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College of Education

Research identifying STEM-based ag mechanics applied learning lab needs receives national poster award

A poster session describing research led by UW College of Education faculty member Chris Haynes earned “Distinguished Research Poster” recognition at the 34th National Agricultural Mechanics Professional Development Blue Ribbon Research Conference.

The poster, titled “Determining the Teaching Research Resources Needed for an Ideal Post-Secondary Applied STEM (Agricultural Mechanics) Learning Laboratory: A Delphi Approach,” describes ongoing research funded by a grant from the Ellbogen Dean’s Excellence Fund. It builds from work conducted as part of Haynes’ 2012-14 Mary Ellbogen Garland Early Career Fellowship.

At the center of the research is a practical question: what tools and resources do we need to better prepare graduates for real-life teaching needs that grounded in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) principles? The question has specific implications for Haynes and UW’s future agricultural education preservice teachers, as the college plans a major renovation of the program’s laboratory facilities with STEM instruction in mind.

Haynes worked with fellow agricultural education researchers at Iowa State University (assistant professor Ryan Anderson and doctoral student OP McCubbbins) and the Delaware Department of Education (Bart Gill, agriscience education associate) to develop a list of equipment necessary for STEM-enhanced teaching in the discipline.

The team sought recommendations from higher education faculty who teach agricultural mechanics, agricultural education department chairs, doctoral students, and secondary agricultural educators. They pulled several questions for the survey from the CASE curriculum for agricultural power and technology. The three-round Delphi study provided the team with an initial list of 120 tools and other resources for embedding STEM principles into the agricultural education classroom.

Data gathered in this project will inform the next phase of research, also supported by Haynes’ Garland Fellowship. In the meantime, feedback from the poster judging and manuscript review has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging.

“It was surprising that when we got the reviews back on the manuscript itself, that we had all ‘agrees’ on acceptance,” Haynes says. “We were the only manuscript in the entire research conference that received all ‘agrees’ from the judges for it to move forward.”

“Once you hit a ‘distinguished’ or an ‘exemplary’ research manuscript, that’s something to definitely be proud of, because they don’t give out a whole lot of those,” he adds.

Building connections between agricultural education and STEM fields strengthens the latter’s value and increases the viability of a career in high demand, according to Haynes.

“Agricultural education definitely is one of those content areas where they are hurting for teachers,” he says. “One thing about agricultural education: if you want a job, it’s going to be there.”

While UW’s agricultural education program has historically been small, its reputation for preparing quality teachers leaves graduates in especially high demand.

“The percentage of graduates that we put out, in actuality, is higher than what might be the case in another content area,” Haynes notes. “We’re keeping up with the need, so that when we have turnover in the state we have students ready to fill.”

poster plaque

Haynes research recognized

Chris Haynes

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