Summer 1988 // Volume 26 // Number 2 // Research in Brief // 2RIB1

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Doing More with Less


Barbara A. White
Center for Adult Learning Research
Montana State University-Bozeman

The effects of slashed budgets, taxpayer revolts, and federal cutbacks are presenting increasing challenges for the providers of adult education programs in the 1980s. Extension, as a provider of both adult and youth education, must compete for existing program dollars while at the same time "doing more with less."

To be competitive in program development and delivery, two important factors need careful consideration: (1) quality of the instructional program and (2) program promotion. Thoughtful planning with innovative program design and development and promotional strategies to accommodate client needs are primary to these factors.

Currently documented literature suggests several approaches to meeting the current program development challenges.

In a keynote presentation to the Fall 1985 Montana Cooperative Extension Service Conference, Daily suggested that Extension personnel involved in programming efforts need to ask the question, "Am I doing the right thing?" before asking, "Am I doing it right?"1 The question includes: thinking how the organizational context affects program delivery capability; targeting specific needs, instructional methods, appropriate media; identifying objectives; and involving the clientele and the service provider.

Analyzing the situational context of the community and client is critical. A tool for this analysis is noted in the use of the "key informant approach" implemented by a county agent in Montana. Key informants in the community provided the county agent with the names of people whose influence might determine the success or failure of a project. Using 20 survey questions in personal interviews with 5-10 of the people named provided not only knowledge of the community, but "opened doors" to meeting and discussing Extension work with community leaders. It created an interest in Extension activities and attracted curiosity in the results of the initial survey.2

In his book, The Modern Practice of Adult Education,3 Knowles provides a discussion of the steps through which the adult educator needs to move in developing an overall program design. Beginning with the organizational structure, he moves step-by-step through the overall program development process.

Brookfield thoroughly summarizes six principles of critical practice for adult educators to consider when contemplating the program development process.4 These include a wide range of considerations such as voluntary participation, a sense of self-worth of the clientele, adult education as collaborative, the aim in nurturing self-directed, empowered adults, and fostering a spirit of critical reflection.

Information from these four currently documented sources of literature can help evaluate and streamline adult education programs to be at the competitive edge of "doing more with less."


1. R. Daily, "Program Planning and Development" (Keynote Address, Montana Cooperative Extension Service Fall Training Conference, Bozeman, Fall 1985).

2. C. Beatty, "Key Informant Survey" (Anaconda, Montana: Montana Cooperative Extension Service, Deer Lodge County Extension Office, 1987).

3. M. Knowles, The Modern Practice of Adult Education (Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, 1980).

4. S. Brookfield, "A Critical Definition of Adult Education," Adult Education Quarterly, XXXVI (Fall 1985), 44-49.