A Phenomenological Study of How Leaders Influenced the Career Choice of Pre-service Agricultural Education Teachers

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This phenomenological study explored the career selection process of 13 agricultural education pre-service teachers from Texas Tech University. These students were purposefully selected to participate in this study based on their major, certification, and future plans to become school based agricultural educators (SBAE). The study used a qualitative research design, adopting a postmodern humanistic paradigm and a phenomenological approach to explore the lived experiences, behaviors, motivations, and the impact of certain leaders which influenced the thirteen students’ choice to become agricultural educators. Agricultural education is a discipline encompassing a wide range of topics related to agriculture, food production, and natural resources management. The NAAE website states that agricultural education “prepares students for successful careers and a lifetime of informed choices in the global agriculture, food, fiber, and natural resources systems.” Agricultural education teachers play a critical role in preparing the next generation of agricultural leaders and professionals hence the purpose and aim of this study. The study is relevant, as understanding career choice in emerging teachers and the role their experiences played in the decision process is a step on the path of addressing teacher shortages and teacher retention in the field of SBAE. Data for this study were collected using semi-structured interviews and observations. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data collected allowing for the reduction of the large dataset into smaller, more meaningful themes, increasing the rigor of the study through its transparent structure, which facilitated the coding procedures. An inductive coding method was utilized without a pre-existing codebook or set of themes. All codes were developed based on the data provided in the interview transcripts, rather than relying on pre-existing theories or categories. This inductive coding approach enabled the capture of novel findings that were not initially anticipated, provided flexibility during the coding process by not adhering to a specific theoretical framework, and enhanced the validity and transparency of the study findings by minimizing biases and assumptions. Thematic analysis of respondent interviews resulted in three compelling themes: (1) schooling experience as a catalyst to create teachers; (2) intrinsic motivation and intent to teach; and (3) perceived limitations of the teaching profession. However, an overarching theme emerged upon analysis of the data. All 13 respondents reported the influence of leaders on career choice. Overall, the results of the study support transformational leadership as a catalyst for change.

agriculture, education, leadership, career choice