February 2017 // Volume 55 // Number 1
JOE by the Numbers, Duplicate Publication, and February JOE Highlights
In the opening section of this Editor's Page, "JOE by the Numbers 2016," I report JOE author, acceptance rate, and readership data. In "Duplicate Publication," I alert prospective authors to an upcoming clarification of JOE policy. And in "February JOE," I preview articles that describe creative strategies for targeting specific audiences, expanding Extension's reach, identifying knowledge needs, evaluating both the external work and internal workings of Extension, and engaging with youths.
Evaluating Extension Impact on a Nationwide Level: Focus on Programs or Concepts?
As agencies with minimal national reach and capacity grow more sophisticated in capturing public and private funding for outreach, Extension finds itself competing for national recognition of its scope and capacity. Because of the need for that recognition, it is increasingly important that states look beyond their individual systems of evaluation to cooperate in demonstrating the full extent of the Extension network for national stakeholders and funders. To do that, Extension must implement a nationwide system of evaluation, and that system should be built around the teaching of common concepts, rather than the delivery of common programs.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Evaluating Extension Impact on a Nationwide Level: Focus on Programs or Concepts?”
Ideas at Work
Baby Animal Days: An Innovative Approach to Funding and Marketing Urban Extension Programs
Extension in urban areas can suffer from a lack of exposure in addition to a lack of funding for programs. Baby Animal Days is a 2-day event created to educate the public about agriculture while generating much-needed revenue and providing powerful marketing for Extension. Attendance at the event continues to grow, with more than 8,000 people attending annually in recent years. Results from a formal survey completed in 2015 show a high positive response to all aspects of the event.
Using Pop Culture to Teach Youths Conflict Resolution, Healthful Lifestyles, Disaster Preparedness, and More
Adolescents learn sustainable production techniques, civic engagement, leadership, public speaking, food safety practices, conflict resolution, disaster preparedness, and other life skills through Extension programming. Educators can increase participant interest in such programming by applying a creative pop culture twist, such as a zombie apocalypse theme. A pop culture take on a traditional topic infuses the educational experience with excitement and fun, which researchers stress increase motivation and learning. Who knew that understanding the U.S. government's structure and recognizing the importance of voting could thwart development of a biological weapon that might spawn a zombie apocalypse? Creative thinking such as this can engage learners and increase registration numbers in youth development programs.
Applying 4-H Judging Strategies to Board, Dice, and Card Games: Developing Skills in Urban and Suburban Youths
Most 4-H judging events involve livestock or other traditional 4-H projects. Consequently, many urban and suburban youths miss out on building life skills developed through judging. In a nontraditional approach to 4-H judging, such youths play board, dice, and card games and then judge the games using the practice of giving oral reasons. The youths also reflect on the life skills learned while playing and judging the games. This approach has been used in a Washington State 4-H program. Youths have responded positively, demonstrated skills, and returned to the program year after year. Because Extension offices across the country have resources related to judging, the approach is easily replicated.
Simulating Money Management and Life Skills with Prison Populations
Interactive education can help learners retain complicated and sometimes frustrating financial information. For inmate audiences, using traditional education methods is not always feasible. To address this challenge, university faculty and students, state officials, and staff from a minimum-security men's prison began conducting a face-to-face financial capability simulation called That's Life. The simulation promotes development of personal finance skills as well as intangible skills such as decision making, communication, problem solving, and critical thinking. The interactive nature of the simulation allows participants to make personal connections to the information as they physically move through the simulation experience. Inmates instantly become invested in their own financial behaviors.
Tools of the Trade
Evaluate Naturally and Quickly with Just-in-Time Program Evaluation
A just-in-time evaluation approach can help Extension professionals expand their program evaluation readiness, interest, and competence. A pilot test of this efficient approach helped organizers of a forest farming conference determine important information about the event's processes and content to be better positioned for future work. The conference evaluation team and conference participants enjoyed this approach that integrated evaluation methods and evaluative thinking into all the conference activities. This approach to evaluation is especially appropriate for gathering real-time data for determining the value of educational processes taking place while making evaluation more visible and easier to accomplish.
