August 2019 // Volume 57 // Number 4
Defining the Contribution of Your Work and August JOE Highlights
In producing a scholarly manuscript, one must justify why the work deserves publication. I address this imperative in the "Defining the Contribution of Your Work" section of the Editor's Page. In "August JOE Highlights," I discuss a focus on program evaluation that exists in this issue and give examples of other topics that are covered.
Developing and Supporting the Future Extension Professional
Continual disruption and change describe the new normal. Embedded in complex systems and cultures, Extension professionals are at the heart of this change for many of today's issues. Relying on the traditional models for developing Extension professionals will not be enough for Extension to make a significant impact in the future. We present a model of education and training to develop and support Extension professionals as they work with individuals, organizations, and communities in the 21st century.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Developing and Supporting the Future Extension Professional”
Increasing Global Thinking and Engagement Within Extension
The increasingly prominent trend of globalization now affects all U.S. communities. Extension, in its mission to help these communities, must increase its global thinking and engagement so that communities can adapt to this modern trend and continue to thrive. In this commentary, I discuss the reasons why increased global thinking and responsive action is necessary as well as beneficial for the communities Extension serves. Further, I give examples of various ways Extension personnel can increase their global engagement and identify potential collaborators for such endeavors.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Increasing Global Thinking and Engagement Within Extension”
Ideas at Work
Participatory Research Engages Industry and Leads to Adoption of Methods That Challenge Long-Held Production Standards
A citizen science project engaged wine industry professionals in challenging the long-held belief that low yields are required for production of high-quality wine. Strategies emerged for the planning and implementation of projects involving industry members as citizen scientists. Keys to success included factors related to industry inclusion, planning, coordination, and communication. Direct industry involvement in the research project strengthened industry–university relationships and led to the adoption of new production practices that had been difficult to bring about prior to facilitation of industry members' firsthand experimentation.
Implementing a Successful National e-Forum
The National 4-H Volunteer e-Forum is an alternative to multistate, face-to-face volunteer forums. Building on the success of regional e-forums, a collaborative group planned and offered three webinars that were relevant, economical, consistent, and convenient to attend. A blended learning strategy can successfully be used for focusing on both volunteer and organizational needs when approached with intentionality. Extension can use this model broadly to develop better trained corps of volunteers. Data-driven recommendations are included for Extension professionals interested in exploring hybrid training options.
How Forming a Cooperative Network Improved Services and Outcomes for Farmers
The Beginning Farmer Resource Network of Maine (BFRN) is a model for maximizing resources and improving farmer services through increased statewide communication and collaboration among a diverse group of agricultural service providers. Formed in 2012, BFRN is a cooperative network with shared leadership and no financial overhead. In a 2018 survey regarding BFRN's impacts, 92% of members (22 of 24 responding members) said they were more effective and efficient. The survey results also indicated that over 800 farmers had made positive changes as a result of members' participation in BFRN. BFRN's continuing high level of activity is a testament to the value this network model offers to participating organizations, agencies, and institutions.
Using Geographic Information System Technology to Identify Environmental Education Field Sites
Natural resources Extension educators use outdoor environmental education sites to increase public knowledge of environmental issues, but locating appropriate sites can be time-consuming. Geographic information system (GIS) software and geospatial data can help Extension professionals choose such sites more efficiently. We describe our use of GIS technology to select a natural resources field day site in Tuskegee National Forest in Alabama. We used site characteristics such as forest type, road access, and slope to narrow potential sites from 94 possibilities to the two best options. Sources of free and low-cost geospatial data also are discussed.
Engage Stakeholders in Program Evaluation: Throw Them a Party!
A data party is an engaging way to involve stakeholders in program evaluation. We explain the use of a data party for engaging 4-H program stakeholders (e.g., staff and volunteers) in data interpretation and helping them understand, embrace, and use program evaluation information to make data-driven decisions about their programs. We present two tools that can be used for presenting data in a clear and meaningful way: data place mats and gallery walks. We also provide information on the process we used, our lessons learned, and the utility of data parties in Extension programming.
