Kevin J. Donnelly, Dana J. Minihan, Bryson Haverkamp, Jessica Zimmerman and Kim Kerschen, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
The North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) sponsors a Judging Conference each spring that includes competition in six or more agricultural areas. The Crops Contest consists of four parts: Plant and Seed Identification, Laboratory Practical, Written Exam, and Math Practical. The national Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) performance objectives are the basis for topics covered in the NACTA Crops Contest. Kansas State has been participating for about 20 years. Senior students are encouraged to try out for the team, and one academic credit is available if desired. To prepare for the contest, students spend 4-5 hours per week during spring semester reviewing concepts learned from their previous agronomy courses. As such, it serves as a great capstone experience, but it is also an excellent tool for assessment of student learning. After participation in NACTA, students are well prepared to take the CCA exam, which most have also done and all have passed. For the past two years, the Department has paid part of the fee for our students to take the CCA exam during their senior year. In 2012, we also offered a two-night training workshop for those who planned to take the exam. Of the 16 students who took and passed the CCA exam in 2012, 7 had NACTA experience. The NACTA group averaged 91.4% vs 84.2% for non-NACTA participants on the international exam and 85.0% vs 79.5% on the Kansas exam. One student summarized, “By reviewing past classes as well as other materials for the contest, I was able to refresh my memory of agronomy topics, and it also helped me see areas that I needed improvement in. Preparing for the NACTA contest also allowed me to get equally prepared for the CCA exam.“ We conclude that participating in the NACTA contest, linked with support for students to take the CCA exam, have provided great assessment tools for our program and enhanced our student learning outcomes.