The AG-STEM Education Research Lab in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication at the University of Florida was established to discover ways to improve student learning of STEM concepts in agricultural and life sciences through collaborative research in teaching and learning in formal and informal settings.
The emphasis on science in agricultural education has been a part of educational reform since the US industrial revolution. Early in the 20th century, agriculture instructors helped their students and farmers understand the use of scientific discoveries as well as new farming practices with sound explanations based in the biological and physical sciences. With changes in societal needs, education, and legislation, the role of school-based agricultural education shifted to focus primarily on vocational training. But with the publication of reports such as A Nation At Risk, the later decades were focused on science principles across all curricula. Stakeholders identified a deteriorating workforce lacking agricultural technical skills and scientific knowledge that placed national security and the nation’s economy at risk, and agricultural education began to more fully integrate science principles into the high school agricultural curriculum.
With the renewed emphasis on teaching the science of agriculture, the need still remains for the development of a common definition and guiding model for emphasizing the science of agriculture within school-based agricultural education. School-based agricultural education is a relative unknown to most industry leaders and faculty and administrators in colleges of agriculture, yet it holds significant potential for helping to alleviate the shortage of agricultural scientists. High school agriculture programs located in rural areas provide the best opportunity to attract students who have some experience in agriculture, yet agricultural education programs in suburban and urban schools provide access to a large number of academically able students who enjoy science and could be attracted to an agriscience field. In both scenarios, secondary school agriscience programs exemplify a new biology approach, connecting the sciences to agricultural problems and practices through a formal and informal classroom and laboratory instructional program.
The goals of the AG-STEM Education Research Lab are:
Goal 1: Create a higher level of Lab synergy and visibility.
Goal 2: Conduct research that is vital to the profession.
Goal 3: Connect Lab research to the broader STEM Education literature.
Goal 4: Create a portfolio of Lab products.