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.
After completing phase one (plan) of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services PIE Change Model, it is time to move to the implementation phase. Effective educational programs produce clientele change when the program is purposefully designed, organized, and delivered. Change techniques or delivery methods should be selected for a specific educational purpose with clearly defined “teaching points that are strategically linked to program objectives and evaluation methods.” The best change techniques or program delivery methods depends on the target audience, educational objectives, type and context of the educational information being presented, characteristics of the educational delivery method, the sequence of educational events, and the method’s efficacy in providing the desired measurable outcomes (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Extension educators utilize a variety of educational delivery methods to affect clientele’s behaviors. Each approach has its advantages and limitations, and each is particularly adapted to a situation. The Extension educators challenge is to identify when, where, and how to provide the best learning experience for clientele (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Group methods have been an effective program delivery method since field days were conducted in the early history of Extension. Group method is the most economical means of reaching larger audiences (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Some group methods that should be in Extension portfolio of learning activities include the method demonstration, general educational meetings, short courses, special interest meetings, workshops, tours and field days camps, clinics, group forums, volunteer training meetings, 4-H and Youth activities and blended learning (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
The method demonstration is a how-to illustration or a step-by-step explanation of a procedure delivered by the Extension educator or trained leader to teach a skill to a group. Examples of method demonstration might include a demonstration on how to prepare a healthy meal, how to graft a pecan tree, how to fit a livestock show animal or install drip irrigation in a home garden.
The demonstration may include diagrams, charts, and other illustrative material accompanied by an oral explanation (Seevers & Graham, 2012). The audience observes the process, listen to the explanation, and pose questions during or at the conclusion of the demonstration (Seevers & Graham, 2012). The method demonstration should not be confused with result demonstrations. A comparison of the result demonstration and the method demonstration is provided in Table 1 (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Table 1. Comparison of result demonstration and method demonstration.
Method demonstrations can be conducted in the field using actual specimens, animals, equipment, or crops (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Harmon and Jones (1997) reported that field demonstrations positively impacted the acceptance of the forest management practice of clear-cutting. Natural resource conflicts among managers, timber harvesters, landowners and the general public were difficult to resolve due to the diverse perspectives involved (Harmon & Jones, 1997). Educational programs that incorporated method demonstrations played a significant role in reducing natural resources conflicts that resulted in discussions among groups with conflicting opinions and led to the adoption of good forest management practices (Harmon & Jones, 1997).
Extension utilizes general educational meetings for a variety of approaches, some are target audience specific while others target a specific subject matter (Seevers & Graham, 2012). The size of the meeting may vary from a small number of participants to hundreds of individuals participating in a county-wide meeting or multi-county meeting (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Local customs or traditions dictates whether the meeting is called a workshop, special interest meeting, institute, forum, conference, clinic, committee meeting, short course, project meeting, or planning meeting (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
General educational meetings provide a venue for a large number of clientele to acquire subject matter information (Seevers & Graham, 2012). The group approach enables clientele to share knowledge and experience with others, enhancing the learning process (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Extension educators use the lecture presentation to present authoritative or technical information (Seevers & Graham, 2012). A short course frequently utilizes the lecture as a method to teach (Seevers & Graham, 2012). The short course usually consists of a series of lessons on a specific subject (Seevers & Graham, 2012). These lessons should be designed to be sequential in nature with each lesson designed to build on the previous lesson and sequenced in a logical manner to allow clientele to move on an educational continuum from basic concepts to more complex concepts. An effective short course utilizes both lecture and demonstrations. Short courses emphasize in-depth instruction on a specific matter (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
This method is similar to the short course but it may be limited to one or two meetings (Seevers & Graham, 2012). While the short course emphasizes the subject matter taught, the special interest meeting focuses on the audience’s “special interest” (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Some examples the are the presentation of new child-care laws for an audience of childcare providers or a presentation on new pesticide laws provided to commercial pesticide applicators (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
The workshop is a series of meetings for the intensive study or discussion of a specific topic (Seevers & Graham, 2012). A workshop usually includes both lectures and demonstrations led by an Extension educator accompanied by hands-on participation by clientele (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Tours are a series of field and demonstration meetings arranged in a logical sequence (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Field days traditionally garners enormous publicity and are well attended. A Tour may be devoted to a specific topic or the cumulative effect of several result demonstrations (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Camps are a very popular method in group instruction. The camping setting provides for a more relaxing educational experience. This venue may provide a relaxing environment for learning, it is still imperative that the educational components to camps are very structured with clear learning objectives.
A clinic is an experience of learning through examination and treatment (Seevers & Graham, 2012). A clinic usually utilizes a specialist or “expert” who assists in analyzing a problem (Seevers & Graham, 2012). The clinic may be a short, intensive session of group interactions on a specific skill or field of knowledge (Seevers & Graham, 2012). The purpose is to advise about a specific problem (Seevers & Graham, 2012). An example can include a health clinic where an Extension educator offers advice about food choices (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Group forum is a process where two or more individual express, clarify and share their knowledge, and opinions (Seevers & Graham, 2012). The collective thinking of several persons is likely to be greater than that of one individual (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Group forums can be utilized to present new technical information, relate knowledge to experience, increase understanding, reach an agreement, and plan action (Seevers & Graham, 2012). The role of the discussion leader is to stimulate participation by all members of the group (Seevers & Graham, 2012). An example of a group forum is utilizing an Extension agronomist, Extension weed specialist, Extension entomologist and an Extension Economist to have a discussion with agriculture producers regarding how a new technology can be integrated into a crop production system.
