April 2008 // Volume 46 // Number 2 // Research in Brief // 2RIB6
Urban Extension Clientele Competencies by Mass Media Delivery Strategy
As Extension broadens its mission to include more urban clientele, information on the best delivery strategies to reach urban clientele is needed. The study reported here examined the effect of mass media delivery methods on urban Extension clientele's knowledge about landscape maintenance. The population for the study was 159 participants, randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups or control group, attending two garden seminars. The findings in the study support the notion that mass media delivery strategies such as newspaper, video, and fact sheets are at least as effective in educating clientele as face-to-face delivery strategies.
Historically, Extension has accomplished its mission of providing research-based information from land-grant universities and experiment stations to people who will benefit from the information (Boone, Meisenbach, & Tucker, 2002; Rasmussen, 1989; Seevers, Graham, Gamon, & Conklin, (1997). Richardson and Mustian (1994) wrote that a variety of delivery methods can be effective in disseminating information to Extension clientele and that clientele preferences for particular delivery methods were often dependent upon specific subject being taught and the personal characteristics of the target audience.
Richardson and Mustian (1994) noted, further, that in rural counties, Extension has been a major source of continuing adult education and youth education in traditional Extension program areas. Fritz, Karmazin, Barbuto, and Burrow (2003) recognized the strength of Extension in effectively reaching rural clientele, while recognizing Extension's need to better reach urban clientele.
Fehlis (1992) reported that with 50% of the Texas population in six urban counties, Extension's future in Texas is dependent on effective programs in urban counties. Fehlis noted that water quality and conservation are major issues in both rural and urban counties but that Extension must use different resources and delivery methods to provide educational programs to these two audiences. In rural counties, issues such as dairy and feedlot manure waste disposal are of particular concern. In urban counties, however, issues such as homeowners' improper use of fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, and yard waste disposal are of greater concern.
The purpose of the study reported here was to examine the relationship between Extension clients' knowledge about landscape maintenance and mass media format (seminar, fact sheet, newspaper article, video, control). Specific objectives of the study were to: describe research participants by their knowledge about landscape maintenance and determine what differences, if any, existed between mass media format and gains in knowledge about landscape maintenance.
The research design used in the study was experimental. The researchers used a post-test-only control group design with random assignment of participants to one of four treatment groups or the control group (Campbell & Stanley, 1963). According to Campbell and Stanley, this particular true experimental design controls for all the major threats to the internal validity of a study.
The study reported here was a part of a larger effort looking at perceptions of Extension clients with respect to their learning preferences for mass media related to landscape maintenance and to describe the effects of various mass media on clienteles' short-term cognitive development (Woodson, 2005). The final sample for the study was 159 participants attending one of two garden seminars (on an unrelated topic) who were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups or control group. The population from which the sample was drawn included 203 people attending the seminars. Of those attending the seminar, 168 agreed to participate in the study, and 159 provided usable responses. A limitation of the study was that generalizing the findings beyond the target population is tenuous because participants were not selected randomly from the population.
The mass media formats used in this study included seminar, fact sheet, newspaper article, and video. The newspaper article was a regularly appearing weekly newspaper column. The video was a tape of a daily scheduled television program on community cable access channel. The fact sheet was a part of the Texas Cooperative Extension Fact sheet series. The newspaper, video, and fact sheet were all developed by one of the researchers. The seminar script was also developed by one of the researchers, but the actual seminar was presented by a county Extension specialist agent not involved in the research project.
The instrument used to collect data for this study was designed to measure the participants' knowledge of landscape management practices after participating in a treatment or control. The instrument consisted of a 20 question multiple choice test that participants completed after the treatment. The control group took the test receiving no treatment. Reliability for the instrument was estimated by calculating a Cronbach's alpha coefficient (r=.73). Content and face validity of the instrument were established by a panel of experts consisting of faculty and professionals who had expertise in the field.
The first objective of the study was to describe research participants by their knowledge about landscape maintenance. As shown in Table 1, participants (n=159) had a mean score of (14.57, SD=2.68) on the 20 question multiple choice test. No participant had a perfect score of 20. A majority of participants (n=90) answered at least 75% of the questions correctly.
|Note: Ma=14.57, SD=2.68; score, number of correct answers of a possible of 20 after receiving treatment.|
The second objective of the study was to determine what differences, if any, existed between mass media format and gains in knowledge. As shown in Table 2, statistically significant differences were found in knowledge about landscape maintenance by treatment level, F(4, 154)= 8.40, p<.05. A large effect size (f=.47) was found. A Scheffe post hoc analysis of the data shows that participants who received the treatments newspaper, fact sheet, and video scored higher than the control group on the knowledge about landscape maintenance test. Paired comparisons among variables resulted in two homogeneous subsets.
Subset one included the variables newspaper, video, fact sheet, and face-to-face. No statistically significant differences were found between knowledge about landscape maintenance and these variables. Subset two included the variable face-to-face and control group. No statistically significant differences were found between knowledge about landscape maintenance and these variables.
|Note: Ma=14.58, SD=2.68; score, number of correct answers of a possible of 20 after receiving treatment or control|
Reaching urban clientele and meeting their needs with respect to water quality and conservation requires Extension to use different resources and delivery methods than it does with rural clientele (Fehlis, 1992). Extension must use many different delivery methods to reach different target audiences (Martin & Omar, 1990; Gamon, Roe, & Campbell, 1994; Richardson & Mustian, 1994). For example, Kerrigan (1993) noted that urban clientele can be effectively communicated with through newsletters. In urban counties where target audiences are often larger and more difficult to identify, Extension agents may need to use mass media delivery methods to reach a larger number of their target audience. The results presented in this article may help Extension educators in urban counties better understand the effectiveness of mass media delivery methods in educating their clientele.
A majority of participants (56.6%) answered the test questions about landscape maintenance with a score of 75% or better. Participants receiving one of the four treatments (newspaper, video, fact sheet, or face-to-face), averaged approximately 75% on the test about landscape maintenance. Participants in the control group averaged approximately 62% on the test about landscape maintenance. This finding demonstrates that the educational programming offered by Extension at the seminars resulted in, at a minimum, short-term cognitive development with respect to knowledge about landscape maintenance. Those in the treatment groups scored approximately 13% higher than those in the control group.
The findings in the study reported here also support the notion that mass media delivery strategies such as newspaper, video, and fact sheets can be as effective in educating clientele as face-to-face delivery strategies. If mass media can be used by Extension agents to teach those needing/willing to learn, as demonstrated in the study, Extension could use mass media to provide education to a larger, more diverse audience than the traditional Extension audience.
Additional longitudinal research on the effects of mass media delivery strategies is needed by Extension to document the long-term cognitive development of clientele. Additional research is also needed on urban Extension agents' and target audiences' perceptions of what are the most effective and efficient delivery methods for communicating with clientele in urban counties.
Building on the findings of Vestal and Briers (2000) that mass media resources think highly of the information received from university professionals, Extension should continue to create and maintain sustainable relationships with print and television. In an effort to broaden the impact of educational programming, urban Extension agents may consider creating/strengthening relationships with mass media resources.
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Woodson, D. M. (2005). The effect of mass media on the short-term cognitive development of the participants at a Tarrant County extension garden seminar. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.