Foster feted for study on global competency in agricultural education

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Daniel Foster, assistant professor of agricultural and extension education in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, has received the 2015-16 Roy C. Buck Faculty Award in the Agricultural Sciences for his article, "Preparing Agricultural Educators for the World: Describing Global Competency in Agricultural Teacher Candidates."

The award recognizes the best refereed article published in a scholarly journal in the previous two years by an untenured faculty member in the college whose research involves the social or human sciences. Foster was the lead author for the winning article, which was published in 2014 in the Journal of Agricultural Education.

Co-authors were Laura Sankey Rice, instructor in agricultural education, Penn State; Melanie Miller-Foster, assistant professor of international agriculture, Penn State; and Kirby Barrick, professor of agricultural education, University of Florida.

The article explained that colleges of agriculture in the United States have been challenged to produce teaching candidates prepared with the knowledge, skills and disposition to engage in a global agricultural industry. Studies show that one of the most influential factors in secondary student perceptions and outlook is a student's secondary teachers.

According to the researchers, one theory of transformative learning describes a process of making a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of an experience, which then guides subsequent understanding, appreciation and action that is anchored in life experience. To have the most impact, experiences should be grounded in a context to which students can relate.

Applying this theory, the authors examined how classroom teaching and field experiences combine to influence student perceptions and understanding. To accomplish this, the researchers evaluated 19 teacher candidates who participated in an undergraduate course with a short-term, study-abroad component grounded in global school-based agricultural education.

Students were administered a researcher-developed instrument measuring knowledge, skills and dispositions of global competency three times: prior to the course, after the course but prior to the travel experience, and after the travel experience. Findings indicated substantial, sustained change in candidate knowledge, candidate perceptions of knowledge, candidate perceptions of skills and candidate perceptions of dispositions related to global competency.

The authors recommended further research to measure how these results could impact practice in the secondary agriscience classroom.

"The nature of international agriculture and the pressing challenges we face in addressing food security, economic opportunity and environmental quality underscore the need to instill a global perspective in our future agricultural teachers, scientists and other professionals," said Gary Thompson, College of Agricultural Sciences associate dean for research. "This study presents a valuable framework for developing teaching methods that can promote global competency among today's students in the agricultural sciences. We're pleased to recognize the excellence of this research by presenting Daniel Foster with this year's Buck Award."

Foster received a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona and master's and doctoral degrees from Ohio State University, all in agricultural education.

He joined the faculty in Penn State's Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education in 2009. Previously, he was a graduate teaching and research associate in the Department of Human and Community Resource Development at Ohio State University and an agricultural education instructor and FFA advisor at Willcox High School, Willcox, Arizona.

Those interested in engaging in the conversation about global learning in agriculture as a formal or nonformal instructor/participant or at the secondary and/or postsecondary levels can visit the website of the Global Teach Ag! Initiative -- an initiative of the Center for Professional Personnel Development created by Daniel and Melanie Foster.

Daniel Foster also can be found on Twitter under the username @FosterDanielD.

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Last Updated July 28, 2017