February 2020 // Volume 58 // Number 1
JOE by the Numbers and February JOE Highlights
I open this Editor’s Page with “JOE by the Numbers,” our annual report of JOE author and readership data. In “February JOE Highlights,” I preview articles that address dual contributors to the soul of Extension work: the stimulation of challenge and the spirit of collaboration.
Challenge to Bolster the Evidence Base for 4-H Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Programming
Research has shown that participation in 4-H science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs is associated with positive youth outcomes, including higher science and math standardized test scores. In reflecting on the 4-H Science initiative's logic model and recent evaluative studies of 4-H STEM programs, we identified a need for systematic, comprehensive literature reviews and meta-analyses of published materials about 4-H STEM programs. We issue a challenge to the Cooperative Extension System and land-grant universities to conduct such research to communicate impacts of 4-H STEM programs, describe successful 4-H STEM programs, identify best practices and strengthen 4-H STEM programs, and improve STEM programming for children and youths overall.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Challenge to Bolster the Evidence Base for 4-H Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Programming”
Ideas at Work
Forming a Multistate Network: From Passion and Coincidence to Vision and Sustainability
The North Central Region Aging Network (NCRAN) formed out of a need to strengthen the potential for meeting curricular and educational demands related to the topic of aging. By pooling resources, establishing interactive and consistent methods of idea sharing, working collectively to assess community needs, and launching professional development initiatives, network members are able to effectively and efficiently address constituent needs across state lines. Early success and sustainability of NCRAN can be largely attributed to four lessons learned: (a) visioning, (b) shared leadership, (c) connection, and (d) data-driven decision making. Other Extension professionals seeking to address constituent needs may find success in forming similar collaborative networks.
Increasing Collaboration Between Extension and Community-Based Nonprofits: The Quick Chats Workshop
Collaborations between Extension and nonprofit organizations have the potential to increase programmatic outcomes and generate revenue. One challenge in establishing such collaborations is identifying potential collaborators. We organized a structured networking workshop to foster such relationships. Of 28 participants, 24 completed the postworkshop evaluation. On average, these participants reported meeting 12 new people and expected to follow up with five potential collaborators. Two key areas of expected collaboration were programming and public relations/communications. In this article, we describe the process of conducting the structured networking workshop, present the results of the follow-up evaluation, and offer recommendations for replication.
Designing Educational Farm Tours to Improve Consumer Trust in Modern Agriculture
Breakfast on the Farm educational farm tours were introduced in Michigan in 2009 to improve consumer knowledge about, impressions of, and trust in modern food production. Over 89,000 participants have attended events on 40 commercial dairy, beef, crop, and fruit farms. This article addresses organization and funding of the events and some of their general impacts. Volunteers staff stations on topics such as animal care, food safety, nutrition, and water quality. Surveys indicate that attendees' impressions of and trust in farmers and food production improve and that product purchases increase. Events patterned after Michigan's model have occurred in several states and may be implemented elsewhere for similar purposes.
Offering a Hyflex Fisheries Science Course for Stakeholders of New Jersey's Fisheries
Introductory Fisheries Science for Stakeholders (IFISSH) is an Extension course for educating stakeholders of New Jersey's marine fisheries on the science, management, and responsible stewardship of fishery resources. The IFISSH course is offered in a Hyflex (i.e., hybrid and flexible) format to allow for live participation in class or remote participation via webinar, making the course available to a broader audience than what is possible when only one mode of participation is offered. The course serves as a useful model for Extension programming related to fisheries as well as other disciplines, particularly for those interested in serving diverse clientele over a broad geographic area.
Leveraging Resources for Workforce Development: West Virginia's Industrial Construction Project Management Program
Completed in March 2017, the Industrial Construction Project Management program became the first for-credit construction management program in West Virginia. The program curriculum, created by Extension faculty and industry professionals, is designed for mid-career craft workers and supervisors in the construction industry and comprises 180 hr of instruction. The program demonstrates the pivotal role Extension professionals can play in meeting economic development needs in their states. The program pilot phase provided a new career pathway for 25 journeymen craft workers who received a 12-credit-hr construction management certificate and fulfilled a long-term need of industrial construction employers in the region.
Novel Method for Determining Sale Eligibility in Station-Tested Beef Bulls
Operators of central bull test stations often determine sale eligibility using a selection index, whereas coordinators of the Wardensville Bull Test use independent culling levels derived according to deviation from contemporary group mean. Data from the 2013–2015 Wardensville Bull Test program were used for determining mean numbers of bulls culled for six eligibility criteria for three variation-based culling levels. Then comparison of these methods was used for determining the most appropriate method relative to program goals and producer needs. Suggested sale eligibility criteria are provided. Extension professionals can educate relevant audiences regarding the value and correct application of the variation-based method.
Tools of the Trade
Needs Assessment Tool Kit
Conducting needs assessments serves as a valuable way for Extension educators to ensure that they are designing programs that meet community needs. We developed a needs assessment tool kit that educators across urban, suburban, and rural communities can use to answer the question "What are the youth development needs in my county?" Additionally, the tool kit's components can be easily adapted for use in all Extension program areas and thus serve as a resource for educators in various contexts desiring to gather stakeholder input needed to strengthen their programming.
Marketing for Next Gen Extension Clientele Through the Use of Geofilters
Research supports Extension educators' use of social media as an engagement, outreach, and marketing tool beyond posts shared by staff and faculty. This article highlights the practical use of Snapchat geofilters at county and statewide Extension events to support the creation of user-generated content and increase Extension's visibility with the public. The development and implementation of an innovative statewide marketing project resulted in data and recommendations that can help Extension educators make meaningful marketing decisions.
Tracking College Enrollment Rates for Precollege Program Alumni
Many Extension precollege programs seek to increase young people's interest in and aspirations toward college by fostering the development of skills that support a successful college transition. By pairing existing data with participant enrollment records, Extension professionals can more easily capture the impact of precollege programs on college enrollment and degree attainment. This article summarizes the process a group of us at Michigan State University Extension use to track Michigan 4-H precollege program alumni college enrollment rates, leveraging existing data from the National Student Clearinghouse and the Michigan Department of Education. Our method is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to measure and share precollege program impacts.
Photo Elicitation: Useful Supplemental Tool for Qualitative Interviews with Youths
Photo elicitation is the idea of inserting a photograph (or other visual material) into a research interview. It has been documented that contemporary modes of expression (such as photographs) can be beneficial in research interviews with youths. This article describes a photo elicitation protocol used with older youths and provides insight on the benefits and challenges of using photo elicitation for qualitative research purposes.
Keys to Embracing Aging: Curriculum to Promote Healthful Living Across the Life Span
Keys to Embracing Aging is a research-based, peer-reviewed curriculum intended to increase 12 healthful behaviors correlated with overall wellness and longevity. Both comprehensive and interactive, this scripted initiative can be used to creatively motivate and empower participants to embrace healthful lifestyles, make healthful living a habit, and create more healthful homes and communities. The lessons address well-being from a life span perspective, emphasizing the importance of starting good habits early and reinforcing that a person is never too old to choose health. The curriculum has been successfully pilot tested in multiple states, in a variety of formats, and with various Extension audiences.
Improving Financial Behaviors Through Nudges
Behavioral economics and its concept of nudges are rapidly influencing the design of community-based financial education programs. This article addresses why nudges can be useful tools for effective financial education, explains the different types of nudges introduced by behavioral economics research, presents evidence of their effectiveness from the field, and suggests ways Extension professionals can use these insights in their work. A particular focus is on nudges that are effective for personal financial behaviors.
Safe Processing, Safe Food: Food Processing Infosheets for Extension Educators
An infosheet series titled Safe Processing, Safe Food has been developed and branded. The series is composed of peer-reviewed infosheets depicting conventional and emerging food processing technologies (FPTs) used to make foods safer. The goals of developing the infosheet series were to help Extension educators and, subsequently, the general public become more aware of FPTs and to dispel common myths associated with them. Extension educators can use the infosheets to familiarize themselves with the science and application of FPTs and can disseminate the infosheets to clientele such as small-scale agricultural producers, processers, and consumers.
A Critical Time for Extension Leadership in Public Policy Education Programming
We conducted research to examine 1862, 1890, and 1994 land-grant and Sea Grant Extension program leaders' perceptions about Extension public policy education (PPE). Most agreed that PPE is important work. Existing PPE has focused on issue-oriented community development, natural resources, or agriculture topics. Our results indicate that there is no clear priority, funding, or support for Extension PPE and that most programs lack associated policies or staff training. For Extension to fulfill its role in society, increased focus must be placed on PPE through administrative support and professional development that empowers everyone in Extension to build PPE into their work.
Cooperative Extension and Sustainability Outreach: Programmatic Successes, Administrative Support, and Areas for Improvement
According to the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, without urgent global changes, climate catastrophe caused by warming of greater than 1.5°C will occur by 2030, endangering the planet's capacity to sustain human populations and livelihoods. The National Network for Sustainable Living Education administered a national survey in January 2017 to assess how well-positioned Extension is to address sustainability in the communities the organization serves. Educators from 40 states responded, and 1,395 usable surveys were received. Survey results will help Extension employees discover opportunities for innovation and relevancy in their programming.
Burnout: Examining the Effects of Job Characteristics Across Extension Disciplines
We conducted a cross-sectional study grounded in job demands–resources theory to examine the relationship between job characteristics and burnout across Extension disciplines. Job demands predicted burnout regardless of discipline; however, job resources predicted burnout for only three of the five disciplines studied—agriculture, family and consumer sciences, and 4-H. Accordingly, reducing job demands may be preferable to enhancing job resources as a strategy for combating burnout. Additionally, findings for community development and 4-H educators suggest that they may be at higher risk for burnout and warrant further examination. Extension leadership should consider implementing programmatic policies and strategies that address Extension educators' job characteristics within given disciplines.
Personal Health, Role, and Time Management Competency Training Needs of Florida Extension Agents
The personal effectiveness of Extension agents is a topic continuously researched, yet problems persist, suggesting that not enough is yet known to improve the situation. We undertook a study to determine the personal effectiveness competency training needs of agents in Florida, specifically looking at time management and work–life integration competencies. Data were collected via an online survey of University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension agents. Agents needed training for all areas of personal effectiveness, but particularly for how to manage time and how to get adequate amounts of sleep. Additionally, organizational practices and culture should be considered as part of the solution for improving personal effectiveness.
Research in Brief
Understanding Factors That Support Well-Functioning Community Coalitions
Coalitions are central to Extension's community-based programs. To assess characteristics that support well-functioning coalitions and to support coalitions in which Extension stakeholders participate, we used the Wilder Collaboration Factors Inventory to assess 10 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education coalitions on the basis of research-tested collaboration success factors. Overall, the 103 coalition members who responded reported strengths related to communication and shared purpose and weaknesses in the areas of resources and process and structure for achieving the coalitions' aims. Our project represents a low-burden method for assessing Extension coalitions to understand the characteristics that are likely to support the achievement of collective goals.
Exploring Producer Innovation Adoption Using an Extension-Led Trialing Program
On-farm bacteriologic culturing (OFBC) provides quick and inexpensive mastitis diagnosis, but commercial adoption of this innovation has been low in Mississippi. We implemented an Extension-led trialing program to identify reasons for producers' lack of OFBC adoption, explore change in producers' knowledge and perceptions of OFBC, and assess the effectiveness of the program relative to OFBC adoption. Most producers were unaware of OFBC initially but identified several benefits after trialing it for 30 days. The methodology for designing and implementing a trialing program based on Rogers's diffusion of innovation framework was effective and could be replicated easily in other contexts.
Identifying Forest Health Gaps: A Needs Assessment of Tree and Forest Health Extension Education
There is growing demand for a broader conception of tree and forest health by commercial and private timberland owners, who make up a substantial proportion of Extension clientele in the southeastern United States. There has been little research to comprehensively capture and represent Extension agents' needs, concerns, and perceived barriers as they respond to client questions and requests regarding tree and forest health topics. Our needs assessment results highlight needs and barriers Extension agents encounter as they address tree and forest health requests from clientele. We provide recommendations for research and practical applications for improving relevant resource support in Extension.
Reach Versus Impact: Comparing Webinars and Online Short Courses for Educational Outcomes
Our multistate group of state horse specialists produced and evaluated impacts from six webinars and online short courses (webinar plus additional content) addressing current industry issues: pasture-associated laminitis, equine herpesvirus-1, disaster preparedness, sales fraud, rescues/rehoming, and manure management. We identified no differences in perceived knowledge gained from webinars or short courses; however, results suggest that participation in short courses versus live webinars may be more useful for making positive management decisions. Short course participants also reported greater potential for cost savings as a result of completing the education. On the basis of the study, we offer recommendations for developing effective online Extension education programs.
Debunking the Myth That Technology Is a Barrier for Volunteer Training Delivery
Georgia 4-H and Extension master gardener (EMG) volunteers were surveyed following required online trainings. Most respondents had access to high-speed Internet via personal computers. No significant differences existed regarding familiarity with, comfort with, or use of technology applications among the groups of 4-H and EMG volunteers surveyed. However, traditionalists (those born between 1925 and 1942) were less familiar and comfortable with technology than other generations surveyed. Extension personnel should use technology more with volunteers, including via online offerings accessible by and compatible with smartphones and tablets. Mixed success across program areas with online training does not appear to be due to lack of technology access.