expected of other teachers, making the career rather isolating. They also mentioned experienced agriculture teachers fail to do an adequate job of extending support to new professionals. They suggested teacher collaboration may be effective in addressing the challenges of teacher career dissatisfaction and lead to greater teacher retention.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local: Adviser: Washburn, Shannon G.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0022076:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0022076/00001

Material Information

Title: The Essence of Secondary Agriculture Teachers' Experiences with Teacher Collaboration
Physical Description: 1 online resource (164 p.)
Language: english
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2008

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: agriculture, career, collaboration, development, phenomenology, professional, retention, satisfaction, teacher
Agricultural Education and Communication -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Agricultural Education and Communication thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: This qualitative study examines experienced secondary agriculture teachers? perceptions of teacher collaboration. Nine interviews were conducted with three experienced secondary agriculture teachers, using phenomenological research methods. The participants included two males and one female with an average of 15 years teaching experience. Two questions guided this study: (a) how do experienced secondary agriculture teachers perceive teacher collaboration and (b) how do experienced secondary agriculture teachers experience teacher collaboration? Findings suggest teachers had positive feelings regarding teacher collaboration. Participants felt their experiences working with other teachers were a source of professional revitalization and fulfillment. Greater career satisfaction was an important byproduct of their interaction. The teachers contended agriculture teachers? responsibilities are unique to those expected of other teachers, making the career rather isolating. They also mentioned experienced agriculture teachers fail to do an adequate job of extending support to new professionals. They suggested teacher collaboration may be effective in addressing the challenges of teacher career dissatisfaction and lead to greater teacher retention.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2008.
Local: Adviser: Washburn, Shannon G.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2008
System ID: UFE0022076:00001


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THE ESSENCE OF SECONDARY AGRICULTURE TEACHERS' EXPERIENCES WITH
TEACHER COLLABORATION





















By

ANN MARIE DE LAY


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

2008


































2008 Ann Marie De Lay

































To my parents, Jerry and Susie De Lay; my husband, Jason Eatmon; and Doodle. Also to three
dedicated agricultural education professionals, my participants.









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The idea to attend graduate school did not originate within me. Entertaining the thought of

leaving the familiar and comfortable to embrace the unfamiliar and challenging came from the

encouragement of those in whom I place great trust. I thank Dr. Art Parham, Dr. Rosco Vaughn,

and the late Dr. Richard Rogers for believing in me even when I did not believe in myself. I have

treasured my interaction with them, professionally as well as personally.

The idea to leave my home state and travel across the country required the support of

many. I thank my parents, Jerry and Susie De Lay, for telling me to go and do. I wish every child

could know the love and support I have received from these dynamic people. I thank my siblings

Kari Kahl and Alan De Lay for their visits and phone calls and my grandmas Lois Ketner and

Mary Ann De Lay for their wonderful cards. While seemingly small gestures, they spoke

volumes of their goodness. Additional thanks go to my sister for the work she did to transcribe

my data. She did a beautiful job and completed the project in a timely manner. I thank my

husband, Jason Eatmon, for charging into the unknown with me with a positive attitude. I deeply

appreciate the sacrifices he made on my behalf and for slaying the dragons. I am proud to be his

wife.

Soon after my arrival to Gainesville, Florida, the homesickness set in. The opportunity to

worship with the saints at the Glen Springs Road church of Christ provided immense comfort.

From the services, to the small group meetings and the Bible studies, this congregation's

foundation of sound Biblical doctrine served to encourage me and Jason during our stay. I thank

the congregation for all they did to welcome us. Specific acknowledgement is extended to Mark

and Mary Moseley, Mark and Dianna Lloyd, Ryan and Jamie Harvey, Vaughn and Jan Littrup,

Jason and Michelle Powell, Cedell and Mary Jane Fletcher, Ray and Leslie Parham, Steve and

Jenny Wallace, David and Tammy Criswell, David and Angela Reed, Matt and Jessica Johnson,









Tim and Melissa Wessel, Tommy and Leslie Redding, Rick and Charlene Warren, Curt and

Sheri Curtis, George and Christi Bower, Matt and Stephanie Richeson, Micah and Mitze

Richeson, Sonny and Bonnie Wicks, Bruce and Cecy Arnold, Byron and Amy Davis, Ben and

Bonnie Doerr, Marvin and Linda Dukes, Charlie and Lenda Page, Ben and Christine Ross, Keith

and Dene Ward, David and Pam Townsend, and Christi and George Bower.

I thank my fellow graduate students from the Department of Agricultural Education and

Communication for sharing, encouraging, challenging, and collaborating. The talent among the

members of this group is astounding and humbling. Special recognition goes to Dr. Wendy

Warner, Dr. David Jones, Dr. Eric Kaufman, Dr. Nicholas Fuhrman, Katy Groseta, Brian

Estevez, Elio Chiarelli, Jessica Blythe, Andrew Thoron, Stacy Vincent, Anna Warner, Rochelle

Strickland, Audrey Vail, Roslynn Brain, Courtney Meyers, Katie Chodil, Lucas Maxwell, Karen

Cannon, Sebastian Galindo, and Lisa Hightower as I have learned much from and with these in

particular. I also thank the AEC faculty for treating me, a graduate student, less like labor and

more like a colleague. I owe much to them for their expertise, professionalism, and

encouragement.

My doctoral work has been shaped by what I am convinced is the most gifted faculty

committee. I thank Dr. Diane Yendol-Hoppey, Dr. Anna Ball, Dr. Brian Myers, and Dr. Ed

Osbome for agreeing to work with me. The richness of the questions, comments, and support

offered by these professors has not only challenged my thinking but helped me to develop as a

researcher and contributor to the discipline. I especially thank Dr. Shannon Washburn for serving

as my advisor and major professor. I have referred to this man as "My Mighty W". He is the sole

reason I chose to attend the University of Florida and a major factor contributing to my

competence as a teacher educator. He opened his heart and his family to me, allowing me to









form a lasting connection with him. I smile when I reflect on the experiences we have shared and

consider those yet to come. He is not only a mentor, he is a friend.

As a student of a land grant institution, I have come to understand the importance of

research even though it was not an easy lesson to learn. I credit Dr. Mirka Koro-Ljungberg for

introducing me to qualitative research and igniting my interest in using it to examine the

problems which exist in agricultural education. She is a phenomenal teacher and a bright,

talented researcher. I have learned much from her about the importance of sound methodology. I

also thank the members of her qualitative support group as they have challenged my thinking

about research and have supported my development through our collaborations. Special thanks

go to Joanne LaFramenta, Chu-Chuan Chiu, Fatma Aslan Tutak, and Joseph DiPietro.

Throughout my life I have been blessed to work with people who left a lasting impression

on me and contributed to my growth. I thank the members of the Chowchilla and the Yosemite

Parkway churches of Christ for their profound role in my development. Special thanks to Ted

and Patti Allan, John Eatmon, Mike and Terry Ragus, and Steve and Debbie Kay for their

encouragement and support. I thank Ms. Laurie Westsmith, Mr. Jim Galloway, Mrs. Barbara

Siegrist, Mr. and Mrs. Norman and Pat Moglia, Ms. Kim Donaher, Mr. Steve Obad, Mrs. Birt

McKinzie, Dr. Arthur Olney, Dr. Gary Koch, Dr. Joe Sabol, Dan Lassanske, Dr. James Doud,

and Dr. Rose Pringle for serving as excellent models of teaching and for propelling my love of

learning. I thank Dana Branco, Jack and Barbara Schnoor, Brad and Mindy Schnoor, Margaret

Stannard, Robert Actis, Rich Vandenack, Chris Yager, Brad Wyman, Kristanne Silkwood-

Mattes, Chris Williams, Larry Dinis, Laurie Kimbler, and Matt Actis for exposing me to the

agriculture industry and helping me develop as an educator. I further thank the National FFA

Organization for inviting me to participate in a myriad of projects which helped me reflect on my









practice and identity as a teacher. Specific thanks go to Kelly Horton, Andy Armbruster, Seth

Derner, Doug Kueker, and Mark Reardon.

Finally, I send my ultimate thanks to my Creator for the blessings He has bestowed upon

me. I stand in awe of Him. Looking back on my experiences, I recognize who has seen me

through to this place. While a path I did not take willingly at times, it has been one full of

excitement and enrichment. God is so good!









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ..............................................................................................................4

LIST O F TA BLE S ................. ..... ............................................................ ........ 10

L IST O F FIG U R E S ................ ................................. ............................... 11

LIST OF TERMS AND ABBREVIATIONS...................................... 12

A B ST R A C T ..................................................14........

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCTION ............... ............................ ......................... ..... 15

B ack g rou n d ................... ...................1...................5..........
Statement of the Problem.......................................................................... 19
Statement of the Purpose and Exploratory Questions Guiding Study ............................... 20
Lim stations and A ssum options of the Study ............................................................................21
M e th o d s ..................................................................................................... 2 1
P articip an ts ................................................................2 2

2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ............................................... ............................. 23

Introduction ..................................................23.............................
C onceptual F ram ew ork ........... ...................................................................... ...... .. ....... .. 23
T e a ch er L e arn in g .......................................................................................................2 4
T teacher C collaboration ................................................................29
N o v ice P h a se .............................................................................2 9
A apprentice C career Phase ....................... .. ............................................... ...... 32
Professional, Expert, and Distinguished Career Phases ...............................................33
Teacher Professional D evelopm ent ............................................. ..... ........................ 37
T teacher C career Satisfaction ................................................................................. .......... 4 1
T each er R detention ...................................................... ................. 44

3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS .........................................................................49

Introdu action ...................................................................................................................... 4 9
Phenom enological A pproach.............................................. .................... ............... 50
Researcher Subjectivity .................................................... ............... .. ...... 53
M eth o d ology ............................................................................... ................6 0
Characteristics of Phenomenological Methods ............................................................60
P participants ............................................. 62
D ata C collection ...............................64.............................




8









D ata A n a ly sis ...................................................................................................................6 8
M measures of V alidation.............................................................................. 70

4 F IN D IN G S ................... ...................7...................2..........

In tro d u ctio n ................... ...................7...................2..........
K evin....................... ....................................... ........ 73
Textural Description ..................................................................... ......... 73
Structural D escription.............................................82
Christy ......... .. .... .......... ........ ................... .. ............. 86
T extural D description ......... ............................................................................... 86
Structural D escription.............................................92
M a rk ................ ... .......... ...........................................................................9 5
T extural D description ......... ............................................................................... 95
Structural D escription............................................100
C om posite T extural D description ..................................................................................... 103
C om posite Structural D escription.................................................................................... 108
T extural-Stru ctu ral Statem ent......................................................................................... 110

5 D IS C U S S IO N ................................................................................................. 1 19

Intro du action ........................................... .. ....19..........
K e y F in d in g s .........................................................................................................................1 1 9
T teacher L earning ......................................... .......................................... 120
T teacher C collaboration ......................................... ............................... 12 1
Teacher Professional Development ...................... ......................... 123
T teacher C areer Satisfaction ..................................................................................... 124
T each er R detention ...................... .. ............. .. .............................................12 5
Implications for Research ................. ........... ............... ........... ............. 126
Im plications for Practice ............... ................................. ...................... 129
C on clu sion ...................... .. ........................ .. ............................................13 5

APPENDIX

A LETTER TO EXPERT PANEL .......................................................146

B EMAIL TO RECRUIT PARTICIPANTS ............................................ .........147

C IN T E R V IE W G U ID E ..................................................................................................... 14 8

D THANK YOU EMAIL TO PARTICIPANTS FOR MEMBER CHECK ............................149

E CONTINUUM OF TEACHER COLLABORATION ............................................... 150

LIST OF REFEREN CE S ...............153................. .........................

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ......................................................................... ......... ........ ..... ........ 164




9









LIST OF TABLES

Table page

4-1 P participant D descriptions. .......................... ......... ................................... .......................118

5-1 Teacher Collaboration Research Findings. ............................... ......................... 138









LIST OF FIGURES


Figure page

2-1 Conceptual Model of Teacher Collaboration........................ ................. 48









LIST OF TERMS AND ABBREVIATIONS


Agricultural Education


CDE





CTE


Distinguished Teacher Phase


Espoused platform



Expert Teacher Phase


A program offered through the nation's public schools at the
middle and high school levels, comprised of three key
components: classroom and laboratory instruction, FFA, and
SAE. Agricultural education prepares students for careers and
continuing education in "global agriculture, food, fiber and
natural resources systems" (National FFA Organization, n.d.c).

A Career Development Event is a competitive activity designed
to test the knowledge and skills FFA members gain from
classroom instruction and their SAEs, with the goal of
preparing them to enter a career in agriculture (National FFA
Organization, n.d.a).

Career and Technical Education provides students access to
academic subject matter relevant to real world contexts and
prepares students for a variety of careers (Association for
Career and Technical Education, n.d.).

Teacher in the fifth phase of the Life Cycle of the Career
Teacher model (Steffy, Wolfe, Pasche, & Enz, 2000). "The
distinguished phase is reserved for teachers truly gifted in their
field. They exceed current expectations for what teachers are
expected to know and do. These teachers are the 'pied pipers'
of the profession. Distinguished teachers impact education-
related decisions at city, state, and national levels" (Steffy &
Wolfe, 2001, p. 17). For the purpose of this study, teachers in
this category were identified as such by the members of the
expert panel.

A statement of a teacher's beliefs and goals for teaching and
learning within the teacher's particular academic situation
(Nolan and Hoover, 2005).

Teacher in the fourth phase of the Life Cycle of the Career
Teacher model (Steffy, Wolfe, Pasche, & Enz, 2000). "Even if
they do not formally seek it, these teachers meet the
expectations required for national certification. The goal of the
Life Cycle of the Career Teacher model is to assure that all
teachers develop their skills to operate at this expert level"
(Steffy & Wolfe, 2001, p. 17). For the purpose of this study,
teachers in this category were identified as such by the
members of the expert panel.









FAAE


FFA


Interactive talk


Lesson study




Phenomenology



SAE


Spontaneous collaboration



Structural collaboration


Teacher collaboration






Teacher study group


Florida Association for Agricultural Education is the
professional association for teachers of agriculture in the state
of Florida.

A youth leadership organization integral to the public school
agricultural education program with the mission of preparing
students for premiere leadership, personal growth and career
success (National FFA Organization, n.d.c).

A process where teachers work collaboratively to construct
meaning through conversation (Carroll, 2005).

A professional development tool where teachers collaborate
with other teachers to write a lesson, present it, provide
feedback, revise the lesson and then reteach it (Puchner &
Taylor, 2006).

A qualitative research method used to describe "the meaning of
the lived experiences for several individuals about a concept or
the phenomenon" (Creswell, 1998, p. 51).

Supervised Agricultural Experience is a hands-on opportunity
for students to apply and develop the knowledge and skills
gained from classroom instruction and FFA participation
(National FFA Organization, n.d.b).

An unplanned, unpredictable type of collaboration initiated by
teachers with no formal mandate from a governing body or
administration (Williams, Prestage, & Bedward, 2001).

A form of collaboration initiated by formal mandate from a
governing body or administration (Williams et al., 2001).

Teacher collaboration occurs when teachers "coordinate their
activities to achieve common goals that, in time, guide future
shared actions" and whose "shared history and culture
eventually provide the stability and predictability that are
crucial for meaningful collaborative work to occur" (Dooner,
Mandzuk, & Clifton, 2008, p. 565).

A form of teacher collaboration providing opportunities for
teachers to learn through inquiry and critical analysis (Carroll,
2005).









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

THE ESSENCE OF SECONDARY AGRICULTURE TEACHERS' EXPERIENCES WITH
TEACHER COLLABORATION

By

Ann Marie De Lay

May 2008

Chair: Shannon G. Washburn
Major: Agricultural Education and Communication

This qualitative study examines experienced secondary agriculture teachers' perceptions of

teacher collaboration. Nine interviews were conducted with three experienced secondary

agriculture teachers, using phenomenological research methods. The participants included two

males and one female with an average of 15 years teaching experience. Two questions guided

this study: (a) how do experienced secondary agriculture teachers perceive teacher collaboration

and (b) how do experienced secondary agriculture teachers experience teacher collaboration?

Findings suggest teachers had positive feelings regarding teacher collaboration.

Participants felt their experiences working with other teachers were a source of professional

revitalization and fulfillment. Greater career satisfaction was an important byproduct of their

interaction. The teachers contended agriculture teachers' responsibilities are unique to those

expected of other teachers, making the career rather isolating. They also mentioned experienced

agriculture teachers fail to do an adequate job of extending support to new professionals. They

suggested teacher collaboration may be effective in addressing the challenges of teacher career

dissatisfaction and lead to greater teacher retention.









CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

Background

According to Joerger and Bremer (2001), a teacher's experience follows reading

achievement as a major contributor to student academic success. The National Commission on

Teaching and America's Future (1996) has said highly qualified teachers are the most important

piece of a child's education. Despite the critical association between the role of teacher

experience and the student's level of achievement, each year nearly one third of the nation's

teachers vacate their posts (Kersaint, Lewis, Potter, & Meisels, 2007; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004)

with about half leaving before the close of their sixth year (Joerger & Boettcher, 2000).

Retirement is inevitable but the constant turnover is leaving the nation's classrooms in an

experienced teacher deficit (Liu & Ramsey, in press; Stansbury & Zimmerman, 2000) and

student achievement is inevitably compromised (Joftus & Maddox-Dolan, 2003; National

Commission on Teaching & America's Future, 1996).

Agricultural education is also wrestling with its own problems as a result of the teacher

shortage trend. Kantrovich (2007) projected a 38 percent deficit of qualified agriculture teachers

nationwide for the fall 2007 semester, a phenomenon which is not new. In fact, this concern has

been expressed in the profession's supply and demand reports spanning over 40 years (Roberts &

Dyer, 2004). Agricultural education mirrors national Career and Technical Education (CTE)

statistics as it is also estimated CTE loses about half of its new professionals within their first six

years of employment (Heath-Camp & Camp, 1990). The variability of the agriculture teacher

career description (Greiman, Walker, & Birkenholz, 2005; Mundt & Connors, 1999; Walker,

Garton, & Kitchell, 2004), is believed to place additional pressure on new teachers. Researchers

found the less attention paid to beginning teachers early in their careers the less likely they were









to return for another year (Greiman et al., 2005). With a high rate of teacher turnover and a

number of retirements looming in the immediate future, the profession cannot afford to lose

teachers in these early stages (Boone & Boone, 2007; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004).

A considerable base of literature exists on the topic of teacher attrition. The factors

contributing to teacher loss include the increased level of challenge associated with the role of a

teacher (Mundt & Connors, 1999; National Commission on Teaching and America's Future,

1996) and the shock new teachers experience transitioning from student teaching into their first

teaching positions (Gehrke & McCoy, 2007b; Joerger & Bremer, 2001; Walker et al., 2004).

Career dissatisfaction is another important consideration driving teachers away and is based on a

variety of underlying factors (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005; Ingersoll, 2001a; Johnson

& Birkeland, 2003). Wilhelm, Dewhurst-Savellis, & Parker (2000) narrowed the list to the

behavior exhibited by students, challenging relationships with others working at the school, a

lack of student feedback, and salary as contributing to a teacher's decision to leave (p. 292).

Munthe (2003) added the elements of role ambiguity and work mandated by the school, to the

list. Although efforts have been made nationally to improve teachers' salaries, and research has

been conducted on the issues of dissatisfaction, attrition persists (Stewart, Moore, & Flowers,

2004).

Teachers' feelings of isolation have been identified as contributing to career dissatisfaction

(Greiman et al., 2005; Liu & Ramsey, in press). While some isolation is prized by teachers as a

buffer from outside interference, other forms of isolation depict teachers who are closed off

behind their classroom doors due to barriers and constraints (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1996;

Hargreaves, 1994; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). Teacher isolation has been described as a learned

behavior. "Because they face constant threats to control, dignity, and job security, teachers must









also learn to maintain a lonely distance from students, colleagues, administrators, and

community" (Richardson & Placier, 2001, p. 923). Furthermore, a teacher's daily work routine

generally contains little time for them to meet and engage in professional discussion (Cochran-

Smith & Lytle, 1996). This leaves teachers struggling alone, masking the reality of their

experiences from their counterparts on the outside. They grapple independently with issues such

as planning, program management and student behavior (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1996;

Greiman et al., 2005; Hargreaves, 1994; Kardos & Johnson, 2007). Should time for work with

their peers become available, the teacher finds it is neither viewed nor valued as related to their

professional work (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1996). The sheer pressure of the situation has been

known to become so overwhelming the teacher feels no other choice but to abandon his or her

post and seek employment elsewhere (Joerger & Bremer, 2001).

Regarding why teachers remain in the profession, researchers have identified the social

aspects of the career to be a great contributor (Boone & Boone, 2007; Hargreaves, 2001; Johnson

& Birkeland, 2003; Thobega & Miller, 2003). Networks, teams, groups, mentoring relationships,

and other teacher socialization structures encourage individual teachers to forge relationships

with those in the collective whole (McLaughlin & Oberman, 1996). Hargreaves (1994) suggested

collaboration and collegiality have the power to help teachers develop throughout their careers.

Collaboration and collegiality are also credited with motivating teachers to return each year

(Boone & Boone, 2007) and have been recommended as ways to combat the feeling of isolation

(Greiman et al., 2005; Williams, Prestage, & Bedward, 2001). Connectivity pulls teachers from

their classroom islands and places them in the school interface, having them support one another

through the actions of sharing and problem solving. When the interaction is based on the needs









of teachers' work it is considered important and useful (Feiman-Nemser, 2001), renewing their

"sense of purpose and efficacy" (Lieberman & McLaughlin, 1996, p. 63).

Tools which foster professional learning have the capacity to reduce teacher isolation and

can even validate the concept of "collective learning" in the school context (Lieberman, 1996, p.

200). Teacher collaboration is one such tool involving the coordinated work of individuals

toward a common goal, often based on a common "history and culture" (Dooner, Mandzuk, &

Clifton, 2008., p. 2). Hargreaves (1994) described the culture of teacher collaboration as

"spontaneous, voluntary, development-oriented, pervasive across time and space, and

unpredictable" (p. 192-193). Touted as the cure-all for teacher isolation, student performance,

and professional development (Brownell, Yeager, Rennells, & Riley, 1997; Erb, 1995; Goddard,

Goddard, & Tschannen-Moran, 2007; Goddard, Hoy, & Woolfolk Hoy, 2000; Pounder, 1998;

Shachar & Shmuelevitz, 1997); teacher collaboration has the potential to increase professional

commitment among teachers and positively impact their career satisfaction (Johnson &

Birkeland, 2003; Weiss, 1999; Woods & Weasmer, 2004). Despite these benefits, teacher

collaboration is not common practice in many schools (Burbank & Kauchak, 2003; Inger, 1993;

Rhodes & Beneicke, 2002).

Many prototypes exist for the implementation of teacher collaboration. Structural

collaboration involves school-mandated collaboration among teachers (Williams et al., 2001).

These arrangements often involve meetings and a group of teachers working on a school-level

issue. Structural collaboration differs from "contrived collegiality" (Hargreaves, 1994) because

the concept seeks to eliminate teacher isolation and foster the development of teacher practice.

Spontaneous collaboration is a more open term used to describe the unexpected opportunities

which emerge for teachers to learn and work together (Williams et al., 2001).









In concert with research on how teachers learn, teacher collaboration affords professional

educators the chance to work together in the co-construction of both product and knowledge

(Butler, Novak Lauscher, Jarvis-Selinger, & Beckingham, 2004). The strength of this

professional development tool rests on the fact teacher collaboration has the capacity to help

teachers concentrate their collective efforts on a professional problem they face (Penuel,

Fishman, Yamaguchi, & Gallagher, 2007). It also has the power to lessen the devastating effects

of teacher isolation (Burbank & Kauchak, 2003). While concerns about career dissatisfaction and

teacher attrition remain at the forefront of the teaching profession's challenges, teacher

collaboration may provide some hope with helping teachers stay the course and maintain their

career commitment.

Statement of the Problem

According to the national supply and demand report (Kantrovich, 2007), the agricultural

education profession finds itself in the midst of a shortage of agriculture teachers. In search of a

way to alleviate the problem, the National Research Agenda: Agricultural Education and

Communication 2007-2010 (Osborne, n.d.) has named the need for an abundant agriculture

teacher supply among its research priority areas. The National Council for Agricultural

Education (2004) has set a strategic goal of increasing the number of agricultural education

programs from 7,242 (National FFA Organization, 2007) to 10,000 by the year 2015. This "10

by 15" initiative has placed a burden on teacher education and secondary education to not only

prepare and hire a great many more qualified teachers but also to provide support to retain those

already employed (Kantrovich, 2007). Feelings of isolation, low-self efficacy, a lack of

knowledge, the inability to deal with work related stress, and other factors related to career

dissatisfaction are professional challenges with which many teachers struggle and researchers









cannot afford to disregard. Teacher collaboration holds promise as a form of assistance for

helping teachers cope with the reasons for high teacher turnover.

Previous research in the agricultural education literature has reported teachers benefit from

interaction with other educational professionals (Balschweid, Thompson, & Cole, 2000; Boone

& Boone, 2007; Greiman et al., 2005; Joerger & Boettcher, 2000; Park, Moore, & Rivera, 2007;

Roberts & Dyer, 2004; Warnick, Thompson, & Gummer, 2004). However, there is little research

providing a thorough examination of teacher collaboration as a method of educational

interaction. It is not yet known what teacher collaboration looks like in agricultural education. It

is not yet known what the phenomenon of teacher collaboration can do for teacher knowledge. It

is not yet known how teacher collaboration can be increased. It is not yet known who is, or are,

in the best positions) to perpetuate teacher collaboration within agricultural education.

Consequently, little has been mentioned about the use of teacher collaboration as a tool for

contributing to teacher career satisfaction and for lessening the trend of high teacher attrition

rates. The profession must gain a more complete understanding of teachers' perceptions and

experiences with teacher collaboration if it is to exhaust every possibility in the quest for

addressing the need for retaining quality teachers (Osborne, n.d.).

Statement of the Purpose and Exploratory Questions Guiding Study

The purpose of this study was to describe the phenomenon of teacher collaboration from

the perspective of the three secondary agriculture teacher participants. In-depth interviews using

the Seidman (2006) technique were used to explore participants' personal experiences and form

a more complete picture of teacher collaboration. The following questions guided the research:

* How do experienced secondary agriculture teachers perceive teacher collaboration?

* How do experienced secondary agriculture teachers experience teacher collaboration?









Limitations and Assumptions of the Study

The limitations regarding this study have the potential to impact the degree to which the

findings may be validated. This section addresses the limitations of the study related to the

methods and to the participants.

Methods

Phenomenological research "calls into question what is taken for granted" (Crotty, 2003,

p.82) by describing the meaning several individuals have formed through their experiences with

a particular phenomenon of interest (Crotty, 2003; Moustakas, 1994). Phenomenology is

supported by the assumption that the essence of a phenomenon is similar among the participants

involved in the study. Adherence to the phenomenological design requires the researcher to lay

aside all common and first-hand understandings of a phenomenon, in search of how the

phenomenon has been experienced by others (Hatch, 2002). The goal is to be able to discover

new meanings and perhaps even substantiate those already in existence (Crotty, 2003). These

new understandings spring forth from the experiences and meanings shared among the

participants through data analysis. As a result, the essence of teacher collaboration is presented

as understandings formed through the perspectives of three experienced secondary agriculture

teachers, rather than through the perspectives of them all. Despite this limitation, it is important

to note the diversity of experiences contributed by the participant group. These variations of

perspective contributed a range of elements related to the essence of the phenomenon and

increase its universality (Moustakas, 1994).

Epoche is a reflective process in which the researcher engages throughout a study. This

process involves reflecting on personal assumptions about the phenomenon of interest, writing

them in a researcher subjectivity statement, and then continually referring to them throughout the

research. Making personal experiences and beliefs explicit helps a researcher become open to the









new ways of seeing. This practice lies at the core of phenomenology. Failure to bracket one's

personal biases or failing to engage in Epoche throughout data collection and analysis can

present a limitation as the researcher runs the risk of contaminating the purity of the work. In the

present study, the researcher was careful to adhere to this important step to phenomenological

methodology.

Participants

The development of the composite descriptions and textural/structural statement were

evolved from the experiences shared by the small, homogeneous participant group. This

qualitative study chose to focus on secondary agriculture teachers from Florida in the mid-point

of their careers, at the "expert" and "distinguished" phases of the Steffy, Wolfe, Pasch, and Enz

(2000) Life Cycle of a Career Teacher model. Additionally, the agriculture teaching population

in Florida consists of secondary teachers at both the high school and middle school levels. This

study featured participants currently serving as teachers at the high school level, although one

had spent five years teaching at the middle school level early in her career. Inclusion of more

participants, and/or participants from a different phase of their careers would have contributed to

the study's breadth.

The highly individualized nature of the data is not intended to be generalized to a larger

population as the three teachers from the study may not be accurate representations of the

"typical" agriculture teacher. The researcher made the assumption that the perspectives of these

teachers' experiences with the phenomenon of interest were meaningful (Patton, 2002). It was

further assumed the participants selected were open and provided honest responses to the

questions asked of them which accurately reflected their perceptions about, and experiences

with, teacher collaboration.









CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

Introduction

The culture of isolation within the teaching profession provides both advantages and

drawbacks related to teachers' work experience (Hargreaves, 1994; 2001). While some teachers

appreciate the autonomy gained through isolation (Achinstein, 2002; Bogler, 2002; Guarino,

Santibanez, & Daley, 2006; Hargreaves, 1994; Johnson, 2003), isolation has been identified as a

factor contributing to career dissatisfaction (Burbank & Kauchak, 2003; Greiman et al., 2005;

Hanson & Moir, 2008; Hargreaves, 1994; Johnson, 2003) and career dissatisfaction often leads

to teacher turnover (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005; Wilhelm et al., 2000). However, as

stated in Chapter 1, a gap exists in the agricultural education literature base regarding teacher

collaboration as a method for improving a teacher's level of satisfaction with his or her career.

The purpose of this study was to draw the voices of agriculture teachers into the literature

by examining experienced secondary agriculture teachers' perceptions of teacher collaboration.

The study also aimed to uncover the participants' experiences with teacher collaboration. This

chapter lays the conceptual framework for the study and provides a review of the pertinent

literature related to teacher collaboration.

Conceptual Framework

The conceptual framework for this study involves the relationships teacher collaboration

shares with three areas which ultimately lead to teacher retention: teacher knowledge, teacher

professional development, and teacher career satisfaction. The researcher conceptualized these

relationships relevant to the study by arranging the five components in a conceptual model

(Figure 2-1). The literature review to follow supports the relationships each of the elements

shares with teacher collaboration and serves as the theoretical foundation of the study.









Teacher Learning

In order for the measures of accountability to achieve the success policymakers expect,

students must be taught by teachers who have access to "more powerful learning opportunities"

(Feiman-Nemser, 2001, p. 1014). These opportunities for teacher learning must challenge and

support teacher growth in a way which considers "teacher background, experience, knowledge,

beliefs, and needs" (Chval, Abell, Pareja, Musikul, & Ritzka, 2008, p. 32). Collaboration with

other teachers is one way to address the aforementioned considerations (Chval et al., 2008;

Hargreaves, 2001). Termed the "Age of the Collegial Professional" (Hargreaves, 2000, p. 162),

teachers have been turning inward to learn from and with their peers about how to deal with the

dynamics of the current educational environment. Many demands are placed on teachers, each

requiring immense effort and greater time commitments. Teachers have also grown skeptical of

the capacity for outside knowledge organizations to provide learning opportunities to help them

meet these challenges. Instead they have looked more intently at the pool of knowledge residing

among themselves and their colleagues for access to professional development commensurate

with their particular needs (Goddard et al., 2007; Shulman, 1986).

Many different theories exist describing how teachers learn. As a result, the parties

responsible for providing teacher learning opportunities find it difficult to offer experiences and

content most appropriate for an individual teacher's needs. The broad learning contexts of

teacher education programs, ongoing professional development, the evolution of professional

culture, and teacher assessment methods related to school reform all require support providers

have a thorough understanding of teacher learning theory (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999).

Before any change may be enacted to the teaching experience, support providers must

understand the basic assumptions of how teachers learn. Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999) sought

to lend clarity to the issue of teacher learning by deconstructing each of its three pervasive









conceptions including: knowledge for practice, knowledge in practice, and knowledge of

practice.

Knowledge for practice refers to the formal knowledge base in teaching. Derived from

experts usually at the university, this type of knowledge is weighted by a theoretical foundation

and marketed for consumption by teachers. The conception is founded on the premise the more

one knows, the more effective they will be. Learning information from a variety of educational

domains (ie. content, student development, assessment, teaching methods, etc...), and from a

variety of external sources (ie. professional development workshops, continuing education,

expert speakers, etc...), teachers are considered to be "knowledge users, not generators"

(Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999, p. 257). Knowledge is transmitted to teachers through formal

training, for the purpose of implementing best practices and enacting widespread professional

change. Standardized methods are used to assess knowledge for practice, since the format

focuses on content limited to basic educational literacy. Exams administered to teachers seeking

certification are based on this assessment format.

Teachers acquire knowledge in practice directly from the act of teaching. Experience then

is credited as the ultimate factor in developing one's effectiveness as a teacher. To generate

knowledge, the teacher engages in continuous inquiry and reflection on practice. This separates

knowledge in practice from the more formal research literature base. The learning occurring in

this conception does not take place in isolation, since the teacher interacts with other teachers to

become more effective in his or her practice. Situations encouraging interaction among teachers,

like teacher collaboration, serve as opportunities for teachers to examine and expand their

knowledge together. Collectively, they espouse their beliefs and learn new ways to align their

actions with those beliefs. The accumulation of a variety of data such as videos and evidence









files, provide the content for assessing this conception of teacher learning (Cochran-Smith &

Lytle, 1999).

Knowledge ofpractice stands in strict opposition to the characteristics of the other two

conceptions of teacher learning and reveals knowledge as connected to both theory and practice.

This blended view embodies what Munby, Russell, and Martin (2001) called a "fusion of

experience and theory" (p. 887) and tends to garner wider acceptance from teachers because of

its local generation and proven utility and applicability (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999; Shulman,

1986). Knowledge ofpractice is not a marriage of knowledge for practice and knowledge in

practice. The conception addresses the creation of knowledge for use beyond immediate needs to

shape teacher perceptions, judgments, decisions, and theory development, relating it to the

broader context of professional transformation. This progressive spin on the educational

environment requires teachers to cast a critical eye on what they know and believe, and on the

current systems of operation.

Teachers engaging in knowledge ofpractice problematize their teaching within a

collaborative context with other teachers (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999). They expand their

teacher identities by incorporating new professional roles. Acting as researchers, leaders,

developers, and agents of change these teachers question their experiences and make sense of

their work from a position of social responsibility. Talk is important to this conception since

teachers serve as both learners and contributors engaged in professional dialogue (Cochran-

Smith & Lytle, 1999; Williams et al., 2001). The convergence of many points of view in one

space moves teacher learning beyond what can be gained from the traditional expert-novice

arrangement featured in much of professional development. They also expose their learning to

further critique through conference paper presentations and submissions to peer journals.









Subjecting their knowledge to assessment by the broader professional audience initiates still

further learning (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999).

Each of the three conceptions of learning are active in education. Because change is

inevitable, it is impossible for teacher education programs to prepare preservice teachers for

everything they will encounter during their careers (Hammerness, Darling-Hammond, Bransford,

Berliner, Cochran-Smith, McDonald, & Zeichner, 2005; Hargreaves, 2000; Johnson, 2003).

Instead, programs must consider what learning is essential. Chief among knowledge deemed key

to new professionals is imparting those skills which equip them to be lifelong learners

(Hammerness et al., 2005).

Lifelong learning can support the actions necessary to refining one's identity as a teacher

(Hammerness et al., 2005). The actions associated with lifelong learning involve continually

challenging one's beliefs and practice as new information is received, and learning how to

launch shifts in beliefs and practice (Hatano & Oura, 2003). Such outcomes do not happen by

chance, requiring a teacher who is willing to take risks. Labeled "adaptive expert," the teacher

who is a lifelong learner seeks a balance between the concepts of "efficiency" and "innovation"

related to enacting professional change toward expertise (Hammerness et al., 2005, p. 48-49).

Teachers operating at this level have greater potential for creativity, flexibility, and transferring

their learning to new contexts. The quest for feedback is foundational to the development of an

adaptive expert and collaborative experiences provide the basis for teacher interaction and

continued learning (Hammerness et al., 2005).

When considering the concepts of knowledge ofpractice (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999)

and adaptive expertise (Hammerness et al., 2005), teacher collaboration emerges as a common

element for encouraging teacher learning. In the National Research Council's report on how









people learn, four perspectives were shared forming a framework by which the effectiveness of a

learning environment could be considered. The four perspectives included: learner centered,

knowledge centered, assessment centered, and community centered (Chval et al., 2008;

Donovan, Bransford & Pellegrino, 1999; Hammerness et al., 2005). The learner centered

component addresses the knowledge, skills and beliefs teachers carry with them to the

educational setting. With the knowledge centered component, the focus is on the content

necessary for teachers to make sense of the educational setting. The assessment centered

component utilizes performance and learner feedback to help teachers monitor their thinking and

plan for areas of personal and professional development in an educational setting. (Cochran-

Smith & Lytle, 1999; Hammerness et al., 2005). Each of the aforementioned components fall

within the community centered component. This piece looks at teacher learning as a teacher

engages in educational research and seeks meaning through collaborative relationships. The

power of this framework occurs as teachers learn about teaching together with others, often

observing one another's performances and engaging in deep, professional conversations. Simply

put, "teachers normally learn better together than they do alone" (Hargreaves, 2000, p. 165)

Steffy, Wolfe, Pasch, and Enz (2000) provide a six phase model of a teacher's career

development. The phases include (1) novice teachers at the preservice level, (2) apprentice -

induction teachers in the early stages of the career, (3) professional inducted teachers with a

student-centered focus, (4) expert teacher leaders with commitment to student growth,

reflection, and professional development, (5) distinguished gifted teachers who maintain the

respect of the profession and have made an impact on it at various levels, and (6) emeritus -

teachers who have retired from a lifetime in the career. As there is no timetable marking

advancement; a teacher achieves movement through the phases by implementing actions related









to reflection, renewal and growth (Steffy & Wolfe, 2001). Teacher collaboration falls within

these elements of development.

Teacher Collaboration

Novice Phase

"It has been established that teacher collaboration is necessary for professional learning to

occur" (Rhodes & Beneicke, 2002). This point is transferred to preservice teachers in the work

by Sumsion and Patterson (2004). The researchers examined the concept of community with 145

preservice teachers enrolled in an 11 week unit during the final year of a teacher education

program. The expectation of collaboration through online communication and a major group

assignment provided a context for identifying the existence of community within the group.

Respondents offered several key themes describing the characteristics which contributed to the

sense of community they felt in the program, including: "voicing anxieties and concerns, making

connections with others, participating in a shared endeavor, supporting each other, developing

new skills/ knowledge/ insights/ attitudes/ identities through participation in the shared

endeavor" (p. 625). The spirit of community provided a forum where participants were involved

together in challenging their long held beliefs about teaching and learning. They also co-

constructed new knowledge and abilities providing them with greater awareness of the possible

directions they could take those initial pedagogical beliefs. By understanding these key

contributors to community, researchers can enact strategies to minimize the occurrence of

actions which may degrade this feeling within future cohort groups.

In a study using peer interaction, Manouchehri (2002) shared a case study of the

collaboration which transpired between two preservice mathematics teachers engaged in an 11-

week practicum. The participant pair spent four hours, two days each week, at their assigned

school site and in their respective classrooms. During the first three weeks, each participant









observed her cooperating teacher while maintaining a personal reflective journal to establish a

style baseline. The next four weeks involved the participants observing each cooperating teacher

as a team, using collaborative reflection to later discuss what they witnessed. During the final

four weeks, each participant took a turn observing the teaching practice of the other. Following

the lesson, they met to again reflect collaboratively. Although the preservice teachers in the study

exhibited insecurities related to their content area knowledge, the structure of the collaboration

demonstrated preservice teachers' potential for growth. The researcher found through peer

interaction, participants grew considerably in their professional knowledge and capacity for

reflective inquiry.

Teacher collaboration has also been found to help preservice teachers develop as reflective

practioners (Sim, 2006). The researcher used a structured form of teacher collaboration called a

community of practice, organizing preservice teachers into tutorial groups with a tutor to support

the participants' work in the program practicum. After nine years of using the structured

preservice teacher collaboration model, a survey evaluation (n=151) of the tutorials found the

program's strengths involved devoting time and guidance to collaborative teacher reflection.

Sim's (2006) study demonstrated the possibility for teacher education to use a community of

practice structure in its programs and help preservice teachers master skills associated with

becoming life-long learners.

Sutherland, Scanlon, and Sperring (2005) outlined three teacher education programs

utilizing communities of practice as a form of teacher collaboration and a way to prepare

preservice teachers for the profession. Through a series of events such as shadowing in-service

teachers, engaging young people in a content-rich science activity, and planning lessons

appropriate for the needs of the in-service teachers with whom they were working; preservice









teachers were able to develop knowledge ofpractice (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999) from their

participation in authentic experiences. The knowledge ofpractice was a result of their application

of blending theory and practice. The overarching themes generated from the interview data

suggest the incorporation of structured teacher collaboration led to the active engagement of in-

service teachers, in the teacher education program experiences of the preservice teacher

participants. Additionally, preservice teachers had an opportunity to develop the depth of their

professional knowledge and gained greater confidence in their decisions to become teachers.

The challenge facing teacher collaboration in fostering the integration of science and

agriculture surfaced in a mixed-methods study by Balschweid, Thompson, and Cole (2000). The

research team sought to determine if delivering an integrated agriculture and science curriculum

would improve preservice teachers' attitudes toward collaborating with science teachers.

Participants mentioned several factors impacting their willingness to collaborate with science

teachers. First, they needed to find some common ground between the science teacher's

personality and their own. They also needed to overcome barriers such as a lack of time to work

together, poor historic department reputations, and competition for students and resources. By

introducing the topic of collaboration during the preservice program, most preservice teachers

indicated they would be more likely to attend future workshops addressing the topic as part of

their professional development.

A study by Seifert and Mandzuk (2006) examined the potential of preservice cohort groups

for encouraging peer collaboration. Based on findings from in-depth interview data, researchers

described the personal experiences of participant interactions with cohort peers. Although

cohorts were established to foster professional discussion and development, results demonstrated

the structure did little to contribute to that mission. Instead, participants believed the cohort









provided the social and emotional support they needed to persist in the program. The

collaborations consisted primarily of clarifying program logistics and procedures, and

establishing a cordial group culture. While participant age and maturity impacted the

significance these collaborative efforts had on their learning and development, most participants

appreciated the structure crediting it with helping them connect to, and cooperate with, their

peers.

Apprentice Career Phase

"New teachers have two jobs they have to teach and they have to learn to teach"

(Feiman-Nemser, 2001). Quality induction programs, according to Moir and Gless (2001),

should have the vision of developing teacher leaders rather than teacher survivors. This

perception helps district administration and other educational organizations who allocate the

necessary time and resources for these programs develop the necessary commitment and support

for new teacher learning.

Quality mentoring is also a requirement of high quality new teacher induction. Moir and

Gless (2001) called it the most critical component of new teacher support and, along with

Feiman-Nemser (2001), added any mentor of new teachers should be well educated in the

"pedagogy of mentoring" (p. 112). Furthermore, induction programs should extend beyond one

year (Feiman-Nemser, 2001; Joerger & Bremer, 2001; Marshak & Klotz, 2002; Moir & Gless,

2001), be based on professional standards (Moir & Gless, 2001), and incorporate collaboration

with other teachers (Feiman-Nemser, 2001; Moir & Gless, 2001). Induction programs which

feature a mentoring component often have a positive impact on the rate of teacher attrition

(Norman & Feiman-Nemser, 2005; Wang & Odell, 2002).

Smith and Ingersoll (2004) quantitatively examined the impact of teacher induction on new

teacher retention. This specific study objective utilized a national sample of 3,235 beginning









teachers in the 1999-2000 school year. Comparing current data to that acquired beginning in the

1990-1991 school year, teacher participation in induction programs had risen. The early career

teachers who participated in such programs were more likely to remain in their positions rather

than change schools or exit the profession. When paired with mentors within their own fields,

there was a 30% reduction in teacher loss. Other mechanisms of support, such as collaborating

with teachers other than their mentors and regular communication with administration, were

found to significantly reduce the risk of leaving.

Greiman, Walker, and Birkenholz (2005) conducted a mixed-methods study to investigate

the induction environment of 31 first-year agriculture teachers in Missouri. It was determined

most new teachers had access to some type of induction program with 93% being appointed a

formal mentor from their school, most of whom taught in another content area. This group of

beginning teachers was not ready for the isolation they felt upon entering the classroom. They

greatly valued the collaboration generated by their mentoring relationships, as the interactions

addressed many of their concerns. However, about half of the population stated they failed to

receive the help they needed with 81% of their program management responsibilities. This gap

indicated while beginning agriculture teachers received assistance with issues common to all

teachers, they were less likely to receive support specific to their content area specialization and

any roles unique to their positions as agriculture teachers. These findings underscore the

importance of having the opportunity to collaborate with those in the same content area.

Professional, Expert, and Distinguished Career Phases

Hargreaves (1994), and Richardson and Placier (2001), found collaboration and

collegiality take teacher learning from an individual experience to a collective one. Feiman-

Nemser (2001) stated the isolation teachers experience is not conducive to growth, yet through

interaction with other teachers, they find a wealth of support and knowledge. Burbank &









Kauchak (2003) found collaboration led to a change in both practice and beliefs related to the

roles of research and practice. The problematizing, sharing, and cohesion of a collaborative

professional environment can contribute much to the end results of teacher job satisfaction and

retention (Grayson & Alvarez, in press; Macdonald, 1999).

Shachar and Shmuelevitz (1997) assessed the effects of an inservice program on the

learning and attitudes of teacher participants. Findings of their research revealed teachers

engaging in more collaboration with other teachers reported a higher degree of efficacy related to

their professional responsibilities, regardless of their years of teaching. These teachers felt strong

support for their learning and growth. They also felt more qualified and successful at

encouraging cooperation among their students because of their own positive experiences. These

findings imply teacher collaboration supports the development of teacher efficacy and teacher

job satisfaction.

Related to the development of experienced teachers serving as mentors to early career

teachers, Carroll (2005) shared how the teacher study groups were a viable option for teacher

learning. In the study, five elementary school teachers met regularly to engage in professional

dialogue about their experiences mentoring new teachers. The discussion was described as

"interactive talk," with teachers working together to examine information and construct meaning

related to their mentor roles. The depth of this type of discussion, combined with the relationship

of the group, resulted in greater professional learning as each participant recognized the value of

knowledge created through collective inquiry. The notion of teacher study groups as modes of

inquiry-oriented learning was reported to be a powerful way to help mentors grow together and

better understand the role in which they had been chosen to serve.









The burgeoning world of online exchange has opened new possibilities for teacher

collaboration to achieve greater flexibility for teacher learning and socialization. Selwyn (2000)

reported on his two-year study of teachers' use of online discussion groups. Used primarily for

information exchange and professional support, these communities of collaboration provided

their teachers freedom from the constraints of time and place on teacher growth. Regardless of

the positives, adoption and use occurred by chance, relegating this new venue as a supplemental

feature of preexisting face-to-face communities rather than a distinct alternative.

Hartnell-Young (2006) provided evidence similar to that revealed by Selwyn (2000). This

study of 32 teachers and principals from twelve schools found engagement among teachers

improved practice, using the tools of direct conversation and online discussion. Such activities

took place as teachers fulfilled their roles of designing the learning environment, managing

people and resources, and mediating learning. With time named as the most critical resource

related to the improvement of practice, opportunities for collaboration and reflection were carved

into the school day for many schools. The teachers located on a site with dedicated collaboration

time were only able to take advantage of face-to-face opportunities for working with the other

teachers on their site. The online discussion boards, however; were open to and available to all

teachers in the project, making them a popular domain for planning and problem solving.

Teachers encouraging one another in new methods, creating learning goals on the individual and

social levels, and creating theories from their practice provided further evidence of their focus on

improving their practice.

Teacher collaboration is often addressed as a method to seek school improvement and,

while an important task given the current political climate, little research exists relating teacher

collaboration to student achievement (Goddard et al., 2007). Goddard et al. (2007) conducted a









study of 47 elementary schools in the Midwest to find if there is an association between "teacher

collaboration for school improvement and student achievement" (p. 879). A total of 452 teacher

participants completed a survey addressing their collaboration with other teachers and student

test score data for 2,536 fourth graders was gathered from the school office. Researchers noted a

significant and positive relationship between teacher collaboration and student achievement.

Schools with higher levels of collaboration claimed higher levels of student achievement.

Goddard et al. (2007) believed the powerful principles for teaching and learning foundational to

teacher collaboration better prepared teachers for improvement.

According to Achinstein's (2002) study of teacher communities at two schools, teacher

collaboration has the potential to spur teacher conflict. The process of reaching consensus

common to collaborative efforts opened a space for teachers to cast a critical eye on existing

beliefs, practices, and structures, but each school community handled the issue of conflict

differently. The learning potential in teacher collaboration is dependent on how a community

chooses to address issues of conflict. To better understand the details of this dilemma, Achinstein

(2002, p. 441) identified a set of four processes of conflict. Each process lies on a continuum

including: (a) conflict stances ranging from avoidant to embracing, (b) borderpolitics from

unified and exclusive to diverse and inclusive, (c) ideology from mainstream and congruent to

critical and counter, and finally (d) organizational change and learning ranging from stability

and static to change and learning. The two communities within the study provided a picture of

schools typifying each end of the spectrum for the four processes. Each school experienced

benefits in the areas of faculty development and student success as a result of teacher

collaboration. However, teacher collaboration with appreciation for critical inquiry is necessary









for growth and reform. The researcher mentioned real change comes from challenging the status

quo and is a necessary action to meet the current expectations policymakers have for teachers.

Teacher Professional Development

Quality professional development must be based on the understandings of how teachers

learn (Lieberman, 1996). "Professional development must consider teachers as learners and build

on participants' knowledge, skills, and beliefs; focus on knowledge and practice; provide

opportunities for feedback, revision, and success; and require interactions with others" (Chval et

al., 2008, p. 32). In these opportunities, teachers not only learn about the pedagogical side of

teaching (Little, 2002), they learn how to inform practice (Erickson, Brandes, Mitchell, &

Mitchell; 2005). Each of these issues is key to a teacher's knowledge ofpractice and adaptive

expertise (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999; Hammerness et al., 2005).

Professional development is a high quality experience when all educators contribute to its

formation and continuance (Feiman-Nemser, 2001; Nolan & Hoover, 2005). This key component

of high quality professional development surfaces the qualities of teacher leadership and

responsibility. Nolan and Hoover (2005) stated, "All educators therefore have two roles to play.

First, they are the primary movers in their own professional growth. Second, they help to foster

the growth of other educators by participating in the processes" (p. 8). Lee and Smith (1996)

view this as a bottom-up action, engaging those at all ranks of the school hierarchy to get

involved. This includes administration, as they must also play a role (Richardson & Placier,

2001), offering support through encouragement and resource allocation (Feiman-Nemser, 2001).

This helps to improve the nature of the culture surrounding professional development

(Ackerman, Donaldson, & Van Der Bogert, 1996).

Park, Moore, and Rivera (2007), conducted four focus groups of a total of 26 high school

agriculture teachers in New York to identify their perceptions of professional development.









Participants felt informal interaction and networking with other teachers was not only

professional development but they considered it to be far more meaningful than other mandated

programs with which they had experience. They also believed interacting with other agriculture

teachers was considerably less intimidating than interacting with teachers from another content

area. However, early career teachers felt comfortable working with teachers outside of

agriculture more often than those in later stages. Researchers also found the participants valued

their interactions, perceiving them to be professionally enlightening and revitalizing, cause for

professional reflection, and a way to create a professional brotherhood.

Collaboration often involves colleagues working together for a common purpose (Dooner

et al., 2008). Erickson et al. (2005) examined two professional development projects with teacher

collaboration as their goal. Through collaboration, teachers generated both practical and formal

knowledge. These products helped the teachers further professionalize their practice and aided

them in enlightening the larger educational community when sharing the information beyond the

local group. The collaborative culture generated in these environments showcased the high level

of commitment each teacher extended to working with their peers. The collaborative

relationships formed contributed to teachers' overall career satisfaction. Although the collective

interest was well served, the evidence showed the needs of individuals were met in many ways

such as by the development of a more fulfilling work life (Louis, Marks, & Kruse, 1996;

Wenger, 1998).

School reform is a popular occurrence in light of the current climate of educational

accountability (Achinstein, 2002; Schnellert, Butler, Higginson, 2008). The No Child Left

Behind Act of 2001 reported the federal government's strictest guidelines for improving

elementary and secondary education in the United States (Joftus & Maddox-Dolan, 2003). To









help achieve the goals related to widespread student academic success, specific criteria were

named to ensure every classroom would be facilitated by a "highly qualified" teacher (Joftus &

Maddox-Dolan, 2003, p. 6). Demonstrating themselves to be proactive in their compliance with

policymakers' expectations, many schools looked to teacher collaboration to help their teachers

develop themselves and their practice accordingly.

Teachers and others with a direct impact on the lives of students have been asked to accept

some of the responsibility for student achievement (Schnellert, Butler, & Higginson, 2008).

Schnellert et al. (2008) studied the dynamics of this multidimensional approach to accountability

by looking at the promise of teacher collaboration as a professional development tool. Data were

collected as teachers engaged in inquiry-based, teacher-driven and directed communities.

Teacher groups were charged with examining instructional cycles in an effort to integrate

change. Teachers worked together to examine their capacity for improving student learning,

using an iterative instructional cycle. The method relied on a variety of data to encourage teacher

collaboration. Researchers found teachers looking at their practice from this unique perspective

had opportunities for inquiry and reflection, making it possible for them to assess their efforts in

teaching for student learning and achievement.

Professional development should provide differentiated opportunities for growth (Nolan &

Hoover, 2005). Just as a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for student learners

(Tomlinson, 2001), it also fails to work for teacher learners. Because of each teacher's unique

knowledge, talents, and abilities, they do not all need the same type of professional development

experiences, or at least not with the same degree of focus and intensity. Differentiation of

professional development also means attention should be paid where each teacher falls within

their career. The Life Cycle of a Career Teacher model (Steffy, Wolfe, Pasche, & Enz, 2000) can









help those who plan professional development by offering them a greater understanding of the

factors which influence each stage of the teacher's career. The key is ensuring teachers get what

they need, when they need it. Providing support for so many different needs at once can be a

nearly impossible challenge. Teacher collaboration is a professional development tool that can

empower teachers to shoulder some of the burden.

