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 phases 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 (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages (listed at the end of this blog), and each is particularly adapted to a situation (Seevers & Graham, 2012). However, the Extension educators challenge is to identify when, where, and how to provide the best learning experience for clientele (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
One method of delivering educational material is with individual contact. This method was used in early Extension work, and is still frequently utilized today. This delivery method involves a one-to-one ratio of Extension educator to client, in which contact and interaction provide personal consultation of a specific nature (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Examples of this classification of contact include farm or home visits, office visits, or telephone calls where clientele request information (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
According to Seevers and Graham (2012), one-on-one instruction supports one of the essential principles of motivation and learning. Often, individual instruction is elicited when adults request information or assistance. Clientele who request information have a desire to learn and are easily taught (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Therefore, this method is best suited for clientele who need personal attention, mentoring, and monitoring (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Research conducted in 2019 by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Organizational Development Unit to determine how Texans prefer to learn revealed that one-on-one instruction still rated high among clientele in spite of the wide variety of options available (Cummings, Dromgoole, Payne & Dewald, 2019).
Extension educators can make individual contact by making personal farm or home visits. This method provides an opportunity to assess a situation, diagnose problems, recommend solutions, and work out practical solutions to specific problems (Seevers, Graham, Gamon, & Conklin, 1997; Seevers & Graham, 2012). These visits make it possible to make general research recommendations in order to fit specific clientele situations. It also enables the Extension educator to generate interest in improvements not yet recognized by the individual as desirable.
The farm and home visit has been questioned in its usefulness, and is often perceived as a burden on resources that should be utilized carefully (Calderwood, 1997; Varner & Levins, 1987). However, Petrzelka, Paditt, and Winderstien (1999) recommended this method should still be part of Extension’s portfolio of teaching methods for the 21st century, because one-on-one consultations were effective in influencing behavior change in clientele. This might be because individual contact provides the client personalized advice to their unique situation and concerns.
Additionally, visits contribute to the effectiveness of the teaching process conducted through meetings, workshops, media, social media, or newsletters by adding value to these educational events/activities.
Office visits are a method of direct contact, between the Extension educator and the client, in the Extension office (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Typically, clients who visit the office are seeking answers to a current problem, in need of technical advice or assistance with the management of local clubs such as 4-H clubs (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Clients who visit the office are ready to learn. They recognize a problem that needs to be solved and have a strong desire to solve the problem (Seevers & Graham, 2012). It is important to note that the atmosphere of the office and the manner of advice has impact on repeat calls (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Therefore, it is imperative that office visitors be assisted in a friendly, courteous, and professional manner. The Extension educator should strive to project a professional image of an educator.
Telephone calls are another means of one-on-one communication connecting the Extension educator to the community, and are used to answer requests for specific subject matter information (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Extension educators use the telephone in many ways to assist in delivering educational material (e.g., make appointments, schedule meetings, make program arrangements, request assistance from specialists, etc.).
In a study by Clary, White, and Mullins (2000), Extension educators in four states reported that cell phones had increased the total number of contacts made because the Extension educator could be reached while away from the office. However, the facilitation of problem solving was perceived as the role/function most affected by the use of the cell phone (Clary, White, & Mullins, 2000).
The cell phone and e-mail requests have all but replaced personal correspondence. Extension educators can use email to respond to requests in a timely manner and be used as a mass-media educational venue to clientele groups.
E-mail correspondence is effective to provide information to a large amount of people. Harris County provides a useful research-based example of their GREEN TRENDS e-mail correspondence to members of the Green Industry in Houston, Texas. Click here to see example of Green Trends email.
Aside from being useful for mass media, e-mail is the preferred form of individual communication between Extension educators and clientele. Communication of information can include transfer of documents, fact sheets, and result demonstration reports, etc.
Result demonstrations are an effective educational tool for transferring research-based technologies and practices to clientele. They provide opportunity for clients to physical see and witness results of a new idea, and provide opportunity to ask questions and gather information directly from the Extension educator.
A result demonstration is a proof-of-concept method, conducted to show potential adopters how a practice, variety, or technology functions. No single method influences adoption decisions by target audiences as much as does the result demonstration.
How do result demonstrations work? Extension educators implement a trial in a field or physical environment, collect data based on the trail, and then send a report only to the specialists, Extension administrators and the cooperator.
The research-based data gathered should be interpreted and widely distributed through multiple educational events to interested clients. These events can include, teaching points for field days, result demonstration/applied research reports, educational newsletters, short courses, and workshops. Remember, the information should be used and disseminated widely, otherwise, its impact will be minimal.
Result demonstrations have a long history of being a fundamental educational element of Cooperative Extension. In fact, Seaman A. Knapp and Walter C. Porter began result demonstrations in 1902 near Terrell, Texas to show local farmers how to reduce boll weevil damage on cotton.
While individual instruction can be very effective, this method has some significant disadvantages. Figure 1 provides some of the advantages and disadvantages to individual teaching methods (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Figure 1. Advantages and Disadvantages of Individual Teaching methods.
These individual methods can be very effective if the Extension educator maintains a balance of group methods and mass/social media methods. In upcoming Next Step to Success blog we will discuss the utilization of group educational methods.
Calderwood, L.H. (1997). Survey of dollar value and importance of farm visits to Eastern Vermont dairy farmers. Journal of Extension. 35 (2) Retrieved from: http://www.joe.org/joe/1997april/rb2.html.
Clary, J., White, B. & Mullins, G. (2000). The influence of cellular telephone usage on the perceived role and function of county agents. Journal of Extension, 38 (3) Retrieved from: http://www.joe.org/joe/2000june/rb1.html.
Cumming, S., Dromgoole, D., Payne, M., & Dewald, S. (2019) How Texans Learn. Pending publication.
Petrzleka, P., Paditt, S., & Winterstien, W. (1999). Extension’s portfolio for the 21st century: A place for one-on-one consultations. Journal of Extension, 37 (6). Retrieved from: http://www.joe.org/joe/1999december/comm1.html.
Seevers, B., Graham, D., Gamon, J., & Conklin, N., (1997). Education through Extensions. Albany, NY: Delmar.
Seevers, B., & Graham, D. (2012). Education through Cooperative Extension. (3rd ed.). Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Bookstore.
Varner, M.A., & Levins, R.A. (1987) EXPERT/R. Journal of Extension. 25 (4) Retrieved from: http://www.joe.org/joe/1987winter/a3.html.