Darrell A. Dromgoole, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Scott Cummings, Associate Department Head and Program Leader; Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Stacey Dewald, Graduate Assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Michelle Payne, Extension Program Specialist I, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
If you been with Extension two weeks or twenty years, it is likely that you’ve read or heard people implore Extension educators to improve their level of engagement. According to Vines (2018), although there has been sustained interest in greater engagement of Extension, there has not been an operationalized definition of what engagement is or an understanding of how it is being or could be achieved. Karen Vines (2018), Continuing Professional Education Specialist at Virginia Tech University conducted a study where she investigated these gaps. Because of the exploratory nature of the study, the researcher utilized a qualitative research (Vines, 2018). Through an embedded case study, the researcher sought to describe the phenomena of expert versus engaged models of Extension program delivery within the context of two state Extension organizations (Vines, 2018). The researcher selected the states and program areas to focus on through critical case sampling based on survey responses from a panel of experts (Vines, 2018). Purposeful random sampling was utilized to identify successful Extension educators in program areas thought to emphasize the expert and engaged models of program delivery and then semistructured interviews with 35 Extension educators were conducted in the two state Extension organizations (Vines, 2018). Additional data was collected by unstructured interviews with the state Extension directors for the selected states (Vines, 2018).
The results of this study are useful for increasing understanding of the engaged model of program delivery for Extension and for determining what constitutes engagement (Vines, 2018). This study is unique in that the fundamental emphasis was on the utilization of expert and engaged models of program delivery at the local level (Vines, 2018).
Engagement in Extension is when expertise and learning processes are shared. In the engaged model, Extension serves as a conduit between the community and the resources of the Land Grant University (Vines, 2018). The engaged model is based on relationships with the community developed through continual interaction, partnerships, and collaborations (Vines, 2018).
Three components contributed to this study’s development of conceptual frameworks to describe the expert and engaged models of program delivery for Extension (Vines, 2018). These components are (a) the educational approaches used by Extension (Franz & Townson, 2008), (b) theories of change associated with Extension work, and (c) normative traditions describing the work of Extension educators (Peters et al., 2010).
Component 1 (Vines, 2018): Educational approaches. The educational approaches used by Extension are defined by their emphasis on content and process (Franz & Townson, 2008). These include facilitation, transformative education, service, and content transmission. The researcher reported that associated educational approaches low in process, service, and content transmission with the more traditional expert model of program delivery (Figure 1). The research further concluded that educational approaches high in process, facilitation, and transformative education are more consistent with the engaged model of program delivery (Figure 1) and more consistent with concepts associated with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service PIE Change Model (Vines, 2018).
Figure 1. Educational Approaches Used in Cooperative Extension as Related to Expert and Engaged Models of Program Delivery (Adapted from Vines, 2018).
Component 2 (Vines,2018): Theories of change. The researcher identified two theories of change related to the expert and engaged models of program delivery (Vines, 2018). These are diffusion of innovations theory and collective impact theory (Vines, 2018). The long-established theory used to describe the work of Extension has been Rogers’s theory for diffusion of innovations (Foley, 2004; Franz, Piercy, Donaldson, Richard, & Westbrook, 2010; Seevers & Graham, 2012). This theory is consistent with the expert model of program delivery. It is based on education that targets innovators to encourage them to adopt innovations or best practices (Figure 2). Development of new technologies and innovations and delivery of the relevant information to clientele at the local level occurs through a hierarchical process (Rogers, 1995). The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service PIE Program Change Model is fundamentally grounded multiple theories including Roger’s (1995) theory for diffusion of innovations.
Figure 2. Expert Model of Program Delivery Based on Rogers’s Diffusion of Innovations Theory (Adapted from Vines, 2018).
Collective impact theory has been used to describe work in adult education intended to strengthen communities and is consistent with engaged models for Extension (Niewolny & Archibald, 2015). This theory describes how communities solve complex issues involving multiple partners and provide for change that cannot be achieved through the limited activities of individual organizations (Vines, 2018). Five conditions necessary for the achievement of collective impact are as follows (Kania & Kramer, 2011, “The Five Conditions of Collective Success,” para. 1):
Strong local connections and networks of resources help communities develop solutions (Vines, 2018). Responsibility for identifying the problem and solution is shared. Figure 3 illustrates Kiniaa and Kramer (2011) Engaged Model of Program Delivery Based Collective Impact Theory. Again, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service PIE Program Change Model is fundamentally grounded by multiple theories including Kiniaa and Kramer (2011) Collective Impact Theory.
Figure 3. Engaged Model of Program Delivery Based on Collective Impact Theory (Kiniaa & Kramer, 2011).
Component 3: Normative traditions. This component focuses on the Extension educator’s role in the community associated with the expert and engaged models (Peters et al., 2010). Peters et al. (2010) defined four normative traditions related to these roles. In this study, the researcher used the service intellectual tradition and a combined version of the action researcher, public scholar, and education organizer traditions (Vines, 2018).
