April 1996 // Volume 34 // Number 2 // Research in Brief // 2RIB3
U.S. Extension Systems - Facing the Challenge to Internationalize
The purpose of the study was to identify the characteristics that will describe an internationalized state Extension system. The study used a modified Delphi technique to explore and describe the characteristics of an internationalized state Extension system. By consensus of the Delphi Panel, five critical elements were identified. Extension systems can use these as criteria to make initial assessments on the level of internationalization present.
America's future rests on its ability to understand and compete in a world which year-by-year moves rapidly toward economic, political and social interdependence. Ping (1990, p.27)
Extension has existed in the U.S. as part of the Land-Grant College system since 1914. Over time the mission and focus of Extension has changed from production agriculture to include a broader social orientation. An increased interest in internationalization of Extension has occurred (Henson, et Al. 1990; Ingle and Gage, 1990; Somersan, 1992). This interest appeared to be a result of many factors and influences, including the need of an educated citizenry to have the knowledge and skills to compete in a global economy. The report stated "all our people, not just a few, must be able to think for a living, adapt to changing environments, and to understand the world around them." (U.S. Department of Education, 1990, p. 35).
Skinner (1991), in an address to the American Home Economics Association, noted that in a world which is increasingly interdependent, we (Extension) do ourselves and our clients a disservice if we do not prepare them for an increasingly internationalized economy and society. Somersan (1992, p. 2) reported, "Globalization is the driving force of the U.S. and world economy and community. The global village has shrunk. Information, technology, labor, capital, pollution, and culture do not recognize artificial national boundaries. Globalization has reduced the independence of nations."
Few studies have been conducted related to internationalization of the Extension component of the Land-Grant university system. None defined internationalizing in terms of objectively verifiable indicators of success. A need to examine and improve the understanding of internationalizing of a state university Extension system became apparent through a review of the literature. If the characteristics of an internationalized Extension system could be identified, then an organization might focus available resources to create changes needed to achieve internationalization.
To assist in the process of internationalizing Extension, a clearer understanding was needed of what it meant to internationalize and how an organization could measure its progress in becoming internationalized. If characteristics of an internationalized Extension system could be identified, then an organization might focus available resources to create needed changes.
To identify the characteristics that will describe an internationalized state Extension system.
The design of the study was descriptive-survey research. To gain an understanding of the characteristics, the Delphi Research Technique was selected. Delphi, a group process, operates on the principle that several heads are better than one in making subjective conjectures about the future, and that experts will make conjectures based upon rational judgment rather than merely guessing. Delphi was further characterized by multiple iterations or feedback designed to accomplish convergence of opinion. Another characteristic of the process was the anonymity of the respondents.
The study used a three-round, modified Delphi technique to explore and describe the characteristics of an internationalized state Extension system. The Delphi Panel members were purposefully selected following a nomination process. A total of 15 individuals, well-known and respected for their contributions to Extension or Land-Grant colleges or universities in the area of internationalization, were identified. The Delphi Panel was asked to identify the degree to which they believed each item on the instrument contributed to the internationalization of a state university Extension system. A seven point Likert-type scale was used with 0 indicating "no importance" and 6 indicating "critical importance."
The initial instrument contained 39 position statements derived from the literature and structured interviews with international experts. Face and content validity of the initial instrument were assured through the use of a content validity panel. Given the nature of the Delphi technique, additional types of validity and reliability estimates were not appropriate for the instrument (Hughes, 1993; Dalkey, Rourke, Lewis and Snyder, 1972). During Round II, based on suggestions from the Delphi Panel, 12 new items were added and nine items were reworded. The instruments used in the second and third rounds contained items on which a predetermined level of consensus was not achieved during the previous round.
Descriptive statistics were calculated for each round. The computer program SPSS was used for data analysis. For each round, items on which consensus was reached were identified. Consensus on an item was considered to have been reached when 80% of the ratings fell within two categories on a seven-point scale. Following Round III, statistics of central tendency and variability were calculated for all items on which consensus had been reached. The mean was used to describe the level of importance of the item to an internationalized state Extension system as determined by consensus of the Delphi Panel.
