- Latino students are among the fastest growing demographic groups in the nation, particularly in California, Texas, Florida, and New York. Within California in 2014, over 70,000 students are involved in Agricultural Education programs, and Latino students now account for over 50% of the total enrollment - and the percentage of Hispanics in California Agricultural Education mirrors the total percentage of Hispanic students in California secondary education. Less than ten years ago, Hispanic enrollment in Agricultural Education lagged behind the overall state percentage of Hispanic secondary students. As a new majority, little is known about Hispanic students' experiences in Agricultural Education. To what degree are they motivated to engage? Is Agricultural Education a positive experience?
This parallel mixed methods multiple case study examined four agriculture programs in California's diverse central valley. Students were administered a Self-Determination Theory questionnaire to determine their level perceived competence, intrinsic motivation, identified regulation, external regulation, and amotivation. Results from each program were analyzed to determine the difference in motivation between Hispanic and non-Hispanic students. Moreover, focus groups consisting of Latino students were conducted at each of the four programs to help describe their experiences in Agricultural Education.
Student response rates for the motivation questionnaire varied by school, ranging from 23.90% to 47.64%. The results were mixed. One program showed statistically significant differences in motivation between Hispanic and non-Hispanic students for each of the five scales, with non-Hispanics showing higher levels of motivation. Effect sizes ranged from (d = .31) to (d = .50). Moreover, in all four programs, non-Hispanic students tended to indicate their intention to pursue agriculturally-related careers much more frequently than Hispanics students. The focus group discussion helped explain some of these findings. Students reported benefits to involvement in their agriculture program, but had to overcome several challenges. Some students dealt with inaccurate perceptions of the agriculture program, stereotypes negatively associating their ethnicity with agriculture, acts of microaggression, and structural inequalities that existed between rural and non-rural students in one of the programs. An operational definition is offered to help categorize the privilege some rural students have over non-rural students.
Despite these challenges, students seemed to persist and remain involved in their agriculture program because the benefits appeared to outweigh the challenges. Dynamic diversity as defined by Garces and Jayakumar (2014), appeared to be taking hold in each of the schools in the study as more Latino students continue to enroll in Agricultural Education.