In a two-year study conducted by Butler, Novak Lauscher, Jarvis-Selinger, and

Beckingham (2004), a collaborative model of professional development was implemented with

the goal of surpassing the typical teacher learning outcomes of top-down professional

development. Researchers claimed viewing teachers as professionals was a distinct perspective

setting the collaborative model apart. Teachers engaged in a process of joint inquiry and taught

the process to their students. This encouraged student use of inquiry to advance their learning.

While researchers felt the collaborative aspect of the model was not necessary to teacher

professional development, they did recognize the high level of work produced through the

method. Practices and understandings were far richer than could have been generated working

alone. The changes in teacher practice and understanding were also sustained far longer than

researchers had initially expected.

Lastly, professional development should be sustained (Feiman-Nemser, 2001; &

Richardson & Placier, 2001). So much of professional development is of a "quick-fix" variety,

something to put on a check sheet (Nolan & Hoover, 2005). Feiman-Nemser (2001) called for an

expansion of what professional development is and can be. Darling-Hammond and McLaughlin

(1995) said it must not be a stand-alone requirement. Professional development must be

integrated into all parts of a teacher's career. Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999) suggested

professional development offer opportunities for teachers to connect their prior knowledge with









their new learning (p. 258) to make the experience more powerful and lasting. The literature on

teacher collaboration has mentioned spontaneous collaboration is a powerful mechanism for

addressing professional development for the long run, since it is not bound by the parameters of

a regimented program (Williams et al., 2001).

Teacher Career Satisfaction

When members of a community know more about the knowledge, skills, and beliefs of

their community peers, they also have access to greater "funds of knowledge" (Bransford, Derry,

Berliner, Hammerness, & Beckett, 2005, p. 65). The more knowledge accessible, the greater the

resource base from which to construct new knowledge, and the more complete one's

transmission of that knowledge. "Collaboration among teachers has been identified as one of the

most important features of a school culture that fosters professional development, teacher

satisfaction, teacher effectiveness, and student achievement within a school" (Puchner & Taylor,

2006). Yendol-Silva and Dana (2001) added collaboration develops a respectful, interdependent

culture among teachers. Despite these benefits, the culture of many schools can be described as

isolationist (Gersten, Gillman, Morvant, & Billingsley, 1995). School cultures with an existing

social learning focus maintain a commitment to working together, but "shifting the isolationist

culture of schools to a more collaborative culture can be difficult" (Puchner & Taylor, 2006, p.

922).

A mixed-methods study of 24 school-wide professional communities examined the issue of

teacher interaction on the events involved with the restructuring of a school (Louis, Marks &

Kruse, 1996). According to the researchers, the professional climate among teachers at the

schools had a marked effect on the successes and failures of school restructuring efforts. A sense

of "school-wide community" was found to be possible in all schools, regardless of the grade

levels served, or the size of the student population. Much of this was attributed to the unification









of faculty around a common student-centered goal. Teacher participation in the school governing

structure resulted in more discussion about teaching and learning, and differences in opinion

added to the richness of the conversations. While not explicitly examined in the study, smaller

groupings of teacher communities did exist in the school climate and did provide an opportunity

for reflective dialogue, collaboration, support, and professional development.

Lesson study is a collaborative tool teachers can use to plan, observe, analyze, and refine

their teaching. Developed by teachers in Japan, this method has demonstrated great success at

improving teachers' knowledge and practice, and students' learning (Puchner & Taylor, 2006).

Researchers collected data on five mathematics-based lesson study groups. While some teachers

became frustrated with the method's structure, Puchner and Taylor (2006) shared findings

suggesting lesson study can be a valuable tool for encouraging teacher collaboration and

expanding teacher self efficacy. The teachers in this study were challenged by the iterative

process of refining their work publicly. By working together, they pooled their knowledge and

skills in a new, professional way and gained positive results. These results included improving

student learning, expanding their content area knowledge, and viewing themselves as more

professionally competent. Trying to equalize the concepts of collaboration and autonomy was an

issue with which teachers struggled. Researchers shared in order to achieve the benefits of the

collective, respect for the individual must be observed.

Through interviews of beginning teachers, induction mentors, mentor coordinators, and

head teachers, a case study of the induction practice at eleven schools was used to expose the

school cultures within which new teachers found themselves working (Williams et al., 2001).

The data collected were used to establish a continuum of three school cultures ranging from a

culture of individualism, to one of structural collaboration, and finally to one of spontaneous









collaboration. In the culture of individualism, the professional growth of new teachers was

placed in jeopardy because of limited opportunities for teacher learning. Some beginning

teachers felt separated from their mentors either physically, due to geographic distance; or

philosophically, due to their mentor's lack of agreement with some strategies for support. New

teachers experiencing an individualistic culture their first year, planned to terminate their

employment at the end of that year and seek work in a new school for their second year. In the

culture of structural collaboration, new teachers were provided formal opportunities for

development. These opportunities were based on programmatic requirements and often resulted

in fulfilling the needs of the program rather than those of the new teacher. The growth

experienced in this regimented atmosphere was positive, as teachers no longer felt isolated.

However, the collaboration failed to reach teachers' needs beyond the constraints of the program.

Finally, in the culture of spontaneous collaboration, new teachers experienced a school

environment where opportunities for collaboration evolved in the moment. These opportunities

were shared among the faculty, rather than handled solely by those bearing the responsibility for

doing so. Experiences related to this type of school culture generated the greatest levels of career

satisfaction in participants.

Johnson (2003) analyzed data on the efforts of four Australian schools to promote teacher

collaboration. The comparative case study design collected data from 24 teachers using a

questionnaire and interviews. Based on the participants' experiences, the researcher identified

three key advantages and four key disadvantages of collaboration; each bearing the potential to

impact the culture of a school. The three advantages identified by Johnson included: (a) provide

moral support to teachers as they perform their work responsibilities, (b) lift up teacher morale

and encourage greater teacher participation in the school, and (c) offer opportunities for teachers









to learn from one another and expand their content knowledge and understandings of teaching

and learning. Although the benefits of collaboration can enhance a school's culture and the

teachers' level of satisfaction, Johnson determined the disadvantages have the potential to

destroy them. Teacher collaboration can also (a) bring about more and difficult work which

teachers may not be willing or ready to perform, (b) create an overwhelming pressure for some

teachers to conform to beliefs, practices or decisions they may not support, (c) lead to teacher

conflict as teachers struggle to negotiate meaning and practice, and (d) develop a competitive

environment where teachers create subcultures and fiercely defend their beliefs and actions from

others. Identifying teachers' experiences with collaboration, the researcher made it clear special

measures must be taken when planning teacher collaboration opportunities to invoke teacher

learning and reform. While collaboration has the capacity for powerful change, serious thought

should be given before making it prescriptive for all teachers.

Teacher Retention

The retention of quality teachers is an outcome important to students (Joerger & Bremer,

2001) and schools (Ingersoll, 2001b) alike. Teaching is described as an uncertain profession

(Johnson & Birkeland, 2003), a condition which "fuels a teacher's dissatisfaction" (Johnson &

Birkeland, 2003, p. 584). When teachers are dissatisfied, they often leave (Ingersoll, 2001a).

Many factors are found to contribute to a teacher's decision to remain in the classroom (Gehrke

& McCoy, 2007b).

Kardos and Johnson (2007) surveyed 486 first and second year teachers working in four

states about the experiences they had working in their schools and with their colleagues. The

participants shared many of them worked in isolationist cultures where they were expected to

perform at the level of an expert teacher, without having received support from a school

professional development network. They also reported few teachers within their schools worked









toward a shared school mission and failed to share in the responsibility for all students at their

schools. These findings expose the neglect new teachers endure and highlight the situation must

be addressed in order to retain teachers beyond their early years of teaching.

Boone and Boone (2007) addressed the issue of teacher retention in agricultural education

from the perspective of why teachers continue to teach. The study used a qualitative survey to

examine the factors which compelled 53 agriculture teachers in West Virginia to teach and draw

satisfaction from their work. The three most cited motivational factors participants experienced

as beginning teachers included: the students and student success, financial aspects of the

profession, and the professional brotherhood in the agricultural education profession. The factors

currently motivating teachers to teach were similar to the aforementioned, including: (1) helping

students, (2) educating students, (3) enjoyed teaching agriculture education, (4) student

achievement in FFA, (5) financial reward, and (6) professional brotherhood. The appearance of

professional brotherhood demonstrates its importance throughout the various stages in the career

and the degree to which teachers value the impact this collaborative component has on their

willingness to remain in the profession.

In a study by Johnson and Birkeland (2003) the degree to which a school is organized

provided a glimpse into a new teacher's willingness to stay. This longitudinal interview study of

50 new teachers identified their reasons for staying at their schools, for moving to a new school,

or for withdrawing from teaching all together. Outside of those factors which cannot be

controlled (ie. family issues, financial situations, etc...), those who decided to leave the

profession did so for reasons including: lack of support for new teachers, overwhelming demands

and expectations with little hope for improvement or success, inappropriate teaching assignments

and loads, and inadequate resources to achieve success. Those who decided to move to new









schools did so for reasons similar to the leavers, including: searching for schools where they

could be effective, searching for schools which were a "good fit", searching for schools with a

collaborative and collegial culture, searching for schools with fair and appropriate teaching

assignments and loads, and searching for schools more affluent than their previous sites. The

teachers who decided to remain at their schools were divided into those who were unsettled or

unsatisfied and those who were settled or satisfied. Despite conflicts with the principals and their

colleagues, difficult assignments, a lack of resources, and frustration with the discipline policy,

the unsettled teachers chose to stay because the positive factors of their school sites balanced out

the negative. The settled teachers shared several reasons for their willingness to stay at their

schools, including: supportive principals and colleagues, the high value schools placed on

improvement, a nurturing school environment with special programs in place for assisting new

teachers, and school-wide efforts for encouraging parental support. According to this study,

those schools which encouraged collaboration among their teachers experienced greater teacher

career satisfaction and ultimately greater teacher retention of new teachers following their first

year in the classroom.

Gehrke and McCoy (2007b) examined where beginning special education teachers sought

support during their first year of teaching. The five teachers interviewed in the study often

looked to other teachers for assistance during the induction period. Those other teachers included

their mentors, other special education teachers, and specialists with connections to special

education. Through interaction with other professionals, the teacher participants confessed they

received emotional support, were able to broaden their educational focus beyond mere survival,

and learned how to maintain high expectations. These elements contributed to the participants'









generally positive regard for the profession, and were important to their decisions to remain in

teaching the following year.

The impact of teacher collaboration in other content areas and grade levels has been shared

(Achinstein, 2002; Goddard et al., 2007; Hargreaves, 2001; Johnson, 2003; Manouchehri, 2002;

Williams et al., 2001) but agricultural education literature offers relatively little on the matter.

The unique structure of the agricultural education program model presents agriculture teachers

with the expectations of teaching classes, advising an FFA chapter, supervising SAEs, and

managing the inner-workings of the program (Talbert, Vaughn, & Croom, 2005). These

additional responsibilities are not expected of teachers in other areas and can potentially lead

agriculture teachers "to a lack of self-confidence, confusion, frustration, and isolation" (Fritz &

Miller, 2003; Greiman et al., 2005; Walker et al., 2004) should they be ineffective at completing

them. Ineffective performance of such responsibilities is known to contribute to increases in

teacher shortages (Boone & Boone, 2007; Greiman et al., 2005; Kantrovich, 2007; Wilhelm et

al., 2000).

The lived experiences of teachers in the present study provide evidence for further learning

about teacher collaboration as the participants have made use of such experiences to successfully

complete the early stages of their careers and nestle into their current standings within the mid-

points of their careers. An examination of the participants' perceptions of teacher collaboration

can advance how secondary agriculture teachers continue to experience the phenomenon.


























Figure 2-1. Conceptual Model of Teacher Collaboration









CHAPTER 3
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS

Introduction

Positivist research purports "objects in the world have meaning prior to, and independently

of, any consciousness of them" (Crotty, 2003, p. 27). This stance requires the researcher to be

objective as he or she engages in an unbiased investigation of research questions using the

scientific method. The very nature of qualitative research makes pure objectivity virtually

impossible. The interpretation of data generated by subjects immersed in the context of the

phenomenon carries with it an expected level of subjectivity (Hatch, 2002; Lincoln & Guba,

1985). A qualitative approach was selected for this study in an effort to explore agriculture

teachers' experiences and perceptions related to teacher collaboration.

Denzin and Lincoln (1994) defined qualitative research as,

multimethod in focus, involving an interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject 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)

Hatch (2002) stated,

Qualitative research seeks to understand the world from the perspectives of those living in
it. It is axiomatic in this view that individuals act on the world based not on some supposed
objective reality but on their perceptions of the realities that surround them. Qualitative
studies try to capture the perspectives that actors use as a basis for their actions in specific
social settings. (p.7)

The purpose of the study was to describe the perceptions and experiences of each

participant related to the phenomenon of teacher collaboration. The highly individualized

research focus lent itself to qualitative methodology, and more specifically, the

phenomenological research approach. Phenomenology seeks to discover both what is happening

in the lived experiences of participants and uncovers the meaning participants have drawn from









such experiences, to identify the essence of the phenomenon and how it relates to others

(Moustakas, 1994).

Details of the research design to be pursued by this study are described in this chapter.

Beginning with a description of the phenomenological research approach, the researcher's

subjectivity statement follows. The measures of validation and procedures for participant

selection, data collection and analysis are also presented.

Phenomenological Approach

Sokolowski (2000) called phenomenology "the science that studies truth" and "the

limitations of truth" (p. 185). This idea was shared by Husserl (1965) when he stated

phenomenology practiced what other sciences failed to practice because the approach examined

the essence of objects, whereas other sciences took them for granted. Marshall and Rossman

(2006) expressed the purpose of phenomenology as trying to understand the experiences of a few

in an effort to create broader understanding of them. The approach also assumes "there is a

structure and essence to shared experiences that can be narrated" (p. 104). For Moustakas (1994),

phenomenology

attempts to eliminate everything that represents a prejudgement, setting aside
presuppositions, and reaching a transcendental state of freshness and openness, a readiness
to see in an unfettered way, not threatened by customs, beliefs, and prejudices of normal
science, by the habits of the natural world or by knowledge based on unreflected everyday
experience (p. 41).

Phenomenology casts off inherited meaning and places one's perceptions aside to receive

experiences in a new way (Creswell, 1998; Crotty, 2003). This new way of seeing the

phenomenon results in richer, more all-encompassing meaning.

Epistemology is the theory of knowledge (Crotty, 2003). As described by Hamlyn (1995),

epistemology is the "nature of knowledge, its possibility, scope and general basis" (p. 242). This

theory is the foundation for the manner by which the researcher pursues his/her inquiry and









determines the type and value of any newly generated knowledge. Epistemology guides the

researcher in determining how knowledge will be shaped. The present phenomenological study

is rooted in the epistemologies of objectivism and subjectivism.

The objectivist vein views meaning as independent from consciousness; in existence apart

from one's interaction with the world (Crotty, 2003). Phenomenology requires one to revisit an

object from a fresh, naive perspective and see it in a new way (Moustakas, 1994). From this

openness, textural descriptions of the phenomenon's meanings and essences are formed.

Conversely, the subjectivist epistemological vein suggests one ascribes meaning to an object

(Crotty, 2003). The notion meaning is derived elsewhere, rather than through interaction with an

object, reveals itself in phenomenology. Structural descriptions are developed to disclose

meaning. The structural description is created by the researcher, sharing the elements of the

object which act together to develop the experience (Moustakas, 1994). Reality then is found in

the universality of the experience through both objective and subjective aspects of the work

(Marshall & Rossman, 2006; Moustakas, 1994).

A theoretical perspective anchors a study into a particular world conception, helping one

make sense of the surrounding stimuli and better understand "how we know what we know"

(Crotty, 2003, p. 8). It guides a study's methodological decisions, serving as the philosophical

foundation. The present study utilized interpretivism, a theoretical perspective which "looks for

culturally derived and historically situated interpretations of the social life-world" (Crotty, 2003,

p. 67). Phenomenology was used to focus this aim of thinking, by setting aside meaning

established through customs and beliefs, and attempting "to understand the hidden meanings and

the essence of an experience" (Grbich, 2007, p. 84). Phenomenology takes a fresh look at the









everyday, reinterpreting meaning crafted from firsthand experience with a phenomenon

(Moustakas, 1994).

Lived experiences are the foci of phenomenological research (Hatch, 2002). Reflecting on

these experiences, researchers are better able to describe the various aspects of the experience

and identify those elements moving the experience beyond isolation to universal access

(Moustakas, 1994). Such questions as, "what is the essence of the phenomenon," are posed in

hopes of uncovering the multiple perceptions to expand the knowledge about, and meaning of,

various human experiences (Crotty, 2003; Moustakas, 1994).

The phenomenological approach requires researchers to adopt a new way of viewing the

world to permit the emergence of extended and expanded meanings. To maintain the purity of

accessed data, the researcher applies the concept of intentionality (Crotty, 2003). Intentionality

has the researcher set aside the existing set of beliefs and ideas to focus and reflect on the

phenomenon from the participant's vantage point. This stance also results in a more thorough

description of the experience and the essence of the phenomenon (Moustakas, 1994). To realize

these benefits, the researcher created a written statement of her experiences with the

phenomenon of collaboration, produced in the form of a researcher subjectivity statement.

According to Nealon and Giroux (2003) the interpreter, which in this case is the researcher,

is part of the meaning making process. By making known the personal experiences and

knowledge related to the inquiry, the researcher can better understand the lens through which he

or she makes all methodological decisions (LeCompte & Preissle, 1993) and open himself or

herself to new ways of seeing (Moustakas, 1994). The subjectivity statement acknowledges the

researcher's existing knowledge related to the phenomenon and through bracketing, allows the

researcher to distance himself or herself from the preconceived beliefs which compel a









researcher to render judgment (Grbich, 2007; Moustakas, 1994). Such a tool also makes it

possible for the reader to contextualize the conclusions offered by the researcher (Creswell,

1998; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Moustakas, 1994).

The phase encapsulating this altered vantage point is called Epoche (Marshall & Rossman,

2006; Moustakas, 1994; Sokolowski, 2000). Epoche produces purity of vision, moving the

researcher away from his or her customary perspective (Moustakas, 1994). Although important,

completing a statement of currently held beliefs marks just one aspect of Epoche (Marshall &

Rossman, 2006; Moustakas, 1994; Sokolowski, 2000). Less of an act and more of a process,

Epoche alters the way a researcher approaches the work from the moment when he or she

captures preconceptions on paper, continuing through analysis when the researcher considers his

or her beliefs against those shared by the participants (Marshall & Rossman, 2006).

Following the phenomenological approach, this study seeks to describe the phenomenon of

teacher collaboration from the perspective of secondary agriculture teachers. By providing

secondary agriculture teachers the option to share their perceptions of teacher collaboration, a

richer, fuller picture of teacher collaboration will be formed (Moustakas, 1994).

Researcher Subjectivity

The subjectivity statement expresses the researcher's proximity to that which he or she is

examining (Glesne, 1999). As an agricultural educator and researcher pursuing a

phenomenological study of secondary agriculture teachers' perceptions of teacher collaboration,

I have bracketed many experiences from my own life to examine the phenomenon from an

unbiased vantage point (Crotty, 2003). The study's subjectivity statement follows.

My interest in secondary agriculture teachers' perceptions of teacher collaboration stems

from my own experiences in the profession. As a preservice teacher in my university's teacher

education program, I spent a great deal of time working independently due to my status as a









commuter. I found it easier to work alone rather than trying to coordinate schedules and track

down others to work together. This practice served me well throughout most of the

undergraduate program, but once I enrolled in the discipline's methods courses, the increased

expectations and large quantities of new work presented a challenge I was not fully equipped to

handle alone. Realizing I needed to work smarter rather than harder, I opened myself to the

possibility of working with others to devise the best strategies for planning instruction. These

collaborations, while brief, did result in richer experiences for classroom teaching and learning.

At the earliest stage of my career, I felt extremely insecure because of my limited content

area and pedagogical knowledge bases. Moving into the role of student teacher did not ease the

anxiety. In fact, my time as a student teacher brought new challenges for which I had a solid

foundation but lacked the confidence and the competence to successfully complete. During the

student teaching experience, my role consisted of absorbing as much as I could from my

cooperating teacher and other teachers in the department. Since each teacher on site had been

teaching for no less than four years, the relationships I forged seemed to be more one-way. As

mentors, I thought they were imparting their knowledge of how to teach upon me since I had

little with which I could reciprocate. It was not until the end of my time with this group, I learned

the mentoring relationships I had come to appreciate were indeed collaborations. As a new

professional, my questions and new ways of doing things caused them to reflect on their own

beliefs and practices. The result was professional dialogue they would not have had without me

being there.

During that same time, Internet availability in the schools was sketchy at best, so access to

my student teaching peers was limited. Two opportunities for collaboration did present

themselves related to program management and career development event responsibilities. The









school had hired their previous student teacher to teach part time. Due to a limited schedule, the

two of us partnered to devise a recruitment plan for the department. This plan was to be

executed in the feeder schools just before their high school registration day. Being on a relatively

even playing field regarding knowledge, skills, and experience, the two of us developed a sound

product resulting in the successful recruitment of new students for the following year.

The challenge of collaborating with my master teacher in coaching students for the

parliamentary procedure career development event was one I relished. Having been a contest

participant throughout my high school career, I had a wealth of content area knowledge, as well

as those soft skills necessary to move a decent team to contender status. Pairing with my talented

master teacher, we trained the state-winning novice team and a senior team which finished in the

top-five. Such experiences helped me understand the value of sharing information and blending

skill sets as the rewards could be great.

My first teaching job was as a horticulture teacher in one of California's largest agriculture

programs. I was hired with two other new agriculture teachers, bringing the total number of

teachers in the program to seven. As a member of a large and specialized staff, the

responsibilities were great but so were the opportunities for collaboration. In my first year, I

teamed up with another teacher with a passion for parliamentary procedure to develop students

for that particular career development event. We were able to share resources and strategies,

resulting in a polished, knowledgeable team of novice participants. We also advanced our own

expertise of the event, developed a reputation as well-qualified judges for regional and state

levels, and advertised ourselves as a resource for new teachers wanting to get their teams into the

event.









I was asked to teach the introductory agriculture course offered to first year agriculture

students during my first year of teaching. The course had three sections for each of the three

periods it was offered during the day. Due to the unique arrangement, students would engage in a

series of three, six week sessions each semester and rotated among the three classrooms where

the course was taught during their assigned period. This allowed students to get to know three

different teachers in the program and permitted the teachers to get to know many more students

than they would otherwise. The arrangement greatly enhanced department culture. With three

teachers sharing three different classes of students, communication and collaboration were

critical. We each regularly discussed classroom protocol, student needs and progress, course

calendars, assessment practices, as well as our own impressions, successes, and challenges.

Occasionally, we would plan lessons together and share resources but these opportunities were

rare since we each taught different portions of the course content. Experiencing such powerful

collaboration with other teachers as part of my regular responsibilities my first year in the

profession made my transition from preservice teacher to early career teacher easier.

I also had the opportunity to work with the department chairperson on developing courses

in agricultural leadership and floriculture. While the department chair had taught both courses in

the past, she had not been satisfied with the results and was looking for fresh ideas. Together, we

crafted two courses based on sound learning theory and current technical knowledge. Our efforts

led to products which were accepted by the school board and courses students were thrilled to

take. My work on the courses presented the opportunity to work with other teachers in the state,

as we sought to get the floriculture course approved for meeting the art requirements for

university entrance. Collaborating with other teachers on developing proposals and presentations









did much for broadening the floriculture curriculum in the state, but it also served to open

conversations among teachers who share a common talent and passion.

Collaboration did not stop with FFA and classroom instruction. As the advisor of the dairy

goat SAEs, I knew little of how to guide students in their management of these animals. By

asking questions of the other teachers, I finally tracked down a middle school teacher in the

district possessing rich experience in the management of dairy goats. As an operator of her own

goat dairy, and my background as a supervisor of SAEs, the relationship quickly morphed into

one where we each played a contributory role. While I was the official SAE advisor based on my

position with the school, we worked together to guide the students in their general care and

decision making regarding the animals. We located resources, shared new knowledge we

accessed, worked together at shows to lighten the workload and even created a dairy goat

handbook for use in the program. Together, we advanced our knowledge but we also advanced

the potential each student achieved by the pairing of our minds.

The chance to work with agriculture teachers from across the country came through

projects facilitated, and in some cases sponsored, by the National FFA Organization. These

projects included the New Teacher Survival Kit, LifeKnowledge curriculum development, and

the Delta Conference for professional development. Collaborative conversations led to

collaborative activities, as I became an active participant with other educators in crafting

curriculum, resources, and professional development for use by other teachers in the profession.

The products developed were richer and fuller than what could have ever been produced by one

individual acting independently. The relationships based around the New Teacher Survival Kit

and the LifeKnowledge curriculum projects resulted in products distributed to teachers around

the country. The Delta Conference permitted me the opportunity to work with practicing teachers









and help them design individualized professional growth plans for promoting their personal

growth. This act was a true collaboration between myself and the teacher, as well as myself and

the other program facilitators, as we were active participants in the work that transpired.

The Omega Conference brought graduate students and postsecondary agricultural

educators together to learn and work. With my team, we shared our expertise and used it to

organize knowledge for the purpose of crafting a white paper on an assigned topic. Since each

member of the team was teaching in a different state, the chance collaborative relationships

would form on their own was not likely. We relied heavily on email and a group blog to stay

organized and complete our charge. The group brought the final work to the profession through

the publication of a white paper and a professional development workshop for presentation to

other Omega participants.

Following my time in the secondary classroom, I joined the faculty of a California

university as a lecturer in agricultural education. I sought the advice of several well-respected

teacher educators in the hopes we might generate ideas and direction for the classes I was

assigned. This move proved to be a productive one, as together we developed some innovative

ways to teach the existing courses. These changes were made to better meet the needs graduates

faced when they started teaching. I was also responsible for assisting with the college outreach

activities. Through collaboration with the university's assigned outreach coordinator, we

designed a plan for the activities of the college ambassador program. Through implementation of

the plan, the university not only saw an increase in the level of preparation and number of

college ambassadors, the numbers of students choosing a program major within our college also

increased.









I had the chance to collaborate with teacher educators and secondary teachers of

agriculture in developing the California Subject Examinations for Teachers. This exam was to be

an option for new teachers seeking to meet the state's requirements for teacher certification.

Together, we discussed philosophical reasons underpinning inclusion or exclusion of various

topical areas for the test, and shared rationale regarding issues of relevance and fairness related

to specific test items. Together, the team produced a testing option which reflects a degree of the

rigor expected by teacher education programs, and a portion of the content agriculture teachers

would be expected to know. While in no way a "perfect" test, the collaborative effort does

receive the stamp of approval by each agricultural teacher education program in the state.

My experience as a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Florida has provided

me the chance to collaborate with a variety of individuals leading to new learning for me and

many others. I have collaborated with other graduate students on the development and delivery

of workshops to increase the audience's technical and pedagogical knowledge. I have also

collaborated with faculty in planning professional development events to include a wider array of

choices from which participants could choose. The opportunity to collaborate with faculty on

research papers has not only helped to advance our own expertise but also led us to contribute to

the professional knowledge base. My collaboration with other graduate students and faculty

interested in qualitative research gave me an opportunity to learn about the methodology beyond

my coursework and seek answers to lingering questions. The chance to collaborate with

practicing teachers and provide support for novice and early career teachers to learn about, and

begin to fulfill, the responsibilities of the agricultural education profession helped address

significant state needs.









Through reflection, I have traced my experiences with teacher collaboration across my

professional career. These instances express the connections and strong desires I have for

engaging in teacher collaboration. The experiences in which I have been immersed have helped

me navigate an understanding of the responsibilities I believe to be part of the agriculture

teaching profession. I also believe the many forms of teacher collaboration in my experiences

have helped me develop a strong professional foundation. In fact, the phenomenon of teacher

collaboration has helped me find enjoyment in, and maintain a commitment to, a career in

agricultural education.

Methodology

The methods selected for use in this study were found to be in alignment with the

foundations of transcendental phenomenology. Transcendental phenomenology involves the

search for universal truths related to experience and follows the process of Epoche,

phenomenological reduction and structural synthesis (Grbich, 2007; Marshall & Rossman, 2006;

Moustakas, 1994). Moustakas (1994) and Sokolowski (2000) professed both the philosophical

underpinnings of the approach, as well as the technical and logistical aspects of conducting such

research. The structure for formulating and analyzing this study follows, illustrating adherence to

the transcendental phenomenological approach.

Characteristics of Phenomenological Methods

Transcendental phenomenology begins with Epoche, reflecting upon one's assumptions or

biases as they relate to the phenomenon of interest, for the purpose of suspending judgment

(Creswell, 1998; Grbich, 2007; Moustakas, 1994; Sokolowski, 2000). Prior to beginning the

study, the researcher acknowledged all prior experience and points of view related to interaction

with the phenomenon. Any related experiences or perspectives were captured in the written

form, as the subjectivity statement. The document was used as a way to express how the









researcher defined meaning of the everyday phenomenon of collaboration, assisting her with

setting it aside throughout the study. This act helps the researcher remain open to new ways of

seeing through the lens each participant carried regarding collaboration.

Bracketing the researcher's experiences, the phenomenon of teacher collaboration is cast in

a new light, able to be revisited through new eyes. The approach of pursuing the unconventional,

helped the researcher describe the phenomenon more fully than could have been realized

otherwise (Crotty, 2003). The subjectivity statement in the current study ensured the work

presented featured the experiences of the study participants, rather than those of the researcher.

This position lends focus and purity to the work (Moustakas, 1994).

Phenomenological reduction is the second portion of the method. Horizonalization began

the process with the researcher reviewing the transcripts lending equal weight to each and every

incident offered by participants (Moustakas, 1994). Thematic clusters of data were then

produced, beginning with the identification of all data relevant to the topic. Relevant data were

then combed for statements which were not repeated or overlapped. From these invariant themes,

the researcher created a textural description of the meanings and essence of the phenomenon for

each participant and across participants (Marshall & Rossman, 2006; Moustakas, 1994). Such a

description presented the open perspective of what happened in each participant's case related to

the phenomenon. The researcher carefully followed the process to arrive at a composite textural

description.

Finally, imaginative variation brought the transcendental phenomenological approach to a

close. The purpose of this step was to create a structural description describing how the

phenomenon was experienced by each individual participant, as well as across the sample

(Creswell, 1998; Marshall & Rossman, 2006; Moustakas, 1994). Inspecting all possible avenues









of meaning, the researcher was able to present "a picture of the conditions that precipitate an

experience and connect with it" (Moustakas, 1994, p. 35). Additionally, the composite structural

description was blended with the composite textural description to create a textural-structural

statement. This key piece demonstrates the essence of the phenomenon; returning to the

foundation of knowledge and exposing the universal structure originally sought by the

phenomenological approach (Creswell, 1998; Moustakas, 1994).

Participants

Convenience samples do little for the credibility of a study (Hatch, 2002; Ritchie, Lewis, &

Elam, 2003). Qualitative researchers make use of non-probability sampling strategies to focus

the study from its inception, identifying specific cases demonstrating characteristics of interest

(Patton, 2002; Ritchie et al., 2003). These purposive techniques "provide maximum insight and

understanding" of what the researchers are studying (Ary, Jacobs, Razavieh, & Sorenson, 2006,

p. 472). Criterion-based sampling, in particular, involves determining participants based on the

goal of the study and consequently, works well with phenomenological studies (Creswell, 1998).

Members of a sample are chosen with a 'purpose' to represent a location of type in relation
to a key criterion. This has two principal aims. The first is to ensure that all key
constituencies of relevance to the subject matter are covered. The second is to ensure that,
within each of the key criteria, some diversity is included so that the impact of the
characteristic concerned can be explored. (Ritchie, Lewis, & Elam, 2003, p. 79).

With this goal in mind, criterion-based sampling was used for the present study, to identify three

participants willing to share their perceptions and experiences with teacher collaboration.

The sample size of qualitative studies are usually quite small, averaging between one and

20 participants (Creswell, 1998; Dukes, 1984; Kuzel, 1999) to provide a richer glimpse into the

participant's experiences. Phenomenological studies typically address the experiences of"up to

ten" (Creswell, 1998, p. 65). In the present study, three participants were selected, based on their

reputation as collaborators with other teachers. The group was also representative of teachers









who would be considered to be in the expert and distinguished phases of the Steffy, Wolfe,

Pasche, and Enz (2000) Life Cycle of a Career Teacher model to ensure they had a number of

experiences from which they could draw. Since novice and emeritus teachers are not employed

in an agricultural teaching position, they were not part of the population available for selection

into the sample. Likewise, teachers at the apprentice and professional phases were also dismissed

because of their relative inexperience in the profession and the assumption they would have

fewer collaborative encounters to share.

The agricultural education faculty from the University of Florida formed an expert panel

charged with the purpose of generating the criterion-based sample. These four individuals were

targeted because of their relationships with agriculture teachers throughout the state. The faculty

knew the teachers as professionals, inside the classroom as well as outside, and could roughly

ascribe each potential participant to a particular phase of the teacher career model (Steffy et al.,

2000). To assist the expert panel with their task, brief descriptions of each phase were provided.

The Florida Association of Agricultural Educators: 2007-2008 Directory was used to identify

teachers meeting the additional selection criteria requiring participants be traditionally certified

in agricultural education and have the majority of their teaching experience at their current place

of employment. This combination of selection criteria helped ensure the generation of a more

homogeneous participant sample, as well as a more focused and detailed description of the

phenomenon of interest (Hatch, 2002; Patton, 2002). The letter to the expert panel is found in

Appendix A.

The five teachers preliminarily selected by the expert panel were contacted by email

outlining the purpose and value of the study, the significance of their role as a participant, and

the methods to be used in the collection of data. They were also asked if they agreed with the









expert panel's assessment of their being qualified to share their experiences related to the

phenomenon of teacher collaboration. The three participants electing to participate received

further correspondence via telephone and email. Such interaction focused on establishing

interview logistics. The recruitment email is found in Appendix B.

Data Collection

Research questions were established in accordance with the study's interpretivist

theoretical perspective. Interpretivism positioned the researcher and the participant in a situation

where the two generated meaning together based on the information reported by the participant

(Hatch, 2002). This characteristic lent itself well to the interview technique of data collection

(Marshall & Rossman, 2006).

Seidman (2006) stressed the importance of establishing a structure prior to beginning the

interview process. A semi-structured interview guide was created and reviewed by a panel of

experts comprised of members of the researcher's doctoral committee and an expert in

qualitative methods, to provide a general framework of open-ended questions to be asked

consistently of all participants (Hatch, 2002; Kvale, 1996; Marshall & Rossman, 2006). The goal

of this format was to provide participants an opportunity to share their perspectives without the

researcher's perspective influencing them (Crotty, 2003; Kvale, 1996; Marshall & Rossman,

2006). The questions addressed the types of collaborative experiences the agriculture teachers

shared with other teachers and how they would describe the experiences. Specific follow-up

questions were posed to individual participants as they presented themselves and were relevant

and appropriate to the discussion (Kvale, 1996; Patton, 2002). Maintaining an open rapport drew

each participant's unique interactions and perspectives regarding their experiences with the

phenomenon of teacher collaboration. The interview guide, informed consent, and all participant









communication were submitted to the Institutional Review Board (IRB), gaining approval. The

interview guide is found in Appendix C.

Following IRB approval, the interview guide was piloted with one agriculture teacher from

the pool of five recommended by the expert panel, before use with the study participants. This

measure confirmed the interview guide asked the most important questions related to the study's

purpose and provided a focus for the ensuing conversations, as well as provided the flexibility to

pursue specific themes emerging from the data (Kvale, 1996). Patton (2002) stated, "The purpose

of interviewing, then, is to allow us to enter into the other person's perspective" (p. 341). Upon

signing an informed consent, study participants engaged in dialogue with the researcher

regarding their experiences with teacher collaboration.

Based on the desire to describe each participant's perspectives of, and personal experiences

with, teacher collaboration, in-depth interviews were used to access the data (Lewis, 2003).

Seidman's (2006) description of interview protocol was used as a foundation for the study's

primary data collection. The method also helped establish and maintain rapport between the

researcher and each participant. Prior to the start of each interview, a briefing was given to

discuss the study's purpose, the researcher's role, and the role of the participant. Any initial

questions the participant had were addressed in the briefing. During the interview, the researcher

implemented a variety of active listening strategies such as head nodding and the use of follow-

up questions to help the participant openly share the details of his or her experiences with teacher

collaboration (Hatch, 2002). A debriefing session followed the interview to review the major

points made by the participant and answer any lingering questions he or she had.

The interview method served as the primary data collection method with nine interviews

conducted from October, 2007 to December, 2007. A digital audio recording device was used to









capture each conversation for transcription purposes (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998). For greater depth

of inquiry, the observations made by the researcher during the interviews were captured in field

notes as the secondary data source (Arthur & Nazroo, 2003; Hatch, 2002, Marshall & Rossman,

2006; Patton, 2002). The researcher made note of the setting and participant behavior, as well as

any researcher insights, to assist with developing probes (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998; Poland,

2003), focusing the interview (Marshall & Rossman, 2006) and analyzing the data (Patton,

2002). The opportunity to memo was a necessary outlet to minimize the chance of introducing

any personal bias which might sway the interview and assist in further data analysis (Poland,

2003).

Phenomenological studies utilize a tradition of in-depth interviewing (Marshall &

Rossman, 2006; Moustakas, 1994). Seidman's (2006) phenomenological interviewing technique

was deemed an appropriate data collection method via its three-interview strategy. The technique

describes "the meaning of a concept or phenomenon that several individuals share" (Marshall &

Rossman, 2006, p. 104). It also permitted the researcher to build rapport with participants

because each interview provides a basis for, and insight into, the next (Marshall & Rossman,

2006; Seidman, 2006). Seidman's technique was used to collect data for the study. The three-

interview approach provided the foundation for uncovering the structure and essence of the

experiences each participant had with teacher collaboration.

The first interview associated with the Seidman (2006) technique was intended to reveal a

focused life history, contextualizing the phenomenon and eliciting details related to the

participant's experiences. In this session, the researcher chose to have the secondary agriculture

teacher participants share their experiences with teacher collaboration during their preservice

programs. The teachers were prompted to share details of their collaborative experiences as they









related to this pre-professional period, including the time spent completing their teacher

education coursework and the time spent student teaching. This decision was made to encourage

the participants to recall those early experiences rather than pass them over in favor of those

which were more recent and easier to remember.

The purpose of the second interview session was to extract the details of the participants'

experiences (Seidman, 2006). The researcher asked for participants to share stories of their

experiences with teacher collaboration from when they accepted their first positions to the

present day, to evoke rich material. The participants were asked to share how teacher

collaboration had shaped their experiences as a teacher. Teachers were prompted to tell about

those teachers with whom they collaborated and describe the activities over which they came

together. They were also encouraged to try and point to a time in their careers when they realized

the benefits of teacher collaboration, and share any challenges they experienced with the

phenomenon.

The third interview session was used to encourage reflection (Seidman, 2006). By

reflecting upon the impact of teacher collaboration on professional satisfaction, participants were

asked to make sense of the interaction among the many factors impacting their present situations.

Teachers were asked to consider their perceptions about how they had changed as professionals

as a result of their engagement with teacher collaboration. They were also asked to consider the

usefulness of the phenomenon and the impact it has had on their willingness to remain in the

profession.

The Seidman (2006) phenomenological interview technique recommended scheduling

interviews for 90 minutes, with each interview in the series spaced between three days and one

week apart. Adherence to this structure is believed to focus the interview while encouraging a









strong rapport between the researcher and his or her participants. Structure was also thought to

be critical to the researcher's ability to develop their interview technique. However, Seidman

(2006) conceded the structure can be manipulated to meet the specific needs and conditions of

the study. Each interview in the current study lasted an average of 60 minutes. Due to the busy

Florida agricultural education calendar, most interviews were scheduled from one to two weeks

apart. However, in the case of one participant, the span of time between the first and third

interviews was three weeks due to the teacher's responsibilities associated with career

development event (CDE) scheduling and a major school holiday.

Data Analysis

"Qualitative analysis transforms data into findings" (Patton, 2002, p. 432). Before any

data could be analyzed, it needed to be transferred from verbal form into written form (Kvale,

1996). Following the in-depth interviews, the primary data were transcribed from the digital

audio recordings (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998, Kvale, 1996). According to Kvale (1996), transcripts

are translations of the lived interview experience into the text format and are interpreted

differently as a result. Wengraf (2001) described the transference from one form to the other as

processing the raw data. To prevent over-simplification of the data through summarization, and

account for the disconnect between oral and written speech, all transcription was generated as

closely to verbatim as possible (Kvale, 1996; Marshall & Rossman, 2006; Patton, 2002;

Seidman, 2006). Conventional notation was used to indicate the occurrence of breaks in

conversational flow such as long pauses, emotional responses, stuttering, and mumbled speech.

At completion, the transcripts were cross-checked with the interview recordings and field notes

to clarify any misinterpretations (Patton, 2002). Transcripts were also submitted to participants to

allow them to check for the accuracy of statements. The email sent which asked for their

feedback is found in Appendix D.









The researcher elected to use the modified Stevick-Colaizzi-Keen method of

phenomenological data analysis (Creswell, 1998; Moustakas, 1994). With the first step, the

researcher reviewed the subjectivity statement to refrain from prejudgment prior to analyzing the

data. Working by participant, each transcript in the interview series was open-coded. From the

open codes, the researcher engaged in what Grbich (2007) called, "a light form of thematic

analysis" (p. 88); carefully combing each transcript for verbiage related to the phenomenon of

interest. Horizons were generated based on how the individual experienced teacher collaboration

(Creswell, 1998; Moustakas, 1994). These groupings of invariant meanings and themes were

blended to form a textural description of the experience of teacher collaboration. This description

of what happened in the participant's experience used excerpts from the actual transcripts as

appropriate (Hatch, 2002). Upon completion of individual textural descriptions, a composite

textural description was written to pool the overarching elements among the documents

(Moustakas, 1994).

Next, the researcher reviewed the transcripts by each interview series and crafted the

structural description for each participant. The structural description shared how the experience

happens for the participants, through the uninhibited eyes of the researcher engaged in Epoche

(Moustakas, 1994). This step required the researcher to consider all possibilities regarding those

factors or situations impacting the textural qualities of the phenomenon. Again, raw data were

incorporated as pertinent to enhancing understanding. A composite structural description was

formed from the individual structural descriptions. Finally, a textural-structural description was

formed from each composite description synthesizing all meanings and essences forming the

phenomenon of interest as perceived by the participants collectively (Creswell, 1998; Grbich,

2007; Moustakas, 1994).









Measures of Validation

Quantitative research addresses the validity and reliability of a study to ensure its rigor and

generalizability (Ary et al., 2006). Qualitative researchers defend the rigor of their studies

according to measures of validation formed from the credibility, transferability, dependability,

and confirmability achieved through the methods (Angen, 2000; Guba, 1981; Mishler, 1990).

They do, however; dismiss measures of generalizability in lieu of the in-depth analysis of a

phenomenon (Frankel, 1999). Together, the qualitative standards of rigor depict "the degree of

congruence between the explanations of the phenomena and the realities of the world"

(McMillan & Shumacher, 2006, p. 324), demonstrating the level of agreement between what the

participants have done or said and what the researcher has observed or heard.

Credibility relates to the level of confidence in the researcher design and findings, to

accurately represent and interpret the data (Ary et al., 2006; Guba, 1981). Several measures were

taken to ensure the credibility of the study. Triangulation is an option making use of many

sources, methods, investigators, and theories in the hopes of providing evidence to back up

emerging themes as well as identifying any inconsistencies in the data (Creswell, 1998; Patton,

2002). Fine, Weis, Weseen, and Wong (2003) described triangulation as the "adding of one layer

of data to another to build a confirmatory edifice" (p. 187). This study built its confirmatory

edifice by drawing interview data as a primary source and observational field notes as a

secondary source. The interview guide was also submitted for peer review and was pilot tested as

an external check of the study's tools. Further, peer reviews and member checks were conducted

during transcription and coding of interview transcripts to check the accuracy of the data, as well

as the researcher's interpretation (Creswell, 1998; Moustakas, 1994). Thick, rich descriptions

were used to explain emerging themes and findings, using the participants' own words as

appropriate.









Transferability addresses how well the findings from the study sample relate to other

groups (Ary et al., 2006). Transferability can potentially occur between groups or contexts highly

similar to those described in the study (Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Patton, 2002). Rich descriptions

of the participants and the setting, and a clearly documented research process, made

transferability possible for this study. Additionally, few criteria were used for participant

selection so as not to limit transferability. According to Ary et al. (2006), the reaction of the

researcher is a threat to transferability. To circumvent this limitation, the researcher produced a

subjectivity statement to communicate any biases related to the phenomenon of interest. Epoche

helped achieve the intersubjective validity necessary in phenomenological studies. The process

of turning the researcher's focus inward before turning it outward toward the participants, helped

with evaluating understandings (Creswell, 1998).

The dependability of a study refers to its trustworthiness, the degree to which the variation

of the study can be explained (Ary et al., 2006). In concert with credibility, triangulation is also

used to address dependability. Audit trails of all methodological decisions were maintained,

complete with the associated raw data (Ary et al., 2006; Creswell, 1998). This resource will

provide a path for subsequent researchers to examine the approach taken in this study, assisting

with decision making for future work. Audit trails are also valuable tools for determining the

confirmability of the research, the chance future research will arrive at similar findings (Ary et

al., 2006).









CHAPTER 4
FINDINGS

Introduction

Referenced by pseudonym, this chapter features descriptions for each of the three study

participants' experiences with the phenomenon of teacher collaboration. Kevin, Christy and

Mark were selected for participation because they each met the selection criteria and

demonstrated active partnerships with other teachers. At the time of the study, all three

participants were secondary agriculture teachers teaching at the high school level. Kevin, the son

of an agriculture teacher, struggled with a self-imposed pressure of having to make his own way

as a new teacher. Over time and the opportunity to work with others who craved his input, Kevin

became an icon in the profession for building relationships. Christy began her teaching career as

one of a few young teachers in the county, and the only female. Having struggled independently

as a new teacher, Christy has since taken the initiative to consistently extend herself to other

newcomers to the county. These acts of inclusion have created rich networks between Christy

and other teachers. Finally, Mark came to the profession by way of a career in another field. His

naturally collaborative mindset was unappreciated by his previous employers. Gathering with

like-minded individuals brought rich opportunities for refining his teaching practice, supporting

his students' learning, and advancing his profession.

A summary of characteristics describing each participant including: years of teaching

experience, certification status, number of teachers in their program, involvement in statewide

leadership for the profession, description of programs in the county, and a short personal history

is presented in Table 4-1 at the end of the chapter. The participants' individual textural and

structural descriptions, along with the composite textural and structural statements, immediately









follow. The chapter closes with a textural-structural statement which shares the essence of

teacher collaboration from the perspective of the secondary agriculture teachers in this study.

Kevin

Textural Description

Kevin's beliefs and lived experiences as a secondary agriculture teacher working

collaboratively with other teachers are explored to provide a description of Kevin's life through

the lens of teacher collaboration. Having been a classroom teacher for 16 years with much of that

time spent at his current post, Kevin's career has been filled with events which have shaped his

feelings about teacher collaboration.

As a high school student, Kevin enrolled in the agriculture program and experienced much

success as a member of FFA. "When I was in high school I knew exactly what I was going to do

and how I was going to do it." Following his year of service as a state FFA officer, he chose to

enter the University of Florida as an agricultural education major. His decision was due in part to

the fact both his father and cousin were agriculture teachers, and because he had developed a

deep desire to teach as a high school agriculture student. The decision to teach was fairly clear

during the time of transition between high school and college since little had challenged his

thinking on the subject.

Kevin pledged membership to an agricultural fraternity upon arriving at the University of

Florida. It was there he met his "big brother," another agricultural education major. Kevin

credited his relationship with Carl as his first teacher-related collaborative experience. Carl had

been a student at the university and a member of the fraternity a bit longer than Kevin. Because

of the trust which formed between the two, Carl and Kevin often discussed the teaching

profession. "We were talking a lot. We had a lot of discussions about the philosophy of

agricultural education." The freedom and the breadth of subject matter available to students at









the university often challenged their decisions to teach. To have another with whom he could talk

about the tough issues helped Kevin maintain his focus. Once Carl graduated, Kevin felt a sense

of loss as there were not many agricultural education majors in the fraternity. He did form a

collaborative relationship with another pledge brother who happened to be in the same major but

their relationship was different from what he and Carl had. He and George tended to collaborate

particularly when it came to coursework like physics.

Kevin confessed at the earliest stages of his teaching career he had few experiences with

teacher collaboration. Many of his actions did not demonstrate teacher collaboration as a key

element of his espoused platform. While no explanation was offered, Kevin admitted "I just felt

intimidated by older men," and the profession was wrought with teachers who could be

categorized as such. He had also experienced some disparaging comments made by others with

whom he had gone to school. "I was out to prove a point, that I could do it. And I guess the kids I

knew had nagged on me at school and made fun of me. So I was proving them wrong. I kind of

had a purpose, to prove somebody wrong." The son of an agriculture teacher, Kevin had

witnessed his father working independent of other teachers. Kevin's father had come to the

classroom having spent no formal time in a teacher education program. Through his own form of

trial and error, he made a way for himself as an agriculture teacher. The combination of these

factors reinforced Kevin's determination to prove he could make a go of teaching agriculture.

As a student teacher, Kevin formed a strong mentor-based relationship with his

cooperating teacher. The two collaborated on a myriad of program-related topics. Kevin's

contributions ebbed and flowed based on those topics of which he had greater understanding and

confidence. Kevin had very little understanding of animal science concepts, so his role in that

course was based more observation and he participated more passively. Conversely, he possessed









a solid knowledge base in the area of plant science so he and his cooperating teacher were able to

work together to craft lesson plans for use in the course. "I still have some of the lessons that we

wrote. I use ideas from them." They also shared a common interest in Career Development

Events (CDE) and FFA, so they were able to pool their knowledge to further their

understandings and work together to improve their students' performance. "I learned a lot about

training a team and having the kids look polished FFA-wise. That was kind of my background

and it was hers too."

Upon receiving his first job, Kevin's father impressed upon him the fact he did not have to

do everything alone. Driven by the will to prove he could be successful, Kevin spent long hours

at school to prepare for, and complete, his responsibilities. Much like his relationship with his

cooperating teacher, Kevin's professional relationship with his father was a mentorship. Often, in

matters related to content, Kevin would defer to his father to do more sharing but in matters

related to pedagogy, Kevin was able to participate more as a contributor. "I collaborated with my

dad on making worksheets. He showed me this video collection in the county and it was like a

loan system. We wrote my classroom rules. I had a set of rules for the classroom, for the shop,

and for the land lab." He did not participate with other teachers much when it came to

collaborating on lesson plans simply because he felt the culture at the time necessitated a teacher

crafting his or her own.

You didn't talk about that kind of stuff. I don't know why. You didn't talk about team
teaching or sharing... It was kind of like an initiation thing where they wanted to see you
struggle a little bit but not fail. No one gave me a hand out and I'm not one to ask for a lot.
The old piece of the Creed, you know, don't believe in the hand out. 'When needed.' I just
never figured out when they are needed.

Should a teacher request to work together in preparation for a Career Development Event (CDE),

the petition was met with cold refusal.









They definitely wouldn't share team CDE event material. Oh no, no, no! It was almost to a
point it was a joke where if you hosted an event, you locked things up. If not, the teachers
were like, 'What's he got over here?' You were in a competition, Why would they share
with you?

He also had the opportunity to collaborate a bit with his assigned peer teacher. Darlene was

a math teacher whose classroom was next door to Kevin and they shared an office. While she

taught a different content area, she had coaching responsibilities just as he did. Their relationship

was intended as a mandate by the district but the fact she knew little about his content area

limited what she could teach him. This situation caused Kevin to contribute more openly. He

desired to invoke drastic changes to his new program and saw great potential for success.

Darlene began by acting as a sounding board, another professional with whom he could

commiserate. The type of change he wanted to invoke did not come without its share of

problems, and the uprisings he experienced in the classroom called for both content and

pedagogical expertise. "We talked about motivating students, what to do with disruptive

students." Together they formed a competent pair. Soon after exploring this new relationship,

Darlene became someone with whom he could craft solutions to the challenges he faced.

Kevin expanded his teaching network by reaching out to the shop teacher soon after

Darlene left the school. Because they shared a common language of career and technical

education, the lines of communication were immediately opened. Kevin viewed this individual

as a mentor teacher of sorts, but when it came to those students they had in common, their

relationship became more level. "We'd talk about the kids we shared. The kids we saw coming

to class we would ask how each one was doing." Kevin also felt as though he collaborated with

the previous agriculture teacher through the lesson plans and other resources he had left behind.

While these items were not necessarily things he would use directly, they did give him ideas for

crafting new lessons and materials. "I found all kinds of worksheets. I found old hand written









lessons from my high school teacher that were left there. So I used those, and looked at those. I

guess I collaborated even though they weren't there." In the days prior to the internet, these

resources were very important.

Kevin included collaboration with his students as a prime example of teacher

collaboration. The agriculture program in the first high school at which he taught had the

reputation of being based on manual labor. Students would grab a hoe and head out to the land

lab to work during the class periods. Upon arriving at the school, he realized the students lacked

any sense of pride in the work they were doing. He chose to implement a plan which gave the

students ownership over their work, allowing them to do more using a "learning by doing"

philosophy. "We started doing more things and giving them the chance to say, 'I did that! '" This

plan succeeded at building student pride as well as at growing the agriculture program because of

the active participation of students and teachers working together.

His work with other teachers in the county contained splashes of collaboration. In response

to a district memo requesting accountability regarding extended contract days, Kevin worked

with the other agriculture teachers to develop a descriptive listing of responsibilities the group

fulfilled using those extra days. "This is what we came up with. It was a big list. The front and

back of two, 8 1/2 by 14 pieces of paper. It was a big list and they all liked that." The

relationships he forged with George and Tim during their preservice programs continued to

provide opportunities for collaboration. They often discussed the challenges each faced when

trying to manage their programs and together, devised potential solutions. These exchanges

helped Kevin gain a sense of normalcy as they reduced his insecurities as a new teacher. Having

the two teachers at schools in close proximity to Kevin's made interactions among them more

likely.









After a number of years of teaching at the school he attended as a student, Kevin took a job

at a school in a different county, teaching outside of his academic expertise. He was initially

hired for a science teaching position, through which many teachers had filtered, and was

promised to be moved into the agriculture department as growth occurred. For those major

reasons, and to convey his commitment to the school, Kevin linked with the science department

chair for support. Mrs. Lawtey was an experienced teacher and occupied the room next to

Kevin's. The respect and trust between the two quickly transformed their interactions into strong

collaborations. Kevin taught his classes from an agricultural perspective with great success. "I

think collaboration finally hit home then because I needed the help of other people, and I needed

to ask the science department."

Mrs. Lawtey's perception of agriculture as a science was a foundational element leading

the two to share resources, curriculum, and time. "Most labs required certain chemicals. I didn't

buy a thing. I went to Mrs. Lawtey and it has always been like that. I would drive her classes on

their field trips every year, two and three times a year." The relationship has endured through to

the present.

With the university summer science workshop series, I would come back with notebooks
and she wanted to go. She has never looked down [on agriculture] and said, 'Oh, you need
to do more science.' She would look through the materials for ideas to use and teach
agriculture in a scientific method or other laboratory.

As Kevin transitioned from the science department into the agriculture program, he

interacted more frequently with his teaching partner; an icon within the school, the community,

and the state. Mr. Peterson was Kevin's first steady teaching partner. While their relationship

could be described as unique, the two balanced one another professionally. Kevin had assumed

Mr. Peterson would like to have things his way since he was an established teacher while Kevin

was just entering his program. However, this assumption could not have been further from the









truth. From the beginning, Mr. Peterson worked to make sure Kevin knew the program was as

much his as it was Mr. Peterson's. They also enjoyed informal time together where they could

just talk. "It was very freeing... It was neat to have somebody else to talk to." Through

conversation, they discovered they share a similar philosophy and work ethic. These two

commonalities formed the basis of their program vision of challenging students and guiding their

development.

Although the approaches were different, their collaborative efforts always began with

listening and brainstorming.

He'll listen to what I say and make comments and the same with me. I think we brainstorm
pretty well. He'll find something, either a lesson or a topic or a piece of equipment, 'What
do you think about this Kevin?' Or I'll find one and say, 'You know let's try this, or have
you tried that? Better look at this Mr. Peterson.' He is extremely open to new ideas,
teaching methods, and technology.

The pair is often approached by the state teachers' professional association to provide workshops

and presentations to a variety of audiences, on a variety of topics. "He can open up the audience

with some entertaining words and then just hit them with his thought. That is not my style but we

complement each other real well."

In an effort to help Kevin expand his expertise in the nursery landscape CDE, Mr. Peterson

urged Kevin to call a teacher in a nearby state whose students had experienced success in the

national competition. While uneasy with the idea of making such a call, Kevin finally did. Their

conversation was extremely profitable as each shared everything he knew about the competition

with the other. Instructional resources, processes, and tips about where to get in a practice while

waiting to compete at the national contest were all discussed. The telephone conversations even

resulted in a face to face meeting at the National FFA Convention.

For quite some time Kevin had been yearning to connect with other teachers. His

involvement with the Agricultural Education Leadership Program presented one of the most









powerful events for collaboration with teachers outside of his teaching partnership. The fifteen

program participants spent hours of quality time traveling around the state together in a van. The

captive nature of their travel time led to lengthy conversations among participants about their

experiences within the agriculture teaching profession and within life in general. These informal

interactions helped Kevin feel more comfortable with the idea of working with others.

Coincidentally the program included a component requiring the group to organize and complete

a project with an impact on agricultural education. Although mandated by the program, the

participants chose to work on the problem of agricultural education's limited message.

So what could we do? There was a lot of discussion, some heated, but we finally created a
CD which included pre-made PowerPoints an agriculture teacher could give to a guidance
counselor or take to the Rotary Club. While the technology was limiting, the content was
amazing. It had website links and pictures, templates for thank you letters, templates for
getting judges, templates of officer applications, lesson plans, and a wide array of
information so teachers wouldn't have to re-create all of it. And so as a new teacher you
would have this as a resource. We could say, 'Here, use this. Don't spin your wheels.
Don't get frustrated. Open this up. Try it. Use it. Modify it as you need.' ...Everyone got
to do their part.

His specific interactions and conversations with Margie yielded an especially powerful

connection neither had expected. They discovered the differences between their characteristics

led them to create a very strong bond. This bond was utilized and tested as Kevin and Margie

began the distance master's degree program at the University of Florida. The faculty often

encouraged the cohort to consult one another should they need additional assistance with

studying. Additionally, many of the assignments associated with the coursework were to be

completed in pairs or small groups. In describing their relationship, Kevin shared,

Talk about collaborating. I got to collaborate with this really neat lady, Margie. I think we
became excellent, excellent partners and I never really knew her before. We are really
different but we are also really alike and we tease each other. We say we are the Yin and
the Yang. She forces me out there and I pull her back just enough to make sure she's
composed and everything is exactly the way we want it. On the KAI [Kirton Adaptive
Innovative tool], she was at the very front of the line [Innovator] and I was in the very back
of the line [Adaptor]. That is when we said, 'Okay, we're partners.'









They worked together throughout the graduate program but their partnership did not end with

commencement. Their collaborative relationship extended to other projects. Margie encouraged

Kevin to participate with her in the career and technical education professional association

"because she thinks there is something I can offer." Most recently, Kevin, Margie, and Mr.

Peterson worked together on a state agricultural education license plate program. The trio shared

ideas among themselves to ensure their roles contributed to the program's success. They credit

the key to their success to the fact no one was "out looking for credit. It is a matter of being

involved and helping where we can."

Kevin's collaboration with the teacher education faculty at the university has been

mutually beneficial. He provided the university "an opportunity to visit, to utilize, to ask, to see,

because they are not in the classroom anymore." In return, Kevin has been able to make use of

some of the latest research findings with his students, and gather data about whether or not each

would be useful. Together, they have collaborated on some research to be presented to the

national agricultural education community. "Putting it all together and submitting it; ... nobody

else may have felt that same way but it was a big deal to me." For Kevin, his interactions with

the university teacher educators have been heightened upon moving to a school in closer

proximity to the university and also due to the closeness of his age to theirs.

Kevin counted his relationship with a former teacher among his recent experiences with

teacher collaboration. Rosie had been a science teacher at his school but moved on to work for

the State Department of Agriculture. Earlier in the school year, Rosie contacted Kevin to discuss

a possible research project on which his students could work with her division. The project

involved growing a food source for an invasive insect species which was new to Florida. Kevin's









student efforts would provide her division with something to feed the bugs as they researched

management strategies.

We talked about how we could tailor the project to the high school students and why the
high school students would be doing it. She came out and taught the students. So now we
are growing the plants for the purpose of data collection. The students have been doing a
good job and we are providing that division with some real information they would be
paying some laboratory somewhere else to do the same thing.

Structural Description

Kevin's perceptions of teacher collaboration have changed as he developed as a teacher.

During the preservice and induction periods of his teaching, he had the greatest professional need

for mentorship. He needed the opportunity to develop the knowledge and skill sets necessary to

become an effective teacher. "I wasn't really concerned about trying to collaborate. ...I was just

struggling." The majority of Kevin's collaborative interactions with other professionals tended to

be within a mentor-based capacity. His needs were often the focus of their time together.

Although Kevin had completed an accredited teacher education program within his

discipline, he was plagued by tunnel-vision determination, self-imposed intimidation, insecurity,

and a limited definition of collaboration. He had an overwhelming need to prove himself to

whomever he viewed as someone he either respected or who occupied a position of authority.

The long hours spent at school, and his unwillingness to ask for input from others, evidenced his

initial opposition to collaboration. His admission of feeling intimidated by older men and the fact

he had limited resources were additional reasons he gave for being closed off from contributing

to others. Kevin expressed a narrow view of teacher collaboration at this time, seeing it mainly as

a situation where teachers "share resources" and engage in "lesson planning" together.

When Kevin moved to a new school, he had already been teaching a number of years. "By

the time I got here [to this school], I think I was able to collaborate more because it wasn't as

much of a survival. It was kind of a branching out into a new territory." His general









understanding of the classroom gave him a certain amount of confidence but since he was hired

to fill a position beyond his specialty, he searched for a content-area mentor. The time he spent

with Mrs. Lawtey was invaluable as he learned there were things he was doing very right, things

which also found him respect in her eyes. The idea of being seen as a "vested" member of the

school community was very important to Kevin. He believed the image of being vested helped

others view him as "worthy of spending time and energy on," that he was "not just a revolving

kid coming through." He believed such a reputation captured more "yes" responses to his

requests than "no." The collaborative actions between Mrs. Lawtey and Kevin included sharing

resources for classes, serving as field trip chaperones, and sharing professional development

materials. While still rather limited in his perspective, he did find himself on a more level

playing field as Mrs. Lawtey did not "look down" on him or his efforts. Rather, she expressed a

desire to use the ideas in her own teaching.

Kevin's interaction with his teaching partner further expanded his understanding of teacher

collaboration. Kevin was surprised by the openness Mr. Peterson expressed toward working with

others and hearing their ideas. He often took the lead and initiated such interaction between the

two, as Kevin mentioned he was not quite ready to assume the lead. Through teaching

responsibilities, program management duties, and professional association participation,

collaboration between the two teachers was not limited to one context. Kevin mentioned they

balanced one another, listened to one another, and genuinely sought one another's opinions about

things concerning the program, the profession, and life in general. He learned a lot from Mr.

Peterson's style yet it was clear they each had distinct styles and neither wished to be viewed as

"the other person" in the department. Overall, Kevin felt being open with others was the most









important lesson he learned from Mr. Peterson. Due to the positive results they enjoyed, he was

confident he would continue to see positive results.

Similarly, Kevin's associations with Margie further pushed his collaborative notions to

include larger projects, different audiences, and new opportunities for learning together. Born of

informal social time within a structured professional development program, and grown through

continued interaction, the bond between Kevin and Margie was firmly established. Kevin

admitted he rarely initiated their collaborative experiences but this in no way hindered their

opportunities for working together. Their deep awareness of the talents, skills, and personal

qualities the other possesses lets them each use their strengths to pursue new challenges together.

Much like his relationship with Mr. Peterson, Kevin's relationship with Margie yielded positive

results and helped him to become more comfortable working with others. The collaborations had

a maturation effect on Kevin as he has been able to focus on the issues affecting the agricultural

education profession, rather than those which only affect him.

Completing an advanced degree and teaching in a school within close proximity to the

university have also expanded Kevin's opportunities for collaboration beyond the secondary

school setting. He described his relationships with the university teacher education faculty as

richer and more satisfying. Early in his career, Kevin had an "ivory tower" view of the university

faculty because of his limited interaction with them and any he did have was purely professional.

With younger professors serving in faculty roles at the university, Kevin has felt he can better

relate to them. He also felt he has something to contribute to the relationship they share because

he feels good about what he is doing. In fact, he often welcomes them to his classroom to visit,

observe, teach classes, and conduct research. Writing about the research he conducted with the









help of these same individuals also helped Kevin feel they were engaged in a true collaboration

regardless of the paper's acceptance.

Kevin's collaboration with the research community within the hard sciences helped him to

further refine his experiences with teacher collaboration. Kevin's connection with a former

teacher outside of his subject area, presented him with a collaborative experience intended to

expand his students' learning. His collaboration with the State Department of Agriculture

resulted in an inquiry project for his students, one based on a contemporary problem in

agriculture. For the State, precious data to assist in finding a timely and efficient solution was

their reward.

Kevin has valued the impact of teacher collaboration on his professional career saying it

has made it more enjoyable. Once he passed the stage where survival was his main objective, he

wanted more from his career. Every collaborative experience he mentioned having was positive

involving little to no resistance. Any resistance he did encounter came from within as he tried to

work out his personal challenge of reliance on others. Kevin described his personality as "very

positive" and he mentioned he was "always smiling and saying positive things" and "having a

hard time saying, 'No.'" He perceived these characteristics as attractive when working with

others yet often downplayed his role in initiating collaboration by crediting his experiences with

being with the right people, in the right places, at the right times. His willingness to collaborate

with other teachers helped him create a reputation as a collaborator and arrive at a place in his

professional life where potential collaborations generally tend to find him without him having to

seek them.









Christy


Textural Description

Christy knew she wanted to become an agriculture teacher by the time she was a freshman

in high school. Entering the agriculture program as an eighth grader, she had plenty of

opportunity to immerse herself in all the program could offer. Christy recalled her participation

in the Parliamentary Procedure CDE as her first experience with academic collaboration.

In Par-Pro you have to work together. There's no way around that. I'm kind of an
independent person. You know 'if you want something done, you do it yourself' I was
able to make it work. I understood Par-Pro but a lot of my FFA experience was more of an
outlet for me. I was kind of a book worm so to be able to interact, that was my goal.

She found collaboration was about the people with whom she worked and their similitude of

goals. She also discovered understanding and acceptance were necessary when working with

differences between people. By the time she entered the university, she was armed with both the

skills and the willingness to work collaboratively with others. She fully believed "you can't go

through life all by yourself; and no man is an island."

At the university, she found a group "of people that had the same interests and the same

kind of values as I did." These individuals happened to be in all of her classes as they were the

other agricultural education majors. They often spent time together.

When we weren't assigned a project where we worked together we were always studying
together and doing our personal stuff together. It wasn't necessarily that one intern group
because there were a lot of my friends in that circle. There were some others that were
right before us and some that were after us. It was a nice little group.

As soon as the professors assigned the work, the group would look inward for support and the

opportunity to engage in problem solving. Occasionally, some light competition would emerge

as the group wondered who would get the best grade. However, Christy mentioned they "really

shared a lot and were very helpful to one another."









Christy did not come from an agricultural background and as a result her content

knowledge came from her high school and college coursework. She often turned to her group to

help her develop the practical knowledge needed for teaching. "I had [raised] a pig and a steer

but they knew much more. They had more hands on [experience]. They did stuff that I had no

clue about." They also developed relevant lesson plans together.

When we were talking lesson plans, you could look at the book and you could sit in your
class and have the professor tell you about animal science but is it important for the student
to know? What do they need to have? So that's the stuff we were good at, exchanging that
kind of information on what ought to be in that lesson plan; the little side stories and the
interesting stuff you know when you have personal experience.

At times, the group consisted of as many as five regular participants but three individuals were

key. The bond among the three, including Christy, was sustained through the student teaching

experience. "We stayed together and really helped each other out."

The trio interned in the same county, at "very production-oriented" programs, and

encountered many similar experiences.

We were all having the same experience at different locations because we were all with
male teachers that had been in the business at least 25 years. We were all pretty young
girls. I had a kid that was 19 in my class and I was 21. That's a dynamic you just don't
expect. This one girl came into class and everyone was like, 'Oh, she's back!' And I'm
like, 'Back from what?' 'Here's the picture of the baby!' I wasn't prepared for those things
and neither were the other girls. They had the same kind of issues so we could really relate
in that way.

To address these challenges, Christy and the other interns often called one another to reflect on

their teaching, to commiserate, to offer tips and to share techniques that had worked in order to

create solutions to their challenges. Christy credited the friendship among the interns as reason

for the strong bond they shared. While their interactions occurred primarily by telephone, Christy

was able to meet them face-to-face at the fair and various CDEs. Such reunions served as time to

reconnect and address the needs of the group.









Christy's cooperating teacher, filling the role of a mentor, was careful to introduce her to

many of the teachers in the school. "We didn't stay at the ag building and have our lunch. He

made me go up to school and we ate with the teachers." He often pointed out how other teachers

might be able to help her. Christy admitted many of the introductions did not advance beyond the

lunch room, although each teacher seemed friendly. She did however, follow up on her

encounter with the math teacher when working to incorporate math into the agriculture

curriculum.

I remember teaching forestry and we did land measurement. I am a logical mind math
person so math makes sense to me. The first time I tried to teach it, it wasn't working so
my cooperating teacher encouraged me to go talk to the math teacher. We met during her
planning period and she gave me some pointers. ... She was really nice and very good
because she had been a math teacher forever.

Following her student teaching experience, Christy was hired to teach in a middle school.

The county was going through major restructuring so while many of the teachers in the school

had teaching experience, most were new to the campus. To increase communication and

collaboration, teachers were formed into teams according to the students they served. This

worked well for everyone except the elective teachers.

So that was kind of nice. You could start right up and do some things together. The whole
middle school concept is all about teams and teachers working together. The whole team
concept is all the sixth graders on this team have the same English, Math, and Science
teacher. The elective teachers were assigned to a team and we really didn't teach those kids
only. We taught every kid!

Teams met two times each week and additional meetings were required. At times, the

arrangement was good but at other times it made teachers feel as though "they're meeting you to

death."

The school appointed a formal mentor for Christy whom she discovered was a poor match.

Fortunately, she met an English teacher on her team who was better suited to provide the support

she needed. The relationship which transpired combined elements of collaboration based on their









team roles and mentoring from their one-on-one time. The connection they shared did not

address all the elements of Christy's role as an agriculture teacher. Since she was the only

agriculture teacher in the school, she had to look to the other teachers in the county for content-

specific camaraderie.

Attending her first county meeting, Christy found it difficult to fit in.

I was the only girl and I was the only young girl. There was one other lady that taught at
the exceptional students center so what she was teaching was a whole lot different than
what I was doing. It was my first year and I was thinking, 'Oh my gosh! Who can I sit by?
Who can I talk to?' There was nobody because they were all men and there really wasn't
even anybody young. They all had been teaching for quite a while. They were nice enough
but they were not overly friendly to help you.

She listened during the meeting as the presenter explained various expectations associated with

paperwork but being the only young teacher in the county, she felt insecure about asking

clarifying or follow-up questions.

It's a lot to absorb what you have to do. 'And this paper goes with this and this is what you
have to fill out for that.' The first one I was like, 'Oh, what the heck? I don't know what
they're talking about.' Plus, they say the same things every year so even the guy that is
leading the meeting is thinking, 'They've heard it a million times.'

Following the meeting, she returned to her school, only to discover there was no one there who

could answer her questions since their responsibilities did not require completion of such

documents. Rather than asking anyone outside of the school, Christy did her best with what she

knew. While she did well in some cases, mistakes were made in others. Due to her inexperience,

Christy went almost two years without submitting paperwork for mileage. This error cost her

financially as she was not reimbursed for those expenses.

At the completion of her fifth year with the middle school, Christy took the agriculture

teaching position at the high school. Christy's relationship with her teaching partner Bill was a

source of professional collaboration from the beginning. A two person department, they were

fortunate to craft specialized academic paths in the program. They often chose to forego working









together on classroom-related matters because of their distinct instructional foci. Rather, Christy

and Bill found their collaboration was generally geared toward FFA and program management.

We are the advisors of our FFA chapter. It's not me and it's not him. We make the
decisions together. We do our fundraising together and it has worked out really well. I
couldn't ask for anyone better to work with. When I first started here, we would eat lunch
together every day and we would talk about stuff. We don't do that regularly anymore but
we often open up the removable wall separating our classrooms after school so we can talk.
We have officer meetings monthly and other big events coming up regularly so we talk
about them beforehand.

Not only did Christy make a position change during that time, she noted a number of other

changes in the county agriculture teaching population. The same year she moved to the high

school, a female was hired to the opening she left at her middle school, and another high school

hired a woman to fill theirs. The following year her closest collaborator, Shana, was hired to a

position. This wave of new teachers presented Christy with professionals who were closer to her

age.

We had somebody to sit with at the ag teacher events. The first year we were all together it
was basically work-related collaboration. We talked about 'This is what works for me' and
'This is what we do.' Then we got to be friends and had some outside work contact which
solidified the group. We then started talking about things that were work-related but that
you probably wouldn't just talk about with your acquaintances. We talked about what we
could do to make things different and better, things outside of our classrooms.

Christy's relationship with this group of agriculture teachers continued to progress leading

to a number of changes in her work. "We kind of felt out of the loop sometimes so we figured we

would do some things that would let our kids get some benefit. We felt the more we knew the

better it was going to be for them. We worked together." She had always been a dues paying

member of her professional association but had never been a participant. "So, our little group

decided we were going to try to get more involved in that kind of stuff. And we did!" She

became a member of the state FFA board while another in the group was elected to a leadership

position on the state agriculture teachers' association board.









Even as two of the four key teachers left the collaborative group, new ideas for working

together emerged with one effort leading to another.

Working to get on the boards led to the whole curriculum stuff and everything we do now.
You get so much from exchanging stories but when you sit down and start to work on a
project with someone you can get a lot accomplished. There is a lot that can happen. In
fact, I don't think I would have done the whole master's thing if I hadn't had the friends to
do it with.

Christy introduced the idea of completing a distance master's program to the group by telling

them, "We need to do this." She was able to coerce Shana into applying to the program by telling

her, "We ought to take everything we can get." The graduate program encouraged collaboration

among students so Christy and Shana worked together whenever they could, studying and

completing assignments as a team.

We did all of our stuff together. Anything we could work together on, we did. When you
don't have the teacher and you only have a computer screen with a PowerPoint
presentation from which to get the information, you need to be able to talk to someone. If I
hadn't been able to talk it out with someone it [success] wouldn't have happened.

To get the most out of their collaboration they often met face-to-face, taking turns driving to the

other's home or school to work on assignments.

Extending their efforts to the classroom, Christy and two of the county agriculture teachers

in her collaborative group decided to complete a grant application related to the horticulture

classes they taught.

We're not big grant writers. Our county supervisor found this grant and he said, 'Okay,
what do we want to do with this?' We thought of some things that were important and we
wanted to try to do. We wrote them out as a group and then gave it to the county grant
writers to polish. We got the money so something must have worked.

With funds available, the group worked together to align their course curriculum with the state

horticultural industry association's professional certification test. This feat required the team to

amend their current curriculum by going deeper into some concepts on which they provided only

a surface orientation. They also developed new lesson plans for those areas not currently









addressed. The three worked together to plan and facilitate industry, research and university

tours to enhance the classroom experience for their students. The work required the three to stay

in close contact. Christy said, "I don't know a week that goes by that we don't talk by email or

on the phone. I might talk to them more than I talk to Bill [her teaching partner]!"

Structural Description

Christy's professional development has been profoundly impacted by her collaborative

associations. A naturally withdrawn yet bright student, Christy knew from the moment she

entered FFA as a secondary student that working with others often results in a richer end

product. This lesson did not evade her upon graduation. She immediately began forming

connections with others during her undergraduate career at the university. Christy had enough

self-awareness to realize she would need to force herself to interact with others, no matter how

uncomfortable, if she was to grow.

Finding peers with similar values and goals helped her feel more at ease and confident in

the new university surroundings. While much of their interaction involved being supportive, they

did exhibit signs of a competitive spirit when it came down to the grades each would receive on

their assignments. Competition was usually stoked when a member of the class had a passion for

a particular topic and genuinely wanted to know more about it. However, it was curtailed when a

student had an insufficient level of knowledge to be able to compete as an expert.

Referring to her preservice group as "friends," Christy and the other members of the group

had a relationship based on trust. They often shared thoughts and ideas when planning their

lessons, going beyond mere content and including personal stories, to motivate their students'

learning. Even when they parted ways and commenced student teaching, each regularly engaged

with their cohort peers on a professional level by reflecting openly about their performance,

challenges, and goals for developing their identities as teachers. The practice was successful









among this group as they were on a level playing field, feeling comfortable with one another and

each possessing a relatively similar degree of expertise in the field of teaching and learning.

However, because of their different experiences and interests, each had unique insights to share.

The mandated collaborative teacher team structure infused within the middle school

presented Christy with a dichotomy. On the one hand, the experience allowed her to work

closely with teachers from other content areas on school issues. On the other hand, the

demanding meeting schedule and arbitrary placement of elective teachers presented a rigidity

which did not serve her professional best interests. The mentor program was another mandated

effort demanding her to forge collaborative ties with other teachers. Although the first match did

not "take," Christy enjoyed much success with her self-identified mentor, the leader of her

teacher team. Despite her inability to access the help she needed related to her specific subject-

area responsibilities, she felt isolated as no teachers or administrators on her campus could

provide her with the direction she desperately needed. Her unwillingness to ask for help resulted

in major challenges related to county paperwork. As a result, she made a number of mistakes

which could have been avoided had Christy taken the initiative to approach another agriculture

teacher in her county.

In Christy's defense, the county agriculture teacher culture seemed closed. Her first

experience in their company was intimidating since she was the only young teacher in the

county, and one of only two female teachers. Although polite, not a single teacher had offered

himself to her as a resource she could call on if she needed help completing her responsibilities.

"I think some of it is probably to a certain extent, sticking it out long enough to become one of

the group. If you are around a little while longer, then you kind of get accepted into the fold."

She felt out of place, as if she did not fit in; a stranger in a foreign land. At the county agriculture









teacher meeting, she also felt as if the presenter was speaking in a secret language since she

appeared to be the only one who did not understand his comments. The danger of the situation

stemmed from its timing. Christy was just beginning her career in agricultural education and

rather than a warm welcome, she got a chilly reception. Furthermore, the loss of mileage

reimbursement due to her paperwork error provided another reason to reconsider her career

choice.

Christy admitted feeling restless many times during her 16 years of teaching but her

associations with other teachers helped her find reasons to stay.

I got to a point where I felt I wasn't as happy as I could be if I had another job. There is a
certain amount of, 'It is the same job even though you have different kids every year.' I
questioned if I wanted to stay in teaching. These people came along at the right time for us
to work together and that has probably kept me here.

Moving from a one-teacher agriculture program to a program with two teachers brought the

potential for daily collaboration on local school and program-related issues; a void she

experienced during her previous five years at the middle school. Although they were very

different individuals, each shared a commitment to the success of their program and actively

worked to make sure both voices were heard while managing its activities. Her leadership work

in professional associations came from discussions among her group of teacher collaborators.

Such dialogue also resulted in the opportunity to continue their learning in the distance master's

program and engage in a tri-program grant project. She willingly and voluntarily took part even

though each required additional commitments of her time. The fact these events presented her

with the personal and professional motivation needed to make her work challenging, stimulating

and rewarding was enough reason for her to maintain her commitment to agricultural education.









Mark


Textural Description

Mark's first stint at the university came immediately following his graduation from high

school. While he confessed to not remembering much of the experience due to "youthful

indiscretion," he did recall his work habits. "The first time I was up there it was always, 'Jeez, I

didn't finish my report. Can you cut me a little slack? Can I give it to you later today? Can I get

it to you tomorrow?' I was always looking for a way to beat the system." Upon graduation, he

began a ten year career in banking. Mark decided toward the end of that time, he wanted to go

back to school to become an agriculture teacher. He met with the professors in the department, as

well as with his family, and at age 33 he enrolled in a second bachelor's program at the

university. He approached the experience much differently, relying heavily on collaboration with

others.

The second time I was up there I was much more focused. ...I put my stupid male ego
aside, and allowed twenty, twenty-one year old kids to tutor me in college algebra. ...I
looked at studying as my job. I didn't want to cut any corners this time. I would always
stay after class asking the professors questions. I looked at it [school] a lot differently than
I did the first time.

While enrolled in the teacher education program, Mark had the opportunity to work with

the many other students in his cohort. One of his earliest encounters involved a particularly

challenging horticulture class. The course instructor presented a lengthy plant identification

assignment and many students struggled to learn the 200 plus plants required. In talking with the

other students in his major, he discovered another preservice teacher had taken the course one

semester prior. The two discussed class expectations and she offered to share with him the

photographs she took of each plant on the identification list. This gesture sparked in him and the

other teachers, the importance of a collaborative culture. "We just kind of fed off of each other









and supported each other. We worked with each other. 'How did you come up with this?' or

'How do you think we should do that? I think it all kind of developed from there."

Upon completion of his teaching internship, Mark was hired to the school where he is

currently employed. His first day on the job, the custodian told Mark he had a broken well on his

land lab which needed repair. When Mark asked how he was supposed to take care of it, the

custodian responded, "Put in a work order." Once Mark learned how to complete the paperwork,

he submitted the document and a few days later a district employee came to assess the situation.

When Mark met him, he told Mark the area around the pump was too overgrown and he needed

Mark to mow him an access road. Aware he had a tractor sitting on the land lab, Mark tried to

start the machine but was unsuccessful. He went back to the custodian to report the dead tractor

and was met with the same response, "Put in a work order." This time, the work order went

unanswered. When he checked on the order's status, he was told to visit the bus garage because

they were responsible for such repairs. Mark learned from his inquiry at the bus garage the work

order would be on hold for two weeks after the start of school since they were backed up with

servicing each of the county's busses. Mark summarized the event by saying, "It was at that

point I knew I needed to get help in a lot of areas in order to make things work in this

environment."

He was on the right path with this line of thinking as his tenure within the school

community got off to a rocky start. Mark was the fifth teacher the program had seen in just three

years. There were very few teaching and learning resources available and he faced a number of

student management issues.

It was rough! I was called to the principal's office I don't know how many times. I was
accused of [things] and the mom was going to sue. Kids would run by my house shouting.
Our teams never did well, or didn't do as well as I thought we could have. I blamed it on
these kinds of kids coming in.









Aware change was needed, he began asking other agriculture teachers what they did to get

results. "I don't know if it is just Florida or if it's just guys in particular but they keep their cards

close to their chests. They really don't share anything." A visit with a teacher in a nearby county

who had been his college fraternity brother landed him a wealth of information.

I called him and asked him for stuff. He would give me stuff. Then I got to know his
teaching partner and he would share stuff with me. As they worked with a couple of
teachers, I would call those other couple of teachers and they would say, 'Sure, come on
over.' It just kind of mushroomed from there because I didn't have anything.

Mark continued to follow each lead, creating a literal chain of collaboration. This chain led

him to craft additional networks dealing with the FFA aspect of his professional responsibilities.

Working with teachers in County 1, Mark was able to let his students train for the citrus CDE

alongside the students from another school. "I took my team, and we set up a whole contest

inside their auditorium." Met with success in his quest for collaboration, he continued to pursue

"like-minded teachers" who were willing to be open and share their expertise. While at a sub-

district land judging CDE he spoke with Adam, a teacher in County 2, sharing some of the

challenges and change goals he had in mind for his chapter's performance in the contest. Adam

then offered to share his contest training resources and extended an invitation to Mark and his

students to practice with him and his team.

Taking his students to gather with Adam and his team, as well as the students and teachers

from one school in County 3 and another from County 4, Mark was confused by the scene. He

probed Adam, asking why he had offered to work with so many other teachers and students

when they could beat his own on the day of competition. Mark recalled Adam's response by

saying, "Well, that's easy. If we're not teaching kids why are we doing what we're doing?" As

they continued their discussion, Adam shared the tenets of this educational philosophy.

He said, 'Every kid is engaged. Every kid is trying their best. There are no discipline
problems. I have no distractions. I have them hanging on every word I say. Every one of









them is striving to do their best and beat somebody else up here. Never in your teaching
career will you have a classroom like you've got right now. ...Mark, I don't care who you
are. If you want to learn, I'll teach you because when we beat you I want to make sure we
beat the best. And if you beat us it's because you've beaten the best.' With that, I began to
seek out and socialize with other teachers at different conferences and events who were
like-minded.

Through his connection with Adam, Mark met Rebecca. Rebecca was a similarly minded

agriculture teacher employed at a school in County 5, and was considered to be an expert at the

forestry CDE. Rebecca freely offered to share her expertise with Mark as the two brought their

teams together for a practice at her school.

When I asked Rebecca for some help she said, 'Just come by here and we'll work out with
my team. I've got the whole contest set up in my shop.' Now when we [Mark and his
students] go someplace, they recognize somebody. They've got somebody to talk to when
they're there instead of just talking with the same kids [from their own school].

Collaboration was also established between Mark and Leanne from County 6. Leanne had

enjoyed some success regarding the food science CDE. She also possessed a philosophy

common to Mark's about sharing her expertise with other teachers. Based primarily on resource

sharing, the two have offered one another whatever new CDE preparation materials each finds.

Within his own county, Mark crafted collaborations with two teachers in particular. With

Shelia, the duo was able to prepare their vegetable CDE teams for competition. "Shelia will often

call a joint practice between her kids and my kids." The day prior to the state vegetable CDE the

two chapters traveled together, practicing in grocery stores and entomology laboratories along

the way. Because of his status as an experienced agriculture teacher in the county, Shelia, and

her teaching partner Carla, approached Mark to assist them in developing building plans for a

brand new agriculture department facility in the county.

I had a little bit of input on how the school was designed. I talked to them about needing a
computer lab and a teacher planning area. It was suggested the bathrooms have some
locker room space and that it have a shower for students that did need to shower after that
unfortunate incident. Also, a hand wash station where five to six kids could wash their









hands instead of one long line at one sink. It also included building a chapter officer room,
resource room, and a trophy case display window which opens to the courtyard.

His relationship with this program did not end there. Since then, Mark and Carla have worked

out a system where Carla makes feed runs on her commute to and from school. In return, Mark

has provided a climate-controlled facility in which to store feed for both of their needs.

Mark recalled an experience where he shared information about beginning a booster club,

with a good agriculture teacher friend. The other teacher was looking for ways to finance his

chapter's activities yet was hesitant about starting a booster club. Having a strong booster club in

place, Mark offered a clear description of the group's role and specific guidelines and parameters

his friend needed to establish, in order for the group to operate successfully. After working with

the other teacher, he started a booster club for his chapter and within three years, was raising

over $25,000 to Mark's $10,000. "That's what collaboration can be. Because of that one

teacher's nice conversation at our State FFA convention, they're now giving away scholarships

for their kids going to college. They are also paying for students to go to CDEs that would not

have otherwise had the opportunity."

Mark admitted to having what he considered to be "collaborative relationships" with the

teacher educators in the department from which he graduated, even though they were different

from the faces guiding him as a student. "I've tried to stay in touch with them so I can give [my

students] the best possible advice. The only advice I give is the advice I get from Josh, Randy

and Wade. When we're saying the same information, the kids respond to it a lot better." These

discussions have helped a number of his students transition into the agricultural education major

at the university. Most recently, Mark worked with Josh and two agriculture teachers from his

home county to organize and facilitate a recruitment dinner for high school students interested in

becoming secondary agriculture teachers.









Mark's experiences with teacher collaboration have resulted in his development as a

teacher professional. His students have won state and national awards, he had demonstrated

change in his classroom practices and he was even approached by administrators for promotion

in his district. The successes often presented him with the dilemma of whether or not he should

remain at his current school, transfer to another department in the county, or move into school

administration.

People recognize my leadership skills down here [in the agriculture department] and
suggest they could be better utilized in management. I spent about fifteen, twenty minutes
down at the front office. I come back here [to my classroom] and I am so happy to be back
within my four walls and to hug my kids.

Rather than making the decision as to whether or not he would stay at the school on his own,

Mark chose to seek the input of those with whom he worked closely.

When they opened up Byer High, I was heavily recruited to go out there and open up that
program. I really liked the principal that was going there and the idea of brand new
everything so I called Adam. I said, 'Adam, what do you think about this?'... He had a
good answer. So when they [county administration] opened up the new middle school and
said, 'Hey, Mark! What do you think?' I said, 'Nah, I'm fine. 'Bout got this place the way
I want it.'

Structural Description

Mark's perceptions of teacher collaboration were largely shaped by his core beliefs that no

man is an island and that people are made stronger when they work together. These beliefs were

not appreciated in his first career so he set out to find a place where they would be. Mark came to

teaching by way of another field, much like a number of Florida's agriculture teachers. He had a

solid career in the banking industry but after a number of position changes and dealing with

feelings of dissatisfaction, Mark chose to complete a second bachelor's degree in agricultural

education. His decision was unlike those generally made by other teachers from industry, as they

often chose to complete the alternative certification process rather than a teacher education

program. Opting to attend the university allowed Mark access to other pre-professionals with









whom he was able to network, learn, and grow. The experience made him feel integrated to the

profession prior to taking his first teaching job. "It kind of started from there [collaboration with

the cohort] and then developed from there. So, I'd call Laura and Mary, who's not in teaching

anymore. I'd ask them and they'd send me some stuff. It just kind of snowballed from there."

His first experiences as a high school faculty member let Mark know how much he didn't

know about meeting the responsibilities associated with his role as an agriculture teacher. "They

teach us this much," [gesturing by placing his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart] "on that

many subjects" [gesturing by holding his arms out]. The work order situation demonstrated his

lack of knowledge about school protocol, something impossible for new teachers to know until

they infiltrate a particular school system. The lack of instructional resources was also a surprise

he could not have expected, but made very real upon gazing at empty file cabinets and textbooks

that had been "trashed". Another area making him aware of his shortcomings was the range of

content he was responsible for teaching yet had limited knowledge. Frustrated by these barriers,

Mark realized he needed help.

There is no way you can do it all. ...I realized that when I was trying to fix everything to
try to teach, it was going to take a lot more than what I had. So I had to win friends and
influence people to get something to work. It was a chore.

Guided by his core beliefs and the curiosity about how other schools achieved success, he made

his teaching a priority and looked up those teachers with whom he formed lasting connections

during his teacher education program. They were happy to help by sharing resources, contacts,

and tips for success. "You just go and ask questions and for the most part people will help you

because they are flattered [you asked]."

Thrilled with his initial successes in teacher collaboration, he looked to other areas of his

teaching responsibility; namely the areas of FFA and SAE. Mark's willingness to sit down with

other teachers at professional activities was a fruitful beginning to expanding his efforts. He









chose to discuss professional goals, challenges, and issues rather than engage in small talk or,

worse yet, withdraw from their company.

The teachers with whom I collaborate are teachers that I gravitate toward. There are
teachers that when our students are competing, they tell you what a great job they are
doing. Then there are the ones that, 'How did you guys cover it?' 'How are you able to
come up with this?' 'I had a parent do this,' or 'I had this teacher come in and help with
that.' So the conversation starts in a big group to begin with but then they [the teachers]
kind of break off into smaller groups of interest. That is where I think a lot of the like-
mindedness of the teachers, or wanting to help each other and share information, develop.
The ones that are so busy telling you what all they have done usually go off and brag to
each other.

This choice was powerful to generating connections with teachers versed in areas of expertise

beyond his own. "You can't know it all. You don't have to have all the answers." Mark's ability

to perform more effectively in more areas expanded as he looked to Adam to enhance his

knowledge base in soils and land, to Rebecca in forestry, to Leanne for food science, to Shelia

for vegetables, and to others for citrus, the National Chapter Award application, and the many

Proficiency award areas. The interaction not only benefited Mark's knowledge and socialization,

it benefited the other teachers and every student they served. "My kids seem to like it [his

collaboration] because it makes them better. They want to do well, make new friendships,

establish the contacts, and be able to say, 'Hi,' to another advisor. They enjoy it."

From the moment he chose to engage in this new career path, Mark was able to humble

himself and move beyond the profession's culture of skepticism and competition. He chose to

adopt more open educational philosophies, like those shared by Adam, and model his personal

beliefs for others rather than solely worry about how his students would place in a CDE. As a

result, many teachers felt comfortable coming to him and letting him know how he could help

them, especially those early in their careers.

I think it is the younger ones that are more easily approachable and are more willing to
share. So many of them have come through a program where they had an icon of a teacher,
that taught for 20 or 30 years, that had every answer or gave the kids the impression they









had every answer. They feel bad and don't have the confidence level they think they
should have.

Some teachers have asked for his help and support in building a new agriculture program while

still other teachers have approached him for his thoughts on deciding how to best improve

existing programs. He has even taken it upon himself to collaborate with other teachers and

teacher educators to work on the agriculture teacher supply and demand issues prevalent in

Florida. His willingness to be open and take the initiative to begin collaborations has helped

Mark carve a legendary reputation in the profession as a teacher collaborator.

Since his career in agricultural education followed a ten-year career in banking, Mark had

a professional maturity well beyond that of other beginning teachers. His experiences with

teacher collaboration helped him develop still further. As Mark moved closer to the midpoint of

his teaching career, this maturity presented him with options for his future. The opportunities,

while tempting, came as a result of the success he brought to the program and the depth of his

professional development. Because of his great respect for Adam as a professional and friend,

Mark did not hesitate to seek his input for helping him make a decision about his future in

teaching. This bond between Mark and Adam was based on trust, forged with common values

and shared history. A connection with such stability and meaning was instrumental in Mark's

decision to remain as a contributing member of the agricultural education profession.

Composite Textural Description

All of the teachers in this study agreed teacher collaboration begins with taking the

initiative to reach out to others. They also found collaborative efforts to be a powerful

professional development tool, permitting teachers to focus on topics suiting their particular

needs and interests. When considering whether or not collaboration had the potential for helping

teachers gain more enjoyment from their work, they felt, "that's the fun part of the job." (Kevin).









The participants each identified some form of professional frustration as the tipping point

to collaboration with other teachers. With Kevin, the desire came from the hopelessness he felt

over trying to meet an impossible standard of the ideal teacher he had set for himself. For

Christy, the difficulty of feeling out of place and thinking she had no one on whom she could call

for help was enough to cause her to reach out. The issue of taking over a program with no

instructional resources sent Mark canvassing the profession for support. "I guess that is where

my desire for collaboration came from. It came out of frustration over not having anything.

When I got there, I was the fifth teacher in three years and the program was a mess" (Mark).

Successful first experiences were also critical to the continued use of teacher collaboration.

Every participant was part of the same teacher education program at the same university; Kevin

and Christy simultaneously, and Mark a number of years later. As part of the program, preservice

teachers completed their agricultural education coursework in a loose cohort structure. The

arrangement offered the developing teachers an opportunity to work on professional activities

with their future colleagues. This type of encouragement helped them complete higher quality

work and identify individuals with whom they could collaborate once they finished the program.

In all cases presented, friendship was the basis for many of these collaborations. "They were my

good friends and still are" (Christy).

Each participant carried the idea of professional friends forward as they discussed their

most important collaborations. The ties among them began on a purely professional level where

they really just spent time getting acquainted. The key characteristic moving those relationships

forward had to do with sharing a common set of goals or philosophies.

I am glad the [Florida Agriculture Teacher Leadership] program came about because I met
a really neat lady who became an excellent partner. I really didn't know her before. We are
really different but we are really alike. We tease each other and say we are the 'Yin and the
Yang'. We got through that distance master's program by working together (Kevin).









I have to give a lot of credit to Adam. The guy is phenomenal. And like I said, his whole
philosophy is, 'if we're not educating kids, why are we doing what we're doing?' He is
just fantastic. He is a good friend (Mark).

Also, the strong connections each had with their key collaborators were bigger than the tasks on

which they were working. This enabled them to move the relationships forward from one project

to the next.

The teachers expressed a common set of criteria for defining teacher collaboration. Each

believed the concept to be based on a common set of goals to guide their work. "Collaboration is

working together with a common goal, a common purpose and sharing ideas" (Christy).

Resource sharing was commonly mentioned in their examples as it dealt with how to improve

student opportunities for learning. "I think it involves sharing information; sharing study

materials, sharing curriculum, sharing CDE helpful hints and guides" (Mark). Trust was at the

foundation of every participant's description as it enabled them to share with others more openly.

"It is so easy to lean over and say something to Todd where before [collaborating] I would have

felt, 'Oh gosh, do I say this? Did I say it right?' I don't have to worry about that with him"

(Kevin).

There was some commonality among the expectations each participant had about what

could be achieved through teacher collaboration. First, the teachers believed their collaborative

relationships with other teachers should be a source of professional development. Mark shared,

"I think I am a better teacher." For Kevin, teacher collaboration gave him a new perspective on

his work.

The first few years [of my career] I felt like I was in survival mode. Collaboration came
more in perhaps the fact other teachers didn't want to see me fail but wanted to see me
succeed. After I moved to my current school I was able to collaborate more because I
wasn't trying to survive anymore. It was a kind of branching out into a new territory.
When I think of collaboration today, it may not be in a lesson plan or that type of format. I
collaborate with my peers professionally. We call it 'professional development' and I think









that is what it is. I think it still plays an important part in driving my professional
development (Kevin).

For Christy, she just made the commitment to learn. "We decided we were going to learn more

about something or do some form of something differently." Using different methods of

collaboration like curriculum development projects, leadership positions in professional

associations, and advanced degree programs challenged each of them.

Secondly, each felt collaboration should be spontaneous. Their collaborative experiences,

born of a structured program or protocol, created a lot of resentment. Christy shared,

Ag teachers don't necessarily like being told what to do in general. There have been times
when I was like, 'You have got to be kidding me.' You know if it is mandatory, fine but
high school teachers in general are kind of independent spirits. Don't tell me what to do! In
the beginning, I collaborated mostly because I needed to; it was required. Then it got to the
point where I made my own associations and these collaborations were probably more
useful and more productive. That is where I am right now.

Taking advantage of unstructured time, such as having a meal together or catching up between

classes, meant there was ample opportunity to foster collaboration. "And it makes it easier. Let's

go have a bite to eat or come and visit. We love to sit down and just chit chat. I like that a lot

better because it is more me now than before [when he was told to collaborate] (Kevin). Informal

talk was also key to Mark's experiences. "There is not a whole lot for the teachers to do while

you sit around waiting for students to finish competing. So, you sit around and you start talking"

(Mark). Christy added the use of email and cell phones provided her with more time to

collaborate.

Technology has really helped me in finding more time. You don't have to go somewhere
to meet someone to talk about things. Not everyone has always had a cell phone. I can call
anyone, any time, anywhere. When I have a thought I can [gesture of opening a flip phone]
and say, 'Hello! Let's talk about this!' Email is so instantaneous. It has really helped in
what we [the horticulture grant collaboration team] have done recently because I know in
the beginning [of her career] if you needed something from someone, you needed to get
together. You had to physically meet and you don't have to do that now.









Third, the teachers expected teacher collaboration to be a remedy to the profession's

competitive culture. Every participant commented on the reception they received when they

entered the profession. Being the only young female teacher in a sea of older men, Christy felt

extremely uncomfortable. "People weren't very open. They never said, 'Oh, just call us. We will

help you'" (Christy).

I didn't understand how these chapters kept winning all this stuff. They're not staying after
school to practice so they got to be teaching that in the classroom. I started asking around. I
don't know if it's Florida or if it's just guys in particular but they kept their cards close to
their chest. They did not really share anything (Mark).

They [other agriculture teachers] definitely would not share CDE material. Oh, no! It was
almost to the point it was a joke, where if you hosted an event you locked things up. If you
didn't, the teachers were like, 'What does he have over here?' It was because you were in
competition. 'Why would we want to share with you?' (Kevin).

Each admitted they enjoyed the opportunity to compete but they also confessed winning was not

their reason for competing. The teachers chose to put their own philosophies into practice rather

than go along with the current competitive culture. Describing why he shares his expertise and

resources with others, Mark said, "It's very competitive. If you want to be the best, you have to

beat the best. Otherwise, what good is winning?"

Program viability was important to each of the three teachers interviewed. They felt a

teacher's satisfaction with his or her job affected how the students, administration, and

community perceived the program. Teacher collaboration, in the form of breeding success for

more teachers in more diverse ways, was a critical strategy to achieving such a necessary

outcome. Christy felt teacher collaboration had restorative powers, "I think it has been good for

me. Getting to work with somebody revitalizes you." Kevin recalled his relationships with his

two closest collaborators and how the interactions have formed his perspective about the future

of the profession.









The collaboration has increased my job satisfaction. I didn't have the chance to work with
the other ag teachers at my first school. But buying in and talking to people, that makes it
fun. Collaboration eases the job loneliness. I can pick up a phone and talk to a friend/ an ag
teacher/ another comrade and get their ideas. If we are not going to collaborate
professionally, then it is a dead profession.

Mark felt collaboration was also critical to a program's future within the community it serves.

I would say the importance of collaborating professionally depends on how successful you
want to be and how soon you want that to happen. If you want to be successful, grow, and
get recognition and support in the education system that is stretched thin, you have got to
get out and promote your program. If you stay back and try to be the end all of knowing
everything you may be a great resource nobody knows about when they have decided to
cut your program. You have to collaborate to hit some home runs to get the publicity and
support from your administration. It shows this is a viable program that needs to stay in the
community.

Composite Structural Description

The experiences of teachers in this study primarily revealed positive results related to

teacher collaboration. They initially entered into these types of working relationships as early

career teachers. Their individual needs related to developing their professional, content, or

programmatic knowledge and skills had each participant working collaboratively with a formal

district mentor. Although each mentor came from content areas outside of agriculture and career

and technical education, each was able to provide "basic" pedagogical information and support.

In return, participants offered the mentors the chance to "talk shop;" to think about and discuss

issues related to teaching and learning. Although mandated by the state, these connections with

knowledgeable individuals, married with their own "will to succeed," led to reasonable levels of

success. Success manifested itself in the integration of "mathematics" and "science" into the

agriculture courses.

The social aspects of teacher collaboration served as a form of motivation for the

participants to continue the practice. The chance to talk with another teacher about their

professional lives not only gave them something worthwhile to do while waiting for students to









complete their performance in CDEs, it gave them the chance to make friends of the strangers

holding similar positions at other schools. Whether the opportunity presented itself at an official

event, or was something they actively pursued on their own, the social component required their

willingness to risk. To admit to another teacher they were not knowledgeable, confident, or

competent in something was to risk their very reputations as effective agriculture teachers.

Laying their shortcomings on the line, to their great surprise and comfort, resulted in greater

camaraderie and trust in their relationships with others. "If you reach out, good things can

happen" (Kevin).

Each of the participants expanded their views of education because of their experiences

with teacher collaboration. Initially, the teachers were concerned with their content areas, trying

to gain mastery at teaching a subject. Exposure to differing points of view and new philosophies

presented each with a form of dissonance motivating them to reexamine their own structure of

beliefs. This act of personal and professional inquiry led to powerful change.

I told him [the culinary arts teacher], 'I need to go because I need to work on the final
exam.' He said, 'What do you mean, work on the exam? Why are you doing that? You are
going to put down stuff that you think is important. If you set it up right and guide the
students, they can make up their own test. You will be surprised at what they think is
important and it cuts down on cheating. They will actually do better because they have
ownership in it.' It made so much sense. I probably haven't made up a test in five years
(Mark).

I am seeing a need for being worried about more than your own skin, even though that is
where it starts. We need to be worried about everyone because it will all affect us. We need
to think about how things are going to affect our partner on campus or at another school.
That partner might be an agriculture teacher, an English teacher, or even a career and
technical education teacher. You have to remember agricultural education is one with them
all (Kevin).

Each participant made reference to the contradiction which exists between competition and

teacher collaboration. For each of them, teacher collaboration was about blending a variety of

strengths, beliefs and expertise around a common goal. Rampant similitude of strengths, beliefs,









and expertise in the collaborative environment was believed to result in increased levels of

competition. When the pool of talent was of a much broader base, innovative discussion could

germinate.

If you have people who do the same thing, then it can become a competition. It hasn't been
that way for us [her group of collaborators]. Each of us is open to new ideas but what I am
good at and what she is good at are very different things. You need to bring other
perspectives in (Christy).

Textural-Structural Statement

Collaboration can deepen and broaden teachers' knowledge of teaching and learning. By

pooling knowledge, skills, resources, philosophies, and ideas, teachers give themselves

permission to be learners. They need not know everything about their content area or how to

fulfill every aspect of their work. They are able to visit openly with others, accessing knowledge

of which they had no prior understanding and co-constructing new knowledge to improve their

performance. Thinking about how knowledge is generated expands the roles teachers

traditionally play and confers upon them, the status of expert. No longer must teachers look

beyond their ranks to advance their own understanding, they can band together to fill the need.

Teachers can also realize these benefits by sharing resources as they address the existing

deficiencies which prevent them from realizing the full potential of themselves, their students,

and their programs.

Collaboration enhances a teacher's capacity for reflection. Teachers must reflect often and

deeply about their professional experiences. They must consider how each has affected their

development. Conducting regular assessments of one's strengths and needs allows a teacher to

focus his or her collaborative efforts. This is often an advantage for everyone involved as the

teacher can exercise choice in what they reach out toward. Additionally, collaborative reflection

is used as teachers collectively consider the strengths and needs among other collaborators and









within the profession more broadly defined. Regardless of whether conducted privately, or with a

group, reflection lends purpose to collaborative experiences.

Collaboration requires teachers to be bold, to take the initiative to be active participants in

their professional lives. As opposed to being told what to do and how to act, collaboration

provides a space for teachers to open their minds to new ideas and possibilities. This can be

difficult to do in the earliest stages of the career. However, teachers become increasingly willing

to reach out based on a need to know more or to have access to information and resources.

Initiative can be fueled by setting a goal, a strong desire for change, encouragement from a

trusted professional, and even frustration over professional challenges and needs.

Collaboration is more likely to occur when teachers have: (1) common expertise, (2) a

common language by which to discuss their work, (3) common philosophies, (4) similar levels of

experience, (5) common problems, (6) common goals and expectations, and (7) a diverse set of

skills and knowledge. Similitude among collaborators helps them develop rapport more

immediately than if few to no commonalities existed. It also creates a foundation from which

productivity may be pursued. The differences in skills and knowledge create balance within the

collaborative experience. Such differences challenge the status quo preventing it from

dominating collective decision making.

Collaboration is fostered and supported through the time teachers spend together

informally. Conversations held over a meal create a positive atmosphere for forming

relationships with others. It also offers a space where teachers can open up about their beliefs

and goals. Through casual conversation teachers discover those who are of like mind, harboring

an interest in similar things. Often, these connections are nurtured through technology such as









phone calls and email. These informal tools overcome the constraints of time and space,

obstacles commonly associated with collaboration.

Collaboration not only includes teachers from within agricultural education, it extends

beyond the content area to include those with a vested interest in the education of young people.

An incomplete list may include: administrators, school and district staff, other non-agriculture

teachers, mentor teachers, community members, university teacher education faculty, and leaders

from professional associations. These collaborators represent the perspectives of which

agricultural education may have no understanding, or the resources it may lack. By opening the

sphere of influence, new points of view can be considered as solutions are sought to a variety of

professional problems. Additionally, richer information is developed as the interactions among

different people working together uncover layers of knowledge and skill.

Collaborative relationships possess several common qualities. They (1) are mutually

beneficial to the teachers involved, (2) involve professional friendships, (3) can be professionally

challenging, (4) must respect member individuality, and (5) can ease some of the consequences

of competitive cultures. Teachers participate in collaborative relationships for many reasons (ie.

personal challenge, seeking to fill a personal need, desire to contribute) and often work with

other teachers who are engaged for similar reasons. The outcomes are often successful. Many

teachers fulfill all or some of their initial expectations for the work and tend to agree to pursue

further collaborations. Teachers view their collaborators as professional friends. They value

spending time together within a professional, as well as personal, capacity and form a kinship

based on their deep respect for one another. The interaction with others is thought to present a

new dimension of challenge for mid-career agriculture teachers, as it is not always comfortable

to be plucked from the security of their classrooms and thrust into a more public arena.









Regardless of the type of collaborative structure, teachers who collaborate respect the

individuality of members for the sake of forming relationships with greater stability, trust, and

opportunity for growth.