The results of the study represent the collective opinion of the experts participating in the Delphi Panel at a single point in time and cannot be construed to be representative of any other population or situation. Fourteen of the 15 participants responded to each round, a 93% response rate. Fifty-one items were considered during the three rounds of the Delphi. Consensus was achieved on 38 items that were identified as having moderately high importance to critical importance for the internationalization of a state university Extension system. Consensus was not achieved on thirteen items after three rounds. Comments made by the Delphi Panel during each round and reported anonymously provided additional information to describe the ratings and clarify issues. Three hundred and sixteen comments were received.
By consensus of the Delphi Panel, the most critical characteristic of a state university Extension system that had internationalized was the output or end product of clientele who developed a fundamental understanding of global and national interdependence. Educational programming efforts having high importance to internationalization included programs that help clientele understand complex worldwide issues, programs that train local business persons for participation in international markets, and interdisciplinary international experiences for key leaders. The Delphi Panel placed high importance on targeting commodity groups for public policy education on global decision making and rural clientele for education on the international marketplace.
Five critical elements were identified by the Delphi Panel as being present in an internationalized state university Extension system:
- Clientele develop a fundamental understanding of global and national interdependence.
- Extension educational programs within the U.S. stress the impact of international economic forces on agricultural markets.
- Extension educators incorporate international perspectives into on-going activities.
- Extension faculty/agents recognize the relationship between basic international issues and the Extension mission.
- Personnel evaluation systems recognize international efforts.
Poston and O'Rourke (1991) reported 80% of Extension directors indicated their state had achieved either a low level or had not achieved any level of globalization. For these Extension systems, internationalization will represent a significant organizational change. Identification of characteristics essential to an internationalized Extension system can assist Extension leaders and university administrators to identify and focus available resources where the greatest impact or change can be realized. A clear sense of direction, strong leadership in internationalizing, and enthusiasm from leaders of the organization will help to ensure concerted and sustained action. Policy and resource decisions are necessary implementation strategies. Organizational change is a slow and often discontinuous process in a complex organization. Ongoing assessment of the progress being made will be necessary.
Extension educators have the responsibility to help clientele develop a better understanding of the complexity of global issues. Issues that might be initially targeted include human health, the environment, diversity, renewable resources, and the agricultural market. Extension "typically tries to be responsive to local needs, but few people recognize a need for international education. This is where international education needs leadership from Extension programmers who can see a need that may be invisible to the general population" was a comment made by a panel member. Extension may have a unique role to play in helping traditional rural and agricultural clientele to recognize the need for education on international issues.
America 2000. (1991). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education.
Dalkey, N.C., Rourke, D.L., Lewis, R., Snyder, D. (1972). Studies in the quality of life. Lexington, Massachusetts: Lexington Books.
Henson, J.B., Noel, J.C., Gillrad-Byers, T.E. & Ingle, M.D. (1990, June). Internationalizing U.S. universities: preliminary summary of a national study. Proceedings of Internationalizing U.S. Universities (Appendix B). Pullman, Washington: International Program Development Office of Washington State University.
Hughes, Matthew. (1993). Career-oriented program activities and learning experiences that promote achievement of middle-grade education goals. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.
Ingle, M.D. & Gage, J.D. (1990). Conference proceedings- internationalizing U.S. universities: a time for leadership. Appendix B. Pullman, Washington: International Program Development Office, Washington State University.
Ping, C. (1990, June). Internationalizing U.S. universities: preliminary summary of a national study. Proceedings of internationalizing U.S. universities. Pullman, Washington: International Program Development Office of Washington State University.
Poston and O'Rourke. (1991, November). Globalization and cooperative extension, final report: November 1991 (Publication 91-53). Washington State University: Social and Economic Sciences Research Center (SESRC).
Skinner, G. (1991, June). Extension's role in linking visions and global opportunities. Speech to the American Home Economics Association Extension Section, Twin Cities Conference.
Somersan, A. (1992). The realities of globalization, implications for extension. 1992 McDowell Lecture, November 18. Pennsylvania State University.