February 1997 // Volume 35 // Number 1
Competencies: A New Language for our Work
One of the most critical strategic issues facing the Cooperative Extension System is how to create an infrastructure that promotes innovation and continuous learning. Linking individual competencies that lead to superior performance to the strategic directions of the organization will help us anticipate the new knowledge, skills and behaviors needed in the future in order to respond to complex problems facing our clientele. This commentary suggests that competency models are powerful decision making tools and CES should consider expanding the use of competencies as we strive to achieve relevance, usefulness and quality in our educational programs.
Developing an Extension Pest Management Program Using the Needs-Assessment Process
Designing and improving integrated pest management (IPM) programs requires baseline information and clintele-driven needs assessment about key pests. A multi-phased sequence of needs assessment programs included: (a) identification of the key insect, weed, and disease problems, (b) prioritizing identified pest problems and, (c) developing an action plan, was used to develop a cereal grains IPM program in Montana. This process promoted dialog between clientele, researchers, and Extension personnel, allowed identification of barriers to IPM implementation, and involved clientele in the program development process.
Balancing Work and Family in Cooperative Extension: History, Effective Programs, and Future Directions
Balancing family and work is a continuous struggle for many Cooperative Extension faculty. In 1981 ECOP formulated a position paper recommending that managers critically examine policies and practices and their effects on the family life of Extension employees. Research findings are reported on Extension Agents' stress levels and their effects on family life from six states. Program effects are reported from four different workshops in three states. Components of effective programs are described. To reduce Extension faculty's stress and strain levels, modify organizational policies and management strategies and support faculty who take proactive steps to balance their work and family.
Reaching A New Audience
The challenges of reaching a new audience can be met by creating a flexible program with a many-pronged approach, including a variety of teaching techniques. The Small Ranch Water Quality Program, to teach suburban residents how to manage their property to decrease non-point source pollution, is presented as an example of a successful attempt to reach a diverse audience. Key elements include identification of the idiosyncrasies, needs and desires of the new audience, development of curriculum to meet those specific needs, using the audience to help develop the program, and providing many different types of learning opportunities.
Research in Brief
Instrument Development for Low Literacy Audiences: Assessing Extension Program Personnel Teaching Effectiveness
Performance evaluation plays an important role in providing feedback for self improvement and in assisting administrators with personnel decisions. The main purpose of the study was to develop an appropriate evaluation instrument to be used by low literacy audiences for the assessment of Extension program personnel teaching effectiveness. After content and face validity checks, a nine-item instrument using a pictorial scale and an open-ended statement were selected for the instrument. Items selected reflected six dimensions of teaching: learning, enthusiasm, organization, group interaction, individual rapport, and overall. The low literacy instrument confirms Extension administration's views of serving a wide variety of audiences.
Evaluating Evaluation -- What We've Learned
Impact evaluation will be an important part of establishing program accountability within future Extension systems. Telephone interviews with Extension field staff and nutrition specialists who participated in field testing evaluation instruments highlight the benefits and barriers of evaluation processes. Perceived importance of general program evaluation processes are reported. Points to consider for the implementation of effective evaluation process are presented.
Forestry Demonstrations: What Good is a Walk in the Woods?
Although outdoor demonstrations are a traditional Extension methodology, few studies have documented the educational efficacy of forestry tours. An assessment of the educational effectiveness of Forest Stewardship demonstration in Pennsylvania found that demonstrations enhance learning and induce attitude shifts. Participants tested before the workshop, after an indoor session, and following the field tour scored differently on questions revealing their knowledge of forests and forestry, as well as their attitudes about timber harvesting and clearcutting. Acceptance of clearcutting as a viable forestry tool occurred only after participants toured the demonstration are, including its two-acre clearcut. Demonstrations provide an excellent forum for addressing controversial issues.
Profitability Plus Environmental Sustainability Equals Modified Relay Intercropping
To address the issues of farm profitability and environmental protection, a modified relay intercropping (MRI) system has been studied. In this system, soybeans are planted into wheat at or past the heading stage of growth. A modified relay intercropping system can effectively utilize farm labor, time and equipment, while at the same time reducing herbicide usage in the soybean crop. A descriptive study was conducted to measure the effects of variable wheat nitrogen fertilizer rates on soybean yield. The two year soybean yield in the MRI system average was 33.9 bushels per acre. There were significant differences in soybean yield between wheat nitrogen rates in 1995 only.
An Evaluation of Two Modes of Self-Paced Agent Inservice Training
Little attention has been paid to evaluating modes of in-service training for county agents. This article describes an evaluation of agent in-service training comparing written and audiotape approaches. The primary purpose of the study was to evaluate whether one approach would have an advantage over the other in self-paced training situations. Step-families were the topic of the training. Data were collected from 119 Alabama Cooperative Extension agents. Results indicated that written approaches were more successful than the audiotape approach in producing knowledge gains. Implications for the training of Extension agents are discussed.
Ideas at Work
Teaching Time Management Skills To Farmers
An Ohio management education program for farmers incorporates time management techniques into its curriculum. Content is drawn from Stephen Covey's "First Things First" and "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". Participants utilize Covey's model to determine the importance and urgency of activities and tasks. Participants categorize a number of typical farm activities as to their importance and urgency. Time management strategies complement the teaching of the five functions of management.
"Valuing Differences" was an initial phase of an on-going staff development program to strengthen cultural diversity programming efforts of the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service by focusing on the issues relating to reaching people of different cultural values particularly Native American, Hispanic-American, African-American, and youth gangs. Now there is greater awareness of cultural diversity and pluralism within the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. Program participants have a greater comfort level in reaching out to new audiences and clientele and they have gained new resources for program development within the state.
Using Qualitative Research Methods to Explore the Extension/Judicial Partnership in Indiana
In a time of limited resources, communities are turning to collaborations and partnerships with other organizations to provide services for children, youth, and families-at-risk. Evaluating such community programs can prove challenging. This article presents qualitative research methods used to evaluate one collaborative effort. The Community Systemwide Response Initiative in Indiana partners Extension personnel and judges with juvenile court jurisdiction. A discussion is provided on the benefits and challenges of using qualitative research methods in multi-site collaborative youth-at-risk programs.
Tools of the Trade
What Do Youth Want to Do? A Youth Needs-Assessment Process for Communities
This article details a youth needs-assessment process. The process in founded on two notions: (a) sound data on youth wants and needs is extremely important for any youth programming decisions; and (b) youth, organizations, and the community should be involved in gathering information.
Educating With Controversial Issues
Extension's efforts to cooperate with communities facing environmental decisions resulted in a public meeting about the issue of land application of sewage sludge. Strengths in leadership, organizational skills, and presentation of technical information in a user-friendly manner allowed Extension to be recognized by all involved as a source of non-biased, research based, factual information. A key to success of this type of program is the format of the meeting. The authors address important issues to consider when designing public meetings to assure that all viewpoints will be heard and that individual biases are minimized.