An investigation of factors affecting engagement of Hispanic students in agricultural education

There has been increasing awareness of the disparity between the student population of agricultural education students in California and the involvement in Future Farmers of America (FFA) and Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) components of the program. Hispanic students comprise an ever-larger portion of student demographics, yet are seldom represented in the higher echelons of FFA and SAE activity. This study investigates the factors that affect the decision of Hispanic agricultural education students to engage in leadership development activities through the FFA and the SAE’s hands-on learning elements. A questionnaire was developed and administered to a purposive sampling of 101 students at three high schools. The findings of this study indicate that Hispanic students have a strong set of influences that guide their educational decision making, particularly as compared to Caucasian students. In particular, Hispanic students responded most strongly to an interest in subject matter, with that focus area serving as the strongest influencing factor (p-value= 0.01). In other words, in order to engage Hispanic students in agricultural education’s intracurricular components of FFA and SAE, they must first be interested the subjects inherent in those activities. Additionally, Hispanic students placed a high priority on the social opinion elements of agricultural education (p = 0.01). The influence of social opinion-makers on the decision-making processes of Hispanic youth has been noted by literature and was corroborated through this study (Triandis, 1990; Goodenow & Grandy, 1993). Agriculture teachers seeking to engage Hispanic students to a greater degree will benefit from identifying methods to connect influential students to the activities in their program. Not surprisingly, Hispanic students can be engaged by creating strong relationships between families, the teacher and the student. Hispanic families play a critical role in the decision making of the student, and teachers who develop relationships with families can earn the trust essential to engaging their students. Finally, a teacher who actively creates positive relationships with their Hispanic students may also find a corresponding increase in the engagement of those students in their programs.