October 1998 // Volume 36 // Number 5
Extension Is Not Just Service, But Service Learning Is Important to Extension
Service learning teaching methods connect meaningful community service to academic curricula. Service learning blends community service goals and formal and informal (standard/academic and experiential/non-standard) educational goals in a manner that benefits participants and recipients. Service learning is a set of techniques and tools that can strengthen community relationships and connections.
Creative Approaches to Parenting Education
Although Extension professionals have been conducting parenting education programs for decades, there are new concerns among parents, greater diversity among families, and a need to learn how to plan for specific parent needs and evaluate the success of the parenting initiative. The National Network for Family Resiliency (NNFR) has provided some direction in program evaluation by providing an evaluative decision framework. This article describes two Extension agents' efforts to apply the concepts of the NNFR framework to parenting education programs. One pilot project used focus group interviews and a summative paper and pencil evaluation while the second group used a pre- and post-test measuring parental self-esteem and child development knowledge. What resulted from both programs were gain scores, reports of plans to use newly learned skills, positive comments about the planning process and involved parents willing to attend, learn, and to seek additional information at the completion of the program.
Money Talks: Documenting the Economic Impact of Extension Personal Finance Programs
Today, more than ever, money "talks" in Extension program evaluation. As employees of a publicly-supported government entity, answerable to a variety of funders and stakeholders, Extension educators must demonstrate program effectiveness through performance resulting in positive outcomes. If a dollar figure can be placed on these outcomes, all the better. Numbers make it easy to aggregate impact data and summarize accomplishments succinctly. This article describes benefits of documenting program impact, components of high-quality impact statements, and specific programs and methods developed to document the economic impact of personal finance programs upon the lives of Extension clientele.
Beginning Farmer Education in Iowa: Implications to Extension
A needs assessment of beginning farmer education in Iowa with implications to Extension is described in this article. Beginning farmers viewed Extension as a major educational provider. These farmers rated experiential learning, problem solving, and critical thinking as important skills in the future. Using a variety of instructional techniques, including cutting-edge technologies, for program delivery were preferred. Programs related to the "business management of farming rated very high as current and future topics. these results support current and future program efforts by extension in beginning farmer education, particularly for programs delivered at the local
Examining Extension's Product Development Dilemma
As agents decide which programs to develop and implement, they are also deciding how precious Extension resources such as time, money, and space, will be expended. They must select the ideas that will best serve Extension's mission and provide a good return on the taxpayer's investments. How do they decide? Successful businesses have an organized way of deciding, involving comparing key elements of a new idea to an established set of product and service with elements that are based on the values and goals of those businesses. This article adapts that systematic approach and applies it to the selection of Extension programs and introduces the process of assigning weighted values to specific characteristics that commonly describe Extension programs. It offers agents a way to begin to make calculated guesses about which ideas will make the wisest use of the organization's resources.
Research in Brief
Targeting Extension Efforts for the Adoption of Sustainable Farming Practices
Factors affecting the adoption of sustainable practices by onion and sweet corn growers are described. Telephone and mail surveys were used to assess growers' perceptions and actual use of sustainable agricultural practices. Results illustrate that differences in land ownership, education and crop acreage influence a growers use of sustainable practices. Access to information, farming experience and time constraints all influence cropping patterns. Research and Extension efforts therefore need to be tailored to the unique needs of these different commodity groups.
The study examined the differences between youth entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs. The hand-delivered descriptive survey addressed differences by type of work structure, income derived from employment, age, gender, grade level, grade point average, health and fitness habits, and social skills. Findings suggest younger adolescents were more likely to be youth entrepreneurs, youth entrepreneurs tended to rate their organization and time-management skills lower than non entrepreneurs, youth entrepreneurs tended to rate their leadership skills lower than non-entrepreneurs, and youth entrepreneurs are more likely to assist with community service projects.
Using H. Stephen Glenn's Developing Capable People Program with Adults in Montana: How effective is the curriculum?
While there are a plethora of parenting programs, there are few that focus on those adults interacting with youth who are not their own children. As recent risk and resiliency research has shown, these surrogate parents can provide an important protective factor in the lives of vulnerable youth even when home life is chaotic and negative. The Montana Extension Service decided to focus on this important group of adults in 1994 using H. Stephen Glenn's Developing Capable People program. A valid and reliable evaluation instrument was developed to be used as a pre- and post-test. In addition, a post-post test was conducted of a random sample of 30 program participants who had taken the course 6-to-18 months previously. Research shows that DCP is effective in helping adults increase the frequency of using positive behaviors and in decreasing the frequency of negative behaviors as they interact with others, particularly youth. These changes in behavior were sustained over time as well, enduring some 18 months after participants had completed the program.
Extension Master Gardeners Valued by Teachers in School Gardening Programs
Elementary school teachers experienced in the use of gardening as an interdisciplinary teaching method responded to a national School Gardening Survey and structured interviews. They indicated a widespread use of Master Gardeners to address two specific school gardening needs: (a) the need for horticultural and gardening information provided by a horticultural expert, and (b) the need for volunteer help when engaging in school gardening activities with students. Of the surveyed respondents, 43.6% indicated that they used Master Gardeners in either one or both of these capacities. Respondents also indicated a high interest (49.6%) in obtaining Master Gardener training.
Ideas at Work
Using Electronic Media to Convey Timely Information
For the past three years, Ohio State University Extension specialists and agents have utilized e-mail and fax services to convey weekly crop management and pest development concerns to crop consultants, farmers, and agronomy service personnel. Survey results confirm that this educational delivery is popular among industry personnel and farmers alike. E-mails and faxes get accessed and read before regular mail. Participants appreciate the timeliness of information provided electronically.
An Evaluation of Discussion Forums for Generating Program Support
Farmers talked freely at these forums and brought forward many issues. Many felt that more leadership should be given to farmers in their development and administration. The use of speakers and facilitators was viewed as helpful provided it didn't take time away from producer participation. Forums such as these can be effective means to develop support. The results of these forums, as judged by the pursuit of several ongoing measures, has been positive, and may be employed again.
Converting Qualitative Feedback into Quantifiable Categories
Researchers often experience the need to ask open-ended questions in order to probe topics more fully, especially in areas in which results or response categories cannot be predicted. Converting raw, open-ended data from large sample sizes into meaningful categories that can be utilized to quantify the results presents a challenge. To convert open-ended questions into emerging categories, a process of topical analysis was utilized. Once response categories were identified for each question, the responses were assigned an alphabetical designation which could then be entered with other quantitative data. Data were then analyzed using descriptive statistics. This study demonstrated that quantitative and qualitative research can be blended, thus strengthening an investigation
Tools of the Trade
A Student's Guide to Keeping the Science in Your Science Project
Keeping the Science in Your Science Fair Project provides students,4-H'ers, and other youth with an easy, step-by-step approach to understanding how to use the scientific method. This publication not only shows them how nearly everything done involves science, it also presents guidelines, examples and instructions to improve chances of producing a high-quality science project.
Leadership For Volunteers: The Way It Is and The Way It Could Be
The failure of volunteer organizations is commonly attributed to a lack of leadership for the organization. The failure problem may be more closely related to unrealistic assumptions rather than the lack of leadership. Identifying common assumptions about organizational goals, volunteer roles, information flow, and feedback is crucial. Addressing those assumptions by learning the arts of active listening, mentoring, public dialogue, and evaluation and reflection is critical to the success of an organization.