A Model for Youth Financial Education in Extension Involving a Game-Based Approach
University of Idaho Extension educators have developed a library of 10 game-based personal finance programs, collectively known as the Northwest Youth Financial Education project, and have made these programs freely available for Extension educators to use. The purpose of this article is to share highlights from an associated train-the-trainer event and the impacts of one of the 10 programs as it has begun to be implemented. The Northwest Youth Financial Education project serves as a model for effective and engaging youth personal finance education that can be easily implemented or replicated in Extension.
Tools of the Trade
Linking Extension Program Design with Evaluation Design for Improved Evaluation
We present a framework to help those working in Extension connect program designs with appropriate evaluation designs to improve evaluation. The framework links four distinct Extension program domains—service, facilitation, content transformation, and transformative education—with three types of evaluation design—preexperimental, quasi-experimental, and true experimental. We use examples from Extension contexts to provide detailed information for aligning program design and evaluation design. The framework can be of value to various audiences, including novice evaluators, graduate students, and non-social scientists, involved in carrying out systematic evaluation of Extension programs.
Promoting Program Evaluation Fidelity When Data Collectors Lack Research Design and Implementation Expertise
Within Extension, certain personnel, facilitators, and volunteers expected to conduct research in the form of program evaluation may have little or no training in effective research design and practices. This circumstance can lead to difficulties in the implementation of evaluation procedures, particularly with regard to program evaluation fidelity. In addition, a lack of familiarity with effective program evaluation and research methods may limit an individual's understanding of the importance of evaluation itself, as well as the importance of fidelity in conducting an evaluation. Effective planning of, training in, and monitoring of program evaluation procedures is essential for maintaining fidelity and ensuring accurate evaluation of program outcomes.
How to Use Crowdfunding in Extension: A Relationship Education Example
Crowdfunding is a resource that allows individuals or groups to raise funds while simultaneously engaging relevant communities and, thus, is an important tool for Extension specialists. We provide recommended steps for successful crowdfunding, including tips for identifying a website, developing or refining a proposal, and crafting a marketing and campaign strategy. We use the successful crowdfunding of a relationship education program as an example.
Awards of Excellence Inspire and Motivate Extension Professionals
Extension awards recognize programs that have achieved outstanding accomplishments, results, and impacts in addressing contemporary issues. Whether an individual or a team is recognized, the awardees gain inspiration and motivation and may attain promotion and/or tenure. The Western Region Program Leadership Committee oversees a special award process that recognizes individuals and teams whose program outcomes result in regional and multistate impacts that benefit communities across the West. We describe a rubric that allows for equitable scoring across Extension content areas. Additionally, we recommend that Extension awards programs be expanded and encouraged to promote personal and professional growth.
The Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture Crop Basis Tool
The Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture Crop Basis Tool is an open-access web-based tool that provides members of the grain industry with access to weekly historical and contemporaneous corn and soybean basis data for local market regions in the eastern Corn Belt. Previously unavailable to most producers in the region, the information the Crop Basis Tool provides has the potential to greatly improve producers' marketing risk management decisions through improved basis forecasts. In addition, there are a myriad of opportunities for Extension personnel to incorporate the Crop Basis Tool in their marketing risk management education and outlook programming.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education Evaluation and Database System
Reporting requirements for capturing data on the delivery of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) have evolved. University of Minnesota (U of M) Extension developed the SNAP Education Evaluation and Database System (SEEDS) to capture unduplicated participant information for SNAP-Ed programming conducted by U of M Extension across the state of Minnesota. The data collected in SEEDS have utility related to both managing programs and measuring the success of programs at local, regional, and state levels. Extension professionals in other states may benefit from developing a similar centralized database for collecting SNAP-Ed data.
