February 2004 // Volume 42 // Number 1 // Tools of the Trade // 1TOT7
Strengthening Programs to Reach Diverse Audiences: A Curriculum to Planning and Implementing Extension Programs for Ethnically Diverse Audiences
This article provides the description, theoretical framework, scope and organization, and usage of the newly developed Strengthening Programs to Reach Diverse Audiences curriculum. The curriculum was developed by a multi-state, multi-university, multidisciplinary team in order to increase the knowledge and skills of Extension professionals and paraprofessionals on how to design more effective programs to reach ethnically diverse audiences. Information on how to obtain the curriculum is also provided.
The Strengthening Programs to Reach Diverse Audiences curriculum, funded by the CYFERNet Program, was developed by a multi-state, multi-university, multidisciplinary team to help Extension professionals and paraprofessionals who work with Children, Youth and Families At Risk (and Extension staff in general) design more effective programs to reach ethnically diverse audiences.This curriculum has served as an excellent beginning point, but it cannot and has not taught everything needed to understand how to design and implement programs with diverse audiences. Much experience, knowledge, and skills is derived from working with those groups over time.
Focus of Diversity in the Curriculum
The Curriculum focuses on the four primary ethnic groups in the United States: African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino American, and Native American. These groups are seen as primary for many reasons, one of which is their current population levels and projections for their future growth when compared to other ethnic groups.
There are certainly numerous differences among individuals within an ethnic group based on many factors, such as level of education, socioeconomic background, and religion. Also, one's level of ethnic identity can contribute to the variations found in individuals within the same ethnic group. However, a large body of literature documents some similar cultural attributes among members of specific ethnic groups, and this information cannot be overlooked. The curriculum has explored those cultural attributes in the context of planning and implementing Extension programs. The curriculum has also addressed, though not as intensively, strategies for educational programming to limited-resource audiences.
Finally, the curriculum focuses on increasing cultural competence in three domains: cognitive, affective, and behavioral. Sue (1996) suggested that ethical and effective multicultural educators evolve from specific practices. Corey and Corey (2003) discussed how training can assist educators in developing culturally appropriate, relevant, and sensitive strategies for intervening with individuals and with groups.
The curriculum is grounded in the cooperative learning and constructivism theory of knowledge. Both theories position learners as active agents in the learning process, not passive receptacles into which knowledge is poured (Ahearn et al., 2002). The role of the educator is that of a facilitator. Also, the curriculum is based on the experiential learning model (think, do, reflect). In keeping with these theoretical frameworks, there are interactive interest approaches and application exercises accompanying each lesson. These hands-on activities promote learning through discussion, interaction, and reflection.
Scope and Organization
The curriculum is composed of six units. Each unit focuses on different aspects of program planning and implementation to give Extension professionals the knowledge and skills necessary to work more effectively with diverse audiences. Although it is unrealistic to expect that in-depth knowledge of all cultural backgrounds results from this curriculum, it is feasible that participants will gain a much better grasp of general principles for working successfully amidst cultural diversity. Below is a brief description of each unit. A more detailed overview precedes each unit within the curriculum.
Description of Curriculum Units
Unit 1 lays the foundation for the rest of the curriculum by expanding on our understanding of diversity. The unit provides a broad look at the impact differences make on our lives and presents considerations for involving diverse audiences in Extension programming. Finding commonalities and common ground is discussed briefly in this unit. However, the literature notes that misunderstanding and conflict are based primarily on differences (values, norms, meanings, etc.), not commonalities.
Unit 2 reveals how cultural competence is a continuous process of assessing and broadening our knowledge of, and respect for, diverse individuals, which can significantly enhance the effectiveness of Extension professionals to plan programs to serve diverse ethnic communities.
Unit 3 shows how to make marketing to diverse populations more successful by making Extension marketing campaigns more personal. This can be accomplished by tailoring marketing strategies to the distinctiveness of different ethnic groups.
Unit 4 discusses key strategies for uncovering and accessing the individual, organizational, and institutional assets within a community to maximize and enhance Extension programs.
Unit 5 focuses on strategies and techniques for effectively instructing/teaching diverse individuals. Learning ways to connect with a diversity of people when carrying out Extension instruction is critical to serving all communities.
Unit 6 provides strategies for dealing with issues such as burnout and stress in order to really work with a given audience over time.
Using the Curriculum to Teach Others
The curriculum was designed for Extension professionals who are interested in training their program staff or volunteers to work more effectively with diverse audiences. There is a guide for the Extension professionals who serve as the facilitator/leader of the training. This guide precedes each unit. In addition to the guide, there are PowerPoint presentations prepared for each unit, sample training agenda, copies of handouts and attachments, training evaluations and a sample certificate of completion.
The curriculum provides key information in a concise manner. However, it is truly just the beginning for individuals committed to providing culturally relevant programs to meet the needs of diverse audiences. The next step is to begin building relationships with diverse individuals to continue the process of learning. After all, becoming culturally competent in an increasingly multicultural society is an ongoing process, not a destination with a clearly marked beginning and ending. This curriculum was created to assist Extension faculty in integrating culture-specific awareness, knowledge, and skills into the program design and development process.
The curriculum is available on the CYFERNet Web site <http://www.cyfernet.org/>.
The curriculum writing team included (in alphabetical order): Gae Broadwater (Kentucky State University), Cassandra Caldwell (North Carolina Central University), Samantha Chattaraj (University of Florida), Lisa Guion (University of Florida), H. Wallace Goddard (University of Arkansas), and Stephanie Sullivan Lytle (University of Florida).
Ahearn, A., Childs-Bowen, D., Coady, M., Dickson, K, Heintz, C., Hughes, K et. al. (2002). The diversity kit: An introductory resource for social change in education. Providence, RI: Brown University.
Corey, M. S., & Corey, G. (2003). Becoming a helper. Pacific Grove, CA.: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.
Sue, D., Ivey, A., & Petersen, P. (1996). A Theory of multicultural counseling and therapy. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.