FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH WESTERN REGION AGRICULTURE
TEACHERS’ PERCEPTIONS OF TEACHING EFFECTIVENESS
Joe G. Harper, Associate Professor
Robert G. Weiser
Raymond F. Armstrong
Teachers of agriculture education teach in what may be perceived as a unique environment when
compared to other teachers in a secondary school. Agriculture teachers generally instruct not only
in classrooms and laboratories but also on-site at their students’ farms, ranches, and cooperative
learning sites. The scope of such instruction directly involves students’ parents and other members
of the community and usually involves time, effort, and travel beyond the normal school day. Often
agriculture teachers, especially in the Western United States, live in small isolated communities that
present cultural and physical situations which may influence their effectiveness as a teacher.
Identification of such situations and the teachers’ perceptions of how they may influence teacher
effectiveness could increase awareness of the need to instruct to these factors in preservice and
professional development of agriculture teachers. Although teachers of agriculture education may
be individuals who grew up in such communities, and are accustomed to that environment, the
development and maturation of an effective teacher could be enhanced by the awareness of how the
Of particular concern to rural schools is the retention of quality instructors, especially those in
communities of less than 2500 inhabitants. Communities of this size often are characterized by
isolation and thus, insulation from social trends and changes. Schools in such communities account
for 67 percent of the schools in the United States while accommodating 33 percent of the school
children (Matthes & Carlson, 1987, p. 27). Certain environmental factors influence some teachers’
decisions to choose rural teaching positions rather than urban positions. In a survey of Vermont and
Iowa first year teachers, the investigators found that rural teachers rated school size, and the cost
and pace of living as being more important in their placement decision than did urban teachers.
Both groups of respondents indicated that administrative support and the presence of a pleasant
school climate are essential to effective teaching and job retention (Matthes & Carlson, 1987).
Community support of small rural schools is generally strong because parents are often times directly
involved in daily operations. Individualized instruction, peer group teaching, and multi-age grouping,
are considered academic advantages of small rural schools (Kindley, 1985).
Teachers in small rural schools often work in a “make-do” mentality as stated by Cole in his
description of small schools in the rural Midwest. Lack of equipment, deteriorating instructional
facilities, plus the presence of trends nationwide to raise educational standards have placed greater
demands on already strained budgets, manpower, and schedules (Cole. 1988).