Organizational Capacity Survey: Capturing an Extension System's Current State and Pinpointing Areas for Improvement
An organizational capacity survey (OCS) can reveal gaps in what an organization is doing and what an organization's employees feel the organization should be doing. Mississippi State University (MSU) Extension conducted an OCS to assess perceptions of MSU Extension's vision and commitment, plan of work, working relationships, diversity and pluralism, public value, personnel knowledge and expertise, and training needs. Questions were designed to measure perceptions of how MSU Extension is currently and how it should be ideally. This design allowed discrepancy scores to be calculated to identify areas in which capacity development was needed or desired that could then be addressed through state-based professional development.
What Is Professional Development Worth? Calculating the Value of Onboarding Programs in Extension
Return on investment (ROI) is a commonly used metric for organizations concerned with demonstrating the value of their investments; it can be used to determine whether funds spent providing professional development programs for Extension professionals are good investments. This article presents a method for calculating ROI for an onboarding program on the basis of the changes in competency levels from before to after program participation. Although limitations to the method exist, the data generated can be used for engaging in meaningful discussions about the value of investing in professional development in Extension organizations.
Increasing the Capacity of Social Media to Extend Your Outreach
To increase audience size and maximize use of Extension materials and information, Extension professionals can capitalize on the potential of social media. They can broaden their use of social media beyond what is familiar to sites they have not used previously. They can expand the functionality of social media sites they use by adding share and follow buttons, inserting widgets, and embedding videos and slides. And they can increase traffic to sources of Extension information by linking from wherever possible to Extension materials on social media sites and elsewhere online. Use of the tips provided in this article can result in thousands of additional exposures to Extension materials.
A Modified Importance-Performance Framework for Evaluating Recreation-Based Experiential Learning Programs
This article describes a modified importance-performance framework for use in evaluation of recreation-based experiential learning programs. Importance-performance analysis (IPA) provides an effective and readily applicable means of evaluating many programs, but the near universal satisfaction associated with recreation inhibits the use of IPA in this area. Two specific modifications to the traditional IPA framework are proposed: (a) a reorganized matrix and (b) the inclusion of statistical variance. Sample data from a recreation-based experiential learning program are used to illustrate both the traditional and modified frameworks. Suggestions for Extension evaluators are provided.
Prairie Strips for Sediment and Nutrient Control and Biodiversity
Installation of prairie strips is a new conservation best management practice (BMP) that involves using a species-rich mix of native prairie grasses, forbs, and legumes. "Prairie strips" are planted along the contours of an agricultural field at the 10% level to manage potentially polluting runoff and are promising for control of nitrogen and phosphorus. Researchers used whole watersheds to replicate findings, providing a high degree of rigor in the study of this new BMP. Moreover, cooperating farmers and landowners have successfully used farm programs to subsidize prairie strip plantings. Besides sediment and nutrient control, an additional benefit is high plant biodiversity, which leads to more diverse and healthier wildlife and pollinator populations.
Risk Scenario Planning Tool for Education on Livestock Risk Protection Insurance for Feeder Cattle
It can be difficult to provide livestock producers with effective education on livestock risk protection (LRP) insurance. Recently, the RightRisk Education Team developed a risk scenario planning tool that applies a partial budget analysis approach to decision making under uncertainty. A case study for use with the tool was developed for educating producers about the U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency's Livestock Risk Protection Insurance Plan for Feeder Cattle. We have found the combination of the tool and case study to be effective in developing producers' understanding of LRP insurance to a level at which they feel comfortable analyzing the decision of whether to purchase the insurance.
Putting Pesticides into Perspective: Demonstrations for Educating Extension Clientele
Extension educators address diverse audiences about pesticides and pesticide uses. Audience members have varying attitudes about using pesticides. A fear of pesticides has been instilled in the public via emotionally charged topics, such as child development and pet health. As a result, the use of pesticides has become taboo in some people's eyes. Legitimate reasons exist to justify the removal of pesticides from the market (e.g., extreme toxicity). However, not all pesticides have these negative characteristics. Exercises described in this article help audiences better understand pesticides and put them into proper perspective relative to other products that are used regularly.
