In June of 2017, an article was published in Colorado Community Media that described Extension as the “best-kept secret” in Elbert County. No doubt, Extension educators have been hearing others describe Extension in the same way for decades. As we contemplate the informal tagline “Extension is the best-kept secret “every Extension educator should be committed to making that statement obsolete. One of the methods that will eliminate others from describing Extension in this manner is to effectively tell our story.
According to Bailey and Deen (2002), Extension stakeholders insist on systematic evaluations that document program outcomes. While the primary purpose of evaluations is to be utilized to redirect or refocus program effort, the same data can usually be utilized to effectively communicate to stakeholders the value of the Extension programs. Extension educators stress the need for sequential learning, emphasizing that learning must be built, the concept upon concept, to a level that leads to changes in behavior, adoption of practices or adoption of new technology. National funding agencies augment this thinking by sometimes limiting their funding to “evidence-based programming,” with strictly prescribed program protocols and standards for proof of program effectiveness (Wise, 2017).
Interpretation of programs or telling our story is a high priority for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Interpreting evaluation results and sharing them with various stakeholders is more critical today than ever in the history of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. By effectively interpreting and marketing the results of Extension programs stakeholders can be provided a clear understanding of the value of specific programs in a county, community and the state.
When interpreting program results, the Extension educator should address the “3 Rs” of interpretation. The “3 Rs” are Relevance, Response, and Results. In order for Extension educators to effectively address the “3 Rs” they should ask themselves the following three questions:
Answering the “3 Rs” effectively provides stakeholders with the background and evidence needed to successfully understand and appreciate Extension programmatic impact. Typically, the Extension educator will develop a one-two page summary communicating the “3 Rs”. Interpretation of programs presents Extension educators with the opportunity to be creative and develop something that will get the stakeholders attention. It is important to use tables, graphs, charts and/or photographs that will effectively communicate program impact.
Structured Interpretation events take on many different appearances. Some efforts that have been effective for agents include the following:
Other less structured approaches to interpretation that can add value to formal interpretation efforts include the following:
Some things to remember when developing an interpretation strategy is as follows:
In future Next Step to Success blog posts, we will discuss effective Extension teaching.
Bailey, S. J., & Deen, M. Y. (2002). A framework for introducing program evaluation to extension faculty and staff. Journal of Extension [On-line], 40(2) Article 2IAW1. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2002april/iw1.php
Boleman, C., Cummings, S. & Pope. P. (2005). Keys to education that works: Texas Cooperative Extension’s program development model, Texas Cooperative Extension, College Station, Texas. Publication #345.
Kelly, S. (June 12, 2017). Extension is the best-kept secret in Elbert County. Colorado Community Media. Available at: http://coloradocommunitymedia.com/stories/extension-is-the-best-kept-secret-in-elbert-county,250364
Wise, D. (2017). Evaluating Extension impact on a Nationwide Level: Focus of Programs or Concepts? Journal of Extension [On-line] , 55 (1) Article # 1COM1. Available at: https://www.joe.org/joe/2017february/pdf/JOE_v55_1comm1.pdf