An Extension educator using the service intellectual tradition perceives his or her work in the community as responding to questions and providing services such as car seat safety checks or soil testing (Peters et al., 2010). As a service intellectual, the public role of an Extension educator is “limited to the provision of facts, knowledge, technical assistance, and technologies” (Peters et al., 2010, p. 52). This tradition is consistent with the role of Extension professionals as change agents using the diffusion of innovations theory in the expert model of program delivery.
An Extension educator that embraces the action researcher/public scholar/education organizer tradition plays the multiple roles encompassed in the tradition, valuing shared expertise through ongoing two-way communication between the Texas A&M University System and local clientele (Peters et al., 2010). Clientele are involved in identifying needs, developing and implementing educational interventions to address those needs, and evaluating those education interventions (Peters et al., 2010). These are actions that characterize engagement (Beaulieu & Cordes, 2014; Bridger & Alter, 2006; Byrne, 1998/2016; Sandmann, Furco, & Adams, 2016). Extension educators that effectively serve as a conduit to connect resources available at the Land Grant University with local clientele embodies the use of an engaged model of program delivery and provides the mutual benefits of shared learning (Bridger & Alter, 2006; Byrne, 1998/2016; Peters, Jordan, Alter, & Bridger, 2003; Sandmann et al., 2016). The Land Grant University is a desirable partner for clientele because of the breadth of expertise it represents and the potential for application of that expertise to address a wide range of unique, complex challenges facing clientele at the local level (Vines, 2018).
Using these components, the researcher developed overarching conceptual frameworks for the expert model (Figure 4) and the engaged model (Figure 5) of program delivery for Cooperative Extension (Vines, 2018). The framework for the expert model emphasizes one-way communication and demonstrates the role of the Land Grant University through Extension in providing expertise related to the introduction of technological innovations (Vines, 2018). The framework for the engaged model (Figure 5) demonstrates two-way communication and shared expertise as the partners work cooperatively to develop culturally relevant, contextual solutions to address issues facing local clientele (Vines, 2018).
Figure 4. Conceptual Framework for the Expert Model of Program Delivery for Extension (Adapted from Vines, 2018).
Figure 5. Conceptual Framework for the Engaged Model of Program Delivery for Extension (Adapted from Vines, 2018)
As a result of the research conducted by Vine (2018) definitions for the expert and engaged models of program delivery for Extension were developed (Vines, 2018):
The expert model of program delivery in Cooperative Extension emphasizes a one-way flow of information, although interaction with clientele exists in the form of discussion, questions, and feedback. The Land Grant University, through Extension, serves as the expert. In this role, Extension provides guidance and information and responds to questions. Expertise provided by the university is research based, and the providers of expertise are carefully evaluated representatives of the Land Grant University. The community may be involved in the identification of program needs. Program planning, implementation, and evaluation are internal activities of Extension. Other terms used to refer to this model are outreach, a bucket-filler approach, and top-down programming.
The engaged model of program delivery in Extension is characterized by community involvement in all aspects of program development: identification of issues to be addressed, design of a process for implementation and development of knowledge, and evaluation. Expertise and learning processes are shared. In the engaged model, Extension serves as a conduit between the community and the Land Grant University. The engaged model is based on relationships with the community developed through continual interaction, partnerships, and collaborations. Relationships and learning extend beyond traditional program boundaries. Learning experiences involving an engaged model are extremely robust, as the community works in both formal and informal settings to identify problems and develop solutions.
During the course of conducting this study, a third model of program delivery emerged and is identified as a hybrid model (Vines, 2018). The proposed definition for this model is as follows (Vines, 2018):
The hybrid model of program delivery in Extension is used to involve clientele in the delivery of programming that meets local needs. The model emphasizes shared expertise that comes from the Land Grant University, stakeholder organizations, and individual stakeholders. Stakeholders are also considered to be partners. Partners are involved in multiple aspects of programming, and their roles may vary according to location. There is emphasis on continual interaction between Extension and the community throughout the programming process. In this model, an expert approach may be used initially to increase community awareness in a subsequent, more engaged programming approach.
Extension educators participating in this study were asked to describe how they used the three identified models (Vines, 2018). Their responses are summarized in Table 1 related to the program delivery methods (Vines, 2018):
Table 1. Summary of Educators’ Use of the Expert, Engaged, and Hybrid Models (Vines, 2018).
Vines (2018) through this study identified barriers and drivers associated with Extension’s educators embracing an engaged model of program delivery. The barriers educators identified are summarized below, with those mentioned most frequently at the top of the list (Vines, 2018).
The drivers educators associated with use of the engaged model are summarized below, with those mentioned most frequently at the top of the list (Vines, 2018).
Engagement requires Extension educators to shift their emphasis from delivery of information to an emphasis on providing access to the learning process where the clientele are eminently invested in the learning process (King & Boehlje, 2000; Reed et al., 2015). In other words, a critical element of engagement is the active involvement of clientele in the learning process as opposed to simply disseminating information (Vines, 2018).
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