Darrell A. Dromgoole, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Erika Bochat, Regional Program Leader for Family and Community Health/4-H and Youth Development, Southeast Region, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Scott Cummings, Associate Department Head and Program Leader; Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
As you begin your career in Extension, most Extension educators will be rapidly engaged in Extension programming. These programming efforts include camps for our 4-H youth, field days, workshops, short courses, clinics, etc. In order for Extension to be effective as an educational organization we all must develop a shared vision for the future in terms of educational programming that is designed to initiate change in our targeted audience such as knowledge gained, and skills acquired that will ultimately change in attitude/beliefs, change in behavior, adoption of practices, or adoption of technology. In order to initiate purposeful planning toward developing a comprehensive program, it is incumbent upon us, to begin with, a “shared vision” in defining an Extension Program.
Extension educational programming is an intentional effort to fulfill predetermined needs of people and communities (Seevers, Graham, & Conklin, 2007). A single event or activity rarely results in the types of behavioral changes necessary to realize this mission. The word program refers to the product resulting from all activities in which professional educators and learners are involved (Seevers, et al, 2007). Many times educational programs are interpreted by Extension Educators as meaning an educational activity, workshop, clinic, or field day when in actuality these activities may only be a component of the overall educational program.
The educational program is the sum of all the components/methods and is consummated with the evaluation of the entire program, which reflects Extension’s impact in terms of clientele change in the form of knowledge gained, skills acquired, changes in attitudes/beliefs, changes in behavior, adoption for practices, or adoption of technology. In other words, a program is defined as a series of sequential educational events (field days, workshops, mass media efforts, social media efforts, clinics, result demonstrations, and short courses, etc.) that results in clientele change. When educational events are sequential each educational activity/event is designed from an educational perspective to build on the previous event.
An example may help clarify this definition. A single activity to address water conservation in field crops may not be sufficient alone to provide row crop producers with educational material to adopt irrigation technology that will be more efficient. However, a series of activities/events such as turn row meetings, irrigation technology seminars, result demonstrations, social media efforts, E-newsletters, online webinars and resources such as computer programs that compare costs of various irrigation technologies can be linked together to achieve the intended results (Seevers et al, 2007). The activities/events or educational methods are all related to the educational objective to have agriculture producers to adopt irrigation technologies that conserve water and reduce irrigation costs.
The following concept map demonstrates how educational activities/events collectively generate an Extension Educational Program.
One of the most exciting and fulfilling responsibilities in Extension education is the implementation of a successful program. We should be mindful that Extension educational programs are designed to address issues identified by local clientele with committees, task forces, and coalitions being involved in the planning, implementation, and evaluation and interpretation of programs.
Seevers, B., Graham, D., & Conklin, N. (2007). Education through Cooperative Extension. (2nd ed.). Columbus, Ohio: Ohio Agricultural Education Curriculum Materials Services The Ohio State University.