What Factors Influence Undergraduate Agricultural Education Students’ Perceptions of their Academic Major?
The purpose of our study was to describe the factors that influence undergraduate Agricultural Education students’ perceptions of their academic major at [UNIVERSITY]. It should be noted that our study is an ongoing undergraduate research project and our data set will expand over time. We used semi-structured interviews to collect our data. Our interview protocol consisted of 12 questions that addressed: (1) student demographics information, (2) student perception of field experience and instructors, and (3) the struggles that they have faced within the Agricultural Education academic major thus far. After receiving Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, we solicited our prospective research participants (n = 44) via email. These 44 students were enrolled in the undergraduate Agricultural Education program at [UNIVERSITY] during the Spring 2023 semester. Several preliminary results and themes emerged throughout the coding process. Of our five participants, four are still majoring in Agricultural Education while one participant had changed their academic major. The following themes emerged as the lenses through which our participants viewed their academic major: (1) family factors, (2) high school agricultural education experiences, (3) career concerns, (4) university-specific factors, (5) positive outlooks, and (6) academic major change. Many participants described the importance of the positivity of staff and faculty, which indicates that students’ relationships with their instructors were very important for these students. This importance of relationships also applies to connections with other Agricultural Education students. Each participant mentioned this as a key factor in their confidence in, and perceptions of, their potential future career. Many participants expressed that the support of their peers was a determining factor in their retention. One of our participants said, “And having you know… my peers, … we were all kind of able to keep that together. So, I feel like even though that was a challenge, it wasn't as bad as it could have been.” As we continue to explore this topic, we noted the importance of both faculty cultivating relationships with Agricultural Education students and undergraduate students reporting serving as positive influences on their peers. Based on our findings, it is important that these Agricultural Education students find meaningful connections with and support each other to help them remain in the academic program. Under the TPB (Bosnjak et al., 2020), students’ belief that they are supported by faculty and peers may determine their intention to retain the Agricultural Education academic major and thus drive their actions. We plan to continue collecting data in the coming semesters to further explore this phenomenon. We recommend the faculty at [UNIVERSITY] prioritize relationship-building with Agricultural Education students and create opportunities for them to strengthen their professional bonds. Doing so may very well help students to continue crafting a sense of community within their academic major and their future profession.
Conference Name (full, no abbreviations): 2024 Southern Region of the American Association for Agricultural Education (Atlanta, Georgia)
Dates: February 3-6 2024
Sponsoring Body: American Association for Agricultural Education
Conference Website: http://aaae.agedweb.org/Event.asp?EventID=96
Hutson School of Agriculture
Dr. Trent Wells
Hutson School of Agriculture
Wiseman, Emma, "What Factors Influence Undergraduate Agricultural Education Students’ Perceptions of their Academic Major?" (2024). ORCA Travel & Research Grants. 158.