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University of FloridaPenny S. Haase-Wittler, Assistant ProfessorShannon G. Washburn, Assistant ProfessorIntroduction/Theoretical FrameworkPurpose/Research QuestionsPurpose of ResearchConceptual Versus Theoretical FrameworksResults/FindingsClassification of Research by Philosophy, Purpose, and MethodMMMNumber and Type of References Cited in Journal of Agricultural Education ArticlesNumber of Citations in the Conclusions, Recommendations, and/or Implications Sections of Journal of Agricultural Education Articles (N = 348)Date of PublicationaConceptual FrameworkTheoretical FrameworkTotalsConclusions/Implications/RecommendationsReferencesSTRUCTURING AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION RESEARCH USING CONCEPTUAL AND THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS James E. Dyer, Assistant Professor University of Florida Penny S. Haase-Wittler, Assistant Professor State University of New York-Oswego Shannon G. Washburn, Assistant Professor University of Florida Abstract The purpose of this study was to examine the degree to which agricultural education research has adhered to a structured approach over the past decade. Specifically, the study sought to determine the types of research conducted in agricultural education, the extent to which researchers used conceptual and theoretical frameworks, the extent to which conclusions addressed conceptual and/or theoretical frameworks, and to assess how the formation and use of conceptual and theoretical frameworks had changed over the past decade. The researchers evaluated all research articles published in the Journal of Agricultural Education from 1990 through 1999. Findings revealed that the majority of the research conducted in agricultural education over the past decade has been quantitative, applied survey research. Only 29% of the articles reviewed cited an appropriate theoretical framework. However, over 87% cited an appropriate and clear conceptual framework. It was found that researchers cited a limited number of references in establishing conceptual and theoretical frameworks, and often failed to relate their findings back to those frameworks. Selection and use of theoretical frameworks improved over the decade, although the number of studies with appropriate frameworks was still considered low. Articles accepted to the journal exhibited less well-developed conceptual frameworks as the decade progressed. Introduction/Theoretical Framework The future of agricultural education depends upon many variables, not the least important of which is the acquisition and application of new knowledge generated from research. However, the quality of research in agricultural education has often been questioned. Throughout the past two decades it has been criticized as being without focus, of limited scholarship and/or importance, and considered by some to be inferior to research conducted in other disciplines (Buriak & Shinn, 1993; Radhakrishna & Xu, 1997; Silva-Guerrero & Sutphin, 1990; Warmbrod, 1986). Buriak and Shinn (1989) reported agricultural education research to be perceived by external decision makers (i.e., Deans of Education, Deans of Resident Instruction in Agriculture, Experiment Station Directors) as “soft,” without clearly defined objectives, and lacking in rigor. Furthermore, Buriak and Shinn (1993) reported internal perceptions to be similar to those of the earlier study involving external decision makers. The perceived orientation of agricultural educational professionals appears to be toward teaching and service rather than research (Buriak & Shinn, 1989). Newcomb (1990) noted that in many cases university faculty prefer to teach, advise, design curricula, and work with people – only conducting research to the extent necessary “to get by” (p. 2). Newcomb suggested that research in agricultural education become more focused, coordinated, and conducted with a “passionate vision” (p. 8). Crunkilton (1988) suggested that a framework be Journal of Agricultural Education 61 Volume 44, Number 2, 2003Dyer, Haase-Wittler, & Washburn Structuring Agricultural… developed to show researchers where they have been, and where they can and should go. The theoretical framework for this analysis of research lies in Dewey’s Steps in Reflective Thinking, better known as the scientific method (Newcomb, McCracken, & Warmbrod, 1993), as adapted by Ary, Jacobs, and Razavieh (1996). Ary et al. proposed that there is a “method” of inquiry to which all researchers should adhere in investigating phenomena of interest. Likewise, Lincoln and Guba (1985) noted that even naturalistic studies have a “pattern of flow” that “builds upon…tacit knowledge” and “propositional knowledge,” and “uses methods appropriate to humanly implemented inquiry” (p. 187). Ary et al. (1996) further proposed that in addition to the accepted steps of the scientific method, research should also be evaluated based upon the assumptions made by scientists, attitudes of scientists in controlling for bias, and formulation of scientific theory. Adapted to this study, this framework suggests that there are models to which all agricultural education research can and should adhere. Specifically, the models encompass a structure by which all research should be based upon philosophy, purpose, and method, and grounded in both a conceptual and theoretical framework – either in its inception or conclusion. Miller (1998) cautioned that researchers need to be “green and growing” (p. 1) and therefore continue to refine their research skills, much as a mechanic would hone his or her skills. To do so means that researchers should devote time to maintaining and/or improving skills – to re-focus their attention to minor details that often are overlooked as research techniques approach automatic skill transfer status. This study seeks to determine the extent to which researchers in agricultural education are using those skills to conduct scholarly research. Purpose/Research Questions Buriak and Shinn (1993) noted that human beings are set apart by their ability to solve problems – to conduct research. Ary et al. (1996) emphasized the need to follow a systematic procedure in conducting this research. How well does agricultural education research follow a specified procedure? The purpose of this study was to examine the degree to which agricultural education research has adhered to a structured approach over the past decade. This study was guided by the


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