Agriculture teachers can be very competitive. This side is most clearly seen in the

competitions associated with the FFA and SAE components of their programs. Intimidating for

some teachers, agricultural education's competitive culture risks resisting, and stunting, the

potential for collaboration. Effective collaborative relationships have the power to change

professional competition from being at the expense of students and teachers, into an enriching

experience for both groups. As a few teachers come together and achieve some form of success,

they begin looking to still other teachers who have a desire to take part in similar activities in the

future. Given time and a willingness to let down their guards, a snowball effect can ensue as

teachers champion for their profession and put student success ahead of their own.

Collaboration is more lasting and meaningful when it is spontaneous. The collaborations

emerging from the bottom-up are perceived to be the most helpful since they originate from the

needs of those directly involved. This approach helps teachers take more ownership of the work,

since it evolves from personal interest. Teachers also tend to meet these experiences with less

resentment than when they are structured. This is often because they are permitted an option

about whether or not to interact, and to what extent.

Although spontaneous collaboration is most favored, the nature of teachers' work often

requires them to engage in structural collaborative experiences. Structural collaboration is not

always inadequate. Often, through these experiences, teachers have their first encounters with the

phenomenon of teacher collaboration. Structural collaboration uses a top-down approach in the

form of school-generated projects to give some teachers the push they need to reach out to other









teachers. Teachers' work in this environment can even be viewed as time well spent when the

experience is appropriate for the needs of all parties involved. In mentoring relationships,

interactions are sustained over time and are highly prescriptive to the needs and desires of the

individuals present. Structural experiences of this caliber have the potential to achieve many of

the same benefits as the spontaneous experiences.

Collaboration is professional development and improves the practice of teachers. Teacher

collaboration is based on common goals to which teachers apply a special roster of talent. The

phenomenon creates a common language, connecting teachers by existing knowledge and skills,

as well as by their desire for those they wish to develop. The time teachers spend studying the act

of teaching results in an accumulation of knowledge and skill reserves. These reserves make

them more valuable contributors to collaborations because they have more to offer.

Collaboration occurs in all three components of the agricultural education program model.

Opportunities abound for agriculture teachers to connect on issues related to classroom/

laboratory instruction, FFA and SAE. Teachers also find numerous opportunities for

collaboration, with the capacity to advance the profession as a whole. The broad base of

possibility allows a teacher to find the best use of collaboration for them and their needs. Once

they do, teachers feel more engaged in their profession and express a greater sense of career

satisfaction.

Collaboration is likely to occur throughout a teacher's career, beginning with early

collaborative experiences. The university's teacher education program is generally the first

opportunity preservice teachers have to interact with their peers with whom they will eventually

enter the agricultural education profession. Getting to know one's peers during this time can

forge lasting relationships. While the experiences can be heavily mandated due to programmatic









requirements, they do contain many opportunities for spontaneous interaction with peers, teacher

educators, and cooperating teachers. These types of experiences may help teachers feel

comfortable collaborating more often and much sooner than would have been expected

otherwise.

Collaboration evolves with a teacher's level of experience. Early in the career, most

collaboration involves working with a mentor. In these one-on-one contexts, the reciprocity

between beginning teachers and mentors is thought to be low due to the beginning teacher's

limited cache of resources related to practical teaching knowledge. However, this assumption

could not be more false since beginning teachers have a more current theoretical and content

knowledge base, having just completed their degrees. Together, the mentor and the beginning

teacher pool their knowledge to advance their learning.

The longer a teacher spends in the career, the better able he or she is at demonstrating

commitment to the profession. Establishing oneself as vested, opens new doors for collaboration.

The successful outcome of these opportunities builds the confidence of teachers and encourages

them to continue to engage in collaborative experiences. The continuum of development reveals

the more experience teachers have with teacher collaboration, the less they will focus on their

individual situations and the more they contribute to work with other teachers and the profession.

A visual depiction of this continuum is found in Appendix E.

Collaboration helps teachers find an outlet for reward once they have moved beyond the

survival mode associated with the earliest stages of the career. Teachers in later stages have

developed the competence and confidence related to their responsibilities within the three

components of the agricultural education program model. A career in teaching can be lengthy.

Once a teacher has perfected his or her knowledge and techniques of classroom/ laboratory









instruction, FFA and SAE, they risk boredom; feeling as though they have lost the enthusiasm

which initially drew them to the career. Teachers need to feel as though there is still much to

learn and discover, and that they have the capacity to make a difference. These needs are often

filled as teachers involve themselves in service opportunities for the profession. From filling

leadership roles in professional associations, to organizing reform, collaboration can help

teachers develop a broader professional awareness, allowing them to see their careers as more

than what happens in their classrooms.

Collaboration reduces the isolation teachers often experience. Although surrounded by

students, teachers are separated from their peers for a considerable part of the day. This leaves

them unable to seek assistance with their pedagogical and content concerns during that time,

often when they need it most. Collaboration is a valuable tool for socializing teachers. It removes

the barrier of the classroom walls and draws teachers together in a variety of contexts. Whether

through meetings, workshops, down time at CDEs for students, or even conferences,

collaboration helps teachers get to know one another and advance their relationships beyond the

acquaintance stage. Establishing connections with others provides teachers with the emotional

support critical to helping them work through a variety of professional challenges.

Collaboration among teachers increases their career satisfaction. When teachers interact

regularly on the basis of their common professional connections, they develop familiarity,

understanding, and tolerance for one another and for their work. Collaborative activity increases

the levels to which teachers are engaged in their career responsibilities and are committed to

developing and maintaining viable agriculture programs. Furthermore, collaboration impacts the

degree to which teachers are invested in the overall profession. These elements contribute to a

teacher culture which is supportive of teacher growth and development. Through collaboration, a









teacher may even receive help in making decisions about their careers; including changes to their

pedagogical practice and whether or not they will persist in the career.

Two research questions were pursued in this study. The first inquired as to experienced

secondary agriculture teachers' perceptions of teacher collaboration. At its essence, the

phenomenon of teacher collaboration involves connection with a purpose. Teacher collaborators

have within them the desire to make education better for teachers and students alike.

Collaboration lets teachers band together, not just to talk about solutions, but to make things

happen. Much more than time for teachers to get to know one another, teacher collaboration is a

professional development tool, providing teachers with real opportunities to feel more capable

and rewarded. Collaboration requires investment and hard work. It motivates teachers to dig

deep within themselves; to question, to challenge, to risk, to share, and to be diligent in such

pursuits.

The second research question asked how experienced secondary agriculture teachers

experienced teacher collaboration. At some point in their careers, teachers come to a place where

they want more than they have done, or are able to do, alone. Collaboration with other teachers

affords them the opportunity they need to achieve a higher level of performance for themselves,

their students, and their profession. Teacher collaboration occurs through both spontaneous and

structural avenues but a teacher's preservice teacher education program is often his or her first

encounter with the phenomenon. Teachers who actively collaborate treasure opportunities for

informal interaction. Such moments not only allow prospective collaborators to find one another,

they help form friendships resulting in lasting partnerships. Teachers' experiences with

collaboration are key contributors to their career development, satisfaction, and commitment.









Table 4-1. Participant Descriptions.
Name Years Certification Teachers in Statewide County Description Personal History
Teaching Program Professional
Leadership


Kevin 16 Traditional 2 Active Semi- structured with
supportive CTE
supervisor
Northern part of the state
7 agriculture teachers in
county


Christy 16







Mark 13


Active


Active


Traditional structure with
strong county agriscience
supervisor
Central part of the state
41 agriculture teachers in
county

Semi-structured with
supportive CTE
supervisor
Central part of the state
11 agriculture teachers in
county


Former secondary agriculture
student
Dad & cousin are agriculture
teachers
High school agriculture teacher in
different county before present
appointment

Former secondary agriculture
student
Only young female teacher in
county upon hire
Middle school teacher before current
appointment 5 years

Former secondary agriculture
student
Career in banking before current
appointment 10 years
Has taught at same school the entire
time


Traditional







Traditional









CHAPTER 5
DISCUSSION

Introduction

The current study posed two research questions: "How do experienced secondary

agriculture teachers perceive teacher collaboration?" and "How do experienced secondary

agriculture teachers experience teacher collaboration?" The participants in this study were

secondary agriculture teachers with a reputation for collaborating with other teachers. Even

though all of the teachers were traditionally-certified and fell within the expert and distinguished

phases of the Steffy et al. (2000) Life Cycle of a Career Teacher model, they varied in their

personal experiences with teacher collaboration. Using the research questions as a lens through

which to view the data, it is evident the teacher participants credited teacher collaboration with

having a positive impact on the quality and longevity of their careers. This chapter will discuss

the key findings from the study and place them within the existing literature on teacher

collaboration. Implications for research and practice will also be presented.

Key Findings

The researcher discovered the participants' comments related to the phenomenon, attended

to each aspect of the study's conceptual model (Figure 2-1), including: teacher learning, teacher

collaboration, teacher professional development, teacher career satisfaction, and teacher

retention. The teachers seemed to emphasize the different pieces of the model in similar ways

with varying examples from their experiences. Table 5-1 features the key points which emerged

from the data and their connections to the literature. Each teacher in the study placed a high

value on teacher collaboration, viewing the phenomenon as having a positive impact on their

development and the development of those around them.









Teacher Learning

Each participant focused on teacher learning when describing teacher collaboration.

Throughout their interviews, the participants revealed their collaborations with other teachers

helped them learn more about their roles as teachers, and as teachers of agriculture. This finding

corresponds with those by Johnson (2003). The time spent sitting and talking with other

professionals about their work was valuable for these teachers. Similar to Carroll's (2005)

findings with elementary mentor teachers, "interactive talk" afforded these agriculture teachers

the chance to extend the career-related knowledge they gained from their teacher education

programs. Working with others brought them access to knowledge, skills, ideas, and resources

which had previously been beyond their reach; just as it did for teachers in the Gehrke and

McCoy study (2007a). The benefits of collaboration related to teacher learning helped

participants feel more confident in fulfilling specific career-related responsibilities.

Reflection emerged as an essential element of the experiences this teacher group had with

teacher collaboration, a consideration at the heart of Hargreaves' (1994) work on the topic. An

awareness of their personal needs, and knowing what they could offer others, were powerful

motivators for helping them select the collaborative opportunities in which to engage. Reflection

also helped them become more open to how they perceived the concept of education (Rodgers,

2002). Each mentioned their collaborations related to more than just their particular classrooms

and subject matter. This line of thinking was demonstrated by their decisions to pursue advanced

degrees and positions of leadership within their professional association. It was clear this group

of teachers was seeking to impact the way those outside of agricultural education perceived the

discipline. Collaboration opened the eyes of these teachers, to let them see the critical nature of

their involvement in the agricultural education profession. They realized they were important









pieces of something larger and that their active involvement was critical to the overall health of

the profession.

Teacher Collaboration

Each collaborative experience recalled by the teachers was a direct result of their

willingness to take a risk. They were dissatisfied with their professional situations at various

points in time, as well as their commitment to themselves, their students, and their profession.

This compelled them to seek change rather than wait for it to happen. This level of investment

caused the teachers to recognize and seek opportunities for collaboration more than they would

have otherwise.

These findings support the work of Johnson and Birkeland (2003) who found those

teachers who were willing to persist in the profession reached out and seize those opportunities

to form relationships and work with their peers. Finding opportunities for grant work, creating

teacher and student CDE training workshops, and even volunteering to steer legislative

initiatives for career and technical education came from the teachers themselves rather than from

the outside. These types of spontaneous events seemed to have the greatest and most lasting

impact on the development of these teachers. It is important to note each of these grander

collaborations was born out of collaborative relationships fostered by a focus on teaching and

learning, and improving the daily performance of teachers.

The teachers in this study encountered collaboration as a purely classroom-based

experience when they worked with their formal, district-mandated mentors. However, the

teachers soon began to realize their mentors' limited ability to assist with the responsibilities

specific to their positions as agriculture teachers; a finding supported by Greiman et al., (2005).

They knew they needed to connect with teachers in similar positions at other schools, who

possessed common goals and philosophies but had a diverse knowledge and skill base (Sumison









& Patterson, 2004). By expanding their circle of influence, their level of satisfaction with their

performance as advisors to FFA and SAE increased, as did that of their students. The shift in

their focus about when and where teacher collaboration was appropriate required the teachers to

look beyond the competitive culture of agricultural education. The FFA and SAE environments

could, at times, feel as though teachers were pitted against one another. The participants were

able to move beyond this mindset by maintaining a common commitment to student learning.

The outcomes of these actions often resulted in a win-win situation for everyone involved

(Seifert & Mandzuk, 2006).

Teachers in the present study noted rich experiences with teacher collaboration. They

appreciated the contributions teacher collaboration made to their professional lives. In fact, each

highlighted the additional layers of educational professionals with whom they formed

connections, including: school and county administrators, school and county support staff,

community members, and university faculty (Johnson, 2003). The phenomenon allowed them to

form lasting friendships and important bonds because of their shared work (Hargreaves, 2001).

With every successful experience, these teachers crafted shared goals and history which led to

more opportunities for collaboration. They also felt their informal interactions with other

teachers were prime opportunities to further develop their connections (Hartnell-Young, 2006;

Park et al., 2007). The time they spent waiting for their students to compete in CDEs was perfect

for having meaningful discussion. Overall, their willingness to be open and public about their

experiences serves as an example to others in the profession about the importance of teacher

collaboration to agricultural education.

Based on the present participant group's experiences with teacher collaboration, each felt

they yielded the greatest benefit from spontaneous collaborations, a finding also noted by









Williams et al., (2001). While based on common goals, the spontaneous collaboration among the

agriculture teacher group respected their autonomy by allowing them more choice surrounding

the logistics of their work. They did confess structured collaboration provided some benefits to

their work, such as giving them the push they needed to interact with others, but the rigidity of

those experiences felt like a drain on their time and energy. The freedom they enjoyed with

spontaneous collaboration allowed them to set their own agendas, communicate through a

variety of mediums, and work together when it was most convenient for all parties involved

(Hargreaves, 1994; Selwyn, 2000). These elements often made their spontaneous collaborations

more professionally revitalizing and productive.

Teacher Professional Development

The teachers viewed teacher collaboration as consistent and persistent means of

professional development throughout their careers, beginning with their earliest encounters as

preservice teachers when they fostered their initial connections with peers (Seifert & Mandzuk,

2006) Teacher maturation played a role in the collaborative experiences of these teachers, much

like they did in the findings generated by the Park et al. (2007) study. The moment they entered

the career, the teachers had a solid base of knowledge for practice (Cochran-Smith & Lytle,

1999). Their understandings of agricultural content and pedagogy were predominantly shaped by

the understandings gained from their teacher education program. However, the opportunities for

increasing their knowledge in practice and knowledge ofpractice were extremely limited in that

environment (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999).

When met with their first opportunities for collaboration as preservice and beginning

teachers (Johnson & Birkeland, 2003), the teachers could not easily see past the personal needs

they associated with their local programs (Hargreaves, 2000). Each had a limited focus during

this time due to a lack of professional experience. As the years passed, they developed new









knowledge and skills related to their experiences in an agriculture teaching context (Carroll,

2005). The time spent learning, practicing, and witnessing the results of their efforts not only

filled their toolboxes with knowledge and skills, it built their confidence to share with others

(Butler et al., 2004). Each felt confident sharing their expertise as it related to the three major

components of their agriculture programs (Boone & Boone, 2007; Greiman et al., 2005; Warnick

et al., 2004).

The fact collaboration could: (1) occur at any point in their careers, (2) bring new

challenges and opportunities for learning, and (3) permit them to have some say over the

logistics of the work were features making it an attractive professional development tool. These

findings were similar to those reached by Hargreaves (2000) who determined collaboration must

be aligned with the needs and goals of teachers if it is to help them develop. In many cases,

collaborating with other teachers caused the participants from this study to first think about a

practice, then question its potential for leading to the results they sought, and finally make a

decision which often resulted in a changed belief or behavior. The flexibility of the work to grow

and change with each of the teachers as a support for life-long learning was also mentioned by

Butler et al. (2004). The findings of this study uphold those within the literature on teacher

professional development as these teachers demonstrated the greater the investment, the richer

their experience, the better the outcome, and the more lasting the change.

Teacher Career Satisfaction

In the first few years of their careers, the teachers mentioned they were trying to learn

everything. Their collaborations often focused on trying to develop lesson plans, managing the

FFA and SAEs, and increasing their knowledge of the content area (Greiman et al., 2005;

Hanson & Moir, 2008). After some time, the teachers could complete their career-related

responsibilities with little effort. It was at this point, the teachers went in search of new









challenges, often beyond their individual programs. Each one accepted leadership positions with

the state agriculture teacher's association, as well as other opportunities for service to the

profession. While initially a way to seek fresh challenges, these new frontiers helped the teachers

continue to enjoy the career and be fulfilled by it. It also expanded their awareness of the

profession, a benefit mentioned by Carroll (2005) as well.

Participants recognized teacher collaboration as having a positive impact on their career

satisfaction (Johnson & Birkeland, 2003). Many factors contribute to a teacher's low career

satisfaction, among them, teacher isolation (Greiman et al., 2005; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). Each

teacher expressed they were less than satisfied with their careers prior to collaborating with

others. They confessed they often entertained the idea of leaving teaching when they worked

independently for long stretches, and were confident they would have continued those thoughts

had they remained isolated.

Similar to the experiences of the leavers described in the work of Johnson and Birkeland

(2003), teachers in this study had rocky starts when they accepted their first teaching positions.

They admitted having experienced feelings of overwhelming frustration. However, their

determination, commitment to their career choice, and opportunities to collaborate with other

teachers in a variety of ways helped see them through those difficult periods (Gehrke & McCoy,

2007a). A variety of teacher collaboration is used in education, for the purposes of teacher

socialization and teacher learning (Hargreaves 1994; Puchner & Taylor, 2006; Sumison &

Patterson, 2004; Williams et al., 2001). In the present study, collaboration strengthened the

teachers' resolve to grow and improve.

Teacher Retention

Johnson and Birkeland's (2003) study found teachers who left within the first few years on

the job did so because of the professional frustration they felt. For one teacher in particular, the









sheer monotony of the job presented her with feelings of hopelessness and doubts about her

professional commitment. The lack of challenge teaching presented after a while was enough to

cause her to wonder if she was going to leave the classroom or become the type of teacher who

stayed yet was completely disengaged. Instead, she chose the challenge of working with other

teachers. As a result, she gave those collaborative activities credit for keeping her in teaching and

moving her career onward and upward (Cochran-Smith, 2004).

Each teacher in the study believed in the importance of contributing to the profession

beyond classroom teaching. In some cases, the teachers even believed in contributing beyond the

agricultural education community. Although this belief was prompted by different reasons, each

felt they had something to offer in a way that would satisfy the professional needs of other

teachers and themselves. The choices they made also demonstrated their commitment to the

future of the profession, a commitment often resulting in increased program visibility.

Implications for Research

As a result of this study, several directions for future research on teacher collaboration

surface. The present study contributed agricultural education's voice to the literature related to

the phenomenon. Despite this accomplishment, the voices only represented three high school

agriculture teachers in Florida; each a product of the same university teacher education program.

To confirm the study's credibility, this study should be replicated in a similar context.

Phenomenological methodology suggests including "up to ten people" (Creswell, 1998, p. 65). In

order to increase the breadth of the study, future research should consider similar studies using

sample sizes larger than three. Drawing on teachers at middle schools, teachers at different points

in their careers, and even those teachers in other states would lend still greater diversity to the

literature.









Agricultural education comprises one sector within career and technical education.

Because the two share legislative, funding, and philosophical ties, future research on teacher

collaboration should include the voices of these related professionals. Much like agriculture

teachers, the experiences of other CTE teachers have been less evident in the literature. By

highlighting their voices, the professional needs of CTE teachers may be better addressed.

Phenomenology is a return "back to the things themselves" (Crotty, 2003, p. 78). Using

another research methodology would examine teacher collaboration from perspectives beyond

that foundation. A focus group study comprised of teachers who collaborate among themselves

may prove important for identifying the processes and outcomes of their interactions. Looking

into the inner workings of the group could also reveal more about the relationship dynamics

which transpire in collaborative environments. Such insight could aid agricultural education

professional development providers in creating strategies to foster the use of teacher

collaboration on a broader level.

In this study, reflection was described as a catalyst leading to the participants' experiences

with teacher collaboration. An investigation of the ways teachers reflect and come to the

conclusions they need help from one another, may prove to be an important next step. Further, it

may be interesting to describe how they move from everyday conversation to more sophisticated

levels of collaboration like working on projects or even engaging in problem solving. An

investigation into the success of various tools teachers have used to collaborate with others may

shed more light on the phenomenon. Lesson study, teacher study groups, literature circles,

interactive talk, and online resources like wikis, are just a few of the tools bringing teachers

together.









A deeper examination of the teachers' first collaborative experiences would also be a

valuable study for teacher educators and those who prepare and facilitate teacher induction

programs. In the present study, each participant had positive early experiences with teacher

collaboration. This gave the teachers the confidence to seek additional collaborative

opportunities. Learning more about the circumstances surrounding initial experiences with

collaboration may assist support providers in issuing opportunities for teachers to work with

others much sooner. It may also help them discover how to create the ideal collaborative

environment. Findings may also uncover ways to help teachers enjoy greater satisfaction and

successful outcomes related to teacher collaboration.

Teacher retention is an issue of national concern (Cochran-Smith, 2004; Ingersoll, 200 b;

Kantrovich, 2007; Osborne, n.d.). With teachers leaving so soon after their arrival, they find it

difficult to gain the skills necessary for success. According to Worthy (2005),

Teachers who stay in teaching improve dramatically during their first few years. However,
largely because of lowjob satisfaction, too many leave before this point. Thus, 'it is
critical to retain new teachers for at least five or six years so they can reach their full
potential' (p. 381).

The current study focused on the perceptions and experiences current, mid-career teachers had

with teacher collaboration. A future study should examine the collaborative practice of those

who have left the profession to expand what is known about the phenomenon. Finding out

whether or not this group utilized teacher collaboration in their careers would provide valuable

insight into the issue of teacher career satisfaction and retention.

Looking into the collaborative activities of beginning teachers would uncover more highly

specific accounts of how early career professionals were exposed to collaboration. Data from this

type of study could also generate how beginning teachers feel about using collaboration to

establish themselves in the profession. Because of their place in the career cycle (Steffy et al.,









2000), teachers within this group would provide richer information on the topic as it relates to

this point in the teaching career. As hard as they tried, it was difficult for the current study

participants to recall the fine details of these early experiences due to the time gap. It is much

easier for teachers in the apprentice phase (Steffy et al., 2000) to recall memories of their

preservice teacher education programs since, in most cases, they will have only been out a few

years.

Another study of interest could use survey design to investigate teacher collaboration on a

grander scale. Agriculture teachers from across the state and even the nation could comprise the

sample population. Inquiring as to the type, frequency, and outcomes related to their

collaborations with other teachers would produce more generalizable data. Such a quantitative

examination of teacher collaboration may prove useful to those planning and facilitating the

professional development of agriculture teachers.

Implications for Practice

Hargreaves (1994) stated,

Physically, teachers are often alone in their own classrooms, with no other adults for
company. Psychologically, they never are. What they do there in terms of classroom styles
and strategies is powerfully affected by the outlooks and orientations of the colleagues
with whom they work now and have worked in the past. In this respect, teacher cultures,
the relationships between teachers and their colleagues, are among the most educationally
significant aspects of teachers' lives and work. They provide a vital context for teacher
development and for the ways that teachers teach. What goes on inside the teacher's
classroom cannot be divorced from the relations that are forged outside it (p. 165).

The teachers in the present study demonstrated the vital connection between collaboration and

career satisfaction leading to retention. The current findings and prior research reveal the teacher

isolation which plagues the profession may be eased through teacher collaboration (Boone &

Boone, 2007; Greiman et al. 2005; Hargreaves, 2001; Williams et al., 2001). Considering its use

as a professional development tool, teacher collaboration has the potential to positively impact a









teacher throughout his or her career (Gaurino, Santibanez, & Daley, 2006; Johnson & Birkeland,

2003). The findings also suggest this study has implications for addressing the factors

contributing to the problem of teacher attrition facing agricultural education.

Many references were made by the participants about the role reflection played in their

decisions to collaborate. This practice of inquiry led each to examine their individual

circumstances against their professional goals and the new information they encountered.

Beyond private reflection, they often engaged in dialogue with another teacher they trusted,

discussing opportunities to address the focus of their inquiry. These dialogues generally led to

collaboration on projects, formal professional development programs and plans for improving

performance of career-related responsibilities.

Teacher educators must work hard to create an environment in their teacher education

programs which fosters teacher reflection. Espoused platforms are integral to gaining a sense of

what each pre-professional believes about teaching and learning. They must be developed early

in their programs. These documents serve as the basis for individual development, as well as the

development of a collaborative teaching culture. Teacher educators must call their students'

attention to these statements often, encouraging them to consider how their new learning either

supports their beliefs or refutes them. With time, these private inquiries may be moved into a

small-group or whole-class discussion. This process allows teacher educators to foster trust

among preservice teachers as they learn to actively question together. This advances their

reflective practice and the potential for socially constructed knowledge about agricultural

education, teaching, and learning.

State agricultural education staff and leaders of professional associations can continue to

support the development of a reflective environment by inviting professional dialogue on the









topic of teacher collaboration. Since these groups have the potential to play an important role in

planning statewide agriculture teacher professional development, they are in a prime position to

shape program delivery. They can request every presenter show a connection between his or her

presentation and the practice of teacher collaboration. By integrating discussion on the topic

during their workshops, agriculture teachers will spend considerably more time thinking about

the act of collaboration and getting used to its presence in the profession. The teachers should

also be led through exercises to encourage teachers to consider how teacher collaboration can

work for them and their colleagues. Guided activities like needs assessments and reflective

prompts, followed by down time to let teachers visit about their responses, may create the chance

for teachers to discover opportunities for meaningful collaboration. The use of such

recommendations may also help to ease the profession's competitive culture so widespread

collaboration might thrive.

The teachers expressed positive feelings regarding their relationships with their preservice

peers during their teacher education programs. Once hired to their first jobs, they often turned to

these individuals for help in finding solutions to their early challenges. It is important for teacher

educators to find ways for preservice teachers to develop a willingness to help others improve.

Preservice teachers need opportunities to learn and practice the skills and attitudes important to

successful collaboration.

The incorporation of collaborative elements in class could include: paired class

discussions, cooperative learning projects, online course components for reflecting on class

meetings, and webcams to encourage discussion continues as preservice teachers become

separated by their student teaching experiences. Professional development activities offered

through student organizations like Collegiate FFA (CFFA), can afford these individuals many









opportunities for collaboration. One such possibility is working together to develop workshops

for delivery at the state FFA convention. Each of these practical possibilities could support

preservice teachers as they begin to develop the habits of mind to look to their fellow teachers as

an extension of their base of knowledge and expertise. While viewed as more structural due to

their use within a course, their value is as a tool to model activities which can be used more

spontaneously in the future.

Two of the teachers in the present study discussed experiences they had collaborating with

other teachers during their internships. These opportunities presented themselves because their

cooperating teachers took the time to introduce them to others. Much more than a mere

introduction, they encouraged the participants to form ties with other teachers resulting in cross-

curricular teaching opportunities. Teacher educators must help cooperating teachers understand

the importance of these experiences to the development of preservice teachers. Teacher

education can do this by adding the activity to the list of experiences preservice teachers should

have during their internships. The small gesture sends a strong message to cooperating teachers

and preservice teachers alike, that it is important for agriculture teachers to reach out to other

teachers in the school community. Taking it one step further, teacher educators and cooperating

teachers should help their preservice teachers identify objectives from their lesson plans and

connect them with opportunities to collaborate with specific teachers in the school. Directly

supporting this area of development may make preservice teachers more inclined to reach out to

teachers in other disciplines throughout their internships, as well as throughout their careers.

Seeking cross-curricular opportunities helps agriculture teachers think of their agriculture

students as students they share with the other teachers in the school. It also helps them consider

the important role they can play in the development of all students and teachers in the school









community. Agriculture teachers must share their students' work with teachers from other

content areas. For example, publicizing any work a student of agriculture produces which

integrates concepts from science, English, mathematics, social science, and even art into

agriculture, can begin to build bridges which may surpass the divide between the academic

campus and the CTE campus.

Even with the best of intentions, collaborations among teachers can fail (Bondy &

Brownell, 1997). Although minimal, the participants expressed a few situations where their

collaborations with other teachers were not as rich as had been anticipated. Such outcomes can

be traced to poor or even absent collaboration skills. Consequently, state staff, teacher education,

and FAAE must work together to provide instruction and support to teach agriculture teachers

the skills needed to collaborate effectively. Important skills include: "listening carefully, using

clear language, understanding and respecting other people's perspectives, and finding common

ground (Bondy & Brownell, 1997, p. 112). Such skills sessions could be part of the inservice

education programming or presented in an online format. The information could be presented via

an e-newsletter or even placed on a website in a modular form for teachers to work through. This

move helps practicing teachers develop their awareness and use of these soft skills in preparation

for the work they will do as cooperating teachers.

Opportunities for promotion do not often exist within the teaching ranks of education. This

realization can bring great disappointment and dissatisfaction as teachers wonder what is left to

challenge them. Often, there are opportunities for personal and professional development,

teachers merely need to be made aware of what is out there. To improve teacher communication,

state leaders must develop the infrastructure to make a multitude of resources available to

teachers.









According to the state agriculture teacher directory, virtually every teacher in the state has

an active school email account. The development and distribution of e-newsletters through the

state listserv may provide one way to share information with teachers. The creation of a Florida

agricultural education website would be another way to spread word about professional

opportunities. Since one is not currently found online, this new site should be a home base with a

variety of pertinent information to help teachers feel connected, no matter where they may be

located. The addition of a discussion board may prove useful for teachers to discuss state-wide

issues, and even post their own questions for comment by others. A page on the website, or a

regular column in the e-newsletter, could share teachers' stories of collaboration with others.

Publication of their success might inspire others to begin making connections and collaborating

(Worthy, 2005). Including an online version of the state agriculture teachers pictorial directory

would provide a copy of the latest contact information to increase familiarity among teachers and

ensure new teachers are promptly welcomed. Such resources would be especially helpful for

those counties without an appointed agriscience supervisor facilitating county agricultural

education activities.

As revealed by one member of the study, some teachers may know what opportunities

await them but are unwilling to take the risk and volunteer. To encourage teachers to develop a

broader educational focus, they must be invited to participate in the activities of their state

agricultural teachers association. The Florida Association for Agricultural Education (FAAE)

provides leadership opportunities through service to the organization as an officer and area

representative. Because of its association with the entire profession, the organization should take

on a greater share of the planning and facilitation of the state's professional development

programming. FAAE, in cooperation with the Florida Farm Bureau and the state Department of









Education, also sponsors the Florida Agriculture Teacher Leadership Program where teachers are

selected to travel the state, meeting industry leaders and learning more about the Florida

agriculture industry.

FAAE officers must make it their personal mission to visit with the state's agriculture

teachers and encourage them to be active, dues paying members of the organization. They must

also encourage talented teachers to consider running for offices once they have completed their

terms. Their leadership in this capacity has the potential to change the current state culture from

one of competition and isolation; to one where teachers across the state value professional events

and have an unspoken expectation that everyone will take part in them. Helping teachers find

opportunities to be active in the National Association for Agricultural Education (NAAE) and

the Association for CTE will further state agriculture teachers' capacity for expanding their

thinking beyond their state.

Loneliness is often dangerous to the commitment and persistence of early career teachers

(Johnson & Birkeland, 2003). To launch a united front against this problem, state staff, teacher

education and the FAAE must ensure opportunities are available for teachers to socialize. There

must be time built into formal event schedules for professional discussion and interaction.

Informal opportunities for teachers to talk can encourage the development of connections leading

to spontaneous collaboration in the future. Simply providing snacks and a lounge space for

teachers while their students compete in various events may encourage them to gather and visit

on professional matters.

Conclusion

Agricultural education finds itself locked in the national teacher shortage trend

(Kantrovich, 2007). When examining the reasons teachers exit the profession before retirement,

feelings of isolation leading to career dissatisfaction, are big contributors. To meet the growing









needs of qualified agriculture teachers, retention of current teachers is vital. The literature states

teachers benefit from interaction with other teachers. As a result, teacher collaboration holds

promise as a way to help alleviate high teacher turnover.

The evidence in this study demonstrates the relationship teacher collaboration enjoys with

three areas contributing to teacher retention, including: teacher knowledge, teacher professional

development, and teacher career satisfaction. The result is the essence of teacher collaboration.

The characteristics are:

* Collaboration deepens/ broadens a teacher's knowledge.

* Collaboration is a product of reflection.

* Collaboration stems from taking the initiative.

* Collaboration is more likely to occur when teachers have: common expertise, language,
philosophies, age/ gender/ years of teaching experience, problems, expectations/ goals and
diverse skills & knowledge.

* Collaboration is fostered and supported through informal experiences.

* Collaboration goes beyond work with other agriculture teachers.

* Collaborative relationships: are mutually beneficial, involve professional friendships, can be
professionally challenging, respect individuality of members, can ease competitive cultures.

* Collaboration is more lasting, meaningful, useful, and welcome when it is spontaneous.

* Collaboration is professional development.

* Collaboration has the potential for use in all areas of the agricultural education model.

* Collaboration is likely when experiences begin early.

* Collaboration evolves with a teacher's experience.

* Collaboration is a way to find additional reward once the teacher is beyond survival mode.
Generally includes an increased professional awareness.

* Collaboration provides emotional support and decreases isolation as a socialization tool.









* Collaboration increases teacher career satisfaction and may contribute to program viability
and teacher retention.

This study provides evidence that teacher collaboration is a useful tool for enhancing the

professional experiences of secondary agriculture teachers. This seemed to be accomplished

through early and steady exposure to the phenomenon. Teachers began their first collaborations

during their preservice teacher education programs. As the teachers developed, so did the

collaborative experiences. They consistently met the teachers exactly where they were with

regard to need and interest. Teacher collaboration continued steadily throughout the teachers'

careers, presenting them with new challenges to impact the overall health and vitality of the

profession. In the case of these teachers, their connection to the larger aspects of their work

increased their long-term enjoyment of, and persistence in, the agriculture teaching career.










Table 5-1. Teacher Collaboration Research Findings.
Conceptual Model Finding
Component
Teacher Learning Collaboration deepens/ broadens a teacher's
knowledge of teaching and learning through
the act of pooling knowledge, skills,
resources, philosophies, ideas...


Teacher Learning


Collaboration is a product of reflecting on
one's professional state.


Data


K- He'll find something, either a lesson plan or a
topic, or a piece of equipment, 'What do you think
about this Kevin?' Or, I'll find one and say, 'You
know let's try this, or have you tried that? Better
look at this Mr. Peterson.' He is extremely open to
new ideas, teaching methods, and technology.

C- I know when we started collaborating, really
good stuff came at a time when I had been teaching
10 years.

M- [There are teachers] that, 'How did you guys
cover it?' 'How are you able to come up with this?'
'I had a parent do this,' or 'I had this teacher come
in and help with that.'

K- I wasn't fast. I take my time. I am pretty
methodical because reflection was what the National
Board was all about, reflecting on your teaching.
How you can do it better. Reflect, reflect, reflect.

C- For anything to be useful, it has to be personal.
It has to be something you need. ... [Ask yourself]
'Is there someone I can work with that will make
this better?'

M- There is no way you can do it all. ...I realized
that when I was trying to fix everything to try to
teach, it was going to take a lot more than what I
had. So I had to win friends and influence people to
get something to work.


Literature
Connection
Carroll, 2005;
Gehrke & McCoy,
2007a; Goddard et
al., 2007; Hanson &
Moir, 2008;
Hargreaves, 1994;
2000;Johnson, 2003


Hargreaves, 1994;
Rodgers, 2002










Table 5-1. Continued
Conceptual Model
Component
Teacher
Collaboration


Teacher
Collaboration


Finding


Data


Collaboration stems from taking the
initiative to reach out to others; often based
on a need to know, and have access to,
more.


Collaboration is more likely to occur when
teachers have:
* Common expertise
* Common language
* Common philosophies
* Common age/ gender/ years of teaching
experience
* Common problems
* Common expectations/ goals
* Diverse skills & knowledge


K- He [Mr. Peterson] taught me you have got to
reach out and ask, to not be afraid to say something.

C- We kind of felt out of the loop sometimes... We
worked together.

M- I guess that is where my desire for collaboration
came from. It was out of frustration over not having
anything.

K- I am glad the [Florida Agriculture Teacher
Leadership] program came about because I met a
really neat lady who became an excellent partner. I
really didn't know her before. We are really
different but we are really alike. We tease each other
and say we are the 'Yin and the Yang'.

C- If you have people who do the same thing, then it
can be a competition. It hasn't been that way for us
[her group of collaborators]. Each of us is open to
new ideas but what I am good at and what she is
good at are very different things. You need to bring
other perspectives in.

M- I continue to look for like-minded teachers that
buy into this philosophy that you can't be the end-
all and know-all and we need help. 'If we're not
educating kids, why are we doing what we're
doing?' ... 'To be the best you have to beat the
best.'


Literature
Connection
Johnson &
Birkeland, 2003;
Little, 1990


Carroll, 2005;
Dooner et al., 2008;
Hargreaves, 1994;
2000;Johnson, 2003;
Penuel et al., 2007;
Sumison &
Patterson, 2004


[_










Table 5-1. Continued
Conceptual Model Finding Data Literature
Component Connection


Teacher
Collaboration


Collaboration is fostered and supported
through informal experiences, creating a
positive atmosphere (ie. mealtime
conversation, phone calls, email).


K- And it makes it easier. Let's go have a bite to eat
or come and visit. We love to sit down and just chit
chat. I like that a lot better because it is more me
than before [when I was told to collaborate].

C- Technology has really helped me in finding more
time... I can call anyone, any time, anywhere...
Email is so instantaneous. It has really helped... In
the beginning [of her career] if you needed
something from someone you needed to get
together. You had to physically meet and you don't
have to do that now.


Hartnell-Young,
2006; Park et al.,
2007; Selwyn, 2000;
Sumison &
Patterson, 2004;
Williams et al., 2001


M- There is not a whole lot for the teachers to do
While you sit around waiting for students to finish
competing. So, you sit around and you start talking.










Table 5-1. Continued
Conceptual Model
Component
Teacher
Collaboration


Teacher
Collaboration


Finding


Data


Collaboration goes beyond work with
other agriculture teachers to include:
* administration/other school and district
employees
* other non-agriculture teachers
* community
* university faculty
* mentors
* professional association leadership
* students


Collaborative relationships:
* are mutually beneficial
* involve professional friendships
* can be professionally challenging
* respect individuality of members
* can ease competitive cultures


K- With the University summer science workshop
series, I would come back with notebooks and she
[science teacher] wanted to go. She has never
looked down [on agriculture] and said, 'Oh, you
need to do more science.' She would look through
the materials for ideas to use and teach agriculture
in a scientific method or other laboratory.

C- I was lucky to get on a [middle school] team the
first year with a lady who was an experienced 7h
grade English teacher. She was really good at
classroom management and at interacting with kids.
I was lucky enough to get under her wing.

M- I call the boys [teacher ed faculty]. I said, 'I
don't know if you can use this or not but'... I've
tried to stay in touch with them so I can give [my
students] the best possible advice.

K- It makes me feel better that my friends are
feeling the same heartaches I am.

C- I think we got more out of it than someone who
did it by themselves.

M- Collaboration works and it helps and there is a
lot of win-win for everybody.


Literature
Connection
Gehrke & McCoy,
2007b; Hanson &
Moir, 2008; Johnson,
2003; Wang &
Odell, 2002


Hargreaves, 1994;
2001; Seifert &
Mandzuk, 2006;
Sumison &
Patterson, 2004










Table 5-1. Continued
Conceptual Model
Component
Teacher
Collaboration


Teacher Professional
Development


Finding


Data


Collaboration is more lasting, meaningful,
useful, and welcome when it is spontaneous
rather than structured.


Collaboration is professional development;
a useful tool for encouraging teachers to
seek opportunities they may not otherwise.


K- One day I just called him [ag teacher in
Georgia]. We talked about nursery landscape and
how to teach the CDE. He told me where to look,
which nursery they went to [before the contest], and
where to look for that kind of stuff [contest
materials]. It was a great talk.

C- I made my own associations and these
collaborations were probably more useful and more
productive. ... It seems like it is more fun and you
get more out of it personally and on the professional
level.

M- That is what collaboration can be. Because of
that one teacher's nice conversation at our State
FFA Convention, they're now giving away
scholarships...

K- When I think of collaboration today, it may not
be in a lesson plan or that type of format. I
collaborate with my peers professionally. We call it
'professional development' and I think that is what
it is. I think it still plays an important part in driving
my professional development.

C- I feel [collaboration] has helped me a lot in the
way I teach and what I teach. It has also helped with
the things I've decided to do, or not do, either in the
classroom or with the FFA. I think it is extremely
beneficial.


Literature
Connection
Bogler, 2002;
Hargreaves, 2000;
Park et al., 2007;
Weiss, 1999;
Williams et al., 2001


Butler et al., 2004;
Carroll, 2005;
Dooner et al., 2008;
Erickson et al., 2005;
Hargreaves, 1994;
Park et al., 2007;
Puchner & Taylor,
2006


M- I think I am a better teacher.










Table 5-1. Continued
Conceptual Model
Component
Teacher Professional
Development


Teacher Professional
Development


Finding


Data


Collaboration has the potential for use in all
areas of the agricultural education model.


Collaboration is likely when experiences
begin early (ie. university teacher education
program).


K- I started collaborating with her [science teacher,
Mary] to get through the science courses that I was
teaching. Most labs require chemicals. I didn't buy a
thing. I went to Mary. ... We go to the storeroom
and it's always, 'Whatever you need, Kevin.' I
drove her classes to [the marsh] two and three times
every year. (classroom/lab instruction)

C- I pretty much had the traditional type SAEs. We
shared ideas and I incorporated a couple of non-
traditional things [exploratory and agriscience] so
everyone could participate. (SAE)

M- When I asked Rebecca for some help, she said,
'Just come by here and we'll work out with my
team.' (FFA)

K- I kind of leaned on George a lot. ... He helped
me with physics.

C- When we weren't assigned a project where we
worked together we were always studying together
and doing our personal stuff together. ... It was a
nice little group. ... We were all having the same
experience [during student teaching] at different
locations... we could really relate in that way.

M- We just kind of fed off of each other and
supported each other. We worked with each other.


Literature
Connection
Boone & Boone,
2007; Greiman et al.,
2005; Hargreaves,
1994; Park et al.,
2007; Wamick et al.,
2004


Johnson &
Birkeland, 2003;
Sumison &
Patterson, 2004;
Seifert & Mandzuk,
2006










Table 5-1. Continued
Conceptual Model
Component
Teacher Professional
Development


Finding


Collaboration evolves with a teacher's
experience (Appendix E).


Data Literature
Connection
K- The first few years [of my career] I felt like I was Park et al., 2007
in survival mode... After I moved to my current
school, I was able to collaborate more because I
wasn't trying to survive anymore.


Teacher Career
Satisfaction


Collaboration is a way to find additional
reward once classroom instruction, FFA,
and SAE have been perfected or the teacher
is beyond survival mode. Generally includes
an increased professional awareness due to
a greater competence and confidence.


C- In the beginning, I was mostly collaborative
because I had to or I needed to. You were not
necessarily told but it was required of you. Then I
got to the point where I made my own
associations... where I still am right now.

M- It kind of started from there [collaboration with
the preservice cohort] and then developed from
there.

K- I am seeing a need for being worried about more
than your own skin, even though that is where it
starts. We need to be worried about everyone
because it will all affect us.

C- I think I was ready for some new blood, some
influence of something. We tried to do things on a
higher level with the kids and with ourselves. Every
time you better yourself, the repercussion is the kids
will do better.

M- I have a greater appreciation for what we do
because I see what other teachers don't do and I see
how our students respond in this class versus other
classes.


Carroll, 2005;
Gehrke & McCoy,
2007b; Hanson &
Moir, 2008;
Hargreaves, 2000;
Johnson &
Birkeland, 2003;
Puchner & Taylor,
2006










Table 5-1. Continued
Conceptual Model
Component
Teacher Career
Satisfaction


Teacher Career
Satisfaction and
Teacher Retention


Finding


Data


Collaboration provides emotional support
and decreases isolation as a socialization
tool.


Collaboration increases teacher career
satisfaction and may contribute to program
viability and teacher retention.
* Contributes to a more supportive culture
* Contributes to the level of teacher
engagement and investment
* May help guide career decisions


K- I didn't have the chance to work with other ag
teachers at my first school. But buying in and
talking to people, that makes it fun. Collaboration
eases the loneliness. I can pick up a phone and talk
to a friend/ an ag teacher/ another comrade and get
their ideas.

C- There was nobody because, not to be mean, but
they were all men! That was kind of difficult. There
wasn't even anybody young. They had all been
there quite a while. They were nice enough but they
were not overly friendly to help you.

M- It was rough!... I called him... Then I got to
know his teaching partner... It just kind of
mushroomed from there.


K- ... that's the fun part of the job... The
collaboration has increased my job satisfaction... If
we are not going to collaborate professionally, then
it is a dead profession.

C- I think it has been good for me. Getting to work
with somebody revitalizes you.

M- I would say the importance of collaborating
professionally depends on how successful you want
to be and how soon you want that to happen... You
have to hit some home runs to get the publicity and
support from your administration. It shows this is a
viable program that needs to stay in the community.


Literature
Connection
Boone & Boone,
2007; Burbank &
Kauchak, 2003;
Dooner et al., 2008;
Gehrke & McCoy,
2007a; 2007b;
Greiman et al., 2005;
Hargreaves, 1994;
2000; 2001; Johnson,
2003; Little, 1990;
Kardos & Johnson,
2007; Park et al.,
2007; Seifert &
Mandzuk, 2006;
Sumison &
Patterson, 2004;
Williams et al., 2001

Gehrke & McCoy,
2007a; Johnson &
Birkeland, 2003;
Park et al., 2007;
Weiss, 1999; Woods
& Weasmer, 2004









APPENDIX A
LETTER TO EXPERT PANEL

September 28, 2007



Dear

As you know, each year talented teachers leave the profession prior to retirement. This
often leaves schools and school districts in a challenging position to replace teachers in a time of
severe shortages. While research in teacher career retention indicates a number of reasons
teachers leave the profession, some of the reasons frequently cited are the feelings of isolation
and the lack of socialization teachers experience in what some describe as a "lonely profession."
Therefore, I am conducting a research study to better understand the influence teacher
collaboration has on one's level of job satisfaction and willingness to remain in the profession. I
am in need of your assistance with this important research.

As an agricultural teacher educator, you are an expert on the development of teachers in
the state. You have an understanding of their practice in the classroom, in FFA, in SAE, and in
matters of program management. With this expertise, I am requesting you review the list of
names and identify those teachers who would be best suited for participation in this study on
teacher collaboration. From the following list, identify one teacher you believe would be best
suited for pilot testing the interview guide and three teachers to participate in the actual study.
The list of teachers provided was developed using the following criteria: (1) are mid-career high
school teachers, (2) are traditionally certified in agricultural education, (3) have completed the
majority of their teaching experience at their current schools, and (4) have developed strong
collaborative relationships with other educational professionals. As the expert, do your best to
use your professional perspective. Please make your selections and return the names to me by
Thursday, September 27th, 2007.

* Edward Beasely
* Mark Charles
* Christy Rogers
* Lauri Adams
* Roger Peyton
* Kevin Page
* Alanna Thompson

Thank you for your participation. Your role in agricultural education, and in this study, is
critical to the future success of the profession and to the agricultural industry.



Ann M. De Lay









APPENDIX B
EMAIL TO RECRUIT PARTICIPANTS

October 17, 2007



Dear

In my 2 /2 year experience in Florida agricultural education, my world was forever
influenced by my interaction with you. While at your school supervising interns, I also had an
opportunity to observe and visit with you. During that time, I found you to be an agriculture
teacher who openly collaborates with other teachers and because of that professional quality, I
would like to invite you to participate in my dissertation study.

Being fascinated with the issue of agriculture teacher retention, I have been doing a lot of
reading on teacher socialization and cooperation. The research continually demonstrates these
factors seem to help alleviate some of the negative aspects of the teaching career. Right now,
agricultural education is clamoring for research to better understand how to deal with the
problem of rapid teacher turnover. I think through conversations with you, we might just learn a
little more about what it takes to get teachers to stay in the classroom.

With your consent, I would like to conduct a series of three interviews (lasting between 60
and 90 minutes each) to learn about your experiences with, and beliefs about, professional
collaborative relationships. If you are willing to participate in this important study, please let me
know by October 10, 2007 and we can arrange a date and time to do so.

Thank you so much for considering my request.



Ann M. De Lay









APPENDIX C
INTERVIEW GUIDE

Researcher Introduction:
Thank you for your willingness to participate in this study. I want you to think about
collaboration as it relates to the decisions you make as a professional; essentially how and why
you do what you do. Take a moment to think about your collaborative experiences and how your
interaction with others has shaped you personally and professionally. Now, let's visit over the
following questions.

Session 1 Focused Life History
Interview Questions
Describe your experiences with collaboration during your preservice teaching program
(ask for stories).
Is there anything else you would like to add? Do you have any questions or comments?

Thank you for your time.

Session 2 Details of the Experience
Interview Questions
Tell me about those teachers with whom you collaborate.
On what types of things do you tend to collaborate with other teachers?
Tell me how you began collaborating with other teachers.
Describe your experiences with teacher collaboration.
How important is it to collaborate professionally?
What occurred in your career to help you realize the benefits of collaboration?
Tell about the challenges you have found related to collaborating with other teachers.
Is there anything else you would like to add? Do you have any questions or comments?

Thank you for your time.

Session 3 Reflection on Meaning
Interview Questions
In what ways has your collaboration with other teachers evolved?
Based on your experiences, what promotes collaboration?
What changes in your practice do you believe can be attributed to your collaboration with
other teachers?
How have your collaborative experiences impacted your perceptions of the profession?
In what ways do you believe you can increase the usefulness of teacher collaboration?
In what ways have your collaborative relationships impacted your decision to remain in
the profession?
Is there anything else you would like to add? Do you have any questions or comments?

Thank you for your time.









APPENDIX D
THANK YOU EMAIL TO PARTICIPANTS FOR MEMBER CHECK

January 05, 2008



Dear

Thank you for meeting with me during the extended interview series and sharing your
experiences regarding teacher collaboration. I appreciate your willingness to share your unique
perspectives, thoughts, feelings, events, and situations.

Attached is a copy of the transcripts for each of the three interview sessions. I invite you to
review the documents while asking yourself if the interviews have captured your full experience
with teacher collaboration. Once you have reviewed the transcripts, you may realize an important
experiences) was neglected. If you find yourself in this situation, feel free to elaborate on those
experiences by adding comments using the track changes function on your Microsoft Word
program or providing it in its own attachment. Please do not edit the transcripts for grammatical
corrections. The way you told your story is what is important.

When you have reviewed the verbatim transcripts and have had an opportunity to make
changes and additions, please return them to me as attachments in an email. Should everything
meet your satisfaction, I will commence analysis.

I have valued your participation in this study and your willingness to share your
experiences with teacher collaboration. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to
contact me. I look forward to hearing from you by January 10, 2008.

Thank you!



Ann De Lay









APPENDIX E
CONTINUUM OF TEACHER COLLABORATION




















Professional
Phase


Expert
Phase


Distinguished Emeritus
Phase Phase


Time &
Experience









Adapted from the work of Joerger (2002) and Steffy et al. (2000), the model describes
teachers' collaborative experiences through different career phases. Descriptions of teacher
collaboration within each phase follow.

* Novice: (Preservice Teacher) These teachers collaborate primarily on completing
requirements of their degree programs (ie. course assignments, practical experiences, and
student teaching). Collaborative experiences may be both structural, if prescribed by their
professors, or spontaneous, if the interaction is initiated by these pre-professionals They
collaborate most frequently with their peers in the preservice program, their teacher
educators, and their cooperating teachers during this time.

* Apprentice: (Induction Teacher) Collaborations during this time mainly focus on survival
experiences. These include how to teach, as well as what to teach. For agriculture teachers,
additional programmatic responsibilities such as advising the FFA chapter and supervising
SAEs are also being learned. The collaborative experiences during this time are often
structural as early career teachers are required to participate in induction programs, of which
mentoring and team meetings are part. Collaborators during this phase include the teacher's
mentor, as well as other trusted teachers with a little more experience.

* Professional: (Effective Teacher) These teachers collaborate beyond the typical teaching
responsibilities. They have the basic classroom/ laboratory instruction, FFA, and SAE tasks
under control and are working on improvement. Many feel both competent and confident in
their knowledge and skills and are willing to risk. The experiences teachers have with
collaborations during this phase are often spontaneous as they have already learned many of
the school and district processes and protocols. Teachers in other subject areas, as well as in
the same subject area at other schools, are sought for collaboration.

* Expert: (Master Teacher) Expert teachers fulfill the highest level of professional
expectation. They have achieved professional comfort regarding their individual teaching
contexts through mastery of their classroom/ laboratory instruction, FFA, and SAE
responsibilities. The collaborative experiences for these teachers are mostly spontaneous due
to their level of experience and success. This phase tends to have a small circle of key
collaborators to whom these teachers turn most frequently, who are most likely from the
same content area.

* Distinguished: (Gifted Teacher Leader) Having been effective in their own schools, these
teachers have shifted their energies to the profession as a whole. They seek opportunities
to lead others and work on behalf of all teachers, to address challenges many teachers face.
As their focus is expanded, so is their collaborative network. At this phase, the teachers'
collaborative experiences are again mostly spontaneous, with these teachers taking on the
projects and opportunities they feel will make the greatest impact on the profession.
Distinguished teachers often collaborate with leaders from their own and related professional
associations, administrators, state staff, and teacher educators.

* Emeritus: (Retired Teacher) None of the participants had reached this phase of the Life Cycle
of a Career Teacher (Steffy et al., 2000) at the time of the study. As a result, this level of the
continuum as it relates to teacher collaboration is incomplete.









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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Ann Marie De Lay was first exposed to agricultural education when she enrolled in the

program at Chowchilla Union High School in Chowchilla, California. Engaging in the program's

opportunities, she knew she was where she both wanted and needed to be. Each piece of the

agricultural education model helped her realize her deep appreciation for the industry and fueled

her interest in teaching agriculture.

Once accepted to California State University, Fresno, Ann began her program in the area

of agricultural education. Taking advantage of every opportunity, she grew as a leader and an

agriculturist. Upon completion of her Bachelors degree, she completed a year of student

teaching; an experience which taught her much about her identity as a teacher.

She was hired to teach in the agriculture program at Central High School in Fresno,

California. The large urban program had seven-teachers and was among the largest programs in

the country. Not only did she teach, she served as the FFA advisor and advised the dairy and

horticulture SAEs. Freshmen were her favorite students since they perceived everything as new

and exciting and had limitless energy.