Development of a Health Survey Instrument for 5- to 8-Year-Old Youths
Measuring program outcomes is required for documenting effectiveness of interventions with youths participating in programs funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) initiative. The California CYFAR program provided programming for youths aged 5–8, which necessitated the development of an age-appropriate survey measure. Evaluating younger youths to assess healthful living outcomes is challenging, especially with youths in kindergarten through second grade. This article addresses development and testing of the measure and resultant lessons learned. Recommendations for developing an evaluation survey for younger youths are provided.
A Theoretically Based, Easy-to-Use Tool for Promoting Goal-Setting Behaviors in Youths
Extension youth development professionals benefit from having theoretically based, easy-to-use tools for promoting goal-setting behaviors in youths. The Youth Goal-Setting Map provides practitioners with a mechanism for helping youth develop attributes that place them on a pathway to thriving. This article provides the Youth Goal-Setting Map tool, describes how to implement the tool, and suggests applications of the tool within Extension contexts.
Using Cluster Analysis to Target Educational Messages to Consumers
Cluster analysis is a common marketing tool for identifying groups of customers, clients, or consumers similar enough in demographics, behaviors, or attitudes to warrant specialized methods for targeting them with a desired message. We used cluster analysis on data from an integrated pest management (IPM) survey of the general public to categorize groups by their similarities with regard to IPM-related attitudes and behaviors. We describe how we used these data to target critical IPM messages in ways most likely to elicit positive behavior change. The methods we used could be applied in many disciplines to target Extension educational messages to diverse client groups.
Climate-Related Risks and Management Issues Facing Agriculture in the Southeast: Interviews with Extension Professionals
To explore Extension professionals' perceptions of the potential impact of climate variability and climate change on agriculture and to identify the top climate-related issues facing farmers, we conducted interviews with agricultural Extension personnel from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. Of those interviewed, 92% believed climate change will affect agriculture a moderate amount or a great deal. Qualitative analyses revealed that the Extension professionals considered scarcity of water resources, temperature fluctuations, pest and disease pressures, forecast challenges, seasonal variability, and adaptation strategies as among the most important climate-related issues affecting agriculture in the Southeast.
Crop Consultants as "Climate Consultants": An Extension Opportunity for Climate Change Communication
Extension personnel can augment climate change communication and efforts to decrease climate-related agricultural risks by engaging with producers' trusted information sources, including crop consultants. Through a survey of inland Pacific Northwest wheat producers and in-depth interviews with area crop consultants, we examined relationships among producers, crop consultants, and climate change education and adaptation. We found that crop consultants are poised to communicate climate change information to producers, given their strong relationships with producers, practice of promoting adaptive management based on science, and ability to connect climate change to immediate on-farm practices. However, success in leveraging crop consultants to achieve widespread climate change adaptation will depend largely on Extension's presenting the topic to them in accessible ways.
Assessing Public Issues Knowledge and Needs of Extension Agents in Florida
It has been argued that to remain relevant in today's society, Extension must expand its role to provide public issues education. We conducted a web-based survey to determine whether Extension agents in Florida were prepared to deal with contentious issues. Survey respondents identified issues affecting their clientele, levels of frequency with which they addressed the issues, and self-perceived levels of knowledge related to the issues. Results were analyzed by agent type (i.e., programmatic area). Results revealed that the issues of immigration, crop diseases, and food security held particular potential for improvement.
Assessing Extension Agents' Nematology Knowledge Needs and Related Resource Preferences: Implications for Trainings on Complex Agricultural Topics
Plant pathology researchers have identified a need to expand knowledge of nematology, and nematode control options in Arkansas are limited. Thus, relevant in-service trainings are warranted. In response to the plant pathology researchers' findings and findings promoting the use of technology in training Extension agents, we explored agricultural agents' nematology-related knowledge needs and their perceptions and preferences regarding relevant resources and training delivery methods. We found that county agents in Arkansas need nematology training and resources, have positive perceptions of existing training methods and materials, and are comfortable with job-related technologies, such as the Internet, computers, smartphones, and tablets. These results provide support for developing technology-based training to address nematology and other complex agricultural production topics.