Interpreting Forestry Economic Contribution Reports: A User's Guide
State agencies and Extension professionals often employ IMPLAN software and associated data to conduct economic contribution analyses of the forest sector. Economic contribution reports often vary with regard to modeling, results presentation, and interpretation of estimates. We present practical guidelines for report users on how to better understand input–output modeling and interpret forestry economic contribution reports. We discuss strategies for understanding basic terminology, aspects of IMPLAN software, and the difference between economic contribution and economic impacts, among other concepts.
Program Evaluation Challenges and Obstacles Faced by New Extension Agents: Implications for Capacity Building
In this era of accountability, Extension agents are expected to evaluate their programs for accountability. New Extension agents are not exempt from this expectation. If they lack evaluation capacity, this scenario can contribute to frustration and burnout. Therefore, it is paramount to explore new Extension agents' evaluation challenges and obstacles to find ways to help them build evaluation capacity. We used a modified Delphi study approach to identify and describe the most important challenges and obstacles faced by early-career Extension agents. The study panel demonstrated consensus on 26 program evaluation challenges and seven program evaluation obstacles. The findings may inform regional collaboration for evaluation competency building and promote meaningful discussions that move support beyond the status quo.
Leveraging Utilization-Focused Evaluations to Engage Elected Officials and County Personnel
Elected officials, an audience essential to the relevance and funding of Extension, may lack knowledge of Extension's capacity to engage with them in solving local problems, building consensus, and improving strategic planning or governance. They may not consider that by collaborating with locally knowledgeable Extension professionals, they also gain access to broader university resources that can assist them in understanding community needs and obtaining relevant evidence-based recommendations. We describe how Extension and county officials and personnel implemented utilization-focused evaluation to inform county strategic planning, budgeting, and governance, leading to continuous process improvement for the county and increased support for and understanding of Extension.
Perspectives on Place-Based Local Leadership Programs: Fostering Leadership and Community Attachment in Youths
Leadership development, service learning, place-based education, and economic revitalization are topics relevant to Extension. We performed an evaluation to determine whether a place-based leadership program in Clermont County, Ohio, helps students develop leadership skills and encourages their return to the community. Program evaluation data collected via a web-based survey indicated that 80% of youths planned to return to the area to live and work, an action that would contribute to revitalization of the community. Extension professionals can use findings from our evaluation as a basis for improving existing programs, structuring new youth leadership initiatives, and communicating the value of place-based youth leadership programs to stakeholders.
Building Bridges Between Producers and Schools: The Role of Extension in the Farm to School Program
Childhood obesity is one of the leading problems facing Americans today. As children continue to struggle with both obesity and food insecurity, many parents and doctors look to schools to be responsible for providing healthful meals. The aim of the Farm to School (F2S) program is to bring fresh, local produce into school cafeterias. Aligning with Extension goals, the F2S program provides an opportunity for both the development of healthful lifestyles and increases in agricultural profits. Through interviews with producers and school food service directors, we determined ways Extension programming can be used to improve the efficiency of the F2S program.
Research in Brief
Evaluating Extension Program Impacts Through Comparison of Knowledge and Behavior of Extension Clientele Versus Others
A new method for evaluating the influence of Extension programming involves exploring whether Extension clientele differ from others in knowledge and behavior related to a particular topic. Analysis of South Dakota farm survey data allowed for the assessment of potential impacts of Extension through comparison of knowledge and adoption regarding soil conservation practices among farmers who did and did not use Extension. Results suggest that, controlling for some farmer and farm characteristics, use of Extension is associated with higher levels of knowledge and greater adoption rates. The new evaluation methodology can be used for assessing broad-scale impacts across Extension program areas.
