The Influence of 4-H Instructor Beliefs on Their Teaching of Animal Food Production to Youth Populations
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractAgricultural literacy education initiatives are more essential than ever to tackle emergent local, national, and global challenges related to agriculture and food production (Trexler, 2000). Current societal issues, both in and beyond agriculture, require individuals to develop a complex understanding of the agri-food system and the skills necessary to engage in critical conversations (Trexler, 2000). Despite the need for agriculturally literate youth, recent studies indicate that their knowledge of the agriculture industry is limited and underdeveloped (Hess & Trexler, 2011a; Kovar & Ball, 2013). The purpose of this study is to explore how the personal beliefs of 4-H instructors influence their teaching of animal food production to 4-H youth populations in the non-formal teaching setting within a specific southwestern state. The conceptual framework used to guide this study was derived from the work of Martin and Enns (2017) on agricultural ideologies. Martin and Enns (2017) highlight two specific ideologies within the agriculture industry that can be used to identify general beliefs about agriculture- agrarian populist and neo-agrarian. The theoretical framework that guided this study was derived from the work of Jones and Carter (2007) who developed the sociocultural model of embedded belief systems to explain how the belief systems of science teachers impacted their teaching of the subject. The previous agriculture ideologies from Martin and Enns (2017) can be used in conjunction with the sociocultural model of embedded belief systems to explain how the personal beliefs of 4-H instructors influences their teaching of animal food production to youth populations. I used in-depth, semi-structured participant interviews as the data source for my study. Interviews were chosen to allow participants to communicate their own lived experiences and to elicit the internal construct of beliefs (Moustakas, 1994). Five main themes emerged from the data that served as the basis for my findings including: (1) agricultural beliefs of 4-H instructors largely align with agrarian populist ideology, (2) lack of 4-H curriculum to teach animal food production, (3) beliefs of 4-H instructors served as a central driver in how content was taught and assessed, (4) context of the community impacted 4-H instructors strategies for teaching animal food production, and (5) animal food production ultimately taught as raising animals for fair projects. These five themes were closely related and interact with each other, ultimately guiding instructional decisions of 4-H instructors in the study. The underlying essence of the phenomenon was the fear and anxiety present in all aspects of teaching animal food production and the perceived consequences of how the content was being taught on the agricultural literacy of youth. Fear was driven by factors related to beliefs whether it was the participants own beliefs or other individuals’ beliefs that impacted instruction.
Degree ProgramGraduate College