Ann completed a Masters degree from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis

Obispo and returned to serve in a full-time lecturer capacity at Fresno State. The opportunity

allowed her to teach the next generation of agriculture teachers. The experience taught her as

much as it did the students she served. Currently, Ann is completing a PhD from the University

of Florida, in the area of Agricultural Education and Communication and looks forward to

assuming a role as a teacher educator in the area of agricultural education.





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1 THE ESSENCE OF SECONDARY AGRICULTU RE TEACHERS EXPERIENCES WITH TEACHER COLLABORATION By ANN MARIE DE LAY A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2008

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2 2008 Ann Marie De Lay

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3 To my parents, Jerry and Susie De Lay; my husband, Jason Eatmon; and Doodle. Also to three dedicated agricultural education professionals, my participants.

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The idea to attend graduate school did not orig inate within m e. Entertaining the thought of leaving the familiar and comfortable to embr ace the unfamiliar and challenging came from the encouragement of those in whom I place great trust. I thank Dr. Art Parham, Dr. Rosco Vaughn, and the late Dr. Richard Rogers fo r believing in me even when I di d not believe in myself. I have treasured my interaction with them, pr ofessionally as well as personally. The idea to leave my home state and travel across the country required the support of many. I thank my parents, Jerry and Susie De Lay, for telling me to go and do. I wish every child could know the love and support I have received from these dynamic people. I thank my siblings Kari Kahl and Alan De Lay for their visits a nd phone calls and my grandmas Lois Ketner and Mary Ann De Lay for their wonderful cards. While seemingly small gestures, they spoke volumes of their goodness. Additional thanks go to my sister for the work she did to transcribe my data. She did a beautiful job and complete d the project in a timely manner. I thank my husband, Jason Eatmon, for charging into the unknow n with me with a positiv e attitude. I deeply appreciate the sacrifices he made on my behalf and for slaying the dragons. I am proud to be his wife. Soon after my arrival to Gainesville, Florid a, the homesickness set in. The opportunity to worship with the saints at the Glen Springs Road church of Christ provided immense comfort. From the services, to the small group meetings and the Bible studies this congregations foundation of sound Biblical doctrine served to encourage me and Jason during our stay. I thank the congregation for all they di d to welcome us. Specific acknowle dgement is extended to Mark and Mary Moseley, Mark and Dianna Lloyd, Ry an and Jamie Harvey, Vaughn and Jan Littrup, Jason and Michelle Powell, Cedell and Mary Jane Fletcher, Ray and Leslie Parham, Steve and Jenny Wallace, David and Tammy Criswell, David and Angela Reed, Matt and Jessica Johnson,

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5 Tim and Melissa Wessel, Tommy and Leslie Re dding, Rick and Charlene Warren, Curt and Sheri Curtis, George and Christi Bower, Ma tt and Stephanie Richeson, Micah and Mitze Richeson, Sonny and Bonnie Wicks, Bruce and C ecy Arnold, Byron and Amy Davis, Ben and Bonnie Doerr, Marvin and Linda Dukes, Charlie and Lenda Page, Ben and Christine Ross, Keith and Dene Ward, David and Pam Townsend, and Christi and George Bower. I thank my fellow graduate students from the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication for sharing, encouraging, challe nging, and collaborating. The talent among the members of this group is astounding and humb ling. Special recognition goes to Dr. Wendy Warner, Dr. David Jones, Dr. Eric Kaufman, Dr. Nicholas Fuhrman, Katy Groseta, Brian Estevez, Elio Chiarelli, Jessica Blythe, Andrew Thoron, Stacy Vincent, Anna Warner, Rochelle Strickland, Audrey Vail, Roslynn Brain, Courtney Meyers, Katie Chodil, Lucas Maxwell, Karen Cannon, Sebastian Galindo, and Lisa Hightower as I have learned much from and with these in particular. I also thank the AEC faculty for treating me, a gradua te student, less like labor and more like a colleague. I owe mu ch to them for their expertise, professionalism, and encouragement. My doctoral work has been shaped by what I am convinced is the most gifted faculty committee. I thank Dr. Diane Yendol-Hoppey, Dr. Anna Ball, Dr. Brian Myers, and Dr. Ed Osborne for agreeing to work with me. The ri chness of the questions, comments, and support offered by these professors has not only challeng ed my thinking but helped me to develop as a researcher and contributor to the discipline. I especially thank Dr. Sh annon Washburn for serving as my advisor and major professor. I have referred to this man as My Mighty W. He is the sole reason I chose to attend the University of Fl orida and a major factor contributing to my competence as a teacher educator. He opened his heart and his family to me, allowing me to

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6 form a lasting connection with him. I smile when I reflect on the experien ces we have shared and consider those yet to come. He is not only a mentor, he is a friend. As a student of a land grant institution, I have come to understa nd the importance of research even though it was not an easy lesson to learn. I credit Dr. Mirk a Koro-Ljungberg for introducing me to qualitative rese arch and igniting my interest in using it to examine the problems which exist in agricu ltural education. She is a pheno menal teacher and a bright, talented researcher. I have learned much fr om her about the importance of sound methodology. I also thank the members of her qualitative s upport group as they have challenged my thinking about research and have supported my development through our collaborations. Special thanks go to Joanne LaFramenta, Chu-Chuan Chiu, Fatma Aslan Tutak, and Joseph DiPietro. Throughout my life I have been blessed to work with people who left a lasting impression on me and contributed to my growth. I thank th e members of the Chowch illa and the Yosemite Parkway churches of Christ for their profound role in my development. Special thanks to Ted and Patti Allan, John Eatmon, Mike and Terry Ragus, and Steve and Debbie Kay for their encouragement and support. I thank Ms. Laur ie Westsmith, Mr. Jim Galloway, Mrs. Barbara Siegrist, Mr. and Mrs. Norman and Pat Moglia, Ms. Kim Donaher, Mr. Steve Obad, Mrs. Birt McKinzie, Dr. Arthur Olney, Dr. Gary Koch, Dr. Joe Sabol, Dan Lassanske, Dr. James Doud, and Dr. Rose Pringle for serving as excellent mo dels of teaching and for propelling my love of learning. I thank Dana Branco, Jack and Ba rbara Schnoor, Brad and Mindy Schnoor, Margaret Stannard, Robert Actis, Rich Vandenack, Chris Yager, Br ad Wyman, Kris tanne SilkwoodMattes, Chris Williams, Larry Dinis, Laurie Ki mbler, and Matt Actis for exposing me to the agriculture industry and helping me develop as an educator. I further thank the National FFA Organization for inviting me to participate in a myriad of projects which helped me reflect on my

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7 practice and identity as a teach er. Specific thanks go to Kelly Horton, Andy Armbruster, Seth Derner, Doug Kueker, and Mark Reardon. Finally, I send my ultimate thanks to my Creat or for the blessings He has bestowed upon me. I stand in awe of Him. Looking back on my experiences, I recogn ize who has seen me through to this place. While a path I did not take willingly at times, it has been one full of excitement and enrichment. God is so good!

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8 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 LIST OF TABLES................................................................................................................. ........10 LIST OF FIGURES.......................................................................................................................11 LIST OF TERMS AND ABBREVIATIONS................................................................................ 12 ABSTRACT...................................................................................................................................14 CHAP TER 1 INTRODUCTION..................................................................................................................15 Background.............................................................................................................................15 Statement of the Problem....................................................................................................... .19 Statement of the Purpose and Exploratory Questions Guiding Study ....................................20 Limitations and Assumptions of the Study............................................................................. 21 Methods...........................................................................................................................21 Participants......................................................................................................................22 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE........................................................................................ 23 Introduction................................................................................................................... ..........23 Conceptual Framework........................................................................................................... 23 Teacher Learning............................................................................................................... .....24 Teacher Collaboration.......................................................................................................... ..29 Novice Phase...................................................................................................................29 Apprentice Career Phase................................................................................................. 32 Professional, Expert, and Distinguished Career Phases.................................................. 33 Teacher Professional Development........................................................................................ 37 Teacher Career Satisfaction....................................................................................................41 Teacher Retention.............................................................................................................. .....44 3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS..............................................................................49 Introduction................................................................................................................... ..........49 Phenomenological Approach.................................................................................................. 50 Researcher Subjectivity........................................................................................................ ..53 Methodology...........................................................................................................................60 Characteristics of Phenomenological Methods............................................................... 60 Participants......................................................................................................................62 Data Collection................................................................................................................64

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9 Data Analysis...................................................................................................................68 Measures of Validation....................................................................................................70 4 FINDINGS....................................................................................................................... .......72 Introduction................................................................................................................... ..........72 Kevin.......................................................................................................................................73 Textural Description........................................................................................................ 73 Structural Description...................................................................................................... 82 Christy.....................................................................................................................................86 Textural Description........................................................................................................ 86 Structural Description...................................................................................................... 92 Mark........................................................................................................................................95 Textural Description........................................................................................................ 95 Structural Description.................................................................................................... 100 Composite Textural Description........................................................................................... 103 Composite Structural Description......................................................................................... 108 Textural-Structural Statement...............................................................................................110 5 DISCUSSION.......................................................................................................................119 Introduction................................................................................................................... ........119 Key Findings.........................................................................................................................119 Teacher Learning........................................................................................................... 120 Teacher Collaboration................................................................................................... 121 Teacher Professional Development...............................................................................123 Teacher Career Satisfaction...........................................................................................124 Teacher Retention.......................................................................................................... 125 Implications for Research..................................................................................................... 126 Implications for Practice...................................................................................................... .129 Conclusion............................................................................................................................135 APPENDIX A LETTER TO EXPERT PANEL........................................................................................... 146 B EMAIL TO RECRUIT PARTICIPANTS............................................................................ 147 C INTERVIEW GUIDE...........................................................................................................148 D THANK YOU EMAIL TO PARTIC IPANTS FOR MEMBER CHECK ............................ 149 E CONTINUUM OF TEACHER COLLABORATION......................................................... 150 LIST OF REFERENCES.............................................................................................................153 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................164

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10 LIST OF TABLES Table page 4-1 Participant Descriptions................................................................................................... 118 5-1 Teacher Collaboration Research Findings.......................................................................138

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11 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2-1 Conceptual Model of Teacher Collaboration..................................................................... 48

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12 LIST OF TERMS AND ABBREVIATIONS Agricultural Education A program offered through the nations public schools at the middle and high school levels, comprised of three key components: classroom and laboratory instruction, FFA, and SAE. Agricultural education pr epares students for careers and continuing education in globa l agriculture, food, fiber and natural resources systems (National FFA Organization, n.d.c). CDE A Career Development Event is a competitive activity designed to test the knowledge and sk ills FFA members gain from classroom instruction and thei r SAEs, with the goal of preparing them to enter a career in agriculture (National FFA Organization, n.d.a). CTE Career and Technical Education provides students access to academic subject matter relevant to real world contexts and prepares students for a variety of careers (Association for Career and Technical Education, n.d.). Distinguished Teacher Phase Teacher in the fi fth phase of the Life Cycle of the Career Teacher model (Steffy, Wolfe, Pasche, & Enz, 2000). The distinguished phase is reserved fo r teachers truly gifted in their field. They exceed current expectations for what teachers are expected to know and do. These te achers are the pied pipers of the profession. Distinguished teachers impact educationrelated decisions at city, state, and national levels (Steffy & Wolfe, 2001, p. 17). For the purpos e of this study, teachers in this category were identified as such by the members of the expert panel. Espoused platform A statement of a teach ers beliefs and goals for teaching and learning within the teachers particular academic situation (Nolan and Hoover, 2005). Expert Teacher Phase Teacher in the fourth phase of the Life Cycle of the Career Teacher model (Steffy, Wolfe, Pasche, & Enz, 2000). Even if they do not formally seek it, these teachers meet the expectations required for nationa l certification. The goal of the Life Cycle of the Career Teacher model is to assure that all teachers develop their skills to operate at this expert level (Steffy & Wolfe, 2001, p. 17). For the purpose of this study, teachers in this category were identified as such by the members of the expert panel.

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13 FAAE Florida Association for Ag ricultural Education is the professional association for teacher s of agriculture in the state of Florida. FFA A youth leadership organization integral to the public school agricultural educati on program with the mission of preparing students for premiere leadersh ip, personal growth and career success (National FFA Organization, n.d.c). Interactive talk A process where teach ers work collaborativ ely to construct meaning through conversation (Carroll, 2005). Lesson study A professional developmen t tool where teachers collaborate with other teachers to write a lesson, present it, provide feedback, revise the lesson a nd then reteach it (Puchner & Taylor, 2006). Phenomenology A qualitative research method used to describe the meaning of the lived experiences for several individuals about a concept or the phenomenon (Creswell, 1998, p. 51). SAE Supervised Agricultural Expe rience is a hands-on opportunity for students to apply and deve lop the knowledge and skills gained from classroom instru ction and FFA participation (National FFA Organization, n.d.b). Spontaneous collaboration An unplanned, unpredic table type of collaboration initiated by teachers with no formal mandate from a governing body or administration (Williams, Prestage, & Bedward, 2001). Structural collaboration A form of collabo ration initiated by formal mandate from a governing body or administration (Williams et al., 2001). Teacher collaboration Teacher collaborati on occurs when teachers coordinate their activities to achieve common goals that, in time, guide future shared actions and whose shared history and culture eventually provide the stability and predictability that are crucial for meaningful collabora tive work to occur (Dooner, Mandzuk, & Clifton, 2008, p. 565). Teacher study group A form of teacher collaboration providing opportunities for teachers to learn through inquiry and critical analysis (Carroll, 2005).

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14 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy THE ESSENCE OF SECONDARY AGRICULTU RE TEACHERS EXPERIENCES WITH TEACHER COLLABORATION By Ann Marie De Lay May 2008 Chair: Shannon G. Washburn Major: Agricultural Ed ucation and Communication This qualitative study examines experienced s econdary agriculture teachers perceptions of teacher collaboration. Nine interviews were conducted with three experienced secondary agriculture teachers, using phenomenological research methods. The participants included two males and one female with an average of 15 years teaching experience. Two questions guided this study: (a) how do experienced secondary agriculture teachers perceive teacher collaboration and (b) how do experienced secondary agriculture teachers experience teacher collaboration? Findings suggest teachers had positive f eelings regarding teacher collaboration. Participants felt their experiences working with other teachers were a source of professional revitalization and fulfillment. Gr eater career satisfaction was an important byproduct of their interaction. The teachers contended agriculture teachers responsibilities are unique to those expected of other teachers, making the career rath er isolating. They also mentioned experienced agriculture teachers fail to do an adequate job of extending support to new professionals. They suggested teacher collaboration may be effective in addressing the challenges of teacher career dissatisfaction and lead to greater teacher retention.

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15 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Background According to Joerger and Brem er (2001), a teachers experience follows reading achievement as a major contributor to stude nt academic success. The National Commission on Teaching and Americas Future (1996) has said highly qualified teachers are the most important piece of a childs education. Despite the critic al association between the role of teacher experience and the students level of achievement each year nearly one third of the nations teachers vacate their posts (Kersaint, Lewis, Potter, & Meisels, 2007; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004) with about half leaving before the close of their sixth year (Joerg er & Boettcher, 2000). Retirement is inevitable but the constant turnover is leaving the nations classrooms in an experienced teacher deficit (Liu & Ramsey, in press; Stansbury & Zimmerman, 2000) and student achievement is inevitably compro mised (Joftus & Maddox-Dolan, 2003; National Commission on Teaching & Americas Future, 1996). Agricultural education is also wrestling with its own problems as a result of the teacher shortage trend. Kantrovich (2007) projected a 38 percent deficit of qualified agriculture teachers nationwide for the fall 2007 semester, a phenomenon which is not new. In fact, this concern has been expressed in the profe ssions supply and demand reports spanning over 40 years (Roberts & Dyer, 2004). Agricultural educa tion mirrors national Career a nd Technical Education (CTE) statistics as it is also estimated CTE loses about half of its new professiona ls within their first six years of employment (Heath-Camp & Camp, 1990). The variability of the agriculture teacher career description (Greiman, Walker, & Birkenholz, 2005; Mundt & Connors, 1999; Walker, Garton, & Kitchell, 2004), is believed to place ad ditional pressure on new teachers. Researchers found the less attention paid to be ginning teachers early in their ca reers the less likely they were

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16 to return for another y ear (Greiman et al., 2005). With a high rate of teacher turnover and a number of retirements looming in the immediat e future, the profession cannot afford to lose teachers in these early stages (Boone & Boone, 2007; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). A considerable base of literature exists on the topic of teacher attrition. The factors contributing to teacher loss include the increased le vel of challenge associat ed with the role of a teacher (Mundt & Connors, 1999; National Commission on Teaching and Americas Future, 1996) and the shock new teachers experience trans itioning from student teaching into their first teaching positions (Gehrke & McCoy, 2007b; Joer ger & Bremer, 2001; Walker et al., 2004). Career dissatisfaction is another important consideration driving teachers away and is based on a variety of underlying factors (Alliance for Exce llent Education, 2005; Ingersoll, 2001a; Johnson & Birkeland, 2003). Wilhelm, Dewhurst-Savellis & Parker (2000) narro wed the list to the behavior exhibited by students, challenging relationships with others working at the school, a lack of student feedback, and salary as contri buting to a teachers de cision to leave (p. 292). Munthe (2003) added the elements of role am biguity and work mandated by the school, to the list. Although efforts have been made nationally to improve teachers salaries, and research has been conducted on the issues of dissatisfaction, attriti on persists (Stewart, Moore, & Flowers, 2004). Teachers feelings of isolation have been iden tified as contributing to career dissatisfaction (Greiman et al., 2005; Liu & Ramsey, in press). Wh ile some isolation is prized by teachers as a buffer from outside interference, other forms of isolation depict teach ers who are closed off behind their classroom doors due to barriers and constraints (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1996; Hargreaves, 1994; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). Teacher isolation has been described as a learned behavior. Because they face consta nt threats to control, dignity, and job security, teachers must

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17 also learn to maintain a lonely distance fr om students, colleagues, administrators, and community (Richardson & Placier, 2001, p. 923). Fu rthermore, a teachers daily work routine generally contains little time for them to meet and engage in professi onal discussion (CochranSmith & Lytle, 1996). This leaves teachers st ruggling alone, masking the reality of their experiences from their counterpart s on the outside. They grapple i ndependently with issues such as planning, program management and student behavior (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1996; Greiman et al., 2005; Hargreaves, 1994; Kar dos & Johnson, 2007). Should time for work with their peers become available, the teacher finds it is neither viewed nor valued as related to their professional work (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1996). The sheer pressure of the situation has been known to become so overwhelming the teacher fe els no other choice but to abandon his or her post and seek employment elsewhere (Joerger & Bremer, 2001). Regarding why teachers remain in the profession, researchers have identified the social aspects of the career to be a great contribu tor (Boone & Boone, 2007; Hargreaves, 2001; Johnson & Birkeland, 2003; Thobega & Miller, 2003). Netw orks, teams, groups, me ntoring relationships, and other teacher socialization structures encour age individual teachers to forge relationships with those in the collective whole (McLaughlin & Oberman, 1996). Hargreaves (1994) suggested collaboration and collegiality ha ve the power to help teachers develop throughout their careers. Collaboration and collegiality are also credited with motivating teachers to return each year (Boone & Boone, 2007) and have been recommended as ways to combat the feeling of isolation (Greiman et al., 2005; Williams, Prestage, & Bedward, 2001). Connectivity pulls teachers from their classroom islands and places them in the school interface, having them support one another through the actions of sharing and problem solvi ng. When the interaction is based on the needs

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18 of teachers work it is considered important and useful (Feiman-Nemser, 2001), renewing their sense of purpose and efficacy (Lieberman & McLaughlin, 1996, p. 63). Tools which foster professional learning have the capacity to reduce teacher isolation and can even validate the concept of collective learning in the school context (Lieberman, 1996, p. 200). Teacher collaboration is one such tool involving the coordinated work of individuals toward a common goal, often based on a commo n history and culture (Dooner, Mandzuk, & Clifton, 2008., p. 2). Hargreaves (1994) described the culture of teacher collaboration as spontaneous, voluntary, development-orient ed, pervasive across time and space, and unpredictable (p. 192-193). Touted as the cure-all for teacher is olation, student performance, and professional development (B rownell, Yeager, Rennells, & Riley, 1997; Erb, 1995; Goddard, Goddard, & Tschannen-Moran, 2007; Goddar d, Hoy, & Woolfolk Hoy, 2000; Pounder, 1998; Shachar & Shmuelevitz, 1997); teacher collaborati on has the potential to increase professional commitment among teachers and positively impact their career satisfaction (Johnson & Birkeland, 2003; Weiss, 1999; Woods & Weasme r, 2004). Despite these benefits, teacher collaboration is not common practice in ma ny schools (Burbank & Kauchak, 2003; Inger, 1993; Rhodes & Beneicke, 2002). Many prototypes exist for the implementati on of teacher collaboration. Structural collaboration involves school-mandated collabo ration among teachers (Williams et al., 2001). These arrangements often involve meetings a nd a group of teachers working on a school-level issue. Structural collaboration differs from contrived collegiality (Hargreaves, 1994) because the concept seeks to eliminate teacher isolation and foster the development of teacher practice. Spontaneous collaboration is a more open term used to describe the unexpected opportunities which emerge for teachers to learn and work together (Williams et al., 2001).

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19 In concert with research on how teachers le arn, teacher collaborati on affords professional educators the chance to work together in the co-constructio n of both product and knowledge (Butler, Novak Lauscher, Jarv is-Selinger, & Beck ingham, 2004). The strength of this professional development tool rest s on the fact teacher collaboration has the capacity to help teachers concentrate their collective efforts on a professional problem they face (Penuel, Fishman, Yamaguchi, & Gallagher, 2007). It also ha s the power to lessen the devastating effects of teacher isolation (B urbank & Kauchak, 2003). While concerns about career dissatisfaction and teacher attrition remain at the forefront of the teaching professions challenges, teacher collaboration may provide some hope with helpi ng teachers stay the course and maintain their career commitment. Statement of the Problem According to the national supply and dem a nd report (Kantrovich, 2007), the agricultural education profession finds itself in the midst of a s hortage of agriculture t eachers. In search of a way to alleviate the problem, the National Re search Agenda: Agricultural Education and Communication 2007-2010 (Osborne, n.d.) has name d the need for an abundant agriculture teacher supply among its research priority areas. The National Council for Agricultural Education (2004) has set a strate gic goal of increasing the numb er of agricultural education programs from 7,242 (National FFA Organizatio n, 2007) to 10,000 by the year 2015. This by 15 initiative has placed a bur den on teacher education and s econdary education to not only prepare and hire a great many more qualified teachers but also to provide support to retain those already employed (Kantrovich, 2007). Feelings of isolation, low-self efficacy, a lack of knowledge, the inability to deal wi th work related stress, and ot her factors related to career dissatisfaction are professional challenges with which many te achers struggle and researchers

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20 cannot afford to disregard. Teacher collaborati on holds promise as a form of assistance for helping teachers cope with the r easons for high teacher turnover. Previous research in the agricultural education literature has reported teachers benefit from interaction with other educational professionals (Balschweid, Thompson, & Cole, 2000; Boone & Boone, 2007; Greiman et al., 2005; Joerger & Boettcher, 2000; Park, Moore, & Rivera, 2007; Roberts & Dyer, 2004; Warnick, Thompson, & Gummer, 2004). However, there is little research providing a thorough examination of teacher co llaboration as a method of educational interaction. It is not yet known what teacher coll aboration looks like in agricultural education. It is not yet known what the phenomenon of teacher collaboration can do for teacher knowledge. It is not yet known how teacher collaboration can be increased. It is not ye t known who is, or are, in the best position(s) to perpetuate teacher collaboration within agricultural education. Consequently, little has been mentioned about th e use of teacher collaboration as a tool for contributing to teacher career satisfaction and for lessening the trend of high teacher attrition rates. The profession must gain a more comple te understanding of teachers perceptions and experiences with teacher collaboration if it is to exhaust every possibility in the quest for addressing the need for retaining quality teachers (Osborne, n.d.). Statement of the Purpose and Expl oratory Qu estions Guiding Study The purpose of this study was to describe the phenomenon of teacher collaboration from the perspective of the three secondary agriculture teacher participants. In-depth interviews using the Seidman (2006) technique were used to expl ore participants personal experiences and form a more complete picture of teacher collaborati on. The following questions guided the research: How do experienced secondary agriculture te achers perceive teacher collaboration? How do experienced secondary agriculture te achers experience teacher collaboration?

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21 Limitations and Assumptions of the Study The lim itations regarding this st udy have the potential to imp act the degree to which the findings may be validated. This section addresse s the limitations of the study related to the methods and to the participants. Methods Phenom enological research calls into questi on what is taken for granted (Crotty, 2003, p.82) by describing the meaning seve ral individuals have formed through their experiences with a particular phenomenon of interest (Crott y, 2003; Moustakas, 1994). Phenomenology is supported by the assumption that the essence of a phenomenon is similar among the participants involved in the study. Adherence to the phenomenol ogical design requires th e researcher to lay aside all common and first-hand understandings of a phenomenon, in search of how the phenomenon has been experienced by others (Hat ch, 2002). The goal is to be able to discover new meanings and perhaps even substantiate t hose already in existen ce (Crotty, 2003). These new understandings spring forth from the experiences and meanings shared among the participants through data analysis. As a result, the essence of teacher collaboration is presented as understandings formed through the perspectives of three experienced secondary agriculture teachers, rather than through the perspectives of them all. Despite this limitation, it is important to note the diversity of experi ences contributed by the partic ipant group. These variations of perspective contributed a range of elements related to the essence of the phenomenon and increase its universal ity (Moustakas, 1994). Epoche is a reflective process in which th e researcher engages throughout a study. This process involves reflecting on personal assump tions about the phenomenon of interest, writing them in a researcher subjectivity statement, and then continually referring to them throughout the research. Making personal experiences and beliefs explicit helps a researcher become open to the

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22 new ways of seeing. This practice lies at the core of phenomenology. Failure to bracket ones personal biases or failing to engage in Epoc he throughout data collect ion and analysis can present a limitation as the researcher runs the risk of contaminating the purity of the work. In the present study, the researcher was careful to adhe re to this important step to phenomenological methodology. Participants The develop ment of the composite descriptions and textural/structural statement were evolved from the experiences shared by th e small, homogeneous participant group. This qualitative study chose to focus on secondary agricu lture teachers from Florida in the mid-point of their careers, at th e expert and distinguished phases of the Steffy, Wolfe, Pasch, and Enz (2000) Life Cycle of a Career Teacher model. Additionally, the agriculture teaching population in Florida consists of secondary teachers at both the high school and middle school levels. This study featured participants currently serving as teachers at the high sc hool level, although one had spent five years teaching at the middle school level early in her career. Inclusion of more participants, and/or participants from a different phase of their careers would have contributed to the studys breadth. The highly individualized nature of the data is not intended to be generalized to a larger population as the three teachers from the study may not be accurate representations of the typical agriculture teacher. The researcher made the assumption that the perspectives of these teachers experiences with the phenomenon of inte rest were meaningful (Patton, 2002). It was further assumed the participants selected were open and provided honest responses to the questions asked of them which accurately reflec ted their perceptions about, and experiences with, teacher collaboration.

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23 CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE Introduction The cultu re of isolation within the teachi ng profession provides both advantages and drawbacks related to teachers work experi ence (Hargreaves, 1994; 2001). While some teachers appreciate the autonomy gained through isol ation (Achinstein, 2002; Bogler, 2002; Guarino, Santibanez, & Daley, 2006; Hargreaves, 1994; J ohnson, 2003), isolation has been identified as a factor contributing to career dissatisfaction (Burbank & Kauc hak, 2003; Greiman et al., 2005; Hanson & Moir, 2008; Hargreaves, 1994; Johnson, 2003) and career dissatisfaction often leads to teacher turnover (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2005; Wilhelm et al., 2000). However, as stated in Chapter 1, a gap exists in the agricultural education l iterature base regarding teacher collaboration as a method for improving a teachers level of satisfaction with his or her career. The purpose of this study was to draw the voices of agriculture teacher s into the literature by examining experienced secondary agriculture t eachers perceptions of teacher collaboration. The study also aimed to uncover th e participants experi ences with teacher collaboration. This chapter lays the conceptual framework for the study and provides a review of the pertinent literature related to teacher collaboration. Conceptual Framework The conceptual fram ework for this study invol ves the relationships teacher collaboration shares with three areas which ultimately lead to teacher retention: teacher knowledge, teacher professional development, and te acher career satisfac tion. The researcher c onceptualized these relationships relevant to the study by arranging the five comp onents in a conceptual model (Figure 2-1). The literature revi ew to follow supports the relationships each of the elements shares with teacher collabor ation and serves as the theo retical foundation of the study.

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24 Teacher Learning In order for the m easures of accountability to achieve the success policymakers expect, students must be taught by teach ers who have access to more powerful learning opportunities (Feiman-Nemser, 2001, p. 1014). These opportunities for teacher learning must challenge and support teacher growth in a way which consid ers teacher background, experience, knowledge, beliefs, and needs (Chval, Abell, Pareja, Mu sikul, & Ritzka, 2008, p. 32). Collaboration with other teachers is one way to address the aforementioned cons iderations (Chval et al., 2008; Hargreaves, 2001). Termed the Age of the Co llegial Professional (Hargreaves, 2000, p. 162), teachers have been turning inward to learn from and with their peers about how to deal with the dynamics of the current educational environmen t. Many demands are placed on teachers, each requiring immense effort and greater time commitm ents. Teachers have also grown skeptical of the capacity for outside knowledge organizations to provide learning opport unities to help them meet these challenges. Instead they have looked more intently at the pool of knowledge residing among themselves and their colleagues for access to professional development commensurate with their particular needs (G oddard et al., 2007; Shulman, 1986). Many different theories exist describing how teachers learn. As a result, the parties responsible for providing teacher learning opportunities find it di fficult to offer experiences and content most appropriate for an individual teach ers needs. The broad learning contexts of teacher education programs, ongoi ng professional development, the evolution of professional culture, and teacher assessment methods related to school reform all require support providers have a thorough understanding of teacher lear ning theory (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999). Before any change may be enacted to the teaching experience, support providers must understand the basic assumptions of how teacher s learn. Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999) sought to lend clarity to the issue of teacher learning by deconstructing each of its three pervasive

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25 conceptions including: knowle dge for practice, knowledge in practice, and knowledge of practice. Knowledge for practice refers to the formal knowledge base in teaching. Derived from experts usually at the universit y, this type of knowledge is we ighted by a theoretical foundation and marketed for consumption by teachers. The conception is founded on the premise the more one knows, the more effective they will be. Learning information from a variety of educational domains (ie. content, student development, a ssessment, teaching methods, etc), and from a variety of external sources (ie. professional development workshops, continuing education, expert speakers, etc), teacher s are considered to be knowledge users, not generators (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999, p. 257). Knowledge is transmitted to teachers through formal training, for the purpose of impl ementing best practices and en acting widespread professional change. Standardized methods are used to assess knowledge for practice since the format focuses on content limited to basic educational li teracy. Exams administered to teachers seeking certification are based on this assessment format. Teachers acquire knowledge in practice directly from the act of teaching. Experience then is credited as the ultimate factor in developi ng ones effectiveness as a teacher. To generate knowledge, the teacher engages in continuous inqu iry and reflection on practice. This separates knowledge in practice from the more formal research lite rature base. The learning occurring in this conception does not take place in isolation, si nce the teacher interacts with other teachers to become more effective in his or her practice. S ituations encouraging inte raction among teachers, like teacher collaboration, serve as opportuni ties for teachers to examine and expand their knowledge together. Collectively, they espouse thei r beliefs and learn new ways to align their actions with those beliefs. The accumulation of a va riety of data such as videos and evidence

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26 files, provide the content for assessing this conception of teacher le arning (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999). Knowledge of practice stands in strict opposition to th e characteristics of the other two conceptions of teacher learning a nd reveals knowledge as connected to both theory and practice. This blended view embodies what Munby, Russe ll, and Martin (2001) called a fusion of experience and theory (p. 887) and tends to garner wider acceptance from teachers because of its local generation and proven ut ility and applicability (Cochran -Smith & Lytle, 1999; Shulman, 1986). Knowledge of practice is not a marriage of knowledge for practice and knowledge in practice The conception addresses the creation of knowledge for use beyond immediate needs to shape teacher perceptions, judgments, decisions, and theory development, relating it to the broader context of professiona l transformation. This progressi ve spin on the educational environment requires teachers to cast a critical eye on what they know and believe, and on the current systems of operation. Teachers engaging in knowledge of practice problematize their teaching within a collaborative context with other teachers (C ochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999). They expand their teacher identities by incorporating new profession al roles. Acting as researchers, leaders, developers, and agents of change these teachers question their experiences and make sense of their work from a position of social responsibilit y. Talk is important to this conception since teachers serve as both learners and contributors engaged in professional dialogue (CochranSmith & Lytle, 1999; Williams et al., 2001). The convergence of many points of view in one space moves teacher learning beyond what can be gained from the traditional expert-novice arrangement featured in much of professional development. They also expose their learning to further critique through conference paper presen tations and submissions to peer journals.

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27 Subjecting their knowledge to assessment by the broader professional au dience initiates still further learning (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999). Each of the three conceptions of learning are active in education. Because change is inevitable, it is impossible for teacher educati on programs to prepare preservice teachers for everything they will encounter during their caree rs (Hammerness, Darling-Hammond, Bransford, Berliner, Cochran-Smith, McDonald, & Ze ichner, 2005; Hargreaves, 2000; Johnson, 2003). Instead, programs must consider what learning is essential. Chief among knowledge deemed key to new professionals is imparting those skills which equip them to be lifelong learners (Hammerness et al., 2005). Lifelong learning can support the actions necessary to refining ones identity as a teacher (Hammerness et al., 2005). The actions associated with lifelong learning involve continually challenging ones beliefs and pr actice as new information is received, and learning how to launch shifts in beliefs and practice (Hatano & Oura, 2003). Such outcomes do not happen by chance, requiring a teacher who is willing to take risks. Labeled adaptive expert, the teacher who is a lifelong learner seeks a balance between the concepts of efficiency and innovation related to enacting professiona l change toward expertise (H ammerness et al., 2005, p. 48-49). Teachers operating at this level have greater potential for creativ ity, flexibility, and transferring their learning to new contexts. The quest for fe edback is foundational to the development of an adaptive expert and collaborative experiences provide the basis for t eacher interaction and continued learning (Hammerness et al., 2005). When considering the concepts of knowledge of practice (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999) and adaptive expertise (Hammerness et al., 2005), teache r collaboration emerges as a common element for encouraging teacher learning. In th e National Research Councils report on how

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28 people learn, four perspectives were shared fo rming a framework by which the effectiveness of a learning environment could be considered. The four perspectives incl uded: learner centered, knowledge centered, assessment centered, and community centered (C hval et al., 2008; Donovan, Bransford & Pellegrino, 1999; Hammerness et al., 2005). The learner centered component addresses the knowledge, skills and beliefs teachers carry with them to the educational setting. With the knowledge centered component, the focus is on the content necessary for teachers to make se nse of the educa tional setting. The assessment centered component utilizes performance and learner feedb ack to help teachers monitor their thinking and plan for areas of personal and professional deve lopment in an educati onal setting. (CochranSmith & Lytle, 1999; Hammerness et al., 2005). E ach of the aforementioned components fall within the community centered component. This piece looks at teacher learning as a teacher engages in educational research and seeks m eaning through collaborative relationships. The power of this framework occurs as teachers le arn about teaching togeth er with others, often observing one anothers performances and engaging in deep, professional conversations. Simply put, teachers normally learn be tter together than they do al one (Hargreaves, 2000, p. 165) Steffy, Wolfe, Pasch, and Enz (2000) provide a six phase m odel of a teachers career development. The phases include (1) novice teache rs at the preservice le vel, (2) apprentice induction teachers in the early stages of the caree r, (3) professional inducted teachers with a student-centered focus, (4) expert teacher leaders with commitment to student growth, reflection, and professional development, (5) distinguished gifted teachers who maintain the respect of the profession and have made an impact on it at various levels, and (6) emeritus teachers who have retired from a lifetime in the career. As there is no timetable marking advancement; a teacher achieves movement through the phases by implementing actions related

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29 to reflection, renewal and growth (Steffy & Wolfe, 2001). Teacher collaboration falls within these elements of development. Teacher Collaboration Novice Phase It has b een established that teacher collabora tion is necessary for professional learning to occur (Rhodes & Beneicke, 2002). This point is tr ansferred to preservice teachers in the work by Sumsion and Patterson (2004). The researchers examined the concept of community with 145 preservice teachers enrolled in an 11 week unit during the final year of a teacher education program. The expectation of collaboration through online co mmunication and a major group assignment provided a context fo r identifying the existence of community within the group. Respondents offered several key themes describing the characteristics which contributed to the sense of community they felt in the program, in cluding: voicing anxietie s and concerns, making connections with others, partic ipating in a shared endeavor, supporting each other, developing new skills/ knowledge/ insights/ attitudes/ iden tities through participation in the shared endeavor (p. 625). The spirit of community provi ded a forum where partic ipants were involved together in challenging their long held belie fs about teaching and learning. They also coconstructed new knowledge and abil ities providing them with greater awareness of the possible directions they could take those initial pedagogical belief s. By understanding these key contributors to community, researchers can enac t strategies to minimize the occurrence of actions which may degrade this feel ing within future cohort groups. In a study using peer inter action, Manouchehri (2002) shared a case study of the collaboration which transpired between two pr eservice mathematics teachers engaged in an 11week practicum. The participant pair spent four hours, two da ys each week, at their assigned school site and in their respective classrooms. During the first three we eks, each participant

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30 observed her cooperating teacher while maintaini ng a personal reflective j ournal to establish a style baseline. The next four weeks involved the participants observing each cooperating teacher as a team, using collaborative re flection to later discuss what they witnessed. During the final four weeks, each participant took a turn observi ng the teaching practice of the other. Following the lesson, they met to again reflect collaborative ly. Although the preservice teachers in the study exhibited insecurities related to their content area knowledge, th e structure of the collaboration demonstrated preservice teachers potential for growth. The researcher found through peer interaction, participants grew considerably in their professi onal knowledge and capacity for reflective inquiry. Teacher collaboration has also been found to help preservice teachers develop as reflective practioners (Sim, 2006). The researcher used a stru ctured form of teacher collaboration called a community of practice, organizing preservice teachers into tutorial groups with a tutor to support the participants work in the program practicum After nine years of using the structured preservice teacher collaboration mo del, a survey evaluation (n= 151) of the tutorials found the programs strengths involved devoting time and guidance to collaborative teacher reflection. Sims (2006) study demonstrated the possibility for teacher education to use a community of practice structure in its programs and help pres ervice teachers master skills associated with becoming life-long learners. Sutherland, Scanlon, and Sperring (2005) outlined three teacher education programs utilizing communities of practice as a form of teacher collaboration and a way to prepare preservice teachers for the professi on. Through a series of events such as shadowing in-service teachers, engaging young people in a contentrich science activity, and planning lessons appropriate for the needs of the in-service teache rs with whom they were working; preservice

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31 teachers were able to develop knowledge of practice (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999) from their participation in authentic experiences. The knowledge of practice was a result of their application of blending theory and practice. The overarchi ng themes generated from the interview data suggest the incorporation of structured teacher co llaboration led to the active engagement of inservice teachers, in th e teacher education program experi ences of the preservice teacher participants. Additionally, preservice teachers ha d an opportunity to develop the depth of their professional knowledge and gained greater confid ence in their decisions to become teachers. The challenge facing teacher collaboration in fostering the integrat ion of science and agriculture surfaced in a mixed-methods study by Balschweid, Thompson, and Cole (2000). The research team sought to determine if delivering an integrated agriculture and science curriculum would improve preservice teachers attitudes to ward collaborating with science teachers. Participants mentioned several factors impacti ng their willingness to collaborate with science teachers. First, they needed to find some common ground between the science teachers personality and their own. They also needed to overcome barriers such as a lack of time to work together, poor historic department reputations, and competition for students and resources. By introducing the topic of collaboration during th e preservice program, most preservice teachers indicated they would be more lik ely to attend future workshops a ddressing the topic as part of their professional development. A study by Seifert and Mandzuk (2006) examined the potential of preser vice cohort groups for encouraging peer collaboration. Based on findi ngs from in-depth interview data, researchers described the personal experiences of participant interactions with cohort peers. Although cohorts were established to foster professional discussion and development, results demonstrated the structure did little to contribute to that mission. Instead, participants believed the cohort

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32 provided the social and emotional support they needed to persist in the program. The collaborations consisted primarily of clarif ying program logistics and procedures, and establishing a cordial group culture. While participant age and maturity impacted the significance these collaborative efforts had on thei r learning and development, most participants appreciated the structure credi ting it with helping them connect to, and cooperate with, their peers. Apprentice Career Phase New teach ers have two jobs they have to teach and they have to learn to teach (Feiman-Nemser, 2001). Quality induction progr ams, according to Moir and Gless (2001), should have the vision of devel oping teacher leaders rather than teacher survivors. This perception helps district admini stration and other educational or ganizations who allocate the necessary time and resources for these program s develop the necessary commitment and support for new teacher learning. Quality mentoring is also a requirement of high quality new teacher induction. Moir and Gless (2001) called it the most critical compone nt of new teacher support and, along with Feiman-Nemser (2001), added any mentor of ne w teachers should be well educated in the pedagogy of mentoring (p. 112). Furthermor e, induction programs should extend beyond one year (Feiman-Nemser, 2001; Joerger & Bremer, 2001; Marshak & Klotz, 2002; Moir & Gless, 2001), be based on professional standards (Moir & Gless, 2001), and incorporate collaboration with other teachers (Feiman-Nemser, 2001; Mo ir & Gless, 2001). Induction programs which feature a mentoring component of ten have a positive impact on th e rate of teac her attrition (Norman & Feiman-Nemser, 2005; Wang & Odell, 2002). Smith and Ingersoll (2004) quantitatively exam ined the impact of teacher induction on new teacher retention. This specific study objectiv e utilized a national sample of 3,235 beginning

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33 teachers in the 1999 school year. Comparing current data to that acquired beginning in the 1990 school year, teacher participation in induction programs had risen. The early career teachers who participated in such programs were more likely to remain in their positions rather than change schools or exit the profession. When paired with me ntors within their own fields, there was a 30% reduction in teacher loss. Other mechanisms of support, such as collaborating with teachers other than their mentors and regular communication with administration, were found to significantly redu ce the risk of leaving. Greiman, Walker, and Birkenholz (2005) conduc ted a mixed-methods study to investigate the induction environment of 31 first-year agricu lture teachers in Missouri. It was determined most new teachers had access to some type of induction program with 93% being appointed a formal mentor from their school, most of whom taught in another content area. This group of beginning teachers was not ready for the isolatio n they felt upon entering the classroom. They greatly valued the collaboration generated by their mentoring rela tionships, as the interactions addressed many of their concerns. However, abou t half of the population stated they failed to receive the help they needed with 81% of thei r program management responsibilities. This gap indicated while beginning agriculture teachers r eceived assistance with issues common to all teachers, they were less likely to receive suppor t specific to their content area specialization and any roles unique to their positions as agricu lture teachers. These findings underscore the importance of having the opportunity to collabor ate with those in th e same content area. Professional, Expert, and Distinguished Career Phases Hargreaves (1994), and Richardson and Placier (2001), found collaboration and collegiality take teacher learning from an individual experience to a co llective one. FeimanNemser (2001) stated the isola tion teachers experience is not conducive to growth, yet through interaction with othe r teachers, they find a wealth of support and knowledge. Burbank &

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34 Kauchak (2003) found collaboration le d to a change in both practi ce and beliefs related to the roles of research and practice. The problema tizing, sharing, and cohe sion of a collaborative professional environment can contribute much to the end results of teacher job satisfaction and retention (Grayson & Alvarez, in press; Macdonald, 1999). Shachar and Shmuelevitz (1997) assessed the effects of an inse rvice program on the learning and attitudes of teacher participants. Findings of their rese arch revealed teachers engaging in more collaboration with other teachers reported a higher degree of efficacy related to their professional responsibilities regardless of their years of teaching. These teachers felt strong support for their learning and growth. They also felt more qualified and successful at encouraging cooperation among their students because of their own positive experiences. These findings imply teacher collaboration supports the development of teacher efficacy and teacher job satisfaction. Related to the development of experienced te achers serving as ment ors to early career teachers, Carroll (2005) shared how the teacher study groups were a viable option for teacher learning. In the study, five elemen tary school teachers met regular ly to engage in professional dialogue about their experiences mentoring ne w teachers. The discussion was described as interactive talk, with teachers working together to examine information and construct meaning related to their mentor roles. Th e depth of this type of discussi on, combined with the relationship of the group, resulted in greater professional learning as each participant r ecognized the value of knowledge created through collective inquiry. The notion of teacher study groups as modes of inquiry-oriented learning was reported to be a po werful way to help mentors grow together and better understand the role in which they had been chosen to serve.

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35 The burgeoning world of online exchange has opened new possibilities for teacher collaboration to achieve greater flexibility for teacher learning and socialization. Selwyn (2000) reported on his two-year study of teachers use of online discussion groups. Used primarily for information exchange and professional support, these communities of collaboration provided their teachers freedom from the constraints of time and place on teache r growth. Regardless of the positives, adoption and use occurred by chance, relegating this new venue as a supplemental feature of preexisting face-to-face communities rather than a distinct alternative. Hartnell-Young (2006) provided evidence simila r to that revealed by Selwyn (2000). This study of 32 teachers and principals from twel ve schools found engagement among teachers improved practice, using the tools of direct c onversation and online disc ussion. Such activities took place as teachers fulfilled their roles of designing the learning environment, managing people and resources, and mediati ng learning. With time named as the most critical resource related to the improvement of pr actice, opportunities for collaborat ion and reflection were carved into the school day for many schools. The teacher s located on a site with dedicated collaboration time were only able to take advantage of faceto-face opportunities for wo rking with the other teachers on their site. The online discussion boards, however; were open to and available to all teachers in the project, making them a popular domain for planning and problem solving. Teachers encouraging one another in new methods creating learning goals on the individual and social levels, and creating theories from their pr actice provided further evidence of their focus on improving their practice. Teacher collaboration is ofte n addressed as a method to seek school improvement and, while an important task given the current political climate, little re search exists relating teacher collaboration to student achievement (Goddard et al., 2007). Goddard et al. (2007) conducted a

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36 study of 47 elementary schools in the Midwest to fi nd if there is an asso ciation between teacher collaboration for school improvement and studen t achievement (p. 879). A total of 452 teacher participants completed a survey addressing their collaboration with other teachers and student test score data for 2,536 fourth graders was gather ed from the school office. Researchers noted a significant and positive relationship between teacher collaboration and student achievement. Schools with higher levels of collaboration cl aimed higher levels of student achievement. Goddard et al. (2007) believed th e powerful principles for teach ing and learning foundational to teacher collaboration better prep ared teachers for improvement. According to Achinsteins (2002) study of teacher communities at two schools, teacher collaboration has the potential to spur teache r conflict. The process of reaching consensus common to collaborative efforts opened a space fo r teachers to cast a critical eye on existing beliefs, practices, and structures, but each sc hool community handled the issue of conflict differently. The learning potenti al in teacher collaboration is dependent on how a community chooses to address issues of conf lict. To better understa nd the details of this dilemma, Achinstein (2002, p. 441) identified a set of four processes of conflict. Each proc ess lies on a continuum including: (a) conflict stances ranging from avoidant to embracing, (b) border politics from unified and exclusive to diverse and inclusive, (c) ideology from mainstream and congruent to critical and counter and finally (d) o rganizational change and learning ranging from stability and static to change and learning. The two communities within the study provided a picture of schools typifying each end of the spectrum for th e four processes. Each school experienced benefits in the areas of faculty developmen t and student success as a result of teacher collaboration. However, teacher collaboration with appreciation for critical inquiry is necessary

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37 for growth and reform. The researcher mentioned real change comes from challenging the status quo and is a necessary action to meet the curren t expectations policymak ers have for teachers. Teacher Professional Development Quality p rofessional development must be ba sed on the understandings of how teachers learn (Lieberman, 1996). Professional development mu st consider teachers as learners and build on participants knowledge, skills, and beliefs ; focus on knowledge and practice; provide opportunities for feedback, revision, and success; a nd require interactions with others (Chval et al., 2008, p. 32). In these opportunities, teachers not only learn about th e pedagogical side of teaching (Little, 2002), they learn how to info rm practice (Erickson, Brandes, Mitchell, & Mitchell; 2005). Each of these issues is key to a teachers knowledge of practice and adaptive expertise (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999; Hammerness et al., 2005). Professional development is a high quality expe rience when all educators contribute to its formation and continuance (Feiman-Nemser, 20 01; Nolan & Hoover, 2005). This key component of high quality professional development surf aces the qualities of t eacher leadership and responsibility. Nolan and Hoover (2 005) stated, All educators theref ore have two roles to play. First, they are the primary move rs in their own professional grow th. Second, they help to foster the growth of other educators by participating in the processe s (p. 8). Lee and Smith (1996) view this as a bottom-up action, engaging those at all ranks of the sc hool hierarchy to get involved. This includes administration, as they mu st also play a role (Richardson & Placier, 2001), offering support through encouragement and resource allocation (Feiman-Nemser, 2001). This helps to improve the nature of th e culture surrounding professional development (Ackerman, Donaldson, & Van Der Bogert, 1996). Park, Moore, and Rivera (2007) conducted four focus groups of a total of 26 high school agriculture teachers in New York to identify th eir perceptions of professional development.

