An Exploration of the Professional Development Needs of Agricultural Educators within the VET Sector: A Mixed Methods Study
Recent studies have highlighted the contribution of education to the productivity and viability of the Irish agricultural sector. This paper explores the training needs of agricultural educators within the vocational education and training sector by examining educators’ experience in their role based on educator qualification, availability of continuous professional development and opportunities for development. The study was conducted in Ireland using a mixed methods explanatory sequential design. The study sample consisted of the national population of agricultural educators within the vocational education and training sector, i.e. agricultural colleges. Data collection methods included a national survey and three focus groups. The findings highlight a challenge across Irish agricultural colleges in how educators are trained to teach, in their motivations for the role, and their long-term desire to remain teaching. It also demonstrates the importance of continuous professional development and the need to enhance training, particularly, pedagogical training, to agricultural educators. It can be concluded that stronger supports are required at both recruitment and throughout an educator’s career for development and progression. This study is one of the first studies in Ireland to investigate the continuous professional development needs of agricultural educators within the vocational education and training sector. The paper explores the pedagogical underpinnings of agricultural education, with the aim of developing teaching and learning needs in parallel to technical expertise.
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