A QUALITATIVE STUDY OF PROSPECTIVE ELEMENTARY TEACHERS’ GRASP OF AGRICULTURAL AND SCIENCE EDUCATIONAL BENCHMARKS FOR AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGY
The purpose of this qualitative study was to determine the level of understanding that prospective elementary teachers possess about biotechnology in agriculture. Based on the constructivist approach to learning and research, respondents’ understanding of two nationally defined technology-focused educational benchmarks in agriculture was determined. Data analysis included validating benchmarks and language that guided discourse, generating conceptual proposition maps, coding responses for comparison with expert propositions, and interpreting confirming or disconfirming patterns among informants. Informants who grew up in rural areas demonstrated a more complex understanding of the trade-offs inherent in agricultural technology, while those from urban backgrounds indicated the most concern over ethical dilemmas. Pollution of the environment as a result of pesticides was the most completely understood concept. Conversely, the informants lacked understanding concerning human manipulation of plants and animals to produce desired characteristics. Prospective teachers in this study did not possess requisite understandings to help elementary students gain knowledge and understandings of, or concern for the trade-offs found in the use of agricultural biotechnologies.