Program Evaluation Challenges for Early-Career Extension Professionals: What Can You Do to Reduce the Stress?

UF/IFAS Extension sign sitting on peanuts Photo Credits: UF/IFAS Photo by Amy Stuart

This article outlines meaningful strategies to overcome the program evaluation challenges that early-career Extension professionals face. The strategies outlined in this article are grounded in the experiences of Extension professionals in three states (Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania) and center on providing solutions to the challenges that newer Extension professionals felt were the most important to address, in order to provide a manageable framework for agents to use. This new five-page publication of the UF/IFAS Department of Agricultural Education and Communication was written by John Diaz and Laura Warner.

Using Journey Mapping within Extension: A Tool for Supporting Behavior-Change Programs

A participant fills out a data card during a journey-mapping session.Extension is an important change agency, and Extension professionals use innovative strategies to help target audiences to adopt research-based practices and technologies. Tools from commercial marketing can be applied to behavior-change campaigns, often through an underused approach known as social marketing. Journey maps can be developed with Extension clients to provide insight into their progression and decision-making from one place or state of being to another. A journey can be the steps a person takes when selecting plants for the landscape, the decision-making process used when identifying agricultural business strategies, or the steps a person takes when leaving a workshop and travelling to their home. This new 9-page publication of the UF/IFAS Department of Agricultural Education and Communication, written by Colby Silvert and Laura A. Sanagorski Warner, presents possible applications of journey mapping within an Extension context.

Estimating Return on Investment (ROI) for a Behavior Change: An Evaluation Tool for Extension Programs

UF/IFAS Extension sign sitting on peanuts  Photo Credits:  UF/IFAS Photo by Amy Stuart

Extension professionals can benefit from knowing the value of a program’s outcomes compared to how much it costs. One way to estimate a program’s value relative to cost is through a series of calculations, known as Return on Investment (ROI). This four-page fact sheet describes ROI and how Extension professionals can use it in their programming. Written by Amanda D. Ali, Laura A. Warner, and Hayk Khachatryan and published by the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication.

Sampling the Evidence of Extension Program Impact

Figure 3. Stratified random sample of 20 ping pong balls.
In order to evaluate their programs, Extension offices have to gather evidence about program outcomes and impacts. The first step of this process is to determine the appropriate amount of data needed, or the correct sample size. Using a sample can help Extension professionals save time, money, and labor because fewer people must be interviewed or surveyed; thus the complete set of data can be collected quickly. This nine-page fact sheet provides an overview of sampling procedures, beginning with how to determine the research problem, define the population, and decide whether to sample and going on to explain the different types of samples and how they are used. Written by Glenn D. Israel, and published by the Agricultural Education and Communication Department.

Capturing Change: Comparing Pretest-Posttest and Retrospective Evaluation Methods (WC135)

walking manTwo models that are commonly used in Extension programming to capture change over a short period of time are the pretest-posttest model and the retrospective pretest (or post-then-pre) model. When deciding which model to use, Extension professionals should keep in mind that each participant has a knowledge base that includes both factual information and perceptions pertaining to factual information. As you read about the strengths and weaknesses of these two design models, consider how each model fits the evaluation situation to select the one that can best measure change in your program. This 4-page fact sheet was written by Agricultural Education and Communication, and published by the UF Department of Jessica L. Gouldthorpe and Glenn D. Israel, January 2013.

Creating Work and Family Balance: Workshop Evaluation (FCS2310/FY1272)

Figure 1. Balancing Act 2.5Workshop presenters: the evaluation instrument described in this article provides a simple and streamlined way to conduct a useful evaluation and solicit feedback for program refinement. It was designed to accompany a Florida Cooperative Extension Service workshop, Creating Work and Family Balance. This publication provides support for professionals who are delivering this workshop or workshops with similar objectives. The purposes of the evaluation are to generate information that can be used for program improvement and for reporting impacts in the annual reporting system of Cooperative Extension. This 5-page fact sheet was written by David C. Diehl, Suzanna Smith, Betsy Crisp, Karen S. Headlee, and published by the UF Department of Family Youth and Community Sciences, December 2011.

Assessing Economic Impacts and Benefits of Commercial Horticulture Extension Programs (FE898)

agent and producer check strawberries grown in refridgerated trailerAs fiscal pressures increase from federal and state government agencies to spend public dollars more effectively, it is imperative that the outcomes from educational efforts be clearly documented in terms of measurable changes in knowledge and behavior of clientele or stakeholders. This 5-page fact sheet presents a standardized approach for evaluating the economic impacts of extension educational programs in commercial horticulture in Florida, with which impacts are quantified in terms of measurable changes in revenues, income, or jobs. Written by Alan Hodges, Shawn Steed, Jane Morse, Peggy Dessaint, Donald Rainey, and Charles Vavrina, and published by the UF Department of Food and Resource Economics, September 2011. (AP Photo:Thomas Wright, University of Florida/IFAS)

Evaluating Extension Programs (WC109)

Is program evaluation just a “necessary evil” for Extension program implementation? Or, rather, an opportunity to identify and document accomplishments and discover ways to strengthen the impact of programs? This 5-page fact sheet defines evaluation, explains why evaluation is important to Extension programming beyond accountability requirements, describes how UF/IFAS Extension agents are currently evaluating their programs, and makes suggestions for future evaluation efforts that will showcase the value of Extension programming to the public. Written by Alexa J. Lamm, Glenn D. Israel, David Diehl, and Amy Harder , and published by the UF Department of Agricultural Education and Communication, May 2011.

WC090 Evaluation Situations, Stakeholders & Strategies

WC090, a 4-page illustrated fact sheet by Glenn Israel, David Diehl, and Sebastian Galindo-Gonzalez, provides guidelines for extension faculty to tailor their evaluation activities to balance their available time and resources with the situation, as well as their individual and stakeholders’ needs. Includes references. Published by the UF Department of Agricultural Education and Communication, November 2009.

WC092 Using the TOP Model to Measure Program Performance: A Pocket Reference

WC092, a 4-page illustrated fact sheet by Amy Harder, provides an overview of the Targeting Outcomes of Programs (TOP) Model of program planning and evaluation, defines the levels for assessing program performance, and identifies evaluation strategies appropriate for measuring program performance at each level. Includes references. Published by the UF Department of Agricultural Education and Communication, December 2009.

AEC389/WC070 Extension Program and Customer Satisfaction: Are We Serving All Clients Well?

AEC-389, a 5-page illustrated fact sheet by Sebastian Galindo-Gonzalez, Glenn D. Israel, Marna Weston, and Kathryn A. Israel, explores whether race or gender have an effect on the perceptions of the clientele regarding the quality and outcome of services provided by Extension. Includes references. Published by the UF Department of Agricultural Education and Communication, May 2008.

FE658/FE658 Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) Programs: Measuring Success in Your BRE Program

FE658, a 4-page fact sheet by Henry M. Cothran, is ninth in a series on establishing Business Retention and Expansion programs. It provides measurement guidelines, a table of common terms used in evaluating programs, and a program goal checklist. Includes references. Published by the UF Department of Food and Resource Economics, March 2008.