CALS student researches national FFA coaching styles
Bret Kindall stepped away from seven generations of family beekeeping to discover his own path in life. At the University of Idaho, he found a passion for agricultural education through an undergraduate research project.
Kindall, a sophomore in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) studying agricultural education and horticulture, wants to understand how FFA coaches can impact the success of students in competitions. His research over the past three months has included data from nearly 1,500 surveys of high school students and FFA coaches.
He said his past experience winning a national FFA competition in floriculture provided valuable background for this research.
Kindall says his project will influence his own coaching techniques when he becomes an FFA coach, but it also may impact how future agricultural education teachers are trained.
Agricultural and Extension Education assistant professor Jeremy Falk — who is Kindall’s mentor for the project — said the results from the research project can be used in CALS agricultural education courses to teach students about FFA coaching methods.
FFA coaching styles can be similar to basketball coaching styles, Falk said. Some lighthearted coaches may communicate lovingly with their players, whereas others have more assertive approaches, and each may have different results with their team.
Falk watched these differences in action at a competition where his team faced a group from Ohio.
“There was a public speaking event, and their student had their notes in hand, and the teacher lit it on fire and said, ‘You better get through this before it burns your hand,’” Falk said. “They're a very winning team and a very successful program. Then there is my behavior in the same event, where it's, ‘Do this and we'll go get some ice cream.’”
The Ohio team took first place and Falk’s team took second.
Kindall said the initial barrier to beginning his undergraduate research project wasn’t the subject matter, but that he simply didn’t know how to get started.
CALS provided an infrastructure of resources at every level to help him carry out this project and learn about his career path, Kindall said. The benefits of conducting research at national FFA conventions provided valuable networking opportunities for him to speak with professionals in his field.
Agricultural education with a specialization in plant science, however, wasn’t always the plan for Kindall.
Despite enjoying picking plants as a child and potting them on his family’s bee farm in Cambridge, Idaho, his initial plan after high school was to study aquarium science in Oregon.
After weighing job opportunities, family advice and personal interests, Kindall decided to pursue a career as an agricultural teacher and his interest in aquarium science is now funneled into his fishery hobby.
Falk said watching students like Kindall to broaden their interests and mature is part of helping students with undergraduate research.
“I think students mature a lot throughout undergraduate research projects because their perception also broadens,” Falk said. “It's really fun to watch some connections being made when he's processing what he's learning and applying it to what he's seeing.”
Story by Jake Smith, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences