Our Contextual Applications
A contextual application is the setting and related conditions, often thought of as a “field,” in which the educator applies the knowledge bases with which he or she is engaged. In this department, faculty members and students engage by forming learning communities around the ways to integrate and apply knowledge.
Agricultural Communication-Agricultural Journalism
Agricultural journalism has been an academic program at Texas A&M University since 1918.
As less than two percent of Americans are directly involved in production agriculture, public support of the industry becomes more important. When agriculturalists depend on the public to make personally informed decisions about agricultural related topics, such as food safety, genetic engineering, and sustainable agriculture, we must be willing to reciprocate. Literacy efforts must be reciprocal in that members of the agriculture industry must also increase our understanding of various stakeholder group needs and/or behaviors. Agricultural-literacy is not a new concept; however, the concept of agriculturalists becoming public-literate is new. Increasing our understanding of message development, delivery method preferences and effectiveness, and the extent of change in audience knowledge, attitudes, perceptions and behaviors after consuming related information and messages is critical.
Agricultural communications research draws on quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods methods to understand the intricacies of an increasingly complex consumer decision-making process. Our research includes the development of new methods to measure consumer attitudes, brand and product performance, information available to consumers, and a holistic approach to evaluating the effectiveness of messages throughout the process. Generally, agricultural communications research at Texas A&M University addresses a broad set of research objectives, including 1) Improving our understanding of consumer perceptions, behavior, and decisions related to agriculture, food, and natural resources; 2) Identifying factors that interest and motivate consumers; and 3) Improving agriculturalists’ ability to effectively target and engage complex audiences.
To be successful in change effort, Extension educators must consider the whole educational process. Effective Extension education is based on clear understanding of potential program situations and clientele needs, strategic and tactical planning and goal setting, implementation of plans through appropriate methods and delivery techniques, and evaluation and interpretation of progress outcomes. A longstanding Extension approach has been to involve local stakeholders, both key leaders and potential learners, in deciding the priority areas of Extension education and how Extension educators carry these out.
Students graduating with expertise in this area may seek several career options including Extension agents, 4-H supervisors, state government officials, environmental specialists, and international trainers. All new TCE faculty members in Texas are required to earn a master’s degree within seven years of their employment. Extension is a constantly changing field, so it is imperative that the individual continue to learn and devote time to personal and professional development.
International Agricultural Development Education
This contextual application focuses on developing knowledge, experience, and scholarly competence among faculty and students, providing service, and fostering involvement in activities that enhance agricultural development and education internationally. This includes developing in students, especially those with limited knowledge of or experience in programs of international agricultural development, an understanding of the extent of, constraints on, nature of, settings for, approaches used, institutions involved, and consequences of efforts to facilitate agricultural development, particularly in developing nations. It involves preparing people who want to work in their field of specialization in the international arena to become familiar with settings, trends, tasks, roles, responsibilities, preparations needed for, and critical incidents affecting their success in such work.
Interwoven throughout this contextual area is helping people develop and exhibit cross-cultural understanding and cultural sensitivity while working with or teaching people who have diverse backgrounds and educations. This contextual application also involves preparing people in both formal and informal agricultural and natural resource programming, including participatory programming that values indigenous knowledge. The purpose is to improve social, economic, or environmental conditions, while being particularly cognizant of social-cultural consequences. It includes making comparisons among programs and functions, strengths and weaknesses, and the organization of and relationships among institutions and agencies in national, international, private, and public sectors designed to serve agriculture in developing nations. It involves learning the processes by which development projects originate, are carried out and managed, and are evaluated.
Organizational and Community Leadership
In studying leadership theory, one must realize that there is a difference between socialization of a leader and leadership theory education. Many successful leaders obtain their leadership skills from practice; in other words, they are socialized into leadership as they have learned from their experiences. The conceptual applications for leadership and community education include collegiate leadership education theory courses, student organizations, laboratory practice situations, and practical employment situations. In each of these leadership and community education contexts, students learn leadership process theories and they use analysis and evaluation techniques to synthesize theories into practice. This contextual application is applicable to any field in which the individual works with or affects people.
Students graduating with expertise in this area are marketable in the work force. They have careers that include attorneys, community service agents, sales persons, teachers, county Extension faculty, international development specialists, and communication-oriented representatives.
The context of teacher education focuses on classroom applications or other formal education applications that require certification or licensing. Professional practitioners focus on curriculum development and program planning as related to classroom and teaching situations, educational technologies used to enhance instruction, and research related to teacher effectiveness and learner success. In the United States, there are more than 12,000 teachers of agricultural education in public and private schools. Additionally, the context includes professionals employed as teachers of agriculture in community colleges, junior colleges, and technical schools.
Though professional preparation for this context is aimed specifically at creating the finest agricultural science teachers, other career areas often benefit from the educational preparation in scientific agriculture and people. Students prepared in this context typically accept positions in a variety of areas including agricultural science and technology teaching, but there are many opportunities as training, development, communications, or educational specialists that are related to agriculture and human performance.
Technology-Enhanced Instruction and Professional Development
Distance education is defined as the separation of instructor and learner by time, place, resources, or all three. A professional in this field should be competent in the foundations of teaching and learning at a distance, including adult learning theory, communication and facilitation techniques, knowledge and skills of technology interfaces and interactions, and administrative policies and procedures to support faculty and students. Designing and creating instructional materials that may be distributed via interactive video, Internet, world-wide web, CD-ROM, and using Web course tools such as eCampus is important for providing access to education and professional development. A Master of Agriculture in Agricultural Development is available online and a Joint Ed.D. with Texas Tech University (Doc@Distance) is available in a distance education format to cohort groups. The materials developed for distance delivery may be used to provide content and flexibility to on-campus learners. Technology-enhanced instruction may include visualization tools such as streaming media, animation, simulation, and Web-based materials.
Graduates with expertise in this area work primarily as teachers, consultants, instructional designers, and media experts in a variety of applications including school districts, universities, Extension, government, international, and business/industry settings.