June 1998 // Volume 36 // Number 3
Improving Agent Accountability Through Best Management Practices
Now is the time for Extension to adopt Accountability Best Management Practices (BMPs) to guarantee continued success. There are five Accountability Best Management Practices: Visioning, Measurability, Programming, Reporting, and Responsibility. Accountability BMPs can benefit Extension in many ways: provide for accurate accountability reporting to position Extension as the premier provider of information and educational programs in agriculture, youth development, family and consumer science, and rural and community development; increase agent efficiency and productivity; require the incorporation of accountability reporting into the program planning process; and increase Extension funding by providing impacts for budget negotiations.
Providing Support to Extension Agents: The Rapid Response Center in Kansas
The Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) Rapid Response Center was developed within the Kansas State University Cooperative Extension System (K-State Research and Extension) to support 120 Kansas FACS Extension agents. With access to specialists often times limited and differing levels of technology from county-to-county, agents needed a subject-matter based resource to provide timely information to a answer unusual information requests. The usefulness of the center is described using two years' worth of accumulated data and an evaluation of the center by agents. Future plans, including expansion of the center into other subject areas, are discussed.
Extension Agents' Perceptions Of Volunteer Management
The purpose of the study was to determine 4-H agents' perceptions of the importance of and their perceived competence with selected volunteer management competencies. Ohio State University Extension 4-H Youth Development agents identified all nine of the selected competencies as either somewhat or very important and perceived themselves to be somewhat competent with all competencies. The competencies and their respective competency builders can be utilized as a framework for staff development, staff selection, and academic course development.
Factors Influencing Adoption and Educational Outreach of Integrated Pest Management
Surveys of tree fruit and small grains producers were undertaken to assist the Utah IPM Program with more effectively targeting its outreach efforts. Some differences in responses of the two grower groups can be explained by grower background and past intensity of Extension IPM outreach efforts. The survey revealed that greater consideration should be given to grower background (part-time versus full-time, farm size, market destination), perceptions of pest problems, current use of IPM, and preferences for educational formats.
Research in Brief
Leadership Skill Development of Teen Leaders
A mailed questionnaire was used by faculty members of Ohio State University Extension to determine the perceived effectiveness of the Ohio 4-H Teen Community Leadership College (TCLC) on participants. The study measured eleven dimensions of leadership including oral communication, leadership, initiative, planning/organizing, decision-making/judgment, behavioral flexibility, assertiveness, objectivity, perception, sensitivity, and collaborativeness. The Ohio 4-H TCLC graduates' perception of their leadership skills after completing the program was significantly higher than their perception before participation. The highest mean scores were on the dimensions of perception and collaborativeness and the lowest mean scores were on the dimensions of initiative, assertiveness and objectivity.
Impact Analysis of Farm Finance Workshops
As a means of providing financial management outreach to Northeast farmers, 6-day workshops were conducted with a format consisting of video and satellite presentations, individual exercises, homework, and graded exams. Educational impacts, defined as the change in net worth resulting from participant application of management tools taught, were surveyed at the close of the workshops. The level of educational impact averaged about 4% of gross farm income. Farmers with only a grade school education achieved the highest proportional increase in comprehension of financial statements and financial planning. Impact value in proportion to gross income was highest among this group. Those with a college education and more frequent participation in other Extension meetings achieved the highest dollar value of impact and were more satisfied with workshop participation.
Understanding Employee Motivation
The study examined the ranked importance of motivational factors of employees at The Ohio State University's Piketon Research and Extension Center and Enterprise Center. The hand-delivered descriptive survey addressed ten motivating factors in the context of employee motivation theory. Findings suggest interesting work and good pay are key to higher employee motivation. Carefully designed reward systems that include job enlargement, job enrichment, promotions, internal and external stipends, monetary, and non-monetary compensation should be considered.
Extension-Supported School-Age Care Programs Benefit Youth
Since 1988, the Cooperative Extension Service has devoted significant resources to helping improve the quality of school-age care programs. This study was conducted to determine if Extension-supported school-age care programs benefited youth. The quasi-experimental design involved three North Carolina schools: K-2, K-8, and middle school. The results were mixed. Principals, teachers, and parents indicated few significant changes in the behavior of youth involved in the school-age care programs. However, school-age care staff indicated several academic and social behavioral changes in the youth. Recommendations include more work to design specific evaluation instruments for specific respondents, only involve respondents who have significant interaction with the youth, and a longitudinal study longer than one year. With GPRA (Government Performance Results Act, 1993) standards mandated by Congress, it is imperative that Extension identify school-age care program impacts that can be measured to justify the resources devoted to this important program.
A Model for Integrating Program Development and Evaluation
We present the communication model of Gillespie and Yarbrough and explain how it served as the framework for combining program development and formative evaluation of an osteoporosis prevention program for working mothers. The model includes inputs, an educational intervention, and outcomes. Combining receiver, situational, and educator inputs produced a more viable pilot program that was tested with the target audience at two types of sites convenient for working mothers. We collected both quantitative and qualitative outcome data, allowing a rigorous examination of whether or not program components were successful, and why. Extension educators should consider using the model as an effective way to combine program development and evaluation.
Ideas at Work
Determining Needs of Farmers for Management Knowledge
Farmers may have difficulty expressing needed management knowledge. Determining the best way to learn this information and then finding the best way to provide it can a be challenging. Facilitated discussion groups were asked open-ended questions regarding management. This environment provided an effective method for participants to identify and expand on these needs. Responses pointed out the need for people-oriented management training with stress management a priority.
VICE is NICE
VICE is an alternative to the traditional multi-county Extension in-service that is usually in a large group setting. A step-by-step procedure is outlined that allows a county agent to substitute a visit with a peer agent as legitimate and valuable in-service. Every agent had to: (a) identify programs/tasks in which s/he excelled; (b) schedule an across county lines visit of at least five hours; and (c) make a report of that visit. Results of summative evaluation suggest that this is a positive and productive use of county agent in-service time. VICE = Visits In Counties Everywhere.
Professional Development for Paraprofessionals: Organizing a One Day Multi Agency Conference
The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and more recently the Family Nutrition Program are two examples of Extension's effective employment of paraprofessionals. Training is a critical component to any program that employs paraprofessionals. Extension has been viewed as a leader in the training of paraprofessionals. This article outlines the effectiveness of organizing a one-day workshop for paraprofessionals and supervisors offered by a coalition of agencies providing outreach services to families with children in Northeast Ohio.
Tools of the Trade
America's Future Revealed?
This review of the 1997 paperback, The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy, helps Extension educators understand our turbulent times and anticipate changes predicted for the next two decades. The authors, William Strauss and Neil Howe, demonstrate how our "linear" paradigm of history should be replaced with their "cyclic" theory in which four phases of about twenty years each are repeated in a predictable sequence.
Publishing Research in Extension
Strategies for publishing as an Extension professional include using your grass roots knowledge base and identifying appropriate co-authors. Tips for handling the writing, submission, and editorial process are discussed.