Research in Brief
Capitalizing on Multidimensionality in Survey Instruments to Ensure Delivery of Relevant Extension Programming
At a time when resources are dwindling, Extension must capitalize on the potential of multidimensionality in survey instruments. A research project on wind energy development in Ohio involved a survey instrument that assessed the attitudes and opinions of community members, thereby meeting the needs of local stakeholders. However, responses to a set of peripheral questions on the survey also revealed gaps in community members' knowledge related to wind energy development. This article addresses data resulting from the three peripheral survey questions, the data analysis methods that yielded background for future Extension programming, and the importance of using a survey instrument to achieve multiple goals.
Willingness to Pay for One-on-One Farm Business Programs
Extension farm business programs have maintained enhanced individualized services by using a variety of external funding strategies. These farm business programs are uniquely positioned at the intersection of public good and private benefit to the farms served. Meanwhile, there is an ongoing cultural shift among Extension professionals and farm owners who acknowledge that Extension programs cannot be sustained at low or no cost to participants. In this article, we draw on research involving a statewide survey and focus group interviews to address farm owner willingness to pay for business programs. Findings indicate an opportunity for new programs that match participant registration fees with external grant funds.
Opportunities for Meeting Educational Needs of Aging Adults: Listening to Limited-Resource Older Homeowners
We present descriptive findings from a North Carolina study of 30 limited-resource older homeowners who want to age in place, and we relate those findings to opportunities for outreach education. We grouped the findings from extensive participant interviews into five key areas. For two of those areas—health conditions and financial situation—critical educational content is needed. In addition, by understanding issues and attitudes related to the other key areas—neighborhood, family, and church/religion—Extension and other outreach professionals can develop and market educational programs that better address older adults' needs.
Extension's Role in Developing Opinion Leaders to Drive Water Conservation
With concern over the future of water availability in Florida increasing, Extension professionals targeting water conservation behaviors must use the most effective approaches possible. Florida population survey data obtained by the Center for Public Issues Education at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences demonstrated that both willingness to engage in water conservation behaviors and voting behavior serve as predictors of opinion leadership. Extension professionals may be able to maximize the impact of water conservation initiatives by focusing on these indirect variables in developing relevant opinion leaders.
What Influences Farmers to Use Farm Safety and Health Information?
Farm safety and health outreach professionals can more effectively develop, design, package, and deliver pertinent educational messages if they understand farmers' preferences regarding how such messages are presented. Farmers were surveyed about what influences their use of safety and health educational resources. Responses indicated farmers' preferences and perceptions related to wording, images, elements that encourage or discourage use of materials, and lengths of resources. Among the significant results were findings that images reflective of farm operations similar to their own and nontechnical terminology would increase farmers' use of resources. Results provide Extension educators with research-based data that can guide their preparation of impactful farm safety and health materials.
Evaluation of Components of Volunteerism in Master Horseman Program Graduates
Providing volunteers with training opportunities affects the overall success of programs with which they are involved. This article describes a study of 98 Louisiana Master Horseman Program graduates. The study addressed their perceived self-efficacy related to equine technical and management skills, their changes in confidence regarding teaching relevant skills to others, and their willingness to teach those skills to others. Results indicated that the training positively affected graduates' horsemanship skills and their confidence and willingness related to teaching such skills. Findings suggest that the Louisiana Master Horseman Program is useful for creating a highly trained volunteer workforce and is a master volunteer program option that could be replicated successfully in other states.
Assessment of an Online Nematology Training for County Extension Agents
A set of online nematology modules was administered to county Extension employees for the purpose of assessing its efficacy as a training tool on the basis of participants' changes in knowledge and evaluative feedback. Mean pretest and posttest scores indicated increases in participants' levels of nematology knowledge and comfort with nematology topics. Participants found using the modules to be an effective method of learning. We recommend that other online training modules be developed and that future research involve testing the materials in a controlled setting so that a determination can be made as to whether the knowledge change was due to the treatments or external factors.