Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


First Advisor

Julie Thomas

Second Advisor

Lisa Karr

Third Advisor

Lawrence Scharmann

Date of this Version

Fall 5-2020


Sorensen, N. (2020). Applying agriculture curriculum as a vehicle for science learning.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Educational Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Julie Thomas. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2020

Copyright 2020 Nicole L. Sorensen


Agricultural educators in Nebraska are confronting increasing need to integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education into agricultural curriculum. Though there are more than 80 agricultural education programs in Nebraska, the state does not provide many state-based curricula options within agricultural education pathways. The purpose of this exploratory survey research is to learn about the viability of an integrated, agriculture and science-based curriculum that is publicly available to agricultural education instructors. The study posed the questions: (1) What is the feasibility of a publicly available, science-integrated agriculture curriculum within Nebraska agricultural education programs? and (2) What are the benefits of a science-integrated agriculture curriculum within Nebraska agricultural education programs?

This study engaged Nebraska agricultural education instructors to explore the viability of a reconstructed companion animal biology course that integrated biology. This companion animal course (originally organized in an online format) included content focused on biological principles, which allowed the alignment of Nebraska College and Career Ready Standards for Science (NCCRS-S) Life Science, and Nebraska Agricultural Education Small Animal Management or Veterinary Science state standards within an animal biology course.

Online survey assessment of a sample unit of the integrated biology and agricultural education course, Companion Animal-Biology, indicated that Nebraska agricultural education instructors found the course allowed successful implementation of both science and agricultural education standards. Through the inclusion of this curriculum into their classrooms, participant Nebraska agricultural education instructors determined this small animal science unit would better prepare students for science learning. Participants also stressed the apparent need for integrated science and agricultural curriculum within the state of Nebraska. In sum, Nebraska agricultural education instructors were newly confident about this resource to teach an integrated science and agricultural education curriculum. This new curricular approach will provide a resource for agricultural educators who are lacking (a) content knowledge in both companion animal and/or core science subject areas, as well as (b) approaches for integrating core sciences into agriculture education. These research results can help inform Nebraska agricultural educators about opportunities for growth and implementation of integrated, science and agricultural curriculum within their classrooms.

Advisor: Julie Thomas