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38 Participants felt informal interaction and networking with other teachers was not only professional development but they considered it to be far more meaningful than other mandated programs with which they had experience. They also believed interacting with other agriculture teachers was considerably less intimidating than interacting with teachers from another content area. However, early career teachers felt comfortable working with teachers outside of agriculture more often than thos e in later stages. Researchers al so found the participants valued their interactions, perceiving them to be profe ssionally enlightening and revitalizing, cause for professional reflection, and a way to create a professional brotherhood. Collaboration often involves colleagues worki ng together for a common purpose (Dooner et al., 2008). Erickson et al. ( 2005) examined two professional de velopment projects with teacher collaboration as their goal. Through collaboratio n, teachers generated both practical and formal knowledge. These products helped the teachers fu rther professionalize their practice and aided them in enlightening the larger educational co mmunity when sharing the information beyond the local group. The collaborative culture generated in these environments showcased the high level of commitment each teacher extended to work ing with their peers. The collaborative relationships formed contributed to teachers overall career satisfaction. Although the collective interest was well served, the evidence showed th e needs of individuals were met in many ways such as by the development of a more fulfill ing work life (Louis, Marks, & Kruse, 1996; Wenger, 1998). School reform is a popular occurrence in light of the current climate of educational accountability (Achinstein, 2002; Schnellert, Butler, Higginson, 2008). The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 reported the federal govern ments strictest guidelines for improving elementary and secondary education in the Un ited States (Joftus & Maddox-Dolan, 2003). To

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39 help achieve the goals related to widespread student academic success, specific criteria were named to ensure every classroom would be faci litated by a highly qualified teacher (Joftus & Maddox-Dolan, 2003, p. 6). Demonstrating themselves to be proactive in their compliance with policymakers expectations, many schools looked to teacher collaboration to help their teachers develop themselves and their practice accordingly. Teachers and others with a direct impact on the lives of students have been asked to accept some of the responsibility for student achie vement (Schnellert, Butler, & Higginson, 2008). Schnellert et al. (2008) studied the dynamics of this multidimensional appr oach to accountability by looking at the promise of teacher collaboration as a professional development tool. Data were collected as teachers engaged in inquiry-based, teacher-driven and directed communities. Teacher groups were charged with examining inst ructional cycles in an effort to integrate change. Teachers worked together to examin e their capacity for improving student learning, using an iterative instructional cy cle. The method relied on a variet y of data to encourage teacher collaboration. Researchers found teachers looking at their practic e from this unique perspective had opportunities for inquiry and reflection, making it possible for them to assess their efforts in teaching for student learning and achievement. Professional development should provide differe ntiated opportunities fo r growth (Nolan & Hoover, 2005). Just as a one-size-fits-all a pproach does not work for student learners (Tomlinson, 2001), it also fails to work for teacher learners. Because of each teachers unique knowledge, talents, and abilities, th ey do not all need the same t ype of professional development experiences, or at least not with the same de gree of focus and intens ity. Differentiation of professional development also means attention s hould be paid where each teacher falls within their career. The Life Cycle of a Career Teacher model (Steffy, Wolfe, Pasche, & Enz, 2000) can

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40 help those who plan professional development by offering them a greater understanding of the factors which influence each stage of the teachers career. The key is ensuring teachers get what they need, when they need it. Providing support for so many different needs at once can be a nearly impossible challenge. Teach er collaboration is a professi onal development tool that can empower teachers to shoulder some of the burden. In a two-year study conducted by Butler, Novak Lauscher, Jarvis-Selinger, and Beckingham (2004), a collaborative model of professional development was implemented with the goal of surpassing the typical teacher learning outcomes of top-down professional development. Researchers claimed viewing teacher s as professionals was a distinct perspective setting the collaborative model apart. Teachers en gaged in a process of joint inquiry and taught the process to their students. Th is encouraged student use of i nquiry to advance their learning. While researchers felt the collaborative aspect of the model was not necessary to teacher professional development, they did recognize the high level of work produced through the method. Practices and understandings were far ri cher than could have been generated working alone. The changes in teacher practice and unders tanding were also sustained far longer than researchers had initially expected. Lastly, professional development should be sustained (Feiman-Nemser, 2001; & Richardson & Placier, 2001). So much of professional developmen t is of a quick-fix variety, something to put on a check sheet (Nolan & H oover, 2005). Feiman-Nemser (2001) called for an expansion of what professional development is and can be. Darling-Hammond and McLaughlin (1995) said it must not be a stand-alone re quirement. Professional development must be integrated into all parts of a teachers car eer. Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999) suggested professional development offer opportunities for te achers to connect thei r prior knowledge with

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41 their new learning (p. 258) to make the experi ence more powerful and lasting. The literature on teacher collaboration has mentioned spontaneous collaboration is a powerful mechanism for addressing professional development for the long run, since it is not bound by the parameters of a regimented program (Williams et al., 2001). Teacher Career Satisfaction When m embers of a community know more about the knowledge, skills, and beliefs of their community peers, they also have access to greater funds of knowledge (Bransford, Derry, Berliner, Hammerness, & Beckett, 2005, p. 65). Th e more knowledge accessible, the greater the resource base from which to construct new knowledge, and the more complete ones transmission of that knowledge. Collaboration among teachers has been identified as one of the most important features of a school culture th at fosters professional development, teacher satisfaction, teacher effectiveness, and student ac hievement within a school (Puchner & Taylor, 2006). Yendol-Silva and Dana (2001) added collaborat ion develops a respectful, interdependent culture among teachers. Despite these benefits, the culture of many schools can be described as isolationist (Gersten, Gillman, Morvant, & Bi llingsley, 1995). School cultures with an existing social learning focus maintain a commitment to working together, but shi fting the isolationist culture of schools to a more collaborative culture can be diffi cult (Puchner & Taylor, 2006, p. 922). A mixed-methods study of 24 school-wide profes sional communities examined the issue of teacher interaction on the events involved with the restructuring of a school (Louis, Marks & Kruse, 1996). According to the researchers, th e professional climate am ong teachers at the schools had a marked effect on the successes and failures of school restructuring efforts. A sense of school-wide community was found to be possi ble in all schools, regardless of the grade levels served, or the size of th e student population. Much of this was attributed to the unification

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42 of faculty around a common student-centered goal. Teacher participation in the school governing structure resulted in more discussion about te aching and learning, and differences in opinion added to the richness of the conversations. While not explicitly examined in the study, smaller groupings of teacher communities did exist in the school climate and did provide an opportunity for reflective dialogue, co llaboration, support, and professional development. Lesson study is a collaborative tool teachers can use to plan, observe, analyze, and refine their teaching. Developed by teachers in Japan, this method has demonstrated great success at improving teachers knowledge and practice, an d students learning (Puchner & Taylor, 2006). Researchers collected data on five mathematic s-based lesson study groups. While some teachers became frustrated with the methods structure, Puchner and Taylor (2006) shared findings suggesting lesson study can be a valuable tool for encouraging teacher collaboration and expanding teacher self efficacy. The teachers in this study were cha llenged by the iterative process of refining their work publicly. By working together, they pooled their knowledge and skills in a new, professional way and gained pos itive results. These results included improving student learning, expanding thei r content area knowledge, and vi ewing themselves as more professionally competent. Trying to equalize the concepts of collaboration and autonomy was an issue with which teachers struggled. Researchers sh ared in order to achieve the benefits of the collective, respect for the individual must be observed. Through interviews of beginning teachers, indu ction mentors, mentor coordinators, and head teachers, a case study of the induction prac tice at eleven schools was used to expose the school cultures within which ne w teachers found themselves working (Williams et al., 2001). The data collected were used to establish a continuu m of three school cultu res ranging from a culture of individualism, to one of structural collaboration, and finally to one of spontaneous

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43 collaboration. In the culture of individualism the professional growth of new teachers was placed in jeopardy because of limited opportuni ties for teacher learning. Some beginning teachers felt separated from their mentors either physically, due to geographic distance; or philosophically, due to their ment ors lack of agreement with so me strategies for support. New teachers experiencing an individualistic culture their first year, planned to terminate their employment at the end of that year and seek work in a new school for their second year. In the culture of structural collaboration new teachers were provided formal opportunities for development. These opportunities were based on programmatic requirements and often resulted in fulfilling the needs of the program rather than those of the new teacher. The growth experienced in this regimented atmosphere was positive, as teachers no longer felt isolated. However, the collaboration failed to reach teach ers needs beyond the constraints of the program. Finally, in the culture of spontaneous collaboration new teachers experienced a school environment where opportunities for collaboration evolved in the moment. These opportunities were shared among the faculty, rather than handle d solely by those bearing the responsibility for doing so. Experiences related to this type of school culture generated the greatest levels of career satisfaction in participants. Johnson (2003) analyzed data on the efforts of four Australian schools to promote teacher collaboration. The comparative case study design collected da ta from 24 teachers using a questionnaire and interviews. Based on the partic ipants experiences, the researcher identified three key advantages and four key disadvantages of collaboration; each bearing the potential to impact the culture of a school. The three advant ages identified by Johnson included: (a) provide moral support to teachers as they perform their work responsibilities, (b) lift up teacher morale and encourage greater teacher pa rticipation in the school, and (c ) offer opportunities for teachers

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44 to learn from one another and expand their content knowledge and understandings of teaching and learning. Although the benefits of collaboration can enhance a sc hools culture and the teachers level of satisfaction, Johnson determin ed the disadvantages have the potential to destroy them. Teacher collaboration can also (a) bring about more and difficult work which teachers may not be willing or ready to perform, (b) create an overwhelming pressure for some teachers to conform to beliefs, pr actices or decisions they may not support, (c) lead to teacher conflict as teachers struggle to negotiate mean ing and practice, and (d) develop a competitive environment where teachers create subcultures an d fiercely defend their beliefs and actions from others. Identifying teachers experiences with co llaboration, the researcher made it clear special measures must be taken when planning teach er collaboration opportunities to invoke teacher learning and reform. While collaboration has the capacity for pow erful change, serious thought should be given before making it prescriptive for all teachers. Teacher Retention The reten tion of quality teachers is an outcome important to students (Joerger & Bremer, 2001) and schools (Ingersoll, 2001b) alike. Teachi ng is described as an uncertain profession (Johnson & Birkeland, 2003), a condition which fuels a teachers dissati sfaction (Johnson & Birkeland, 2003, p. 584). When teachers are dissatis fied, they often leave (Ingersoll, 2001a). Many factors are found to contribute to a teachers decision to remain in the classroom (Gehrke & McCoy, 2007b). Kardos and Johnson (2007) surveyed 486 first and second year teachers working in four states about the experiences they had working in their schools and with their colleagues. The participants shared many of them worked in isol ationist cultures where they were expected to perform at the level of an expert teacher, without havi ng received support from a school professional development network. They also repor ted few teachers within their schools worked

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45 toward a shared school mission and failed to share in the responsibility fo r all students at their schools. These findings expose the neglect new te achers endure and highlight the situation must be addressed in order to retain teach ers beyond their early years of teaching. Boone and Boone (2007) addressed the issue of teacher retention in agricultural education from the perspective of why teachers continue to teach. The study used a qualitative survey to examine the factors which compelled 53 agriculture teachers in West Virginia to teach and draw satisfaction from their work. The three most cited motivational factors participants experienced as beginning teachers included: the students a nd student success, financial aspects of the profession, and the professional br otherhood in the agricultural e ducation profession. The factors currently motivating teachers to teach were sim ilar to the aforementioned, including: (1) helping students, (2) educating students, (3) enjoyed teaching agriculture education, (4) student achievement in FFA, (5) financial reward, and (6 ) professional brotherhood. The appearance of professional brotherhood demonstrates its importan ce throughout the various stages in the career and the degree to which teachers value the impact this collaborative component has on their willingness to remain in the profession. In a study by Johnson and Birkeland (2003) th e degree to which a school is organized provided a glimpse into a new teachers willingne ss to stay. This longitudinal interview study of 50 new teachers identified their reasons for staying at their sc hools, for moving to a new school, or for withdrawing from teaching all together Outside of those factors which cannot be controlled (ie. family issues, financial situat ions, etc), those who decided to leave the profession did so for reasons including: lack of support for new teachers, overwhelming demands and expectations with little hope for improvement or success, inappropriate teaching assignments and loads, and inadequate resources to achieve success. Those who decided to move to new

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46 schools did so for reasons similar to the leaver s, including: searchi ng for schools where they could be effective, searching for schools which were a good fit, searching for schools with a collaborative and collegial cult ure, searching for schools with fair and appropriate teaching assignments and loads, and searching for schools mo re affluent than their previous sites. The teachers who decided to remain at their schools were divided into those who were unsettled or unsatisfied and those who were settled or satisfie d. Despite conflicts with the principals and their colleagues, difficult assignments, a lack of reso urces, and frustration with the discipline policy, the unsettled teachers chose to stay because the po sitive factors of their sc hool sites balanced out the negative. The settled teachers shared several reasons for their willingn ess to stay at their schools, including: supportive pr incipals and colleagues, th e high value schools placed on improvement, a nurturing school environment with special programs in place for assisting new teachers, and school-wide efforts for encouragin g parental support. According to this study, those schools which encouraged collaboration among their teachers experienced greater teacher career satisfaction and ultimately greater teacher retention of new teachers following their first year in the classroom. Gehrke and McCoy (2007b) examined where be ginning special education teachers sought support during their first year of teaching. The five teachers interviewed in the study often looked to other teachers for assistance during the induction period. Those other teachers included their mentors, other special education teachers, and specialists with connections to special education. Through interaction with other professionals, the teacher participants confessed they received emotional support, were able to broaden their educat ional focus beyond mere survival, and learned how to maintain high expectations. These elements c ontributed to the participants

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47 generally positive regard for the profession, and we re important to their decisions to remain in teaching the following year. The impact of teacher collaboration in other c ontent areas and grade levels has been shared (Achinstein, 2002; Goddard et al., 2007; Ha rgreaves, 2001; Johnson, 2003; Manouchehri, 2002; Williams et al., 2001) but agricultural education l iterature offers relativ ely little on the matter. The unique structure of the agricultural educati on program model presents agriculture teachers with the expectations of teach ing classes, advising an FFA chapter, supervising SAEs, and managing the inner-workings of the pr ogram (Talbert, Vaughn, & Croom, 2005). These additional responsibilities are not expected of teachers in other areas and can potentially lead agriculture teachers to a lack of self-confidence, confusion, frustr ation, and isolation (Fritz & Miller, 2003; Greiman et al., 2005; Walker et al., 2004) should they be ineffective at completing them. Ineffective performance of such responsib ilities is known to cont ribute to increases in teacher shortages (Boone & Boone, 2007; Greiman et al., 2005; Kantrovich, 2007; Wilhelm et al., 2000). The lived experiences of teachers in the pres ent study provide evidence for further learning about teacher collaboration as the participants ha ve made use of such experiences to successfully complete the early stages of their careers and nestle into their current standings within the midpoints of their careers. An examination of the pa rticipants perceptions of teacher collaboration can advance how secondary agriculture teach ers continue to e xperience the phenomenon.

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48 Figure 2-1. Conceptual Model of Teacher Collaboration Teacher Learnin g Teacher Collaboration Teacher Professional Development Teacher Career Satisfaction Teacher Retention

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49 CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Introduction Positiv ist research purports objects in the world have meaning prior to, and independently of, any consciousness of them (Crotty, 2003, p. 27). This stance requires the researcher to be objective as he or she engages in an unbiased investigation of research questions using the scientific method. The very natu re of qualitative research makes pure objectivity virtually impossible. The interpretation of data generated by subjects immersed in the context of the phenomenon carries with it an expected level of subjectivity (Hatch, 2002; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). A qualitative approach was selected for th is study in an effort to explore agriculture teachers experiences and perceptions related to teacher collaboration. Denzin and Lincoln (1994) defi ned qualitative research as, multimethod in focus, involving an interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject matter. This means that qualitative re searchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of or interpret phenomena in te rms 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) Hatch (2002) stated, Qualitative research seeks to understand the world from the perspectives of those living in it. It is axiomatic in this view that individuals act on the world based not on some supposed objective reality but on their perceptions of the realities that surround them. Qualitative studies try to capture the perspe ctives that actors use as a basis for their actions in specific social settings. (p.7) The purpose of the study was to describe the perceptions and experiences of each participant related to the phenomenon of teach er collaboration. The highly individualized research focus lent itself to qualita tive methodology, and more specifically, the phenomenological research approach. Phenomenol ogy seeks to discover both what is happening in the lived experiences of participants and uncovers the meaning participants have drawn from

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50 such experiences, to identify the essence of the phenomenon and how it relates to others (Moustakas, 1994). Details of the research design to be pursued by this study are describe d in this chapter. Beginning with a description of the phenomenological research approach, the researchers subjectivity statement follows. The measures of validation and proce dures for participant selection, data collection and analysis are also presented. Phenomenological Approach Sokolowski (2000) called phenom enology the science that studies truth and the lim itations of truth (p. 185). This idea was shared by Husserl (1965) when he stated phenomenology practiced what other sciences failed to practice because the approach examined the essence of objects, whereas other sciences took them for granted. Marshall and Rossman (2006) expressed the purpose of phenomenology as trying to understand the experiences of a few in an effort to create broader understanding of them. The approach also assumes there is a structure and essence to shared experiences that can be narrated (p. 104). For Moustakas (1994), phenomenology attempts to eliminate everything that represents a prejudgement, setting aside presuppositions, and reaching a transcendental st ate of freshness and openness, a readiness to see in an unfettered way, not threatened by customs, beliefs, and prejudices of normal science, by the habits of the natural worl d or by knowledge based on unreflected everyday experience (p. 41). Phenomenology casts off inherited meaning and places ones perceptions aside to receive experiences in a new way (Creswell, 1998; Crotty, 2003). This new way of seeing the phenomenon results in richer, more all-encompassing meaning. Epistemology is the theory of knowledge (Crotty, 2003). As desc ribed by Hamlyn (1995), epistemology is the nature of knowledge, its possibilit y, scope and general basis (p. 242). This theory is the foundation for the manner by whic h the researcher pursues his/her inquiry and

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51 determines the type and value of any newl y generated knowledge. Epistemology guides the researcher in determining how knowledge will be shaped. The present phenomenological study is rooted in the epistemologies of objectivism and subjectivism. The objectivist vein views meaning as independe nt from consciousness; in existence apart from ones interaction with the world (Crotty, 2003). Phenomenology requir es one to revisit an object from a fresh, nave perspective and see it in a new way (Moustakas, 1994). From this openness, textural descriptions of the phenom enons meanings and essences are formed. Conversely, the subjectivis t epistemological vein suggests one ascribes meaning to an object (Crotty, 2003). The notion meaning is derived elsewh ere, rather than thro ugh interaction with an object, reveals itself in phenom enology. Structural descriptions are developed to disclose meaning. The structural descrip tion is created by the researcher, sharing th e elements of the object which act together to develop the experi ence (Moustakas, 1994). Real ity then is found in the universality of the experi ence through both objective and subj ective aspects of the work (Marshall & Rossman, 2006; Moustakas, 1994). A theoretical perspective anchors a study into a particular world conception, helping one make sense of the surrounding stimuli and be tter understand how we know what we know (Crotty, 2003, p. 8). It guides a studys methodological decisions, servin g as the philosophical foundation. The present study utilized interpretivism, a theoretical perspective which looks for culturally derived and historically situated interpretations of th e social life-world (Crotty, 2003, p. 67). Phenomenology was used to focus this aim of thinking, by setting aside meaning established through customs and be liefs, and attempting to understand the hidden meanings and the essence of an experience (Grbich, 2007, p. 84). Phenomenology takes a fresh look at the

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52 everyday, reinterpreting meani ng crafted from firsthand experience with a phenomenon (Moustakas, 1994). Lived experiences are the foci of phenomenol ogical research (Hatc h, 2002). Reflecting on these experiences, researchers are better able to describe the various aspects of the experience and identify those elements moving the expe rience beyond isolation to universal access (Moustakas, 1994). Such questions as, what is the essence of the phenomenon, are posed in hopes of uncovering the multiple perceptions to expand the knowledge about, and meaning of, various human experiences (Cro tty, 2003; Moustakas, 1994). The phenomenological approach requires resear chers to adopt a new way of viewing the world to permit the emergence of extended and expanded meanings. To maintain the purity of accessed data, the researcher applies the concep t of intentionality (Cro tty, 2003). Intentionality has the researcher set aside the existing set of beliefs and ideas to focus and reflect on the phenomenon from the participant s vantage point. This stance al so results in a more thorough description of the experience and the essence of the phenomenon (Moustakas, 1994). To realize these benefits, the researcher created a writ ten statement of her experiences with the phenomenon of collaboration, produced in the form of a researcher subjectivity statement. According to Nealon and Giroux (2 003) the interpreter, which in this case is the researcher, is part of the meaning making process. By making known the pers onal experiences and knowledge related to the inquiry, th e researcher can better unders tand the lens through which he or she makes all methodological decisions (LeC ompte & Preissle, 1993) and open himself or herself to new ways of seeing (Moustakas, 1994). The subjectivity statement acknowledges the researchers existing knowledge related to the phenomenon and through bracketing, allows the researcher to distance himself or herself from the preconceived beliefs which compel a

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53 researcher to render judgment (Grbich, 2007; Moustakas, 1994). Such a tool also makes it possible for the reader to cont extualize the conclusions offered by the researcher (Creswell, 1998; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Moustakas, 1994). The phase encapsulating this altered vantage po int is called Epoche (Marshall & Rossman, 2006; Moustakas, 1994; Sokolowski, 2000). Epoc he produces purity of vision, moving the researcher away from his or her customary perspective (Moustakas, 1994). Although important, completing a statement of currently held beliefs marks just one aspect of Epoche (Marshall & Rossman, 2006; Moustakas, 1994; Sokolowski, 2000). Less of an act and more of a process, Epoche alters the way a researcher approaches the work from the moment when he or she captures preconceptions on paper, continuing through analysis when the researcher considers his or her beliefs against those shared by the participants (Mar shall & Rossman, 2006). Following the phenomenological approach, this study seeks to describe the phenomenon of teacher collaboration from the perspective of secondary agriculture teachers. By providing secondary agriculture teachers the option to shar e their perceptions of teacher collaboration, a richer, fuller picture of teacher collabo ration will be formed (Moustakas, 1994). Researcher Subjectivity The subjectivity statem ent expres ses the researchers proximity to that which he or she is examining (Glesne, 1999). As an agricultu ral educator and researcher pursuing a phenomenological study of secondary agriculture t eachers perceptions of teacher collaboration, I have bracketed many experiences from my own life to examine th e phenomenon from an unbiased vantage point (Crotty, 2003). The studys subjectivity statement follows. My interest in secondary agriculture teachers perceptions of teacher collaboration stems from my own experiences in the profession. As a preservice teacher in my universitys teacher education program, I spent a great deal of time working independently due to my status as a

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54 commuter. I found it easier to work alone rather than trying to coordina te schedules and track down others to work together. This pract ice served me well throughout most of the undergraduate program, but once I enrolled in the disciplines methods c ourses, the increased expectations and large quantities of new work presented a challe nge I was not fully equipped to handle alone. Realizing I needed to work smarter rather than harder, I opened myself to the possibility of working with others to devise the best strategies for planning instruction. These collaborations, while brief, did result in richer experiences for classroom teaching and learning. At the earliest stage of my career, I felt extremely insecure because of my limited content area and pedagogical knowledge bases. Moving into the role of student te acher did not ease the anxiety. In fact, my time as a student teacher brought new challenges for which I had a solid foundation but lacked the confidence and the co mpetence to successfully complete. During the student teaching experience, my role consisted of absorbing as much as I could from my cooperating teacher and other teachers in the de partment. Since each teacher on site had been teaching for no less than four years, the relationships I forged seemed to be more one-way. As mentors, I thought they were imparting their knowledge of how to teach upon me since I had little with which I could reciprocate. It was not un til the end of my time w ith this group, I learned the mentoring relationships I had come to appr eciate were indeed collaborations. As a new professional, my questions and new ways of doi ng things caused them to reflect on their own beliefs and practices. The result was professiona l dialogue they would not have had without me being there. During that same time, Internet availability in the schools was sketchy at best, so access to my student teaching peers was limited. Two opportunities for collaboration did present themselves related to program management and career development event responsibilities. The

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55 school had hired their previous student teacher to teach part time. Due to a limited schedule, the two of us partnered to devise a recruitment pl an for the department. This plan was to be executed in the feeder schools just before thei r high school registration day. Being on a relatively even playing field regarding know ledge, skills, and experience, th e two of us developed a sound product resulting in the successful recruitment of new students for the following year. The challenge of collaborating with my ma ster teacher in coaching students for the parliamentary procedure career development event was one I re lished. Having been a contest participant throughout my high sc hool career, I had a w ealth of content area knowledge, as well as those soft skills necessary to move a decent team to contender status. Pairing with my talented master teacher, we trained the state-winning novice team and a senior team which finished in the top-five. Such experiences helped me understand the value of sharing information and blending skill sets as the rewards could be great. My first teaching job was as a horticulture teac her in one of Californi as largest agriculture programs. I was hired with two other new agri culture teachers, bringi ng the total number of teachers in the program to seven. As a memb er of a large and specialized staff, the responsibilities were great but so were the opportunities for colla boration. In my first year, I teamed up with another teacher with a passion fo r parliamentary procedure to develop students for that particular career development event. We were able to share resources and strategies, resulting in a polished, knowledg eable team of novice participan ts. We also advanced our own expertise of the event, developed a reputation as well-qualifie d judges for regional and state levels, and advertised ourselves as a resource fo r new teachers wanting to get their teams into the event.

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56 I was asked to teach the introductory agriculture course offered to first year agriculture students during my first year of teaching. The course had three sections for each of the three periods it was offered during the day. Due to the unique arrangement, student s would engage in a series of three, six week se ssions each semester and rotated among the three classrooms where the course was taught during thei r assigned period. This allowed students to get to know three different teachers in the program and permitted the teachers to get to know many more students than they would otherwise. The arrangement greatly enhanced department culture. With three teachers sharing three different classes of students, communication and collaboration were critical. We each regularly discussed classroom protocol, student needs and progress, course calendars, assessment practices, as well as our own impressions, successes, and challenges. Occasionally, we would plan lessons together and share resources but these opportunities were rare since we each taught different portions of the course content. Experiencing such powerful collaboration with other teachers as part of my regular responsibilities my first year in the profession made my transition from preservi ce teacher to early career teacher easier. I also had the opportunity to work with the department chairperson on developing courses in agricultural leadership and fl oriculture. While the department chair had taught both courses in the past, she had not been satisfied with the results and was looking for fresh ideas. Together, we crafted two courses based on s ound learning theory and current technical knowledge. Our efforts led to products which were accepted by the school board and courses students were thrilled to take. My work on the courses pres ented the opportunity to work with other teachers in the state, as we sought to get the floriculture course approved for meeting th e art requirements for university entrance. Collaborating with other te achers on developing proposals and presentations

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57 did much for broadening the floriculture curric ulum in the state, but it also served to open conversations among teachers who share a common talent and passion. Collaboration did not stop with FFA and classr oom instruction. As the advisor of the dairy goat SAEs, I knew little of how to guide students in their management of these animals. By asking questions of the other teachers, I finally tracked down a middle school teacher in the district possessing rich experience in the manageme nt of dairy goats. As an operator of her own goat dairy, and my background as a supervisor of SAEs, the relationship quickly morphed into one where we each played a contributory role. Wh ile I was the official SAE advisor based on my position with the school, we worked together to guide the students in their general care and decision making regarding the animals. We lo cated resources, shared new knowledge we accessed, worked together at shows to lighten the workload and even created a dairy goat handbook for use in the program. Together, we a dvanced our knowledge but we also advanced the potential each student achieved by the pairing of our minds. The chance to work with agriculture teachers from across the country came through projects facilitated, and in some cases s ponsored, by the National FFA Organization. These projects included the New Teacher Survival Kit, LifeKnowledge curriculum development, and the Delta Conference for professional devel opment. Collaborative conversations led to collaborative activities, as I became an activ e participant with othe r educators in crafting curriculum, resources, and professional developm ent for use by other teachers in the profession. The products developed were richer and fuller th an what could have ever been produced by one individual acting independently. The relationships based around the New Teacher Survival Kit and the LifeKnowledge curriculum projects resu lted in products distri buted to teachers around the country. The Delta Conference permitted me the opportunity to work with practicing teachers

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58 and help them design individua lized professional growth plan s for promoting their personal growth. This act was a true coll aboration between myself and the teacher, as well as myself and the other program facilitators, as we were activ e participants in the work that transpired. The Omega Conference brought graduate students and postsecondary agricultural educators together to learn and work. With my team, we shared our expertise and used it to organize knowledge for the purpose of crafting a white paper on an assigned topic. Since each member of the team was teaching in a different state, the chance collaborative relationships would form on their own was not likely. We relie d heavily on email and a group blog to stay organized and complete our charge. The group br ought the final work to the profession through the publication of a white paper and a profession al development workshop for presentation to other Omega participants. Following my time in the secondary classroom I joined the facu lty of a California university as a lecturer in ag ricultural education. I sought the advice of several well-respected teacher educators in the hopes we might genera te ideas and direction for the classes I was assigned. This move proved to be a productive one, as together we developed some innovative ways to teach the existing courses. These changes were made to better meet the needs graduates faced when they started teaching. I was also responsible for assist ing with the college outreach activities. Through collaboration with the unive rsitys assigned outre ach coordinator, we designed a plan for the activities of the college ambassador program. Through implementation of the plan, the university not only saw an increas e in the level of preparation and number of college ambassadors, the numbers of students choosing a program ma jor within our college also increased.

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59 I had the chance to collaborate with teacher educators and sec ondary teachers of agriculture in developing the California Subject Ex aminations for Teachers. This exam was to be an option for new teachers seeking to meet the states requirements for teacher certification. Together, we discussed philosophical reasons un derpinning inclusion or exclusion of various topical areas for the test, and shar ed rationale regarding issues of relevance and fairness related to specific test items. Together, the team produ ced a testing option which reflects a degree of the rigor expected by teacher education programs, a nd a portion of the content agriculture teachers would be expected to know. While in no way a perfect test, the collaborative effort does receive the stamp of approval by each agricultura l teacher education program in the state. My experience as a graduate teaching assistan t at the University of Florida has provided me the chance to collaborate with a variety of individuals leading to new learning for me and many others. I have collaborated with other graduate students on the development and delivery of workshops to increase the audiences technical and pedagogical knowledge. I have also collaborated with faculty in plan ning professional development events to include a wider array of choices from which participants could choose. The opportunity to collaborate with faculty on research papers has not only helped to advance ou r own expertise but also le d us to contribute to the professional knowledge base. My collaborati on with other graduate students and faculty interested in qualitative research gave me an opportunity to learn about the methodology beyond my coursework and seek answers to lingeri ng questions. The chance to collaborate with practicing teachers and provide s upport for novice and early career teachers to learn about, and begin to fulfill, the responsibilities of the agricultural education profession helped address significant state needs.

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60 Through reflection, I have traced my experien ces with teacher collaboration across my professional career. These instances express th e connections and str ong desires I have for engaging in teacher collaborati on. The experiences in which I have been immersed have helped me navigate an understanding of the responsibilit ies I believe to be part of the agriculture teaching profession. I also believe the many form s of teacher collaboration in my experiences have helped me develop a strong professional foundation. In fact, the phenomenon of teacher collaboration has helped me find enjoyment in, and maintain a commitment to, a career in agricultural education. Methodology The m ethods selected for use in this study were found to be in alignment with the foundations of transcendental phenomenol ogy. Transcendental phenomenology involves the search for universal truths related to e xperience and follows the process of Epoche, phenomenological reduction and st ructural synthesis (Grbich, 2007; Marshall & Rossman, 2006; Moustakas, 1994). Moustakas (1994) and Sokolow ski (2000) professed bo th the philosophical underpinnings of the approach, as well as the tec hnical and logistical asp ects of conducting such research. The structure for formulating and analyzing this study follows, illustrating adherence to the transcendental phen omenological approach. Characteristics of Phenomenological Methods Transcendental phenom enology begins with Epoche, reflecting upon ones assumptions or biases as they relate to the phenomenon of interest, for the purpose of suspending judgment (Creswell, 1998; Grbich, 2007; Moustakas, 1994 ; Sokolowski, 2000). Prior to beginning the study, the researcher acknowledged all prior experience and poin ts of view related to interaction with the phenomenon. Any related experiences or perspectives were captured in the written form, as the subjectivity statement. The docum ent was used as a way to express how the

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61 researcher defined meaning of the everyday phenomenon of collaboration, assisting her with setting it aside throughout the study. This act helps the researcher remain open to new ways of seeing through the lens e ach participant carried regarding collaboration. Bracketing the researchers experiences, the phen omenon of teacher collaboration is cast in a new light, able to be revisited through new ey es. The approach of pursuing the unconventional, helped the researcher describe the phenomenon more fully than could have been realized otherwise (Crotty, 2003). The subjectivity statem ent in the current study ensured the work presented featured the experiences of the study participants, rather than those of the researcher. This position lends focus and purit y to the work (Moustakas, 1994). Phenomenological reduction is the second porti on of the method. Horizonalization began the process with the researcher reviewing the transcripts lending equal weight to each and every incident offered by participants (Moustakas, 1994 ). Thematic clusters of data were then produced, beginning with the identifi cation of all data relevant to the topic. Relevant data were then combed for statements which were not rep eated or overlapped. From these invariant themes, the researcher createed a textural description of the meanings and essence of the phenomenon for each participant and across participants (Marsh all & Rossman, 2006; Moustakas, 1994). Such a description presented the open perspective of what happened in each participants case related to the phenomenon. The researcher care fully followed the process to ar rive at a composite textural description. Finally, imaginative variation brought the transcendental phen omenological approach to a close. The purpose of this step was to crea te a structural description describing how the phenomenon was experienced by each individual participant, as well as across the sample (Creswell, 1998; Marshall & Rossman, 2006; Mous takas, 1994). Inspecting all possible avenues

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62 of meaning, the res earcher was able to present a picture of the conditions that precipitate an experience and connect with it (Moustakas, 199 4, p. 35). Additionally, the composite structural description was blended with the composite textural description to create a textural-structural statement. This key piece demonstrates the essence of the phenomenon; returning to the foundation of knowledge and exposing the unive rsal structure orig inally sought by the phenomenological approach (Cresw ell, 1998; Moustakas, 1994). Participants Convenience sam ples do little for the credibility of a study (Hatch, 2002; Ritchie, Lewis, & Elam, 2003). Qualitative researchers make use of non-probability sampling strategies to focus the study from its inception, identifying specific ca ses demonstrating characteristics of interest (Patton, 2002; Ritchie et al., 2003) These purposive techniques provide maximum insight and understanding of what the re searchers are studyi ng (Ary, Jacobs, Razavieh, & Sorenson, 2006, p. 472). Criterion-based sampling, in particular, involves determining participants based on the goal of the study and consequently, works well w ith phenomenological studi es (Creswell, 1998). Members of a sample are chosen with a purpose to represent a locati on of type in relation to a key criterion. This has two principal ai ms. The first is to ensure that all key constituencies of relevance to the subject matter are covered. The second is to ensure that, within each of the key criteria, some diversity is included so that the impact of the characteristic concerned can be explore d. (Ritchie, Lewis, & Elam, 2003, p. 79). With this goal in mind, criterion-based sampling was used for the present study, to identify three participants willing to share th eir perceptions and experiences with teacher collaboration. The sample size of qualitative studies are usua lly quite small, aver aging between one and 20 participants (Creswell, 1998; Dukes, 1984; Kuzel 1999) to provide a rich er glimpse into the participants experiences. Phenom enological studies typically addr ess the experiences of up to ten (Creswell, 1998, p. 65). In the present study, th ree participants were selected, based on their reputation as collaborators with other teachers. The group was also representative of teachers

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63 who would be considered to be in the expert and distinguished phases of the Steffy, Wolfe, Pasche, and Enz (2000) Life Cycle of a Career Teacher model to ensure they had a number of experiences from which they could draw. Sin ce novice and emeritus teachers are not employed in an agricultural teaching position, they were not part of the population available for selection into the sample. Likewise, teachers at the appren tice and professional phases were also dismissed because of their relative inexperience in the profession and the assumption they would have fewer collaborative encounters to share. The agricultural education faculty from the Univ ersity of Florida formed an expert panel charged with the purpose of generating the criterion-based sample. These four individuals were targeted because of their relationships with agri culture teachers throughout the state. The faculty knew the teachers as professionals, inside the classroom as well as ou tside, and could roughly ascribe each potential participant to a particular phase of the teacher career model (Steffy et al., 2000). To assist the expert panel with their task, brief descripti ons of each phase were provided. The Florida Association of Agri cultural Educators: 2007-2008 Dir ectory was used to identify teachers meeting the additional selection criteria requiring participants be traditionally certified in agricultural education and have the majority of their teaching experience at their current place of employment. This combination of selection criteria helped en sure the generation of a more homogeneous participant sample, as well as a more focused and detaile d description of the phenomenon of interest (Hatch, 2002; Patton, 2002). The letter to the expert panel is found in Appendix A. The five teachers preliminarily selected by the expert panel were contacted by email outlining the purpose and value of the study, the significance of their role as a participant, and the methods to be used in the co llection of data. They were also asked if they agreed with the

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64 expert panels assessment of their being qualifi ed to share their experiences related to the phenomenon of teacher collaboration. The three participants electing to participate received further correspondence via telephone and email. Such interaction focused on establishing interview logistics. The recruitm ent email is found in Appendix B. Data Collection Research qu estions were established in accordance with the studys interpretivist theoretical perspective. Interpretivism positioned th e researcher and the participant in a situation where the two generated meaning together based on the information reported by the participant (Hatch, 2002). This characteristic lent itself well to the interview technique of data collection (Marshall & Rossman, 2006). Seidman (2006) stressed the importance of esta blishing a structure prior to beginning the interview process. A semi-structured interview guide was created and re viewed by a panel of experts comprised of members of the resear chers doctoral committee and an expert in qualitative methods, to provide a general fram ework of open-ended questions to be asked consistently of all participants (Hatch, 2002; Kvale, 1996; Marshall & Rossman, 2006). The goal of this format was to provide participants an opp ortunity to share their perspectives without the researchers perspective influencing them (Crotty, 2003; Kvale, 1996; Marshall & Rossman, 2006). The questions addressed the types of colla borative experiences the agriculture teachers shared with other teachers and how they woul d describe the experiences. Specific follow-up questions were posed to individual participants as they presented themselves and were relevant and appropriate to the discussion (Kvale, 1996; Patton, 2002). Maintainin g an open rapport drew each participants unique interactions and pers pectives regarding their experiences with the phenomenon of teacher collaboration. The intervie w guide, informed consent, and all participant

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65 communication were submitted to the Institutional Review Board (IRB), gaining approval. The interview guide is found in Appendix C. Following IRB approval, the interview guide was piloted with one agriculture teacher from the pool of five recommended by the expert panel, before use with the study participants. This measure confirmed the interview guide asked the most important questions related to the studys purpose and provided a focus for the ensuing conversa tions, as well as provided the flexibility to pursue specific themes emerging from the data (Kvale, 1996). Patton (2002) stated, The purpose of interviewing, then, is to allow us to enter in to the other persons pers pective (p. 341). Upon signing an informed consent, study participants engaged in dialogue with the researcher regarding their experiences with teacher collaboration. Based on the desire to describe each participants perspectives of, and personal experiences with, teacher collaboration, in-d epth interviews were used to access the data (Lewis, 2003). Seidmans (2006) description of interview prot ocol was used as a foundation for the studys primary data collection. The me thod also helped establish and maintain rapport between the researcher and each participant. Prior to the st art of each interview, a briefing was given to discuss the studys purpose, the researchers role, and the role of the pa rticipant. Any initial questions the participant had were addressed in the briefing. During the interview, the researcher implemented a variety of active listening strategi es such as head nodding and the use of followup questions to help the participant openly share th e details of his or her experiences with teacher collaboration (Hatch, 2002). A de briefing session followed the interview to review the major points made by the participan t and answer any lingering questions he or she had. The interview method served as the primary da ta collection method w ith nine interviews conducted from October, 2007 to December, 2007. A di gital audio recording device was used to

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66 capture each conversation for transcription purposes (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998). For greater depth of inquiry, the observations made by the researcher during the inte rviews were captured in field notes as the secondary data source (Arthur & Nazroo, 2003; Hatch, 2002, Marshall & Rossman, 2006; Patton, 2002). The researcher made note of th e setting and participant behavior, as well as any researcher insights, to assist with developing probes (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998; Poland, 2003), focusing the interview (M arshall & Rossman, 2006) and analyzing the data (Patton, 2002). The opportunity to memo was a necessary outlet to minimize the chance of introducing any personal bias which might sway the interview and a ssist in further data analysis (Poland, 2003). Phenomenological studies util ize a tradition of in-depth interviewing (Marshall & Rossman, 2006; Moustakas, 1994). Seidmans (2006) phenomenological interviewing technique was deemed an appropriate data collection met hod via its three-interview strategy. The technique describes the meaning of a concept or phenome non that several individu als share (Marshall & Rossman, 2006, p. 104). It also permitted the rese archer to build rapport with participants because each interview provides a basis for, and insight into, the next (Marshall & Rossman, 2006; Seidman, 2006). Seidmans technique was used to collect data for the study. The threeinterview approach provided the foundation for uncovering the structure and essence of the experiences each participant had with teacher collaboration. The first interview associated with the Seid man (2006) technique was intended to reveal a focused life history, contextualizing the phe nomenon and eliciting deta ils related to the participants experiences. In this session, the researcher chose to have the secondary agriculture teacher participants share their experiences with teacher collaboration during their preservice programs. The teachers were prompted to share deta ils of their collaborative experiences as they

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67 related to this pre-professional period, incl uding the time spent completing their teacher education coursework and the time spent studen t teaching. This decision was made to encourage the participants to recall those early experiences rather than pass them over in favor of those which were more recent and easier to remember. The purpose of the second interview session was to extract the details of the participants experiences (Seidman, 2006). The researcher aske d for participants to share stories of their experiences with teacher collaboration from wh en they accepted their first positions to the present day, to evoke rich material. The part icipants were asked to share how teacher collaboration had shaped their experiences as a teacher. Teachers were prompted to tell about those teachers with whom they collaborated and describe the activities over which they came together. They were also encourag ed to try and point to a time in their careers when they realized the benefits of teacher collaboration, and sh are any challenges they experienced with the phenomenon. The third interview session was used to encourage reflection (Seidman, 2006). By reflecting upon the impact of teacher collaboration on professional satisfaction, participants were asked to make sense of the interaction among the many factors impacting their present situations. Teachers were asked to consider their perceptions about how they had changed as professionals as a result of their engagement with teacher coll aboration. They were also asked to consider the usefulness of the phenomenon and the impact it has had on their willingness to remain in the profession. The Seidman (2006) phenomenological interv iew technique recommended scheduling interviews for 90 minutes, with each interview in the series spaced between three days and one week apart. Adherence to this structure is beli eved to focus the interview while encouraging a

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68 strong rapport between the researcher and his or her participants. Structure was also thought to be critical to the researchers ability to develop their interv iew technique. However, Seidman (2006) conceded the structure can be manipulated to meet the specific needs and conditions of the study. Each interview in the current study last ed an average of 60 minutes. Due to the busy Florida agricultural education calendar, most inte rviews were scheduled from one to two weeks apart. However, in the case of one participant, the span of time between the first and third interviews was three weeks due to the teacher s responsibilities a ssociated with career development event (CDE) schedul ing and a major school holiday. Data Analysis Qualitative analysis transfor ms data in to findings (Patton, 2002, p. 432). Before any data could be analyzed, it needed to be transferred from verbal form into written form (Kvale, 1996). Following the in-depth interviews, the prim ary data were transcribed from the digital audio recordings (Bogdan & Bikl en, 1998, Kvale, 1996). According to Kvale (1996), transcripts are translations of the lived interview experience into the text format and are interpreted differently as a result. Wengraf (2001) described the transference from one form to the other as processing the raw data. To prevent over-simplif ication of the data through summarization, and account for the disconnect between oral and wri tten speech, all transcription was generated as closely to verbatim as possible (Kvale, 1996; Marshall & Rossman, 2006; Patton, 2002; Seidman, 2006). Conventional notation was used to indicate the occu rrence of breaks in conversational flow such as long pauses, emo tional responses, stuttering, and mumbled speech. At completion, the transcripts were cross-checked with the interview reco rdings and field notes to clarify any misinterpretations (Patton, 2002). Transcripts were also submitted to participants to allow them to check for the accuracy of stat ements. The email sent which asked for their feedback is found in Appendix D.

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69 The researcher elected to use the modi fied Stevick-Colaizzi-Keen method of phenomenological data analysis (Creswell, 1998; Moustakas, 1994). With the first step, the researcher reviewed the subjectivity statement to refrain from prejudgment prior to analyzing the data. Working by participant, each transcript in the interview series was open-coded. From the open codes, the researcher engaged in what Gr bich (2007) called, a light form of thematic analysis (p. 88); carefully combing each transcri pt for verbiage related to the phenomenon of interest. Horizons were generated based on how the individual experienced teacher collaboration (Creswell, 1998; Moustakas, 1994) These groupings of invariant meanings and themes were blended to form a textural desc ription of the experien ce of teacher collabora tion. This description of what happened in the particip ants experience used excerpts from the actual transcripts as appropriate (Hatch, 2002). Upon completion of i ndividual textural desc riptions, a composite textural description was writt en to pool the overarching elements among the documents (Moustakas, 1994). Next, the researcher reviewed the transcripts by each interview series and crafted the structural description for each participant. The structural description sh ared how the experience happens for the participants, thr ough the uninhibited eyes of the researcher engaged in Epoche (Moustakas, 1994). This step required the researcher to consider all possibilities regarding those factors or situations impacting the textural qualities of the phenomenon. Again, raw data were incorporated as pertinent to enhancing understanding. A composite structural description was formed from the individual structural descriptio ns. Finally, a textural-str uctural description was formed from each composite description synthesizing all meanings and essences forming the phenomenon of interest as perceived by the part icipants collectively (Creswell, 1998; Grbich, 2007; Moustakas, 1994).

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70 Measures of Validation Quantitative research ad dresses the validity and re liability of a study to ensure its rigor and generalizability (Ary et al., 2006) Qualitative researchers defend the rigor of their studies according to measures of validation formed from the credibility, transf erability, dependability, and confirmability achieved through the methods (Angen, 2000; Guba, 1981; Mishler, 1990). They do, however; dismiss measures of generalizability in lieu of the in-depth analysis of a phenomenon (Frankel, 1999). Together the qualitative standards of rigor depict the degree of congruence between the explana tions of the phenomena and the realities of the world (McMillan & Shumacher, 2006, p. 324), demonstrating the level of agreement between what the participants have done or said and what the researcher has observed or heard. Credibility relates to the level of confiden ce in the researcher design and findings, to accurately represent and interpre t the data (Ary et al., 2006; G uba, 1981). Several measures were taken to ensure the credibility of the study. Triangulation is an option making use of many sources, methods, investigators, and theories in the hopes of providing evidence to back up emerging themes as well as identifying any incons istencies in the data (Creswell, 1998; Patton, 2002). Fine, Weis, Weseen, and Wong (2003) descri bed triangulation as th e adding of one layer of data to another to build a confirmatory ed ifice (p. 187). This study built its confirmatory edifice by drawing interview data as a prim ary source and observational field notes as a secondary source. The interview guide was also s ubmitted for peer review and was pilot tested as an external check of the studys tools. Further, peer reviews and member checks were conducted during transcription and coding of interview transcripts to check the accuracy of the data, as well as the researchers interpretation (Creswell, 1998; Moustakas, 1994). Thick, rich descriptions were used to explain emerging themes and fi ndings, using the participants own words as appropriate.

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71 Transferability addresses how well the findings from the study sample relate to other groups (Ary et al., 2006). Transferability can poten tially occur between groups or contexts highly similar to those described in the study (Linco ln & Guba, 1985; Patton, 2002). Rich descriptions of the participants and the setting, and a clearly document ed research process, made transferability possible for this study. Additionally, few criteri a were used for participant selection so as not to limit tran sferability. According to Ary et al. (2006), the reaction of the researcher is a threat to transf erability. To circumvent this limitation, the researcher produced a subjectivity statement to communicate any biases related to the phenomenon of interest. Epoche helped achieve the intersubjective validity nece ssary in phenomenological studies. The process of turning the researchers focus inward before tu rning it outward toward the participants, helped with evaluating understandings (Creswell, 1998). The dependability of a study refers to its trus tworthiness, the degree to which the variation of the study can be explained (Ary et al., 2006). In concert with cr edibility, triangulation is also used to address dependability. Audit trails of all methodological decisions were maintained, complete with the associated raw data (Ary et al., 2006; Creswell, 1998). This resource will provide a path for subsequent researchers to exam ine the approach taken in this study, assisting with decision making for future work. Audit trai ls are also valuable tools for determining the confirmability of the research, the chance future research will arrive at similar findings (Ary et al., 2006).

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72 CHAPTER 4 FINDINGS Introduction Referenced by pseudonym, this chap ter features descriptions for each of the three study participants experiences with the phenomenon of teacher collabora tion. Kevin, Christy and Mark were selected for participation because they each met the selection criteria and demonstrated active partnerships with other teachers. At the time of the study, all three participants were secondary agriculture teachers teaching at the high school level. Kevin, the son of an agriculture teacher, struggled with a self-i mposed pressure of having to make his own way as a new teacher. Over time and the opportunity to work with others who craved his input, Kevin became an icon in the profession for building rela tionships. Christy began her teaching career as one of a few young teachers in the county, and th e only female. Having struggled independently as a new teacher, Christy has since taken the init iative to consistently extend herself to other newcomers to the county. These acts of inclusi on have created rich ne tworks between Christy and other teachers. Finally, Mark came to the prof ession by way of a career in another field. His naturally collaborative mindset was unapprecia ted by his previous employers. Gathering with like-minded individuals brought ri ch opportunities for refining hi s teaching practice, supporting his students learning, and a dvancing his profession. A summary of characteristics describing each participant including: years of teaching experience, certification status, number of teachers in their program, involvement in statewide leadership for the profession, desc ription of programs in the count y, and a short personal history is presented in Table 4-1 at the end of the ch apter. The participants individual textural and structural descriptions, along with the composite textural and structural statements, immediately

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73 follow. The chapter closes with a textural-str uctural statement which shares the essence of teacher collaboration from the perspective of the secondary agriculture teachers in this study. Kevin Textural Description Kevins beliefs and lived experiences as a secondary agriculture teacher working collaboratively with other teachers are explored to provide a description of Kevins life through the lens of teacher collaborati on. Having been a classroom teacher for 16 years with much of that time spent at his current post, Kevins career has been filled with events which have shaped his feelings about teacher collaboration. As a high school student, Kevin enrolled in th e agriculture program and experienced much success as a member of FFA. When I was in hi gh school I knew exactly what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. Following his year of service as a state FFA officer, he chose to enter the University of Florida as an agricultural education major. His decision was due in part to the fact both his father and cousin were agricu lture teachers, and becau se he had developed a deep desire to teach as a high school agriculture student. The decision to teach was fairly clear during the time of transition between high school and college since lit tle had challenged his thinking on the subject. Kevin pledged membership to an agricultural fraternity upon arriving at the University of Florida. It was there he met his big brother, another agricultural education major. Kevin credited his relationship with Carl as his first teacher-related collaborative experience. Carl had been a student at the university and a member of the fraternity a bit longer than Kevin. Because of the trust which formed between the two, Carl and Kevin often discussed the teaching profession. We were talking a lot. We had a lot of discussions about the philosophy of agricultural education. The freedom and the breadth of subject matter available to students at

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74 the university often challenged thei r decisions to teach. To have a nother with whom he could talk about the tough issues helped Kevin maintain hi s focus. Once Carl graduated, Kevin felt a sense of loss as there were not many ag ricultural education majors in the fraternity. He did form a collaborative relationship with another pledge br other who happened to be in the same major but their relationship was different from what he a nd Carl had. He and George tended to collaborate particularly when it came to coursework like physics. Kevin confessed at the earliest stages of his teaching career he had few experiences with teacher collaboration. Many of his actions did not demonstrate t eacher collaboration as a key element of his espoused platform. While no explan ation was offered, Kevin admitted I just felt intimidated by older men, and the professi on was wrought with teachers who could be categorized as such. He had also experienced so me disparaging comments made by others with whom he had gone to school. I was out to prove a point, that I could do it. And I guess the kids I knew had nagged on me at school an d made fun of me. So I was proving them wrong. I kind of had a purpose, to prove somebody wrong. The s on of an agriculture teacher, Kevin had witnessed his father working independent of other teachers. Kevins father had come to the classroom having spent no formal time in a teach er education program. Through his own form of trial and error, he made a way for himself as an agriculture teacher. The combination of these factors reinforced Kevins determination to pr ove he could make a go of teaching agriculture. As a student teacher, Kevin formed a st rong mentor-based relationship with his cooperating teacher. The two collaborated on a my riad of program-related topics. Kevins contributions ebbed and flowed based on those t opics of which he had greater understanding and confidence. Kevin had very little understanding of animal science concepts, so his role in that course was based more observati on and he participated more pa ssively. Conversely, he possessed

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75 a solid knowledge base in the area of plant science so he and his cooperating teacher were able to work together to craft lesson plans for use in the course. I still have some of the lessons that we wrote. I use ideas from them. They also sh ared a common interest in Career Development Events (CDE) and FFA, so they were able to pool their knowledge to further their understandings and work together to improve thei r students performance. I learned a lot about training a team and having the kids look polis hed FFA-wise. That was kind of my background and it was hers too. Upon receiving his first job, Kevins father impr essed upon him the fact he did not have to do everything alone. Driven by the will to prove he could be successful Kevin spent long hours at school to prepare for, and complete, his responsibilities. Much like hi s relationship with his cooperating teacher, Kevins professional relationship with his father was a mentorship. Often, in matters related to content, Kevin would defer to his father to do more sharing but in matters related to pedagogy, Kevin was able to participate more as a contribu tor. I collaborated with my dad on making worksheets. He showed me this vi deo collection in the county and it was like a loan system. We wrote my classroom rules. I ha d a set of rules for the classroom, for the shop, and for the land lab. He did not participat e with other teachers much when it came to collaborating on lesson plans simply because he fe lt the culture at the time necessitated a teacher crafting his or her own. You didnt talk about that kind of stuff. I dont know why. You didnt talk about team teaching or sharing It was kind of like an in itiation thing where they wanted to see you struggle a little bit but not fail. No one gave me a hand out and Im not one to ask for a lot. The old piece of the Creed, you know, dont believe in the hand out. When needed. I just never figured out when they are needed. Should a teacher request to work together in pr eparation for a Career Development Event (CDE), the petition was met with cold refusal.

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76 They definitely wouldnt share team CDE even t material. Oh no, no, no! It was almost to a point it was a joke where if you hosted an even t, you locked things up. If not, the teachers were like, Whats he got over here? You were in a competition, Why would they share with you? He also had the opportunity to co llaborate a bit with his assign ed peer teacher. Darlene was a math teacher whose classroom was next door to Kevin and they shared an office. While she taught a different content area, sh e had coaching responsibilities just as he did. Their relationship was intended as a mandate by the district but the fact she knew little about his content area limited what she could teach him. This situati on caused Kevin to contribute more openly. He desired to invoke drastic changes to his new program and saw great potential for success. Darlene began by acting as a sounding board, an other professional with whom he could commiserate. The type of change he wanted to invoke did not come without its share of problems, and the uprisings he experienced in the classroom called for both content and pedagogical expertise. We talked about motiva ting students, what to do with disruptive students. Together they formed a competent pa ir. Soon after exploring this new relationship, Darlene became someone with whom he could craft solutions to the challenges he faced. Kevin expanded his teaching network by r eaching out to the shop teacher soon after Darlene left the school. Because they shar ed a common language of career and technical education, the lines of communication were imme diately opened. Kevin viewed this individual as a mentor teacher of sorts, but when it came to those students they had in common, their relationship became more level. Wed talk about the kids we shared. The kids we saw coming to class we would ask how each one was doing. Ke vin also felt as though he collaborated with the previous agriculture teacher through the lesson plans and other resources he had left behind. While these items were not necessarily things he would use directly, they did give him ideas for crafting new lessons and materials. I found a ll kinds of worksheets. I found old hand written

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77 lessons from my high school teacher that were left there. So I used those, and looked at those. I guess I collaborated even though they werent there. In the days prior to the internet, these resources were very important. Kevin included collaboration with his students as a prime example of teacher collaboration. The agriculture program in the first high school at which he taught had the reputation of being based on manua l labor. Students would grab a hoe and head out to the land lab to work during the class peri ods. Upon arriving at the school, he realized the students lacked any sense of pride in the work they were doing. He chose to implement a plan which gave the students ownership over their work, allowing th em to do more using a learning by doing philosophy. We started doing more things and giving them the chance to say, I did that! This plan succeeded at building student pride as well as at growing the agriculture program because of the active participation of students and teachers working together. His work with other teachers in the county c ontained splashes of co llaboration. In response to a district memo requesting accountability re garding extended contract days, Kevin worked with the other agriculture teachers to develop a descriptive listing of responsibilities the group fulfilled using those extra days. This is what we came up with. It was a big list. The front and back of two, 8 1/2 by 14 pieces of paper. It was a big list and they all liked that. The relationships he forged with George and Tim during their preservice programs continued to provide opportunities for collaboration. They of ten discussed the challenges each faced when trying to manage their programs and together, devised potential solutions. These exchanges helped Kevin gain a sense of normalcy as they reduced his insecurities as a new teacher. Having the two teachers at schools in close proximity to Kevins made interactions among them more likely.

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78 After a number of years of teach ing at the school he attended as a student, Kevin took a job at a school in a different county, teaching outside of his academic expertise. He was initially hired for a science teaching position, thr ough which many teachers had filtered, and was promised to be moved into the agriculture department as growth occurred. For those major reasons, and to convey his commitment to the sc hool, Kevin linked with the science department chair for support. Mrs. Lawtey was an experi enced teacher and occupied the room next to Kevins. The respect and trust be tween the two quickly transformed their interactions into strong collaborations. Kevin taught his classes from an agricultural perspective w ith great success. I think collaboration finally hit home then because I needed the help of other people, and I needed to ask the science department. Mrs. Lawteys perception of agriculture as a science was a foundational element leading the two to share resources, curriculum, and time. Most labs required certain chemicals. I didnt buy a thing. I went to Mrs. Lawtey and it has alwa ys been like that. I would drive her classes on their field trips every year, two and three times a year. The relationship has endured through to the present. With the university summer science workshop series, I would come back with notebooks and she wanted to go. She has never looked down [on agriculture] and said, Oh, you need to do more science. She would look through the materials for ideas to use and teach agriculture in a scientific method or other laboratory. As Kevin transitioned from the science department into the agriculture program, he interacted more frequently with his teaching pa rtner; an icon within the school, the community, and the state. Mr. Peterson was Kevins first st eady teaching partner. Wh ile their relationship could be described as unique, the two balanced one another professionall y. Kevin had assumed Mr. Peterson would like to have things his way since he was an established teacher while Kevin was just entering his program. However, this as sumption could not have been further from the

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79 truth. From the beginning, Mr. Peterson worked to make sure Kevin knew the program was as much his as it was Mr. Petersons. They also en joyed informal time together where they could just talk. It was very freeing It was neat to have somebody else to talk to. Through conversation, they discovered they share a similar philosophy and work ethic. These two commonalities formed the basis of their program vision of challenging students and guiding their development. Although the approaches were different, their collaborative efforts always began with listening and brainstorming. Hell listen to what I say and make comments and the same with me. I think we brainstorm pretty well. Hell find something, either a less on or a topic or a piece of equipment, What do you think about this Kevin? Or Ill find one and say, You know lets try this, or have you tried that? Better look at this Mr. Pe terson. He is extremely open to new ideas, teaching methods, and technology. The pair is often approached by the state teacher s professional association to provide workshops and presentations to a variety of audiences, on a variety of topi cs. He can open up the audience with some entertaining words and then just hit th em with his thought. That is not my style but we complement each other real well. In an effort to help Kevin expand his expert ise in the nursery landscape CDE, Mr. Peterson urged Kevin to call a teacher in a nearby state whose students ha d experienced success in the national competition. While uneasy with the idea of making such a call, Kevin finally did. Their conversation was extremely profitable as each shared everything he knew about the competition with the other. Instructional resources, processe s, and tips about where to get in a practice while waiting to compete at the national contest were all discussed. The telepho ne conversations even resulted in a face to face meeti ng at the National FFA Convention. For quite some time Kevin had been yearning to connect with other teachers. His involvement with the Agricultural Education L eadership Program presented one of the most

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80 powerful events for collaboration with teachers outside of his teaching partnership. The fifteen program participants spent hours of quality time tr aveling around the state together in a van. The captive nature of their tr avel time led to lengthy conversa tions among participants about their experiences within the agriculture teaching profession and within li fe in general. These informal interactions helped Kevin feel more comfortable with the id ea of working with others. Coincidentally the program included a component requiring the group to or ganize and complete a project with an impact on agricultural education. Although mandate d by the program, the participants chose to work on the problem of agricultural educations limited message. So what could we do? There was a lot of disc ussion, some heated, but we finally created a CD which included pre-made PowerPoints an ag riculture teacher could give to a guidance counselor or take to the Rotary Club. Wh ile the technology was limiting, the content was amazing. It had website links a nd pictures, templates for thank you letters, templates for getting judges, templates of officer applications, lesson pl ans, and a wide array of information so teachers wouldnt have to re-cre ate all of it. And so as a new teacher you would have this as a resource. We could sa y, Here, use this. Dont spin your wheels. Dont get frustrated. Open this up. Try it. Us e it. Modify it as you need. Everyone got to do their part. His specific interactions and conversations with Margie yi elded an especially powerful connection neither had expected. They discovere d the differences between their characteristics led them to create a very strong bond. This bond was utilized and tested as Kevin and Margie began the distance masters degree program at th e University of Florida. The faculty often encouraged the cohort to consult one another should they need additional assistance with studying. Additionally, many of the assignments asso ciated with the coursework were to be completed in pairs or small groups. In de scribing their relationship, Kevin shared, Talk about collaborating. I got to collaborate with th is really neat lady, Margie. I think we became excellent, excellent partners and I neve r really knew her before. We are really different but we are also really alike and we tease each other. We say we are the Yin and the Yang. She forces me out there and I pull her back just enough to make sure shes composed and everything is exactly the wa y we want it. On the KAI [Kirton Adaptive Innovative tool], she was at the very front of the line [Innovator] and I was in the very back of the line [Adaptor]. That is when we said, Okay, were partners.

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81 They worked together throughout the graduate pr ogram but their partners hip did not end with commencement. Their collaborative relationship ex tended to other projects. Margie encouraged Kevin to participate with her in the career and technical education professional association because she thinks there is something I can o ffer. Most recently, Kevin, Margie, and Mr. Peterson worked together on a state agricultural e ducation license plate pr ogram. The trio shared ideas among themselves to ensure their roles cont ributed to the programs success. They credit the key to their success to the fact no one was out looking for credit. It is a matter of being involved and helping where we can. Kevins collaboration with the teacher educ ation faculty at the university has been mutually beneficial. He provided th e university an opportunity to visit, to utilize, to ask, to see, because they are not in the classroom anymore. In return, Kevin has been able to make use of some of the latest research findings with his stud ents, and gather data about whether or not each would be useful. Together, they have collaborat ed on some research to be presented to the national agricultural education community. Put ting it all together and submitting it; nobody else may have felt that same way but it was a big deal to me. For Kevin, his interactions with the university teacher educators have been heightened upon moving to a school in closer proximity to the university and also due to the closeness of his age to theirs. Kevin counted his relationship with a former teacher among hi s recent experiences with teacher collaboration. Rosie had been a science teacher at his school but moved on to work for the State Department of Agriculture. Earlier in the school year, Rosie contacted Kevin to discuss a possible research project on which his student s could work with her division. The project involved growing a food source for an invasive ins ect species which was new to Florida. Kevins

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82 student efforts would provide her division with something to feed the bugs as they researched management strategies. We talked about how we could tailor the proj ect to the high school students and why the high school students would be doing it. She cam e out and taught the students. So now we are growing the plants for the purpose of data collection. Th e students have been doing a good job and we are providing that division wi th some real information they would be paying some laboratory somewhere else to do the same thing. Structural Description Kevins perception s of teacher collaboration have changed as he developed as a teacher. During the preservice and induction periods of his teaching, he had the greatest professional need for mentorship. He needed the opportunity to de velop the knowledge and skill sets necessary to become an effective teacher. I wasnt really co ncerned about trying to co llaborate. I was just struggling. The majority of Kevi ns collaborative interactions w ith other professionals tended to be within a mentor-based capacity. His needs were often the focus of their time together. Although Kevin had completed an accredited teacher education program within his discipline, he was plagued by t unnel-vision determination, self-imposed intimidation, insecurity, and a limited definition of collaboration. He had an overwhelming need to prove himself to whomever he viewed as someone he either resp ected or who occupied a position of authority. The long hours spent at school, a nd his unwillingness to ask for input from others, evidenced his initial opposition to collaboration. His admission of feeling intimidated by older men and the fact he had limited resources were a dditional reasons he gave for bei ng closed off from contributing to others. Kevin expressed a narrow view of teache r collaboration at this time, seeing it mainly as a situation where teachers share resources and engage in lesson planning together. When Kevin moved to a new school, he had al ready been teaching a number of years. By the time I got here [to this school], I think I wa s able to collaborate more because it wasnt as much of a survival. It was kind of a bran ching out into a new te rritory. His general

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83 understanding of the classroom gave him a certain amount of confidence but since he was hired to fill a position beyond his specialty, he search ed for a content-area mentor. The time he spent with Mrs. Lawtey was invaluable as he learned there were things he wa s doing very right, things which also found him respect in her eyes. The idea of being seen as a vested member of the school community was very important to Kevin. He believed the image of being vested helped others view him as worthy of spending time and energy on, that he was not just a revolving kid coming through. He believed such a reputa tion captured more yes responses to his requests than no. The collaborative actions be tween Mrs. Lawtey and Kevin included sharing resources for classes, serving as field trip chaperones, and sharing professional development materials. While still rather limited in his pe rspective, he did find himself on a more level playing field as Mrs. Lawtey di d not look down on him or his e fforts. Rather, she expressed a desire to use the ideas in her own teaching. Kevins interaction with his teaching partner further expande d his understanding of teacher collaboration. Kevin was surprised by the openness Mr. Peterson expressed toward working with others and hearing their ideas. He often took the lead and initiated such interaction between the two, as Kevin mentioned he wa s not quite ready to assume the lead. Through teaching responsibilities, program mana gement duties, and professiona l association participation, collaboration between the two teachers was not limited to one context. Kevin mentioned they balanced one another, listened to one another, and genuinely sought one anothers opinions about things concerning the program, the profession, and life in general. He learned a lot from Mr. Petersons style yet it was clear th ey each had distinct styles and neither wished to be viewed as the other person in the depart ment. Overall, Kevin felt being open with others was the most

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84 important lesson he learned from Mr. Peterson. Du e to the positive results they enjoyed, he was confident he would continue to see positive results. Similarly, Kevins associations with Margie further pushed his collaborative notions to include larger projects, different audiences, and new opportunities for learning together. Born of informal social time within a structured prof essional development program, and grown through continued interaction, the bond between Kevin and Margie was firmly established. Kevin admitted he rarely initiated their collaborative experiences but this in no way hindered their opportunities for working together. Their deep aw areness of the talent s, skills, and personal qualities the other possesses lets them each use their strengths to pursue new challenges together. Much like his relationship with Mr. Peterson, Ke vins relationship with Margie yielded positive results and helped him to become more comforta ble working with others The collaborations had a maturation effect on Kevin as he has been able to focus on the issues affecting the agricultural education profession, rather than those which only affect him. Completing an advanced degree and teaching in a school within close proximity to the university have also expanded Kevins opportu nities for collaboration beyond the secondary school setting. He described his relationships w ith the university teacher education faculty as richer and more satisfying. Early in his career, Ke vin had an ivory tower view of the university faculty because of his limited interaction with th em and any he did have was purely professional. With younger professors serving in faculty roles at the universit y, Kevin has felt he can better relate to them. He also felt he has something to contribute to the relati onship they share because he feels good about what he is doing. In fact, he often welcomes them to his classroom to visit, observe, teach classes, and conduct research. Wr iting about the research he conducted with the

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85 help of these same individuals also helped Kevin feel they were engaged in a true collaboration regardless of the papers acceptance. Kevins collaboration with the research community within the hard sciences helped him to further refine his experiences with teacher collaboration. Kevins connection with a former teacher outside of his subject area, presented him with a collaborativ e experience intended to expand his students learning. His collaboration with the State Department of Agriculture resulted in an inquiry proj ect for his students, one base d on a contemporary problem in agriculture. For the State, precious data to assist in finding a ti mely and efficient solution was their reward. Kevin has valued the impact of teacher coll aboration on his professional career saying it has made it more enjoyable. Once he passed the st age where survival was his main objective, he wanted more from his career. Every collaborati ve experience he mentioned having was positive involving little to no resistance. A ny resistance he did encounter came from within as he tried to work out his personal challenge of reliance on others. Kevin desc ribed his personality as very positive and he mentioned he was always smiling and saying positive things and having a hard time saying, No. He perceived these ch aracteristics as attractiv e when working with others yet often downplayed his ro le in initiating collaboration by crediting his experiences with being with the right people, in the right places, at the right times. His willingness to collaborate with other teachers helped him create a reputation as a collaborator and arri ve at a place in his professional life where potential collaborations ge nerally tend to find him without him having to seek them.

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86 Christy Textural Description Christy knew she wanted to becom e an agriculture teacher by the time she was a freshman in high school. Entering the agriculture program as an eighth grader, she had plenty of opportunity to immerse herself in all the program could offer. Christy recalled her participation in the Parliamentary Procedure CDE as her first experience with academic collaboration. In Par-Pro you have to work together. Theres no way around that. Im kind of an independent person. You know if you want something done, you do it yourself. I was able to make it work. I understood Par-Pro but a lot of my FFA experience was more of an outlet for me. I was kind of a book worm so to be able to interact, that was my goal. She found collaboration was about the people with whom she worked and their similitude of goals. She also discovered understanding and acc eptance were necessary when working with differences between people. By the time she ente red the university, she was armed with both the skills and the willingness to wo rk collaboratively w ith others. She fully believed you cant go through life all by yourself; and no man is an island. At the university, she found a group of people th at had the same interests and the same kind of values as I did. These i ndividuals happened to be in all of her classes as they were the other agricultural education majors. They often spent time together. When we werent assigned a project where we worked together we were always studying together and doing our personal st uff together. It wasnt necessa rily that one intern group because there were a lot of my friends in that circle. There were some others that were right before us and some that were after us. It was a nice little group. As soon as the professors assigned the work, the group would look inward for support and the opportunity to engage in problem solving. Occas ionally, some light competition would emerge as the group wondered who would get the best gr ade. However, Christy mentioned they really shared a lot and were very helpful to one another.

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87 Christy did not come from an agricultur al background and as a result her content knowledge came from her high school and college coursework. She often turned to her group to help her develop the practical knowledge needed fo r teaching. I had [raised] a pig and a steer but they knew much more. They had more hands on [experience]. They did stuff that I had no clue about. They also develope d relevant lesson plans together. When we were talking lesson plans, you coul d look at the book and you could sit in your class and have the professor tell you about animal science but is it important for the student to know? What do they need to have? So thats the stuff we were good at, exchanging that kind of information on what ought to be in that lesson plan; the little side stories and the interesting stuff you know when you have personal experience. At times, the group consisted of as many as five regular participants but three individuals were key. The bond among the three, including Christy, was sustained through the student teaching experience. We stayed together an d really helped each other out. The trio interned in the same county, at very production-oriented programs, and encountered many similar experiences. We were all having the same experience at di fferent locations because we were all with male teachers that had been in the business at least 25 years. We were all pretty young girls. I had a kid that was 19 in my cla ss and I was 21. Thats a dynamic you just dont expect. This one girl came into class and everyone was like, Oh, shes back! And Im like, Back from what? Heres the picture of the baby! I wasn t prepared for those things and neither were the other girls. They had the sa me kind of issues so we could really relate in that way. To address these challenges, Christy and the othe r interns often called one another to reflect on their teaching, to commiserate, to offer tips and to share techniques that had worked in order to create solutions to their challenges. Christy credited the friendsh ip among the interns as reason for the strong bond they shared. While their intera ctions occurred primarily by telephone, Christy was able to meet them face-to-face at the fair and various CDEs. Such reunions served as time to reconnect and address the needs of the group.

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88 Christys cooperating teacher, filling the role of a mentor, was careful to introduce her to many of the teachers in the school. We didnt stay at the ag building and have our lunch. He made me go up to school and we ate with the t eachers. He often pointed out how other teachers might be able to help her. Christy admitted many of the introductions did not advance beyond the lunch room, although each teacher seemed friendly. She did however, follow up on her encounter with the math teacher when worki ng to incorporate math into the agriculture curriculum. I remember teaching forestry and we did la nd measurement. I am a logical mind math person so math makes sense to me. The first tim e I tried to teach it, it wasnt working so my cooperating teacher encouraged me to go ta lk to the math teacher. We met during her planning period and she gave me some pointers. She was really nice and very good because she had been a math teacher forever. Following her student teaching experience, Chri sty was hired to teac h in a middle school. The county was going through major restructuring so while many of the teachers in the school had teaching experience, most were new to the campus. To increase communication and collaboration, teachers were formed into team s according to the students they served. This worked well for everyone ex cept the elective teachers. So that was kind of nice. You could start ri ght up and do some things together. The whole middle school concept is all about teams and teachers working together. The whole team concept is all the sixth graders on this team have the same English, Math, and Science teacher. The elective teachers were assigned to a team and we really didnt teach those kids only. We taught every kid! Teams met two times each week and additional meetings were required. At times, the arrangement was good but at other times it made teachers feel as though theyre meeting you to death. The school appointed a formal mentor for Ch risty whom she discovered was a poor match. Fortunately, she met an English teacher on her te am who was better suited to provide the support she needed. The relationship which transpired comb ined elements of collaboration based on their

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89 team roles and mentoring from their one-on-one time. The connection they shared did not address all the elements of Christys role as an agriculture teacher. Since she was the only agriculture teacher in the school, she had to look to the other teachers in the county for contentspecific camaraderie. Attending her first county meeting, Ch risty found it difficult to fit in. I was the only girl and I was the only young girl There was one other lady that taught at the exceptional students center so what she was teaching was a whole lot different than what I was doing. It was my first year and I was thinking, Oh my gos h! Who can I sit by? Who can I talk to? There was nobody because th ey were all men and there really wasnt even anybody young. They all had been teaching for quite a while. They were nice enough but they were not overly friendly to help you. She listened during the meeting as the presenter ex plained various expectations associated with paperwork but being the only young teacher in the county, she felt insecure about asking clarifying or follow-up questions. Its a lot to absorb what you have to do. And th is paper goes with this and this is what you have to fill out for that. The first one I was like, Oh, what the heck? I dont know what theyre talking about. Plus, they say the same things every year so even the guy that is leading the meeting is thinking, Theyve heard it a million times. Following the meeting, she returned to her scho ol, only to discover there was no one there who could answer her questions sin ce their responsibilities did not require completion of such documents. Rather than asking anyo ne outside of the school, Christ y did her best with what she knew. While she did well in some cases, mistakes were made in others. Du e to her inexperience, Christy went almost two years without submitting paperwork for mileage. This error cost her financially as she was not reimbursed for those expenses. At the completion of her fifth year with the middle school, Christ y took the agriculture teaching position at the high school. Christys rela tionship with her teach ing partner Bill was a source of professional collabora tion from the beginning. A two person department, they were fortunate to craft specialized ac ademic paths in the program. They often chose to forego working

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90 together on classroom-related matters because of their distinct instructional foci. Rather, Christy and Bill found their collaboration was generally geared toward FFA and program management. We are the advisors of our FFA chapter. It s not me and its not him. We make the decisions together. We do our fundraising together and it ha s worked out really well. I couldnt ask for anyone better to work with. Wh en I first started here, we would eat lunch together every day and we would talk about stuff. We dont do that regularly anymore but we often open up the removable wall separating our classrooms after school so we can talk. We have officer meetings monthly and other big events coming up regularly so we talk about them beforehand. Not only did Christy make a position change dur ing that time, she noted a number of other changes in the county agriculture teaching popul ation. The same year she moved to the high school, a female was hired to the opening she le ft at her middle school, and another high school hired a woman to fill theirs. The following year her closest collaborator, Shana, was hired to a position. This wave of new teachers presented Christy with professionals who were closer to her age. We had somebody to sit with at th e ag teacher events. The first year we were all together it was basically work-related collaboration. We ta lked about This is what works for me and This is what we do. Then we got to be fr iends and had some outside work contact which solidified the group. We then started talking abou t things that were wo rk-related but that you probably wouldnt just talk about with your acquaintances. We ta lked about what we could do to make things different and be tter, things outside of our classrooms. Christys relationship with this group of agri culture teachers continue d to progress leading to a number of changes in her work. We kind of felt out of the loop sometimes so we figured we would do some things that would let our kids ge t some benefit. We felt the more we knew the better it was going to be for them. We worked together. She had alwa ys been a dues paying member of her professional association but had never been a participan t. So, our little group decided we were going to try to get more involved in that ki nd of stuff. And we did! She became a member of the state FFA board while a nother in the group was elected to a leadership position on the state agriculture teachers associ ation board.

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91 Even as two of the four key teachers left the collaborative group, new ideas for working together emerged with one effort leading to another. Working to get on the boards led to the w hole curriculum stuff and everything we do now. You get so much from exchanging stories bu t when you sit down and start to work on a project with someone you can get a lot accomp lished. There is a lot that can happen. In fact, I dont think I would have done the whole masters thing if I hadnt had the friends to do it with. Christy introduced the idea of completing a distance masters program to the group by telling them, We need to do this. She was able to coer ce Shana into applying to the program by telling her, We ought to take everything we can get. The graduate program encouraged collaboration among students so Christy and Shana worked together whenever they could, studying and completing assignments as a team. We did all of our stuff together. Anything we could work together on, we did. When you dont have the teacher and you only have a computer screen with a PowerPoint presentation from which to get the information, you need to be able to talk to someone. If I hadnt been able to talk it out with someone it [success] wouldnt have happened. To get the most out of their collaboration they often met face-to-face, taking turns driving to the others home or school to work on assignments. Extending their efforts to the classroom, Christy and two of the county agriculture teachers in her collaborative group decided to complete a grant application related to the horticulture classes they taught. Were not big grant writers. Our county supe rvisor found this grant and he said, Okay, what do we want to do with th is? We thought of some things that were important and we wanted to try to do. We wrote them out as a group and then gave it to the county grant writers to polish. We got the money so something must have worked. With funds available, the group wo rked together to align their c ourse curriculum with the state horticultural industry associations professional certification test. Th is feat required the team to amend their current curriculum by going deeper into some concepts on which they provided only a surface orientation. They also developed ne w lesson plans for those areas not currently

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92 addressed. The three worked together to plan a nd facilitate industry, research and university tours to enhance the classroom experience for thei r students. The work requi red the three to stay in close contact. Christy said, I dont know a week that goes by that we dont talk by email or on the phone. I might talk to them more than I talk to Bill [her teaching partner]! Structural Description Christys professional developm ent has been profoundly impacted by her collaborative associations. A naturally withdr awn yet bright student, Christy knew from the moment she entered FFA as a secondary student that worki ng with others often re sults in a richer end product. This lesson did not evade her upon graduation. She immediately began forming connections with others duri ng her undergraduate career at the university. Christy had enough self-awareness to realize she woul d need to force herself to interact with others, no matter how uncomfortable, if she was to grow. Finding peers with similar values and goals helped her feel mo re at ease and confident in the new university surroundings. While much of th eir interaction involved being supportive, they did exhibit signs of a competitive spirit when it came down to the grades each would receive on their assignments. Competition wa s usually stoked when a member of the class had a passion for a particular topic and genuinely wanted to know more about it. However, it was curtailed when a student had an insufficient level of knowledge to be able to compete as an expert. Referring to her preservice group as friends, Christy and th e other members of the group had a relationship based on trust. They often shared thoughts and ideas when planning their lessons, going beyond mere content and including pe rsonal stories, to motivate their students learning. Even when they parted ways and commenced student teaching, each regularly engaged with their cohort peers on a professional leve l by reflecting openly a bout their performance, challenges, and goals for developing their iden tities as teachers. The practice was successful

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93 among this group as they were on a level playing field, feeling comfortable with one another and each possessing a relatively similar degree of ex pertise in the field of teaching and learning. However, because of their different experiences a nd interests, each had unique insights to share. The mandated collaborative teacher team st ructure infused within the middle school presented Christy with a dichotomy. On the one hand, the experience allowed her to work closely with teachers from other content ar eas on school issues. On the other hand, the demanding meeting schedule and arbitrary placement of elective teachers presented a rigidity which did not serve her professional best intere sts. The mentor program was another mandated effort demanding her to forge colla borative ties with other teach ers. Although the first match did not take, Christy enjoyed much success with her self-identified mentor, the leader of her teacher team. Despite her inability to access the help she needed re lated to her specific subjectarea responsibilities, she felt is olated as no teachers or admi nistrators on her campus could provide her with the direction she desperately ne eded. Her unwillingness to ask for help resulted in major challenges related to county paperwork. As a result, she made a number of mistakes which could have been avoided ha d Christy taken the initiative to approach another agriculture teacher in her county. In Christys defense, the county agriculture teacher culture seemed closed. Her first experience in their company was intimidating since she was the only young teacher in the county, and one of only two female teachers. Al though polite, not a single teacher had offered himself to her as a resource she could call on if she needed help completing her responsibilities. I think some of it is probably to a certain ex tent, sticking it out long enough to become one of the group. If you are around a little while longer, then you kind of get accepted into the fold. She felt out of place, as if she di d not fit in; a stranger in a forei gn land. At the county agriculture

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94 teacher meeting, she also felt as if the presen ter was speaking in a secret language since she appeared to be the only one w ho did not understand his comments. The danger of the situation stemmed from its timing. Christy was just beginning her career in agricultural education and rather than a warm welcome, she got a chilly reception. Furthermore, the loss of mileage reimbursement due to her paperwork error provi ded another reason to reconsider her career choice. Christy admitted feeling restless many times during her 16 years of teaching but her associations with other teachers helped her find reasons to stay. I got to a point where I felt I wasnt as happy as I could be if I had another job. There is a certain amount of, It is the same job even though you have different kids every year. I questioned if I wanted to stay in teaching. These people came along at the right time for us to work together and that has probably kept me here. Moving from a one-teacher agriculture program to a program with two teachers brought the potential for daily collaboration on local sc hool and program-relate d issues; a void she experienced during her previous five years at the middle sc hool. Although they were very different individuals, each shared a commitment to the success of their program and actively worked to make sure both voices were heard wh ile managing its activities. Her leadership work in professional associations came from discu ssions among her group of t eacher collaborators. Such dialogue also resulted in the opportunity to continue their learning in the distance masters program and engage in a tri-program grant projec t. She willingly and voluntarily took part even though each required additional commitments of her time. The fact these events presented her with the personal and professiona l motivation needed to make her work challenging, stimulating and rewarding was enough reason for her to maintain her commitment to agricultural e ducation.

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95 Mark Textural Description Marks f irst stint at the university came immediately following his graduation from high school. While he confessed to not remembering much of the experience due to youthful indiscretion, he did recall his wo rk habits. The first time I was up there it was always, Jeez, I didnt finish my report. Can you cut me a little slack ? Can I give it to you later today? Can I get it to you tomorrow? I was always looking for a way to beat the system. Upon graduation, he began a ten year career in banki ng. Mark decided toward the end of that time, he wanted to go back to school to become an agriculture teacher. He met with the professors in the department, as well as with his family, and at age 33 he enro lled in a second bachelors program at the university. He approached the experience much di fferently, relying heavily on collaboration with others. The second time I was up there I was much more focused. I put my stupid male ego aside, and allowed twenty, twenty-one year ol d kids to tutor me in college algebra. I looked at studying as my job. I didnt want to cut any corners this time. I would always stay after class asking the professors questions. I looked at it [school] a lot differently than I did the first time. While enrolled in the teacher education progr am, Mark had the opportunity to work with the many other students in his cohort. One of his earliest encounters i nvolved a particularly challenging horticulture class. Th e course instructor presented a lengthy plant identification assignment and many students struggled to learn the 200 plus plants require d. In talking with the other students in his major, he discovered another preservice teacher had taken the course one semester prior. The two discussed class expect ations and she offered to share with him the photographs she took of each plant on the identifica tion list. This gesture sparked in him and the other teachers, the importance of a collaborative culture. We just kind of fed off of each other

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96 and supported each other. We worked with each other. How did you come up with this? or How do you think we should do that? I think it all kind of developed from there. Upon completion of his teaching internship, Mark was hired to the school where he is currently employed. His first day on the job, the cu stodian told Mark he had a broken well on his land lab which needed repair. When Mark asked how he was supposed to take care of it, the custodian responded, Put in a work order. Once Mark learned how to complete the paperwork, he submitted the document and a few days later a district employee came to assess the situation. When Mark met him, he told Mark the area ar ound the pump was too overgrown and he needed Mark to mow him an access road. Aware he had a tractor sitting on the land lab, Mark tried to start the machine but was unsuccessful. He went back to the custodian to report the dead tractor and was met with the same response, Put in a work order. This time, the work order went unanswered. When he checked on the orders status, he was told to visit the bus garage because they were responsible for such repairs. Mark lear ned from his inquiry at the bus garage the work order would be on hold for two w eeks after the start of school si nce they were backed up with servicing each of the countys busses. Mark summarized the event by saying, It was at that point I knew I needed to get he lp in a lot of areas in order to make things work in this environment. He was on the right path with this line of thinking as his tenure within the school community got off to a rocky start. Mark was the fifth teacher the program had seen in just three years. There were very few teach ing and learning resources availa ble and he faced a number of student management issues. It was rough! I was called to the principa ls office I dont know how many times. I was accused of [things] and the mom was going to sue. Kids would run by my house shouting. Our teams never did well, or didnt do as we ll as I thought we could have. I blamed it on these kinds of kids coming in.

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97 Aware change was needed, he began asking othe r agriculture teachers what they did to get results. I dont know if it is just Florida or if its just guys in pa rticular but they keep their cards close to their chests. They really dont share anyt hing. A visit with a teacher in a nearby county who had been his college fraternity brot her landed him a wealth of information. I called him and asked him for stuff. He woul d give me stuff. Then I got to know his teaching partner and he would share stuff w ith me. As they worked with a couple of teachers, I would call those other couple of teachers and they would say, Sure, come on over. It just kind of mushroomed from there because I didnt have anything. Mark continued to follow each lead, creating a literal chain of collaboration. This chain led him to craft additional networks dealing with the FFA aspect of his professional responsibilities. Working with teachers in County 1, Mark was able to let his students tr ain for the citrus CDE alongside the students from another school. I took my team, and we set up a whole contest inside their auditorium. Met w ith success in his quest for colla boration, he continued to pursue like-minded teachers who were willing to be op en and share their expertise. While at a subdistrict land judging CDE he spoke with Adam, a teacher in County 2, sharing some of the challenges and change goals he had in mind for hi s chapters performance in the contest. Adam then offered to share his contest training resour ces and extended an invi tation to Mark and his students to practice wi th him and his team. Taking his students to gather with Adam and hi s team, as well as the students and teachers from one school in County 3 and another from County 4, Mark was confused by the scene. He probed Adam, asking why he had offered to wo rk with so many other teachers and students when they could beat his own on the day of competition. Mark recalled Adams response by saying, Well, thats easy. If were not teaching kids why are we doing what were doing? As they continued their discussion, Adam shared the tenets of this educational philosophy. He said, Every kid is engaged. Every kid is trying their best. Th ere are no discipline problems. I have no distractions. I have th em hanging on every word I say. Every one of

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98 them is striving to do their best and beat somebody else up here. Never in your teaching career will you have a classroom like youve got right now. Mark, I dont care who you are. If you want to learn, Ill teach you because when we beat you I want to make sure we beat the best. And if you beat us its because you ve beaten the best. With that, I began to seek out and socialize with other teachers at different conferences and events who were like-minded. Through his connection with Adam, Mark me t Rebecca. Rebecca was a similarly minded agriculture teacher employed at a school in County 5, and was considered to be an expert at the forestry CDE. Rebecca freely offered to share he r expertise with Mark as the two brought their teams together for a practice at her school. When I asked Rebecca for some help she said, Just come by here and well work out with my team. Ive got the whole contest set up in my shop. Now when we [Mark and his students] go someplace, they recognize somebod y. Theyve got somebody to talk to when theyre there instead of just talking with the same kids [from their own school]. Collaboration was also established between Mark and Leanne from County 6. Leanne had enjoyed some success regarding the food scie nce CDE. She also possessed a philosophy common to Marks about sharing he r expertise with other teachers Based primarily on resource sharing, the two have offered one another whatev er new CDE preparation materials each finds. Within his own county, Mark crafted collaborati ons with two teachers in particular. With Shelia, the duo was able to prepare their vege table CDE teams for comp etition. Shelia will often call a joint practice between her ki ds and my kids. The day prior to the state vegetable CDE the two chapters traveled together, practicing in grocery stores and entomology laboratories along the way. Because of his status as an experienced agriculture t eacher in the county, Shelia, and her teaching partner Carla, approached Mark to assist them in devel oping building plans for a brand new agriculture departme nt facility in the county. I had a little bit of input on how the school wa s designed. I talked to them about needing a computer lab and a teacher planning area. It was suggested the bathrooms have some locker room space and that it have a shower fo r students that did need to shower after that unfortunate incident. Also, a ha nd wash station where five to six kids could wash their

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99 hands instead of one long line at one sink. It also included building a chapter officer room, resource room, and a trophy case displa y window which opens to the courtyard. His relationship with this program did not end there. Since the n, Mark and Carla have worked out a system where Carla makes feed runs on he r commute to and from school. In return, Mark has provided a climate-controlled facility in which to store f eed for both of their needs. Mark recalled an experience where he shared information about beginning a booster club, with a good agriculture teacher friend. The other teacher was looking for ways to finance his chapters activities yet was hesi tant about starting a booster cl ub. Having a strong booster club in place, Mark offered a clear description of the gr oups role and specific guidelines and parameters his friend needed to establish, in order for the group to operate successful ly. After working with the other teacher, he started a booster club for hi s chapter and within th ree years, was raising over $25,000 to Marks $10,000. Thats what colla boration can be. Because of that one teachers nice conversation at our State FFA c onvention, theyre now giving away scholarships for their kids going to college. They are also pa ying for students to go to CDEs that would not have otherwise had the opportunity. Mark admitted to having what he considered to be collaborative relationships with the teacher educators in the departme nt from which he graduated, ev en though they were different from the faces guiding him as a student. Ive tried to stay in touch with them so I can give [my students] the best possible advice. The only advi ce I give is the advice I get from Josh, Randy and Wade. When were saying the same informa tion, the kids respond to it a lot better. These discussions have helped a number of his students transition into th e agricultural education major at the university. Most recently, Mark worked with Josh and two agriculture teachers from his home county to organize and faci litate a recruitment dinner for hi gh school students interested in becoming secondary ag riculture teachers.

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100 Marks experiences with teach er collaboration have resulted in his development as a teacher professional. His students have won st ate and national awards, he had demonstrated change in his classroom practices and he was ev en approached by administrators for promotion in his district. The successes often presented him with the dilemma of wh ether or not he should remain at his current school, tr ansfer to another department in the county, or move into school administration. People recognize my leadership skills down here [in the agriculture department] and suggest they could be better ut ilized in management. I spent about fifteen, twenty minutes down at the front office. I come back here [to my classroom] and I am so happy to be back within my four walls and to hug my kids. Rather than making the decision as to whether or not he would stay at the school on his own, Mark chose to seek the input of t hose with whom he worked closely. When they opened up Byer High, I was heavily recruited to go out there and open up that program. I really liked the principal that was going there and the idea of brand new everything so I called Adam. I said, Adam, what do you think about this? He had a good answer. So when they [county administ ration] opened up the new middle school and said, Hey, Mark! What do you think? I said, Nah, Im fine. Bout got this place the way I want it. Structural Description Marks perceptions of teacher collaboration were largely shaped by his core beliefs that no m an is an island and that people are made stronge r when they work together. These beliefs were not appreciated in his first career so he set out to find a place where they would be. Mark came to teaching by way of another field, much like a number of Floridas agriculture teachers. He had a solid career in the banking industry but after a number of position changes and dealing with feelings of dissatisfaction, Mark chose to comple te a second bachelors degree in agricultural education. His decision was unlike those generally made by other t eachers from industry, as they often chose to complete the alternative certific ation process rather th an a teacher education program. Opting to attend the uni versity allowed Mark access to other pre-professionals with

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101 whom he was able to network, learn, and grow. Th e experience made him feel integrated to the profession prior to taking his fi rst teaching job. It kind of starte d from there [collaboration with the cohort] and then developed from there. S o, Id call Laura and Mary, whos not in teaching anymore. Id ask them and theyd send me some stuff. It just kind of snowballed from there. His first experiences as a high school faculty member let Mark know how much he didnt know about meeting the responsibilities associated w ith his role as an agri culture teacher. They teach us this much, [gesturing by placing his thum b and forefinger about an inch apart] on that many subjects [gesturing by holding his arms out ]. The work order situation demonstrated his lack of knowledge about school protocol, something impossible for new teachers to know until they infiltrate a particular school system. The lack of instructional resources was also a surprise he could not have expected, but made very real upon gazing at empty file cabinets and textbooks that had been trashed. Another area making hi m aware of his shortcomings was the range of content he was responsible for teaching yet ha d limited knowledge. Frustrated by these barriers, Mark realized he needed help. There is no way you can do it all. I realized th at when I was trying to fix everything to try to teach, it was going to ta ke a lot more than what I ha d. So I had to win friends and influence people to get somethi ng to work. It was a chore. Guided by his core beliefs and the curiosity about how other schools achieved success, he made his teaching a priority and looke d up those teachers with whom he formed lasting connections during his teacher education program. They were happy to help by sharing resources, contacts, and tips for success. You just go and ask questions and for the most part people will help you because they are flattered [you asked]. Thrilled with his initial succe sses in teacher collaboration, he looked to other areas of his teaching responsibility; namely the areas of FFA and SAE. Marks willingness to sit down with other teachers at professional activities was a fr uitful beginning to expanding his efforts. He

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102 chose to discuss professional goals challenges, and issues rather than engage in small talk or, worse yet, withdraw from their company. The teachers with whom I collaborate are t eachers that I gravitat e toward. There are teachers that when our students are competi ng, they tell you what a great job they are doing. Then there are the ones that, How di d you guys cover it? How are you able to come up with this? I had a parent do this, or I had this teacher come in and help with that. So the conversation starts in a big group to begin with but then they [the teachers] kind of break off into smaller groups of interest. That is where I think a lot of the likemindedness of the teachers, or wanting to help each other and share information, develop. The ones that are so busy telling you what a ll they have done usually go off and brag to each other. This choice was powerful to gene rating connections with teachers versed in areas of expertise beyond his own. You cant know it all. You dont have to have all the answers. Marks ability to perform more effectively in more areas expanded as he looked to Adam to enhance his knowledge base in soils and land, to Rebecca in fore stry, to Leanne for food science, to Shelia for vegetables, and to others for citrus, the National Chapter Award application, and the many Proficiency award areas. The interaction not only benefited Mark s knowledge and socialization, it benefited the other teachers a nd every student they served. M y kids seem to like it [his collaboration] because it makes them better. They want to do well, make new friendships, establish the contacts, and be able to say, Hi, to another advisor. They enjoy it. From the moment he chose to engage in th is new career path, Mark was able to humble himself and move beyond the prof essions culture of skepticism and competition. He chose to adopt more open educational philosophies, like those shared by Adam, and model his personal beliefs for others rather than solely worry a bout how his students would place in a CDE. As a result, many teachers felt comfortable coming to him and letting him know how he could help them, especially those early in their careers. I think it is the younger ones that are more eas ily approachable and are more willing to share. So many of them have come through a program where they had an icon of a teacher, that taught for 20 or 30 years, that had every answer or gave the ki ds the impression they

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103 had every answer. They feel bad and dont have the confidence leve l they think they should have. Some teachers have asked for his help and support in building a new agriculture program while still other teachers have approached him for his thoughts on d eciding how to best improve existing programs. He has even taken it upon hi mself to collaborate with other teachers and teacher educators to work on the agriculture teacher supply and demand issues prevalent in Florida. His willingness to be open and take the initiative to begin collaborations has helped Mark carve a legendary reput ation in the profession as a teacher collaborator. Since his career in agricultural education followed a ten-year career in banking, Mark had a professional maturity well beyond that of ot her beginning teachers. His experiences with teacher collaboration helped him develop still further. As Mark moved closer to the midpoint of his teaching career, this matur ity presented him with options for his future. The opportunities, while tempting, came as a result of the success he brought to the program and the depth of his professional development. Because of his great respect for Adam as a professional and friend, Mark did not hesitate to seek his input for he lping him make a decisi on about his future in teaching. This bond between Mark and Adam was based on trust, forged with common values and shared history. A connection with such stab ility and meaning was instrumental in Marks decision to remain as a contributing member of the agricultural education profession. Composite Textural Description All of the teachers in th is study agreed teacher collabora tion begins with taking the initiative to reach out to others. They also found collaborative efforts to be a powerful professional development tool, permitting teachers to focus on topics suiting their particular needs and interests. When considering whether or not collaboration had the potential for helping teachers gain more enjoyment from their work, they felt, thats the fun part of the job. (Kevin).

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104 The participants each identified some form of professional frustration as the tipping point to collaboration with other teachers. With Kevi n, the desire came from the hopelessness he felt over trying to meet an impossible standard of the ideal teacher he had set for himself. For Christy, the difficulty of feeling out of place a nd thinking she had no one on whom she could call for help was enough to cause her to reach out The issue of taking over a program with no instructional resources sent Mark canvassing th e profession for support. I guess that is where my desire for collaboration came from. It cam e out of frustration over not having anything. When I got there, I was the fifth teacher in three years and the program was a mess (Mark). Successful first experiences were also critical to the continued use of teacher collaboration. Every participant was part of the same teacher education program at the same university; Kevin and Christy simultaneously, and Mark a number of y ears later. As part of the program, preservice teachers completed their agricultural education coursework in a loose cohort structure. The arrangement offered the developing teachers an opportunity to work on professional activities with their future colleagues. This type of enc ouragement helped them complete higher quality work and identify individuals with whom they c ould collaborate once they finished the program. In all cases presented, friendship was the basis for many of these collaborations. They were my good friends and still are (Christy). Each participant carried the id ea of professional friends forward as they discussed their most important collaborations. The ties among th em began on a purely pr ofessional level where they really just spent time getting acquainted. Th e key characteristic moving those relationships forward had to do with sharing a co mmon set of goals or philosophies. I am glad the [Florida Agriculture Teacher Leadership] program came about because I met a really neat lady who became an excellent partner. I really didnt know her before. We are really different but we are really alike. We tease each other and say we are the Yin and the Yang. We got through that di stance masters program by working together (Kevin).

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105 I have to give a lot of credit to Adam. Th e guy is phenomenal. And like I said, his whole philosophy is, if were not educating kids, w hy are we doing what we re doing? He is just fantastic. He is a good friend (Mark). Also, the strong connections each had with their key collaborators were bigger than the tasks on which they were working. This enabled them to move the relationships forward from one project to the next. The teachers expressed a common set of criteri a for defining teacher collaboration. Each believed the concept to be based on a common set of goals to guide their work. Collaboration is working together with a common goal, a co mmon purpose and shari ng ideas (Christy). Resource sharing was commonly men tioned in their examples as it dealt with how to improve student opportunities for learning. I think it involves sharing information; sharing study materials, sharing curriculum, sharing CDE helpful hints and gui des (Mark). Trust was at the foundation of every participants desc ription as it enabled them to share with others more openly. It is so easy to lean over and say something to Todd where before [collaborating] I would have felt, Oh gosh, do I say this? Did I say it right? I dont have to worry about that with him (Kevin). There was some commonality among the expe ctations each participant had about what could be achieved through teacher collaboration. Fi rst, the teachers believ ed their collaborative relationships with other teachers should be a source of professional development. Mark shared, I think I am a better teacher. For Kevin, teach er collaboration gave him a new perspective on his work. The first few years [of my career] I felt like I was in survival mode. Collaboration came more in perhaps the fact other teachers didnt want to see me fail but wanted to see me succeed. After I moved to my current school I was able to collaborate more because I wasnt trying to survive anymore. It was a kind of branching out into a new territory. When I think of collaboration toda y, it may not be in a lesson plan or that type of format. I collaborate with my peers professionally. We call it professional development and I think

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106 that is what it is. I think it still plays an important part in driving my professional development (Kevin). For Christy, she just made the commitment to learn. We decided we were going to learn more about something or do some form of somethi ng differently. Using different methods of collaboration like curriculum de velopment projects, leadership positions in professional associations, and advanced degree programs challenged each of them. Secondly, each felt collaboration should be spontaneous. Their collaborative experiences, born of a structured program or protocol, cr eated a lot of resentment. Christy shared, Ag teachers dont necessarily like being told what to do in general. There have been times when I was like, You have got to be kidding me. You know if it is mandatory, fine but high school teachers in general are kind of indepe ndent spirits. Dont tell me what to do! In the beginning, I collaborated mostly because I needed to; it was require d. Then it got to the point where I made my own associations a nd these collaborations were probably more useful and more productive. That is where I am right now. Taking advantage of unstructured time, such as having a meal t ogether or catching up between classes, meant there was ample opportunity to fo ster collaboration. And it makes it easier. Lets go have a bite to eat or come and visit. We love to sit down and just chit chat. I like that a lot better because it is more me now than before [whe n he was told to collaborate] (Kevin). Informal talk was also key to Marks experiences. There is not a whole lot for the teachers to do while you sit around waiting for students to finish competing. So, you sit around and you start talking (Mark). Christy added the use of email and cell phones provided her with more time to collaborate. Technology has really helped me in finding mo re time. You dont have to go somewhere to meet someone to talk about things. Not ev eryone has always had a cell phone. I can call anyone, any time, anywhere. When I have a thoug ht I can [gesture of opening a flip phone] and say, Hello! Lets talk about this! Email is so instantaneou s. It has really helped in what we [the horticulture grant collaborati on team] have done recently because I know in the beginning [of her career] if you needed something from someone, you needed to get together. You had to physically meet and you dont have to do that now.

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107 Third, the teachers expected t eacher collaboration to be a remedy to the professions competitive culture. Every participant commented on the reception they received when they entered the profession. Being the only young female teacher in a sea of older men, Christy felt extremely uncomfortable. People werent very open. They never said, Oh, just call us. We will help you (Christy). I didnt understand how th ese chapters kept winning all this stuff. Theyre not staying after school to practice so they got to be teaching th at in the classroom. I started asking around. I dont know if its Florida or if its just guys in particular but they kept their cards close to their chest. They did not r eally share anything (Mark). They [other agriculture teachers] definitely would not share CDE material. Oh, no! It was almost to the point it was a j oke, where if you hosted an ev ent you locked things up. If you didnt, the teachers were like, What does he have over here? It was because you were in competition. Why would we want to share with you? (Kevin). Each admitted they enjoyed the opportunity to compete but they also confessed winning was not their reason for competing. The teachers chose to put their own philosophies into practice rather than go along with the current competitive culture. Describing why he shares his expertise and resources with others, Mark said, Its very compet itive. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. Otherwise, what good is winning? Program viability was important to each of the three teachers interviewed. They felt a teachers satisfaction with hi s or her job affected how the students, administration, and community perceived the program. Teacher colla boration, in the form of breeding success for more teachers in more diverse ways, was a cr itical strategy to achieving such a necessary outcome. Christy felt teacher collaboration had re storative powers, I th ink it has been good for me. Getting to work with somebody revitalizes you. Kevin recalle d his relationships with his two closest collaborators and how the interactions have formed his perspective about the future of the profession.

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108 The collaboration has increased my job satisfaction. I didnt have the chance to work with the other ag teachers at my first school. But buying in and talking to people, that makes it fun. Collaboration eases the job l oneliness. I can pick up a phone and talk to a friend/ an ag teacher/ another comrade and get their ideas. If we are not going to collaborate professionally, then it is a dead profession. Mark felt collaboration was also critical to a pr ograms future within the community it serves. I would say the importance of collaborating professionally depends on how successful you want to be and how soon you want that to happ en. If you want to be successful, grow, and get recognition and support in the education system that is stretched thin, you have got to get out and promote your program. If you stay back and try to be the end all of knowing everything you may be a great resource nobody knows about when they have decided to cut your program. You have to collaborate to hit some home runs to get the publicity and support from your administration. It shows this is a viable program that needs to stay in the community. Composite Structural Description The experiences of teachers in this s tudy pr imarily revealed positive results related to teacher collaboration. They initia lly entered into these types of working relationships as early career teachers. Their individual needs related to developing thei r professional, content, or programmatic knowledge and skills had each participant working collaboratively with a formal district mentor. Although each mentor came from content areas outside of agriculture and career and technical education, each was able to prov ide basic pedagogical information and support. In return, participants offered the mentors the chance to talk s hop; to think about and discuss issues related to teaching and learning. Although mandated by the state, these connections with knowledgeable individuals, married with their own will to succeed, led to reasonable levels of success. Success manifested itself in the inte gration of mathematics and science into the agriculture courses. The social aspects of teacher collaboration served as a form of motivation for the participants to continue the practice. The chance to talk wi th another teacher about their professional lives not only gave them something worthwhile to do while waiting for students to

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109 complete their performance in CDEs, it gave them the chance to make friends of the strangers holding similar positions at other schools. Whether the opportunity pr esented itself at an official event, or was something they actively pursued on their own, the social co mponent required their willingness to risk. To admit to another teacher they were not knowledgeable, confident, or competent in something was to risk their very reputations as effective agriculture teachers. Laying their shortcomings on the line, to their gr eat surprise and comfort, resulted in greater camaraderie and trust in their relationships with others. If you reach out, good things can happen (Kevin). Each of the participants expa nded their views of education because of their experiences with teacher collaboration. Initially, the teachers were concerned with their content areas, trying to gain mastery at teaching a subject. Exposure to differing points of view and new philosophies presented each with a form of dissonance motivat ing them to reexamine their own structure of beliefs. This act of personal and profe ssional inquiry led to powerful change. I told him [the culinary arts teacher], I need to go because I need to work on the final exam. He said, What do you mean, work on the exam? Why are you doing that? You are going to put down stuff that you think is im portant. If you set it up right and guide the students, they can make up their own test. Y ou will be surprised at what they think is important and it cuts down on cheating. They will actually do better because they have ownership in it. It made so much sense. I pr obably havent made up a test in five years (Mark). I am seeing a need for being worried about more than your own skin, even though that is where it starts. We need to be worried about everyone because it will a ll affect us. We need to think about how things are going to affect our partner on campus or at another school. That partner might be an agriculture teacher, an English teacher, or even a career and technical education teacher. You have to remember agricultural education is one with them all (Kevin). Each participant made reference to the contradiction which exists between competition and teacher collaboration. For each of them, teacher collaboration was about blending a variety of strengths, beliefs and expertise around a common goal. Rampant similitude of strengths, beliefs,

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110 and expertise in the collaborative environment wa s believed to result in increased levels of competition. When the pool of talent was of a much broader base, innovative discussion could germinate. If you have people who do the same thing, then it can become a competition. It hasnt been that way for us [her group of collaborators]. E ach of us is open to new ideas but what I am good at and what she is good at are very di fferent things. You need to bring other perspectives in (Christy). Textural-Structural Statement Collaboratio n can deepen and broaden teacher s knowledge of teaching and learning. By pooling knowledge, skills, resources, philosophies, and ideas, teachers give themselves permission to be learners. They need not know everything about their content area or how to fulfill every aspect of their work. They are able to visit openly with others, accessing knowledge of which they had no prior understanding and co-constructing new knowledge to improve their performance. Thinking about how knowledge is generated expands the roles teachers traditionally play and confers upon them, the stat us of expert. No longer must teachers look beyond their ranks to advance their own understandi ng, they can band together to fill the need. Teachers can also realiz e these benefits by sharing resources as they address the existing deficiencies which prevent them from realizing the full potential of themselves, their students, and their programs. Collaboration enhances a teachers capacity for reflection. Teachers mu st reflect often and deeply about their professional experiences. They must consider how each has affected their development. Conducting regular assessments of one s strengths and needs allows a teacher to focus his or her collaborative efforts. This is often an advantage for everyone involved as the teacher can exercise choice in what they reach out toward. Additionally, collaborative reflection is used as teachers collectively consider the strengths and needs among other collaborators and

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111 within the profession more broadly defined. Regard less of whether conducted privately, or with a group, reflection lends purpose to collaborative experiences. Collaboration requires teachers to be bold, to take the initiative to be active participants in their professional lives. As opposed to being to ld what to do and how to act, collaboration provides a space for teachers to open their minds to new ideas and possibilities. This can be difficult to do in the earliest stages of the ca reer. However, teachers become increasingly willing to reach out based on a need to know more or to have access to information and resources. Initiative can be fueled by sett ing a goal, a strong desire for change, encouragement from a trusted professional, and even frustrati on over professional challenges and needs. Collaboration is more likely to occur when teachers have: (1) common expertise, (2) a common language by which to discuss their work, (3 ) common philosophies, (4) similar levels of experience, (5) common problems, (6) common goals and expectations, and (7) a diverse set of skills and knowledge. Similitude among collabo rators helps them develop rapport more immediately than if few to no commonalities ex isted. It also creates a foundation from which productivity may be pursued. The differences in skills and knowledge crea te balance within the collaborative experience. Such differences challenge the status quo preventing it from dominating collective decision making. Collaboration is fostered and supported th rough the time teachers spend together informally. Conversations held over a meal create a positive atmosphere for forming relationships with others. It also offers a space where teachers can open up about their beliefs and goals. Through casual conversation teachers di scover those who are of like mind, harboring an interest in similar things. Often, these conne ctions are nurtured thr ough technology such as

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112 phone calls and email. These informal tools overcome the constraints of time and space, obstacles commonly associat ed with collaboration. Collaboration not only includes teachers from within agricultural education, it extends beyond the content area to include th ose with a vested interest in the education of young people. An incomplete list may include: administrators, school and district sta ff, other non-agriculture teachers, mentor teachers, community members, university teacher educat ion faculty, and leaders from professional associations. These collabor ators represent the perspectives of which agricultural education may have no understanding, or the resource s it may lack. By opening the sphere of influence, new points of view can be co nsidered as solutions ar e sought to a variety of professional problems. Additionally, richer inform ation is developed as the interactions among different people working together uncover layers of knowledge and skill. Collaborative relationships possess several common qualities. They (1) are mutually beneficial to the teachers involve d, (2) involve professional friends hips, (3) can be professionally challenging, (4) must respect member individualit y, and (5) can ease some of the consequences of competitive cultures. Teachers participate in collaborative relationships for many reasons (ie. personal challenge, seeking to fill a personal need desire to contribute) and often work with other teachers who are engaged for similar r easons. The outcomes are often successful. Many teachers fulfill all or some of th eir initial expectations for the work and tend to agree to pursue further collaborations. Teachers view their collaborators as professional friends. They value spending time together within a professional, as well as personal, capacity and form a kinship based on their deep respect for one another. The interaction with others is thought to present a new dimension of challenge for mid-career agricultu re teachers, as it is not always comfortable to be plucked from the security of their clas srooms and thrust into a more public arena.