Using Hybrid Learning to Improve Educational Programs for Small-Acreage Farmers
A whole-farm planning course in Idaho has evolved from an in-person course offered by a single instructor in one location to an online course to a hybrid learning course that combines online learning with in-person and webinar components offered simultaneously at multiple sites across the state. Evaluation data suggest that all three approaches have been effective at increasing knowledge and skills. The hybrid learning model allows for using technology to leverage faculty and farmer expertise and increase participant numbers while maintaining in-person interaction and experiential learning. Findings support the concept of the hybrid learning model as a tool for Extension audiences in rural states.
Pennsylvania Agricultural Producers' Observations of Changing Environmental Conditions: Implications for Research and Extension
To understand environmental conditions Pennsylvania agricultural producers had observed in the past and what their environmental concerns were for the future, we conducted a statewide survey. We used Spearman rank order correlations to show differences between past observations and future concerns regarding environmental conditions and found a disconnect between what respondents previously had observed and their anticipations for the future. Additionally, we used chi-square analysis to determine whether perspectives on environmental conditions were related to producer demographic characteristics. Two demographic variables were significant: generation of farmer and political affiliation. Our findings can assist Extension professionals in developing programs tailored to target audiences' environmental perceptions and demographics.
Youth Participatory Evaluation: Matching 4-H Youth Experience to Program Theory
Recently, a new program model for describing and predicting the impact of 4-H on youths was proposed. The model's structure was confirmed statistically in preliminary testing. However, youth voice had not been included in the development of the model. This article describes a study intended to assess the alignment of the six thriving indicators presented in the model with the lived experience of youths. Results revealed alignment between youths' experience and the thriving indicators. Youths affirmed thriving as an accurate way to describe their 4-H experience and provided examples of how the thriving indicators match their experience.
Master Gardener Satisfaction and Intent to Remain After Training via Remote Delivery
One year after using remote delivery via video web conferencing (VWC) in training, we surveyed Delaware master gardeners to assess the remote delivery trainees' satisfaction and intent to remain as compared to those characteristics in volunteers who had had face-to-face training. Although the remote delivery trainees were satisfied overall, they were significantly less satisfied than those who had participated in face-to-face trainings. A more positive perception of the VWC experience was associated with master gardeners' increased satisfaction, suggesting the importance of VWC quality. However, volunteers trained via VWC did not report more or less of an intention to remain with the organization.
Influencing Water Consumption Through the Water Check Program
Irrigation system evaluations, such as the Water Check program instigated by Utah State University Extension, promote water conservation in the landscape by equipping homeowners with the necessary information to maximize their irrigation systems' efficiencies. Retrospective evaluation indicated that the Water Check program positively affected participants' understanding of irrigation and system maintenance concepts and their water-saving behaviors. As well, 48% of participants reported that they had reduced their landscape water use after participating in the Water Check program. These findings suggest that an in-person, on-site irrigation education program provides worthwhile results for drought-prone regions.
Needs Assessment: Watershed Science for Water Resources Directors
We conducted a needs assessment to identify watershed science training needs for locally elected directors of Nebraska's 23 natural resources districts (NRDs). We interviewed NRD staff and surveyed NRD directors to determine training needs and identify relevant topics and preferred delivery formats. We found that training would be valuable; however, directors are busy, meaning that opportunities for training are limited. Additionally, we learned that directors rely on printed material and other NRD personnel for watershed science information. Therefore, web-based information may be most useful if designed for collaborative learning through hybrid delivery during regular NRD activities. Our findings are relevant to current and future regulatory systems reliant on locally elected boards.
Dairy Cattle Handling Extension Programs: Training Workers and Cattle
Cattle handling Extension program educators often overlook the animal training component of efficient handling. The objectives of the study described in this article were to measure young dairy heifer behavioral responses toward handlers who received different types of training and to document whether repeated handling or time of day of handling affected heifer behavioral responses to handlers. Six handlers received training through a lecture, hands-on workshop, or video. An observer recorded heifer behavior during handling tests. The day and time of heifer training were most influential on heifer behavior, but heifer handling ease was improved when handlers had participated in the hands-on training.