The volunteer training meeting is an educational lesson provided for volunteers in a given subject matter area (Seevers & Graham, 2012). These volunteers could be 4-H leaders, 4-H project leaders, master gardeners, TEEA volunteers, master wellness volunteers, etc. These volunteers utilize training for their own personal development and for the benefit of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. For example, master wellness volunteers may be trained on the benefits of fiber in the diet (Seevers & Graham, 2012). The master wellness volunteers can incorporate these principles in their daily lives, but they are also responsible for teaching the same lesson to clientele (Seevers & Graham, 2012). This method of “train the trainer” is very effective in extending the educational efforts of County Extension educators (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Educational activities are a vital component the 4-H and youth development program. County, district, state, and national activities are conducted to maintain interest in various project areas and the program in general (Seevers & Graham, 2012). These activities may be educational in nature, competitive, or a combination of the two (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Examples of competitive activities with an educational component are food challenge, public speaking, judging contests, illustrated talks or method demonstrations, livestock projects, etc. Some examples of non-competitive educational activities are camps, leadership labs, educational tours, and leadership training.
According to Hino and Kahn (2016), Extension clientele’s learning preferences are changing. The emergence of widespread high-speed internet connectivity, mobile devises, and advances in online learning has changed the Extension educational landscape (Hino & Kahn, 2016). The mainstay of Extension program delivery has long been group face-to-face program delivery.
However, as our clientele learning preferences, change and technology improve there is more demand for online instruction. Many Extension educators have developed an innovative approach to capitalize on the advantages of face-to-face instruction with online learning called blended learning. Blended learning has many advantages in terms of convenience for clientele and reaching new audiences while maintaining the benefits of face-to-face instruction.
Blended teaching includes regularly scheduled face-to-face educational events explicitly integrated with significant online learning activities (Hino & Kahn, 2016). A blended approach emphasizes active learning, extends the learning beyond the physical classroom, and facilitates robust interaction between the Extension educator and clientele both face-to-face and online (Hino & Kahn, 2016).
According to Owston (2018), blended learning facilitates learner empowerment more than either face-to-face or fully online courses. In Idaho, Extension has utilized blended learning to expand the impact of their programs and increasing the outreach to rural communities. The Idaho Extension educators report that through multiple formats of delivery, they have created broader connections, increased program outreach and impact, created new collaboration opportunities for Extension faculty and specialists, and has created greater engagement opportunities throughout the state for program participants (Silkwood, Young, Dolecheck, Hamilton, & Kinder, 2018).
While group instruction can be very effective, this method also has some disadvantages. Table 2 provides some of the advantages and disadvantages of group teaching methods (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Table 2. Advantages and disadvantages of group teaching methods.
In 2019 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service conducted a study to determine the preferred method of learning by Texans (Cummings, Dromgoole, Payne, & Dewald, 2019). In this study Texans were asked how they preferred to learn (Cummings, Dromgoole, Payne, & Dewald, 2019). The respondents to this survey question reported they preferred to learn by just doing (29.5%), followed by watching someone in person or video (28.0%) and reading instructions (26.3%). The least preferred methods of learning was using pictures or diagrams (11.2%) and listening to someone (4.4%). Table 3 provides information regarding how respondents preferred to learn.
Table 3. Frequency table for preferred method of learning (Cummings, Dromgoole, Payne, & Dewald, 2019).
These group methods can be very effective if the Extension educator maintains a balance of individual methods and mass/social media methods. In the upcoming Next Step to Success blog, we will discuss the utilization of mass/social media educational methods.
Franz, N., Piercy, F., Donaldson, J., Westbrook, J., & Richard, R. (2010). Farmer, Agent, and Specialist Perspectives on Preferences for Learning Among Today’s Farmers. Journal of Extension. 48 (3) Retrieved from: https://joe.org/joe/2010june/rb1.php .
Harmon, A.H., & Jones, S.B.(1997) Forestry demonstrations: What good is walk in the woods? Journal of Extension. 35 (1) Retrieved from: http://www.joe.org/joe/1997february/rb3.shtml
Hino, J., & Kahn, C. (2016). Hybrid teaching in Extension: Learning at the crossroads. Journal of Extension. 54 (4). https://www.joe.org/joe/2016august/pdf/JOE_v54_4iw3.pdf .
Owston, R. (2018). Empowering Learners through Blended Learning. International Journal on E-Learning, 17(1), 65-83. Waynesville, NC USA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved September 20, 2018 from https://www.learntechlib.org/primary/p/177966/.
Seevers, B., & Graham, D. (2012). Education through Cooperative Extension. (3rd ed.). Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Bookstore.