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113 Regardless of the type of collaborative stru cture, teachers who collaborate respect the individuality of members for the sake of forming relationships w ith greater stability, trust, and opportunity for growth. Agriculture teachers can be very competitive. This side is most clearly seen in the competitions associated with the FFA and SAE components of their programs. Intimidating for some teachers, agricultural educations competitive culture risks resisting, and stunting, the potential for collaboration. Effective collaborati ve relationships have the power to change professional competition from being at the expense of students and teachers, into an enriching experience for both groups. As a few teachers come together and achieve some form of success, they begin looking to still other teac hers who have a desire to take part in similar activities in the future. Given time and a willingness to let down their guards, a snowball effect can ensue as teachers champion for their profession and put student success ahead of their own. Collaboration is more lasting and meaningful when it is spontaneous. The collaborations emerging from the bottom-up are perceived to be th e most helpful since they originate from the needs of those directly involved. This approach helps teachers take more ownership of the work, since it evolves from personal interest. Teachers also tend to meet these experiences with less resentment than when they are structured. This is often because they are permitted an option about whether or not to inte ract, and to what extent. Although spontaneous collaboration is most favo red, the nature of teachers work often requires them to engage in struct ural collaborative experiences. Structural collaboration is not always inadequate. Often, through these experiences, teachers have their first encounters with the phenomenon of teacher collaboration. Structural collaboration uses a top-down approach in the form of school-generated projects to give some teachers the push they need to reach out to other

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114 teachers. Teachers work in this environment can even be viewed as time well spent when the experience is appropriate for the needs of all parties involved. In mentoring relationships, interactions are sustained over time and are highly prescriptive to the needs and desires of the individuals present. Structural experiences of this caliber have the potential to achieve many of the same benefits as th e spontaneous experiences. Collaboration is professional development and improves the practice of teachers. Teacher collaboration is based on common goals to which teachers apply a special roster of talent. The phenomenon creates a common language, connecti ng teachers by existing knowledge and skills, as well as by their desire for those they wish to develop. The time teachers spend studying the act of teaching results in an accumu lation of knowledge and skill reserves. These reserves make them more valuable contributors to collabora tions because they have more to offer. Collaboration occurs in all th ree components of the agricultu ral education program model. Opportunities abound for agriculture teachers to connect on issues re lated to classroom/ laboratory instruction, FFA and SAE. Teach ers also find numerous opportunities for collaboration, with the capacity to advance th e profession as a whole. The broad base of possibility allows a teacher to find the best us e of collaboration for them and their needs. Once they do, teachers feel more engaged in their profession and expr ess a greater sense of career satisfaction. Collaboration is likely to occur throughout a teachers career, beginning with early collaborative experiences. The universitys teach er education program is generally the first opportunity preservice teachers have to interact w ith their peers with whom they will eventually enter the agricultural educati on profession. Getting to know ones peers during this time can forge lasting relationships. While the experiences can be heavily mandated due to programmatic

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115 requirements, they do contain many opportunities for spontaneous interaction with peers, teacher educators, and cooperating teachers. These t ypes of experiences may help teachers feel comfortable collaborating more often and mu ch sooner than would have been expected otherwise. Collaboration evolves with a teachers level of experience. Early in the career, most collaboration involves working with a mentor. In these one-on-one contexts, the reciprocity between beginning teachers and mentors is thought to be low due to the beginning teachers limited cache of resources related to practical teaching knowledge. However, this assumption could not be more false since beginning teachers have a more current theoretical and content knowledge base, having just completed their de grees. Together, the mentor and the beginning teacher pool their knowledge to advance their learning. The longer a teacher spends in the career, the better able he or she is at demonstrating commitment to the profession. Establishing oneself as vested opens new doors for collaboration. The successful outcome of these opportunities builds the confidence of teachers and encourages them to continue to engage in collaborative e xperiences. The continuum of development reveals the more experience teachers have with teache r collaboration, the less they will focus on their individual situations and the more they contribut e to work with other teachers and the profession. A visual depiction of this continuum is found in Appendix E. Collaboration helps teachers find an outlet for reward once they have moved beyond the survival mode associated with the earliest stag es of the career. Teachers in later stages have developed the competence and confidence related to their responsibilities within the three components of the agricultural education program model. A career in teaching can be lengthy. Once a teacher has perfected his or her knowle dge and techniques of classroom/ laboratory

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116 instruction, FFA and SAE, they risk boredom; fee ling as though they have lost the enthusiasm which initially drew them to th e career. Teachers need to feel as though there is still much to learn and discover, and that they have the capac ity to make a difference. These needs are often filled as teachers involve themselves in serv ice opportunities for the profession. From filling leadership roles in professional associations to organizing reform, collaboration can help teachers develop a broader professional awareness, allowing them to see their careers as more than what happens in their classrooms. Collaboration reduces the is olation teachers often expe rience. Although surrounded by students, teachers are separated fr om their peers for a considerable part of the day. This leaves them unable to seek assistance with their peda gogical and content con cerns during that time, often when they need it most. Collaboration is a va luable tool for socializing teachers. It removes the barrier of the classroom walls and draws teach ers together in a variet y of contexts. Whether through meetings, workshops, down time at CDEs for students, or even conferences, collaboration helps teachers ge t to know one another and adva nce their relationships beyond the acquaintance stage. Establishing connections with others provides teachers with the emotional support critical to helping them work th rough a variety of professional challenges. Collaboration among teachers increases their ca reer satisfaction. When teachers interact regularly on the basis of their common profe ssional connections, they develop familiarity, understanding, and tolerance for one another and fo r their work. Collaborative activity increases the levels to which teachers are engaged in thei r career responsibilities and are committed to developing and maintaining viable agriculture programs. Furtherm ore, collaboration impacts the degree to which teachers are invested in the ove rall profession. These elements contribute to a teacher culture which is supportive of teacher gr owth and development. Through collaboration, a

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117 teacher may even receive help in making decision s about their careers; including changes to their pedagogical practice and whether or no t they will persist in the career. Two research questions were pursued in this study. The first inquire d as to experienced secondary agriculture teachers perceptions of teacher collaboration. At its essence, the phenomenon of teacher collaboration involves conn ection with a purpose. Teacher collaborators have within them the desire to make edu cation better for teachers and students alike. Collaboration lets teachers band together, not just to talk about solutions, but to make things happen. Much more than time for teachers to get to know one another, teacher collaboration is a professional development tool, providing teachers with real opportunities to feel more capable and rewarded. Collaboration requires investment and hard work. It motivates teachers to dig deep within themselves; to questi on, to challenge, to risk, to share, and to be diligent in such pursuits. The second research question asked how e xperienced secondary agriculture teachers experienced teacher collaboration. At some point in their careers, teachers come to a place where they want more than they have done, or are ab le to do, alone. Collabora tion with other teachers affords them the opportunity they need to achieve a higher level of performance for themselves, their students, and their profession. Teacher coll aboration occurs through both spontaneous and structural avenues but a teachers preservice teacher education pr ogram is often his or her first encounter with the phenomenon. Teachers who ac tively collaborate treasure opportunities for informal interaction. Such moments not only allow prospective collaborators to find one another, they help form friendships resulting in last ing partnerships. Teachers experiences with collaboration are key contributors to their car eer development, satisfaction, and commitment.

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118Table 4-1. Participant Descriptions. Name Years Teaching Certification Teachers in Program Statewide Professional Leadership County Description Personal History Kevin 16 Traditional 2 Active Semistructured with supportive CTE supervisor Northern part of the state 7 agriculture teachers in county Former secondary agriculture student Dad & cousin are agriculture teachers High school agriculture teacher in different county before present appointment Christy 16 Traditional 2 Active Traditional structure with strong county agriscience supervisor Central part of the state 41 agriculture teachers in county Former secondary agriculture student Only young female teacher in county upon hire Middle school teacher before current appointment 5 years Mark 13 Traditional 1 Active Semi-structured with supportive CTE supervisor Central part of the state 11 agriculture teachers in county Former secondary agriculture student Career in banking before current appointment 10 years Has taught at same school the entire time

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119 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION Introduction The current study posed two research que stions: How do experienced secondary agricu lture teachers perceive teacher collaboration? and How do experienced secondary agriculture teachers experience te acher collaboration? The partic ipants in this study were secondary agriculture teachers with a reputation for collaborati ng with other teachers. Even though all of the teachers were trad itionally-certified and fell within the expert and distinguished phases of the Steffy et al. (2000) Life Cycle of a Career Teacher model, they varied in their personal experiences with teacher collaboration. Using the research questions as a lens through which to view the data, it is evident the teacher participants credited teacher collaboration with having a positive impact on the quality and longevity of their careers. This chapter will discuss the key findings from the study and place them within the existing literature on teacher collaboration. Implications for research and practice will also be presented. Key Findings The researcher discovered the participants comm ents related to the phenomenon, attended to each aspect of the studys conceptual model (Figure 2-1), including: teacher learning, teacher collaboration, teacher professional developmen t, teacher career satisfaction, and teacher retention. The teachers seemed to emphasize the di fferent pieces of the model in similar ways with varying examples from their experiences. Ta ble 5-1 features the key points which emerged from the data and their connections to the lite rature. Each teacher in the study placed a high value on teacher collaboration, viewing the phe nomenon as having a positive impact on their development and the development of those around them.

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120 Teacher Learning Each participant focused on teacher learni ng when describing teacher collaboration. Throughout their interviews, the participants reve aled their collaborations with other teachers helped them learn more about their roles as teach ers, and as teachers of agriculture. This finding corresponds with those by Johnson (2003). The ti me spent sitting and talking with other professionals about their work was valuable fo r these teachers. Similar to Carrolls (2005) findings with elementary mentor teachers, interactive talk affo rded these agriculture teachers the chance to extend the career-related knowledge they gained from th eir teacher education programs. Working with others brought them acce ss to knowledge, skills, ideas, and resources which had previously been beyond their reach; just as it did for teachers in the Gehrke and McCoy study (2007a). The benefits of collabor ation related to teacher learning helped participants feel more confident in fulfilling specific career-related responsibilities. Reflection emerged as an essential element of the experiences this teacher group had with teacher collaboration, a consideration at the hear t of Hargreaves (1994) work on the topic. An awareness of their personal needs, and knowing what they could offer others, were powerful motivators for helping them select the collaborative opportunities in which to engage. Reflection also helped them become more open to how th ey perceived the concept of education (Rodgers, 2002). Each mentioned their collabora tions related to more than ju st their particular classrooms and subject matter. This line of thinking was dem onstrated by their decisi ons to pursue advanced degrees and positions of leadership within their professional association. It was clear this group of teachers was seeking to impact the way those outside of agricultural education perceived the discipline. Collaboration opened the eyes of these t eachers, to let them see the critical nature of their involvement in the agricu ltural education profession. They realized they were important

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121 pieces of something larger and that their active i nvolvement was critical to the overall health of the profession. Teacher Collaboration Each collab orative experience recalled by th e teachers was a direct result of their willingness to take a risk. They were dissatisfie d with their professional situations at various points in time, as well as their commitment to themselves, their studen ts, and their profession. This compelled them to seek change rather than wait for it to happen. This level of investment caused the teachers to recognize and seek opportun ities for collaboration more than they would have otherwise. These findings support the work of Johns on and Birkeland (2003) who found those teachers who were willing to persist in the pr ofession reached out and seize those opportunities to form relationships and work with their peers. Finding opportunities for grant work, creating teacher and student CDE training workshops, an d even volunteering to steer legislative initiatives for career and technical education came from the teachers themselves rather than from the outside. These types of spontaneous events seemed to have the greatest and most lasting impact on the development of these teachers. It is important to note each of these grander collaborations was born out of collaborative re lationships fostered by a focus on teaching and learning, and improving the daily performance of teachers. The teachers in this study encountered co llaboration as a purely classroom-based experience when they worked with their form al, district-mandated mentors. However, the teachers soon began to realize their mentors lim ited ability to assist with the responsibilities specific to their positions as agriculture teach ers; a finding supported by Greiman et al., (2005). They knew they needed to connect with teache rs in similar positions at other schools, who possessed common goals and philosophies but ha d a diverse knowledge a nd skill base (Sumison

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122 & Patterson, 2004). By expanding thei r circle of influence, their le vel of satisfaction with their performance as advisors to FFA and SAE increased, as did that of their students. The shift in their focus about when and where teacher collabo ration was appropriate re quired the teachers to look beyond the competitive culture of agricultur al education. The FFA and SAE environments could, at times, feel as though teachers were pitted against one another. The participants were able to move beyond this mindset by maintain ing a common commitment to student learning. The outcomes of these actions often resulted in a win-win situation for everyone involved (Seifert & Mandzuk, 2006). Teachers in the present study not ed rich experiences with teacher collaboration. They appreciated the contributions teacher collaboration made to their professional lives. In fact, each highlighted the additional layers of educatio nal professionals with whom they formed connections, including: school and county admini strators, school and county support staff, community members, and university faculty (Johnson, 2003). The phenomenon allowed them to form lasting friendships and im portant bonds because of their shared work (Hargreaves, 2001). With every successful experience, these teachers crafted shared goals and history which led to more opportunities for collaboration. They also felt their informal interactions with other teachers were prime opportunities to further de velop their connections (Hartnell-Young, 2006; Park et al., 2007). The time they spent waiting fo r their students to compete in CDEs was perfect for having meaningful discussion. Overall, their willingness to be open and public about their experiences serves as an example to others in the profession about the importance of teacher collaboration to agricultural education. Based on the present participan t groups experiences with te acher collaboration, each felt they yielded the greatest bene fit from spontaneous collaborat ions, a finding also noted by

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123 Williams et al., (2001). While based on common goals, the spontaneous collaboration among the agriculture teacher group respected their autonomy by allowing them more choice surrounding the logistics of their work. They did confess structured collaborat ion provided some benefits to their work, such as giving them the push they need ed to interact with othe rs, but the rigidity of those experiences felt like a dr ain on their time and energy. The freedom they enjoyed with spontaneous collaboration allowed them to se t their own agendas, communicate through a variety of mediums, and work together when it was most convenient for all parties involved (Hargreaves, 1994; Selwyn, 2000). These elements often made their spontaneous collaborations more professionally revi talizing and productive. Teacher Professional Development The teachers viewed teacher collaboration as consistent and persistent means of professional development throughout their careers, beginning with their earliest encounters as preservice teachers when they fo stered their initial connections with peers (Seifert & Mandzuk, 2006) Teacher maturation played a role in the colla borative experiences of these teachers, much like they did in the findings generated by the Park et al. (2007) study. Th e moment they entered the career, the teachers had a solid base of knowledge for practice (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999). Their understandings of agricultural conten t and pedagogy were predominantly shaped by the understandings gained from their teacher e ducation program. However, the opportunities for increasing their knowledge in practice and knowledge of practice were extremely limited in that environment (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999). When met with their first opportunities fo r collaboration as preservice and beginning teachers (Johnson & Birkeland, 2003), the teachers could not easily see past the personal needs they associated with their lo cal programs (Hargreaves, 2000). Each had a limited focus during this time due to a lack of professional experi ence. As the years passed, they developed new

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124 knowledge and skills relate d to their experiences in an agri culture teaching context (Carroll, 2005). The time spent learning, practicing, and witn essing the results of their efforts not only filled their toolboxes with knowledg e and skills, it built th eir confidence to share with others (Butler et al., 2004). Each felt confident sharing th eir expertise as it rela ted to the three major components of their agriculture programs (Boone & Boone, 2007; Greiman et al., 2005; Warnick et al., 2004). The fact collaboration could: (1) occur at any point in their ca reers, (2) bring new challenges and opportunities for learning, and (3 ) permit them to have some say over the logistics of the work were features making it an attractive professional development tool. These findings were similar to those reached by Hargre aves (2000) who determined collaboration must be aligned with the needs and goals of teachers if it is to help them develop. In many cases, collaborating with other teachers caused the partic ipants from this study to first think about a practice, then question its potenti al for leading to the results they sought, and finally make a decision which often resulted in a changed belief or behavior. The flexibility of the work to grow and change with each of the teachers as a suppor t for life-long learning was also mentioned by Butler et al. (2004). The findings of this study uphold those within the literature on teacher professional development as these teachers demons trated the greater the investment, the richer their experience, the better the outcome, and the more lasting the change. Teacher Career Satisfaction In the firs t few years of their careers, the teachers mentioned they were trying to learn everything. Their collaborations often focused on trying to develop lesson plans, managing the FFA and SAEs, and increasing their knowledge of the content area (Greiman et al., 2005; Hanson & Moir, 2008). After some time, the teac hers could complete their career-related responsibilities with littl e effort. It was at this point, the teachers went in search of new

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125 challenges, often beyond their individual programs. Each one accepted leadership positions with the state agriculture te achers association, as well as other opportunities fo r service to the profession. While initially a way to seek fresh challenges, these ne w frontiers helped the teachers continue to enjoy the career and be fulfilled by it. It also expanded their awareness of the profession, a benefit mentione d by Carroll (2005) as well. Participants recognized teacher collaboration as having a positive impact on their career satisfaction (Johnson & Birkeland, 2003). Many f actors contribute to a teachers low career satisfaction, among them, teacher isolation (Greim an et al., 2005; Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). Each teacher expressed they were less than satisfied with their careers prior to collaborating with others. They confessed they ofte n entertained the idea of leaving teaching when they worked independently for long stretches, and were conf ident they would have continued those thoughts had they remained isolated. Similar to the experiences of the leavers described in the work of Johnson and Birkeland (2003), teachers in this study had rocky starts when they accepted their first teaching positions. They admitted having experienced feelings of overwhelming frustration. However, their determination, commitment to their career choi ce, and opportunities to collaborate with other teachers in a variety of ways helped see them through those difficult periods (Gehrke & McCoy, 2007a). A variety of teacher collaboration is used in education, for the purposes of teacher socialization and teacher learning (Hargreaves 1994; Puchner & Taylor, 2006; Sumison & Patterson, 2004; Williams et al., 2001). In the present study, collaboration strengthened the teachers resolve to grow and improve. Teacher Retention Johnson and Birkelands (2003) study found teache rs who left within the first few years on the job d id so because of the professional frustrat ion they felt. For one teacher in particular, the

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126 sheer monotony of the job presented her with feelings of hopelessness and doubts about her professional commitment. The lack of challenge teaching presented afte r a while was enough to cause her to wonder if she was goi ng to leave the classroom or b ecome the type of teacher who stayed yet was completely disengaged. Instead, sh e chose the challenge of working with other teachers. As a result, she gave those collaborative activities credit for keeping her in teaching and moving her career onward and upward (Cochran-Smith, 2004). Each teacher in the study believed in the im portance of contributing to the profession beyond classroom teaching. In some cases, the te achers even believed in contributing beyond the agricultural education community. Although this belief was prompted by different reasons, each felt they had something to offer in a way that would satisfy the profe ssional needs of other teachers and themselves. The choices they made also demonstrated their commitment to the future of the profession, a commitment ofte n resulting in increased program visibility. Implications for Research As a result o f this study, several directions for future research on teacher collaboration surface. The present study contributed agricultural educations voice to the literature related to the phenomenon. Despite this accomplishment, the voices only represented three high school agriculture teachers in Florida; each a product of the same university teacher education program. To confirm the studys credibility, this study s hould be replicated in a similar context. Phenomenological methodology suggests including up to ten people (Creswell, 1998, p. 65). In order to increase the breadth of the study, future research should consider similar studies using sample sizes larger than three. Drawing on teacher s at middle schools, teachers at different points in their careers, and even those teachers in other states would lend still greater diversity to the literature.

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127 Agricultural education comprises one sect or within career and technical education. Because the two share legislative, funding, and philosophical ties, future research on teacher collaboration should include the voices of thes e related professionals. Much like agriculture teachers, the experiences of other CTE teachers ha ve been less evident in the literature. By highlighting their voices, the professional ne eds of CTE teachers may be better addressed. Phenomenology is a return back to the th ings themselves (Crotty, 2003, p. 78). Using another research methodology would examine t eacher collaboration from perspectives beyond that foundation. A focus group study comprised of teachers who collaborate among themselves may prove important for identifying the proce sses and outcomes of their interactions. Looking into the inner workings of the group could also reveal more about the relationship dynamics which transpire in collaborative environments. Such insight could aid agricultural education professional development provide rs in creating strategies to foster the use of teacher collaboration on a broader level. In this study, reflection was desc ribed as a catalyst leading to the participants experiences with teacher collaboration. An investigation of the ways teachers reflect and come to the conclusions they need help from one another, may prove to be an important next step. Further, it may be interesting to describe how they move from everyday conversation to more sophisticated levels of collaboration like working on projects or even e ngaging in problem solving. An investigation into the success of va rious tools teachers have used to collaborate with others may shed more light on the phenomenon. Lesson st udy, teacher study groups, literature circles, interactive talk, and online resources like wikis, are just a few of the tools bringing teachers together.

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128 A deeper examination of the teachers first collaborative experiences would also be a valuable study for teacher educators and those who prepare and facilitate teacher induction programs. In the present study, each participant had positive ea rly experiences with teacher collaboration. This gave the teachers the c onfidence to seek additional collaborative opportunities. Learning more about the circumst ances surrounding initia l experiences with collaboration may assist support providers in is suing opportunities for teachers to work with others much sooner. It may also help them discover how to create the ideal collaborative environment. Findings may also uncover ways to help teachers enjoy gr eater satisfaction and successful outcomes related to teacher collaboration. Teacher retention is an issu e of national concern (Cochran-Smith, 2004; Ingersoll, 2001b; Kantrovich, 2007; Osborne, n.d.). With teachers leaving so soon afte r their arrival, they find it difficult to gain the skills necessary for success. According to Worthy (2005), Teachers who stay in teaching improve dramatic ally during their first few years. However, largely because of low job satisfaction, too ma ny leave before this point. Thus, it is critical to retain new teachers for at least fi ve or six years so they can reach their full potential (p. 381). The current study focused on the perceptions and experiences current, mid-career teachers had with teacher collaboration. A future study shoul d examine the collaborative practice of those who have left the profession to expand what is known about the phenomenon. Finding out whether or not this group utilized teacher colla boration in their careers would provide valuable insight into the issue of teacher career satisfaction and retention. Looking into the collaborative activities of beginning teachers would uncover more highly specific accounts of how early care er professionals were exposed to collaboration. Data from this type of study could also generate how beginni ng teachers feel about using collaboration to establish themselves in the profession. Because of their place in the career cycle (Steffy et al.,

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129 2000), teachers within this group wo uld provide richer information on the topic as it relates to this point in the teaching career. As hard as they tried, it was difficult for the current study participants to recall the fine details of these ear ly experiences due to the time gap. It is much easier for teachers in the apprentice phase (Steffy et al., 2000) to recal l memories of their preservice teacher education programs since, in most cases, they will have only been out a few years. Another study of interest could use survey design to investigate teacher collaboration on a grander scale. Agriculture teachers from across th e state and even the nation could comprise the sample population. Inquiring as to the type, frequency, and outcomes related to their collaborations with other teachers would produce more generalizable data. Such a quantitative examination of teacher collaboration may prove us eful to those planning and facilitating the professional development of agriculture teachers. Implications for Practice Hargreaves (1994) stated, Physically, teachers are often alone in their own class rooms, with no other adults for company. Psychologically, they never are. What they do there in terms of classroom styles and strategies is powerfully affected by the outlooks and orientati ons of the colleagues with whom they work now and have worked in the past. In this respect, teacher cultures, the relationships between teach ers and their colleagues, are among the most educationally significant aspects of teachers lives and work. They provide a vital context for teacher development and for the ways that teacher s teach. What goes on inside the teachers classroom cannot be divorced from the rela tions that are forged outside it (p. 165). The teachers in the present study demonstrated the vital connection between collaboration and career satisfaction leading to retention. The current findings and prior research reveal the teacher isolation which plagues the profession may be eased through teacher collaboration (Boone & Boone, 2007; Greiman et al. 2005; Hargreaves, 2 001; Williams et al., 2001). Considering its use as a professional development tool teacher collaboration has the potential to positively impact a

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130 teacher throughout his or her career (Gaurino, Santibanez, & Daley, 2006; Johnson & Birkeland, 2003). The findings also suggest this study has implications for addressing the factors contributing to the problem of teacher attrition facing agricultural education. Many references were made by the participants about the role reflect ion played in their decisions to collaborate. This practice of inquiry led each to examine their individual circumstances against their professional goals and the new information they encountered. Beyond private reflection, they often engaged in dialogue with another teacher they trusted, discussing opportunities to addres s the focus of their inquiry. Th ese dialogues generally led to collaboration on projects, formal professiona l development programs and plans for improving performance of career-rela ted responsibilities. Teacher educators must work hard to create an environment in their teacher education programs which fosters teacher reflection. Espoused platforms are integral to gaining a sense of what each pre-professional believ es about teaching and learning. They must be developed early in their programs. These documents serve as the basis for individual development, as well as the development of a collaborative teaching culture. Teacher educators must call their students attention to these statements of ten, encouraging them to consider how their new learning either supports their beliefs or refutes them. With time, these private inquiries may be moved into a small-group or whole-class discus sion. This process allows teach er educators to foster trust among preservice teachers as they learn to activ ely question together. This advances their reflective practice and the potential for socia lly constructed knowledge about agricultural education, teaching, and learning. State agricultural education st aff and leaders of professional associations can continue to support the development of a reflective enviro nment by inviting professional dialogue on the

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131 topic of teacher collaboration. Sin ce these groups have the potential to play an important role in planning statewide agriculture teac her professional development, they are in a prime position to shape program delivery. They can request every pr esenter show a connecti on between his or her presentation and the practice of teacher colla boration. By integrating discussion on the topic during their workshops, agriculture teachers will spend considerably more time thinking about the act of collaboration and getting used to it s presence in the profe ssion. The teachers should also be led through exercises to encourage teach ers to consider how teacher collaboration can work for them and their colleagues. Guided ac tivities like needs assessments and reflective prompts, followed by down time to let teachers vi sit about their responses may create the chance for teachers to discover opportunities for m eaningful collaboration. The use of such recommendations may also help to ease the pr ofessions competitive culture so widespread collaboration might thrive. The teachers expressed positive feelings regardin g their relationships with their preservice peers during their teacher educati on programs. Once hired to their fi rst jobs, they often turned to these individuals for help in finding solutions to th eir early challenges. It is important for teacher educators to find ways for pres ervice teachers to develop a wil lingness to help others improve. Preservice teachers need opportunities to learn and practice the skil ls and attitudes important to successful collaboration. The incorporation of colla borative elements in class could include: paired class discussions, cooperative learning projects, online course com ponents for reflecting on class meetings, and webcams to encourage discussi on continues as preser vice teachers become separated by their student teaching experiences. Professional development activities offered through student organizations like Collegiate FFA (CFFA), can afford these individuals many

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132 opportunities for collaboration. One such possibility is working together to develop workshops for delivery at the state FFA convention. Each of these practical possibilities could support preservice teachers as they begin to develop the ha bits of mind to look to their fellow teachers as an extension of their base of knowledge and expert ise. While viewed as more structural due to their use within a course, their value is as a to ol to model activities which can be used more spontaneously in the future. Two of the teachers in the present study disc ussed experiences they had collaborating with other teachers during their internships. These opp ortunities presented themselves because their cooperating teachers took the time to introduce them to others. Much more than a mere introduction, they encouraged the participants to form ties with other teac hers resulting in crosscurricular teaching opport unities. Teacher educators must he lp cooperating teachers understand the importance of these experiences to the development of preservice teachers. Teacher education can do this by adding th e activity to the list of experi ences preservice teachers should have during their internships. The small gestur e sends a strong message to cooperating teachers and preservice teachers alike, that it is important for agriculture teachers to reach out to other teachers in the school community. Taking it one step further, t eacher educators and cooperating teachers should help their preservice teachers identify objectives from their lesson plans and connect them with opportunities to collaborate w ith specific teachers in the school. Directly supporting this area of development may make pres ervice teachers more inclined to reach out to teachers in other disciplines throughout their in ternships, as well as throughout their careers. Seeking cross-curricular opportuni ties helps agriculture teachers think of their agriculture students as students they share with the other teachers in the school It also helps them consider the important role they can play in the developm ent of all students and teachers in the school

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133 community. Agriculture teachers must share thei r students work with teachers from other content areas. For example, publicizing any work a student of agriculture produces which integrates concepts from science, English, math ematics, social science, and even art into agriculture, can begin to build bridges which may surpass the divide between the academic campus and the CTE campus. Even with the best of intentions, coll aborations among teachers can fail (Bondy & Brownell, 1997). Although minimal, the participants expressed a few situations where their collaborations with other teachers were not as rich as had been anticipated. Such outcomes can be traced to poor or even absent collaboration sk ills. Consequently, state staff, teacher education, and FAAE must work together to provide inst ruction and support to teach agriculture teachers the skills needed to collaborate effectively. Important skills in clude: listening carefully, using clear language, understanding and respecting other peoples perspectives and finding common ground (Bondy & Brownell, 1997, p. 112). Such skills se ssions could be part of the inservice education programming or presented in an online format. The information could be presented via an e-newsletter or even placed on a website in a modular form for teachers to work through. This move helps practicing teachers deve lop their awareness and use of th ese soft skills in preparation for the work they will do as cooperating teachers. Opportunities for promotion do not often exist within the teaching ranks of education. This realization can bring great disappoi ntment and dissatisfaction as teac hers wonder what is left to challenge them. Often, there are opportunities for personal and professional development, teachers merely need to be made aware of what is out there. To improve teacher communication, state leaders must develop the infrastructure to make a multitude of resources available to teachers.

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134 According to the state agriculture teacher dire ctory, virtually every teacher in the state has an active school email account. The development and distribution of e-newsletters through the state listserv may provide one way to share info rmation with teachers. The creation of a Florida agricultural education we bsite would be another way to spread word about professional opportunities. Since one is not curre ntly found online, this new site should be a home base with a variety of pertinent information to help teache rs feel connected, no matter where they may be located. The addition of a discussion board may prove useful for teachers to discuss state-wide issues, and even post their own questions for co mment by others. A page on the website, or a regular column in the e-newsletter, could share teachers stories of collaboration with others. Publication of their success might inspire others to begin making connec tions and collaborating (Worthy, 2005). Including an online version of the state agriculture teache rs pictorial directory would provide a copy of the latest contact info rmation to increase familiarity among teachers and ensure new teachers are promptly welcomed. Such resources would be especially helpful for those counties without an appoi nted agriscience supervisor facilitating county agricultural education activities. As revealed by one member of the study, some teachers may know what opportunities await them but are unwilling to ta ke the risk and volunteer. To en courage teachers to develop a broader educational focus, they must be invited to participate in the activities of their state agricultural teachers association. The Florida A ssociation for Agricultural Education (FAAE) provides leadership opportunities through service to the organizat ion as an officer and area representative. Because of its association with the entire profession, the organization should take on a greater share of the planni ng and facilitation of the stat es professional development programming. FAAE, in cooperation with the Florid a Farm Bureau and the state Department of

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135 Education, also sponsors the Florida Agriculture Teacher Leadership Program where teachers are selected to travel the state, meeting industr y leaders and learning more about the Florida agriculture industry. FAAE officers must make it their personal mi ssion to visit with the states agriculture teachers and encourage them to be active, dues paying members of the organization. They must also encourage talented teachers to consider running for offices once they have completed their terms. Their leadership in this capacity has the potential to change the current state culture from one of competition and isolation; to one where teachers across the state value professional events and have an unspoken expectation that everyone w ill take part in them. Helping teachers find opportunities to be active in th e National Association for Agri cultural Education (NAAE) and the Association for CTE will further state agri culture teachers capacity for expanding their thinking beyond their state. Loneliness is often dangerous to the commitme nt and persistence of early career teachers (Johnson & Birkeland, 2003). To launch a united front against this problem, state staff, teacher education and the FAAE must ensu re opportunities are available for teachers to socialize. There must be time built into formal event schedules for professional disc ussion and interaction. Informal opportunities for teachers to talk can encourage the development of connections leading to spontaneous collaboration in the future. Simply providing snacks and a lounge space for teachers while their students compete in various events may encourage them to gather and visit on professional matters. Conclusion Agricultural education finds itself locked in the n ational teach er shortage trend (Kantrovich, 2007). When examining the reasons t eachers exit the profession before retirement, feelings of isolation leading to career dissatisfaction, are big c ontributors. To meet the growing

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136 needs of qualified agriculture teache rs, retention of current teachers is vital. The literature states teachers benefit from interaction with other teac hers. As a result, teacher collaboration holds promise as a way to help alleviate high teacher turnover. The evidence in this study demonstrates the relationship teacher coll aboration enjoys with three areas contributing to teach er retention, including: teacher knowledge, teacher professional development, and teacher career satisfaction. The result is the essence of teacher collaboration. The characteristics are: Collaboration deepens/ broadens a teachers knowledge. Collaboration is a product of reflection. Collaboration stems from taking the initiative. Collaboration is more likely to occur when teachers have: common expertise, language, philosophies, age/ gender/ years of teaching experience, problems, expectations/ goals and diverse skills & knowledge. Collaboration is fostered and supported through informal experiences. Collaboration goes beyond work with other agriculture teachers. Collaborative relationships: are mutually benefi cial, involve professional friendships, can be professionally challenging, respec t individuality of members, can ease competitive cultures. Collaboration is more lasting, meaningful, us eful, and welcome when it is spontaneous. Collaboration is profe ssional development. Collaboration has the potential for use in all areas of the agricultural education model. Collaboration is likely when experiences begin early. Collaboration evolves with a teachers experience. Collaboration is a way to find additional reward once the teacher is beyond survival mode. Generally includes an increased professional awareness. Collaboration provides emotional support and decreases isolati on as a socialization tool.

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137 Collaboration increases teacher career satisfaction and may cont ribute to program viability and teacher retention. This study provides evidence that teacher collabo ration is a useful t ool for enhancing the professional experiences of secondary agricultu re teachers. This seemed to be accomplished through early and steady exposure to the phenome non. Teachers began their first collaborations during their preservice teacher education program s. As the teachers developed, so did the collaborative experiences. They consistently met the teachers exactly where they were with regard to need and interest. Teacher collabora tion continued steadily throughout the teachers careers, presenting them with new challenges to impact the overall health and vitality of the profession. In the case of these teachers, their co nnection to the larger aspects of their work increased their long-term enjoyment of, and pe rsistence in, the agriculture teaching career.

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138Table 5-1. Teacher Collaboration Research Findings. Conceptual Model Component Finding Data Literature Connection Teacher Learning Collaboration deepens/ broadens a teachers knowledge of teaching and learning through the act of pooling knowledge, skills, resources, philosophies, ideas... KHell find something, either a lesson plan or a topic, or a piece of equipment, What do you think about this Kevin? Or, Ill find one and say, You know lets try this, or have you tried that? Better look at this Mr. Peterson. He is extremely open to new ideas, teaching methods, and technology. CI know when we started collaborating, really good stuff came at a time when I had been teaching 10 years. M[There are teachers] that, How did you guys cover it? How are you able to come up with this? I had a parent do this, or I had this teacher come in and help with that. Carroll, 2005; Gehrke & McCoy, 2007a; Goddard et al., 2007; Hanson & Moir, 2008; Hargreaves, 1994; 2000; Johnson, 2003 Teacher Learning Collaboration is a product of reflecting on ones professional state. KI wasnt fast. I take my time. I am pretty methodical because reflection was what the National Board was all about, reflecting on your teaching. How you can do it better. Reflect, reflect, reflect. CFor anything to be useful, it has to be personal. It has to be something you need. [Ask yourself] Is there someone I can work with that will make this better? MThere is no way you can do it all. I realized that when I was trying to fix everything to try to teach, it was going to take a lot more than what I had. So I had to win friends and influence people to get something to work. Hargreaves, 1994; Rodgers, 2002

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139Table 5-1. Continued Conceptual Model Component Finding Data Literature Connection Teacher Collaboration Collaboration stems from taking the initiative to reach out to others; often based on a need to know, and have access to, more. KHe [Mr. Peterson] taught me you have got to reach out and ask, to not be afraid to say something. CWe kind of felt out of the loop sometimes... We worked together. MI guess that is where my desire for collaboration came from. It was out of frustration over not having anything. Johnson & Birkeland, 2003; Little, 1990 Teacher Collaboration Collaboration is more likely to occur when teachers have: Common expertise Common language Common philosophies Common age/ gender/ years of teaching experience Common problems Common expectations/ goals Diverse skills & knowledge KI am glad the [Florida Agriculture Teacher Leadership] program came about because I met a really neat lady who became an excellent partner. I really didnt know her before. We are really different but we are really alike. We tease each other and say we are the Yin and the Yang. CIf you have people who do the same thing, then it can be a competition. It hasn t been that way for us [her group of collaborators]. Each of us is open to new ideas but what I am good at and what she is good at are very different things. You need to bring other perspectives in. MI continue to look for like-minded teachers that buy into this philosophy that you cant be the endall and know-all and we need help. If were not educating kids, why are we doing what were doing? To be the best you have to beat the best. Carroll, 2005; Dooner et al., 2008; Hargreaves, 1994; 2000; Johnson, 2003; Penuel et al., 2007; Sumison & Patterson, 2004

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140Table 5-1. Continued Conceptual Model Component Finding Data Literature Connection Teacher Collaboration Collaboration is fostered and supported through informal experiences, creating a positive atmosphere (ie. mealtime conversation, phone calls, email). KAnd it makes it easier. Lets go have a bite to eat or come and visit. We love to sit down and just chit chat. I like that a lot better because it is more me than before [when I was told to collaborate]. CTechnology has really helped me in finding more time I can call anyone, any time, anywhere Email is so instantaneous. It has really helped In the beginning [of her career] if you needed something from someone you needed to get together. You had to physically meet and you dont have to do that now. MThere is not a whole lot for the teachers to do while you sit around waiting for students to finish competing. So, you sit around and you start talking. Hartnell-Young, 2006; Park et al., 2007; Selwyn, 2000; Sumison & Patterson, 2004; Williams et al., 2001

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141Table 5-1. Continued Conceptual Model Component Finding Data Literature Connection Teacher Collaboration Collaboration goes beyond work with other agriculture teachers to include: administration/other school and district employees other non-agriculture teachers community university faculty mentors professional association leadership students KWith the University summer science workshop series, I would come back with notebooks and she [science teacher] wanted to go. She has never looked down [on agriculture] and said, Oh, you need to do more science. She would look through the materials for ideas to use and teach agriculture in a scientific method or other laboratory. CI was lucky to get on a [middle school] team the first year with a lady who was an experienced 7th grade English teacher. She was really good at classroom management and at interacting with kids. I was lucky enough to get under her wing. MI call the boys [teacher ed faculty]. I said, I dont know if you can use this or not but Ive tried to stay in touch with them so I can give [my students] the best possible advice. Gehrke & McCoy, 2007b; Hanson & Moir, 2008; Johnson, 2003; Wang & Odell, 2002 Teacher Collaboration Collaborative relationships: are mutually beneficial involve professional friendships can be professionally challenging respect individuality of members can ease competitive cultures KIt makes me feel better that my friends are feeling the same heartaches I am. CI think we got more out of it than someone who did it by themselves. MCollaboration works and it helps and there is a lot of win-win for everybody. Hargreaves, 1994; 2001; Seifert & Mandzuk, 2006; Sumison & Patterson, 2004

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142Table 5-1. Continued Conceptual Model Component Finding Data Literature Connection Teacher Collaboration Collaboration is more lasting, meaningful, useful, and welcome when it is spontaneous rather than structured. KOne day I just called him [ag teacher in Georgia]. We talked about nursery landscape and how to teach the CDE. He told me where to look, which nursery they went to [before the contest], and where to look for that kind of stuff [contest materials]. It was a great talk. CI made my own associations and these collaborations were probably more useful and more productive. It seems like it is more fun and you get more out of it persona lly and on the professional level. MThat is what collaboration can be. Because of that one teachers nice conversation at our State FFA Convention, theyre now giving away scholarships Bogler, 2002; Hargreaves, 2000; Park et al., 2007; Weiss, 1999; Williams et al., 2001 Teacher Professional Development Collaboration is professional development; a useful tool for encouraging teachers to seek opportunities they may not otherwise. KWhen I think of collaboration today, it may not be in a lesson plan or that type of format. I collaborate with my peers professionally. We call it professional development and I think that is what it is. I think it still plays an important part in driving my professional development. CI feel [collaboration] has helped me a lot in the way I teach and what I teach. It has also helped with the things Ive decided to do, or not do, either in the classroom or with the FFA. I think it is extremely beneficial. MI think I am a better teacher. Butler et al., 2004; Carroll, 2005; Dooner et al., 2008; Erickson et al., 2005; Hargreaves, 1994; Park et al., 2007; Puchner & Taylor, 2006

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143Table 5-1. Continued Conceptual Model Component Finding Data Literature Connection Teacher Professional Development Collaboration has the potential for use in all areas of the agricultural education model. KI started collaborating with her [science teacher, Mary] to get through the science courses that I was teaching. Most labs require chemicals. I didnt buy a thing. I went to Mary. We go to the storeroom and its always, Whatever you need, Kevin. I drove her classes to [the marsh] two and three times every year. (classroom/lab instruction) CI pretty much had the traditional type SAEs. We shared ideas and I incorporated a couple of nontraditional things [exploratory and agriscience] so everyone could participate. (SAE) MWhen I asked Rebecca for some help, she said, Just come by here and well work out with my team. (FFA) Boone & Boone, 2007; Greiman et al., 2005; Hargreaves, 1994; Park et al., 2007; Warnick et al., 2004 Teacher Professional Development Collaboration is likely when experiences begin early (ie. univers ity teacher education program). KI kind of leaned on George a lot. He helped me with physics. CWhen we werent assigned a project where we worked together we were always studying together and doing our personal stuff together. It was a nice little group. We were all having the same experience [during student teaching] at different locations we could really relate in that way. MWe just kind of fed off of each other and supported each other. We worked with each other. Johnson & Birkeland, 2003; Sumison & Patterson, 2004; Seifert & Mandzuk, 2006

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144Table 5-1. Continued Conceptual Model Component Finding Data Literature Connection Teacher Professional Development Collaboration evolves with a teachers experience (Appendix E). KThe first few years [of my career] I felt like I was in survival mode After I moved to my current school, I was able to collaborate more because I wasnt trying to survive anymore. CIn the beginning, I was mostly collaborative because I had to or I needed to. You were not necessarily told but it was required of you. Then I got to the point where I made my own associations where I still am right now. MIt kind of started from there [collaboration with the preservice cohort] and then developed from there. Park et al., 2007 Teacher Career Satisfaction Collaboration is a way to find additional reward once classroom instruction, FFA, and SAE have been perfected or the teacher is beyond survival mode. Generally includes an increased professional awareness due to a greater competence and confidence. KI am seeing a need for being worried about more than your own skin, even though that is where it starts. We need to be worried about everyone because it will all affect us. CI think I was ready for some new blood, some influence of something. We tried to do things on a higher level with the kids and with ourselves. Every time you better yourself, the repercussion is the kids will do better. MI have a greater appreciation for what we do because I see what other teachers dont do and I see how our students respond in this class versus other classes. Carroll, 2005; Gehrke & McCoy, 2007b; Hanson & Moir, 2008; Hargreaves, 2000; Johnson & Birkeland, 2003; Puchner & Taylor, 2006

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145Table 5-1. Continued Conceptual Model Component Finding Data Literature Connection Teacher Career Satisfaction Collaboration provides emotional support and decreases isolation as a socialization tool. KI didnt have the chance to work with other ag teachers at my first school. But buying in and talking to people, that makes it fun. Collaboration eases the loneliness. I can pick up a phone and talk to a friend/ an ag teacher/ another comrade and get their ideas. CThere was nobody because, not to be mean, but they were all men! That was kind of difficult. There wasnt even anybody young. They had all been there quite a while. They were nice enough but they were not overly friendly to help you. MIt was rough!... I called him Then I got to know his teaching partner It just kind of mushroomed from there. Boone & Boone, 2007; Burbank & Kauchak, 2003; Dooner et al., 2008; Gehrke & McCoy, 2007a; 2007b; Greiman et al., 2005; Hargreaves, 1994; 2000; 2001; Johnson, 2003; Little, 1990; Kardos & Johnson, 2007; Park et al., 2007; Seifert & Mandzuk, 2006; Sumison & Patterson, 2004; Williams et al., 2001 Teacher Career Satisfaction and Teacher Retention Collaboration increases teacher career satisfaction and may contribute to program viability and teacher retention. Contributes to a more supportive culture Contributes to the level of teacher engagement and investment May help guide career decisions Kthats the fun part of the job The collaboration has increased my job satisfaction If we are not going to collaborate professionally, then it is a dead profession. CI think it has been good for me. Getting to work with somebody revitalizes you. MI would say the importance of collaborating professionally depends on how successful you want to be and how soon you want that to happen You have to hit some home runs to get the publicity and support from your administration. It shows this is a viable program that needs to stay in the community. Gehrke & McCoy, 2007a; Johnson & Birkeland, 2003; Park et al., 2007; Weiss, 1999; Woods & Weasmer, 2004

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146 APPENDIX A LETTER TO EXPERT PANEL Septem ber 28, 2007 Dear _________________________, As you know, each year talented teachers leave the profession prior to retirement. This often leaves schools and school di stricts in a challenging position to replace teachers in a time of severe shortages. While research in teacher career retention indicates a number of reasons teachers leave the profession, some of the reasons frequently cited are the feelings of isolation and the lack of socialization teac hers experience in what some de scribe as a lonely profession. Therefore, I am conducting a research study to better understand the influence teacher collaboration has on ones level of job satisfaction and willingness to remain in the profession. I am in need of your assistance with this important research. As an agricultural teacher educator, you are an expert on the development of teachers in the state. You have an understa nding of their practice in the classroom, in FFA, in SAE, and in matters of program management. With this expe rtise, I am requesting you review the list of names and identify those teachers who would be be st suited for participation in this study on teacher collaboration. From the following list, identify one teacher you believe would be best suited for pilot testing the interview guide and three teachers to partic ipate in the actual study. The list of teachers provided was developed using the following criteria: (1) are mid-career high school teachers, (2) are traditiona lly certified in agricultural education, (3) have completed the majority of their teaching experience at their current schools, and (4) have developed strong collaborative relationships with ot her educational professi onals. As the expert, do your best to use your professional perspective. Please make your selections and return the names to me by Thursday, September 27th, 2007. Edward Beasely Mark Charles Christy Rogers Lauri Adams Roger Peyton Kevin Page Alanna Thompson Thank you for your participation. Your role in agricultural education, an d in this study, is critical to the future success of the profession and to the agricultural industry. Ann M. De Lay

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147 APPENDIX B EMAIL TO RECRUIT PARTICIPANTS October 17, 2007 Dear _______________________, In m y 2 year experience in Florida agricultural education, my world was forever influenced by my interaction w ith you. While at your school superv ising interns, I also had an opportunity to observe and visit with you. During that time, I found you to be an agriculture teacher who openly collaborates with other teach ers and because of that professional quality, I would like to invite you to partic ipate in my dissertation study. Being fascinated with the issue of agriculture teacher retention, I have been doing a lot of reading on teacher socialization and cooperation. The research continually demonstrates these factors seem to help alleviate some of the negative aspects of the teaching car eer. Right now, agricultural education is clamoring for research to better understand how to deal with the problem of rapid teacher turnover. I think through conversations w ith you, we might just learn a little more about what it takes to get teachers to stay in the classroom. With your consent, I would like to conduct a se ries of three intervie ws (lasting between 60 and 90 minutes each) to learn a bout your experiences with, and beliefs about, professional collaborative relationships. If you are willing to participate in this important study, please let me know by October 10, 2007 and we can arrange a date and time to do so. Thank you so much for considering my request. Ann M. De Lay

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148 APPENDIX C INTERVIEW GUIDE Researcher Introduction : Thank you for your willingness to participate in this study. I want you to think about collaboration as it relates to the decisions you make as a prof essional; essentially how and why you do what you do. Take a moment to think about your collaborative experiences and how your interaction with others has sh aped you personally and professionally. Now, lets visit over the following questions. Session 1 Focused Life History Interview Questions Describe your experiences with collaboration during your preservi ce teaching program (ask for stories). Is there anything else you would like to ad d? Do you have any questions or comments? Thank you for your time. Session 2 Details of the Experience Interview Questions Tell me about those teachers with whom you collaborate. On what types of things do you tend to collaborate with other teachers? Tell me how you began collabora ting with other teachers. Describe your experiences with teacher collaboration. How important is it to co llaborate professionally? What occurred in your career to help you realize the benefits of collaboration? Tell about the challenges you ha ve found related to collabora ting with other teachers. Is there anything else you would like to ad d? Do you have any questions or comments? Thank you for your time. Session 3 Reflection on Meaning Interview Questions In what ways has your collaborati on with other teachers evolved? Based on your experiences, what promotes collaboration? What changes in your practice do you believe ca n be attributed to your collaboration with other teachers? How have your collaborative experiences imp acted your perceptions of the profession? In what ways do you believe you can increase the usefulness of teacher collaboration? In what ways have your collaborative relationships impacted your decision to remain in the profession? Is there anything else you would like to ad d? Do you have any questions or comments? Thank you for your time.

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149 APPENDIX D THANK YOU EMAIL TO PARTIC IPANTS FOR MEMBER CHECK January 05, 2008 Dear _____________________, Thank you for m eeting with me during the extended interview series and sharing your experiences regarding teacher co llaboration. I appreciate your will ingness to share your unique perspectives, thoughts, feelings, events, and situations. Attached is a copy of the transcripts for each of the three interview sessions. I invite you to review the documents while asking yourself if the interviews ha ve captured your full experience with teacher collaboration. Once you have reviewed the transcripts, you may realize an important experience(s) was neglected. If you find yourself in this situation, feel fr ee to elaborate on those experiences by adding comments using the tr ack changes function on your Microsoft Word program or providing it in its ow n attachment. Please do not edit th e transcripts for grammatical corrections. The way you told your story is what is important. When you have reviewed the verbatim transcri pts and have had an opportunity to make changes and additions, please return them to me as attachments in an email. Should everything meet your satisfaction, I will commence analysis. I have valued your participation in this study and your willingness to share your experiences with teacher collabora tion. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you by January 10, 2008. Thank you! Ann De Lay

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150 APPENDIX E CONTINUUM OF TEACHER COLLABORATION

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151 Novice Phase Apprentice Phase Professional Phase Expert Phase Distinguished Phase Emeritus Phase Effective Performance Spontaneous & Structural Professional Comfort Big Picture of Profession Seeking new challen g es Teachers in other areas Survival Mode Mentor Teache r Preservice Peers Teacher Educators Trusted Teachers Willing to ris k Seeking Leadershi p Program Re q uirements Expanded Collaborations Key Group Collaborato r Cooperating Teache r Often Structural Often S p ontaneous Mostly S p ontaneous Mostly S p ontaneous Time & Experience Effectiveness

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152 Adapted from the work of Joerger (2002) and Steffy et al. (2000), the model describes teachers collaborative experien ces through different career phases. Descriptions of teacher collaboration within each phase follow. Novice: (Preservice Teacher) These teach ers collaborate primarily on completing requirements of their degree programs (ie. course assignments, practical experiences, and student teaching). Collaborative experiences may be both structural, if prescribed by their professors, or spontaneous, if the interaction is initiated by these pre-professionals They collaborate most frequently with their peer s in the preservice program, their teacher educators, and their cooperating teachers during this time. Apprentice: (Induction Teacher) Co llaborations during this time mainly focus on survival experiences. These include how to teach, as well as what to teach. Fo r agriculture teachers, additional programmatic responsibilities such as advising the FFA chapter and supervising SAEs are also being learned. The collabora tive experiences during this time are often structural as early career teach ers are required to participate in induction programs, of which mentoring and team meetings are part. Collabora tors during this phase include the teacher's mentor, as well as other trusted teache rs with a little more experience. Professional: (Effective Teach er) These teachers collaborate beyond the typical teaching responsibilities. They have the basic classr oom/ laboratory instruction, FFA, and SAE tasks under control and are working on improvement. Many feel both competent and confident in their knowledge and skills and are willing to risk. The experiences teachers have with collaborations during this phase are often spontaneous as they have already learned many of the school and district processes and protocols. Teachers in other subject areas, as well as in the same subject area at other sc hools, are sought for collaboration. Expert: (Master Teacher) Expert teachers fulfill the highest level of professional expectation. They have achieved professiona l comfort regarding their individual teaching contexts through mastery of their classr oom/ laboratory instruction, FFA, and SAE responsibilities. The collaborat ive experiences for these teachers are mostly spontaneous due to their level of experience and success. This phase tends to have a small circle of key collaborators to whom these teachers turn most frequently, who are most likely from the same content area. Distinguished: (Gifted Teacher Leader) Having been effective in their own schools, these teachers have shifted their energies to the pr ofession as a whole. They seek opportunities to lead others and work on behalf of all teach ers, to address challenges many teachers face. As their focus is expanded, so is their coll aborative network. At this phase, the teachers collaborative experiences are again mostly s pontaneous, with these teachers taking on the projects and opportunities they feel will make the greates t impact on the profession. Distinguished teachers often collaborate with l eaders from their own and related professional associations, administrators, stat e staff, and teacher educators. Emeritus: (Retired Teacher) None of the particip ants had reached this phase of the Life Cycle of a Career Teacher (Steffy et al., 2000) at the time of the study. As a result, this level of the continuum as it relates to teacher collaboration is incomplete.

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153 LIST OF REFERENCES Achinstein, B. (2002). Conflict am id community : The micropolitics of teacher collaboration. Teachers College Record 104(3), 421-455. Ackerman, R. H., Donaldson, G. A. Jr., & Van Der Bogert, R. (1996). Making sense as a school leader: Persisting questions, creative opportunities San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc. Alliance for Excellent Education. (2005). Teacher Attrition: A costly loss to the nation and to the states Retrieved. June 24, 2007, from http://www.all4ed.org/public ations/TeacherAttrition.pdf Angen, M. (2000). Evaluating interp retive inquiry: Reviewing th e validity debate and opening the dialogue. Qualitative Health Research 10(3), 378-395. Arthur, S., & Nazroo, J. (2003). Desi gning fieldwork strategies and materials. In J. Ritchie & J. Lewis (Eds.). Qualitative research practice: A guide for social science students and researchers (pp. 109-137). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Ary, D., Jacobs, L. C., Razavieh, A., & Sorensen, C. (2006). Introduction to research in education (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth. Association for Career and Technical Education. (n.d.). Whats career and technical education? Retrieved March 30, 2008, from http ://www.acteonline.org/career_tech/ Balschweid, M. A., Thompson, G. W., & Cole, R. L. (2000). Agriculture a nd science integration: A pre-service prescription for contextual learning. Journal of Agricultural Education 41(2), 36-45. Bogdan, R. G., & Biklen, S. K. (1998). Qualitative research in educ ation: An introduction to theory and methods (3rd ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Bogler, R. (2002). Two profiles of schoolteachers: A discriminate analysis of job satisfaction. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18 665-673. Bondy, E., & Brownell, M. T. (1997). Overcomi ng barriers to collabora tion among partners-inteaching. Intervention in School & Clinic, 33 (2), 112-115. Boone, H. N. Jr., & Boone, D. A. (2007). Why do agricultural education teachers continue to teach? A qualitative analysis. Proceedings of the American A ssociation for Agricultural Education research conference USA 34, 561-570. Bransford, J., Derry, S., Berliner, D., Hammerness, K., & Beckett, K. L. (2005). Theories of learning and their roles in teaching. In L. Darling-Hammond & J. Bransford (Eds.), Preparing teachers for a changing world: What teachers should learn and be able to do (40-87). San Franci sco: Jossey-Bass.

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163 Woods, A. M., & Weasmer, J. ( 2004). Maintaining job satisfaction: Engagi ng professionals as active participants. The Clearing House 77(3), 118-121. Worthy, J. (2005). It didnt have to be so hard: The first years of teaching in an urban school. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 18 (3), 379-398. Yendol Silva, D., & Dana, N. F. (2001). Co llaborative supervision in the professional development school. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision 16(4), 305-321.

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164 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Ann Marie De Lay was first exposed to agricu ltural education when she enrolled in the program at Chowchilla Union High School in Chow chilla, California. Engaging in the programs opportunities, she knew she was where she both wa nted and needed to be. Each piece of the agricultural education mode l helped her realize her deep appr eciation for the industry and fueled her interest in teaching agriculture. Once accepted to California State University, Fresno, Ann began her program in the area of agricultural education. Taking advantage of every opportunity, she grew as a leader and an agriculturist. Upon completion of her Bachelor s degree, she completed a year of student teaching; an experience which taught her much about her identity as a teacher. She was hired to teach in the agriculture program at Central High School in Fresno, California. The large urban program had seven-teachers and was among the largest programs in the country. Not only did she teach, she served as the FFA advisor and advised the dairy and horticulture SAEs. Freshmen were her favorite stud ents since they perceived everything as new and exciting and had limitless energy. Ann completed a Masters degree from Californi a Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and returned to serve in a full-time lecturer capacity at Fresno State. The opportunity allowed her to teach the next ge neration of agriculture teachers. The experience taught her as much as it did the students she served. Currentl y, Ann is completing a PhD from the University of Florida, in the area of Agricultural Edu cation and Communication and looks forward to assuming a role as a teacher educator in the area of agricu ltural education.


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