An Exploratory Study of the Perceptions of among North Carolina Cooperative Extension County Program Professionals about Integrated Programming

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Title: An Exploratory Study of the Perceptions of among North Carolina Cooperative Extension County Program Professionals about Integrated Programming
Author: Bost, Terri Michele
Advisors: Dr. Drinda Benge, Committee Member
Dr. Harriett Edwards, Committee Member
Dr. R. Dale Safrit, Committee Chair
Abstract: ABSTRACT BOST, TERRI MICHELE. An Exploratory Study of the Perceptions of among North Carolina Cooperative Extension County Program Professionals about Integrated Programming. (Under the direction of Dr. R. Dale Safrit.) This exploratory descriptive-correlational research examined perceptions of North Carolina Cooperative Extension county program professionals towards integrated programming and explored possible relationships between professionals’ perceptions and selected personal and programmatic variables. The researcher used a census of North Carolina Cooperative Extension county program professionals employed as of September 1, 2009 (n = 482) and developed a web-based questionnaire, including two sections, based upon four research constructs identified from literature: 1. Collaboration, 2. Partnerships, 3. Discipline or Program Area, and 4. Issue-based Focus. Section I included eight items exploring each of the four constructs for a total of 32 items, using a Likert scale to measure respondents’ perceptions. Section II included eight items collecting data on respondents’ selected personal characteristics (i.e., gender, age, race/ethnicity) and programmatic variables (i.e., district, tenure, Extension title). The instrument was reviewed by an expert panel reviewed the instrument for face and content validity and pilot tested with a randomly selected group consisting of one agent from each of the three main Extension program areas (i.e., Agriculture and Natural Resources, Family and Consumer Sciences, and 4-H Youth Development), one area agent, and one County Extension Director from each of the six Extension districts, totaling 30 individuals. Data were collected for three weeks between October 5 and 26, 2009. A final response rate of 47.1% was achieved. Cronbach’s alphas were calculated post facto for the four research constructs as measures of internal consistency, indicating reliability. The four resulting coefficients (.38 to .55) were lower than desired for exploratory research (Nunally, 1976). Subsequently, the researcher enlisted the assistance of a data analyst to run exploratory factor analysis. Five new research constructs resulted with higher Cronbach’s alphas (.63 to .76): 1. Partnerships and Collaborations, 2. Inter-personal Teamwork, 3. Issues-based Focus, 4. Multi-disciplinary Approach, and 5. Programmatic Foundation. All subsequent data analysis utilized the five new research constructs. Data was entered into a personal computer and analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). Based upon study data, responding county Extension program professionals “agreed†to “strongly agreed†that two new constructs of “Partnerships and Collaborations†and “Interpersonal Teamwork†are important to integrated programming in Extension. While the three remaining constructs’ mean scores represented respondents “disagreed†to “agreed,†two of the mean scores closely approximated the “agree†level of response. In the ordinal scale ranging from 1 to 4, one could reason that 2.5 would be the median, ambivalent, or neutral level of agreement. Consequently, mean scores for all five constructs were on the positive “Agree†side of the Likert scale. Low positive associations were found between all independent variables studied and the summative mean scores for all five constructs. The research findings suggested a need for a more defined integrated programming model utilized in developing educational programs. Based upon the study findings and five new research constructs, the researcher developed the following new conceptual definition for integrated programming: “Integrated programming in Cooperative Extension builds upon traditional programming models entailing planning, design and implementation, and evaluation, emphasizing an individual program professional’s subject matter/discipline expertise yet utilizing a multi-disciplinary approach to address broad societal issues through inter-personal and inter-organizational collaborations and partnerships.†The researcher recommends that county Extension program professionals be better trained in understanding and utilizing integrated programming, incorporating successful examples of integrated programming. Finally, the researcher believes that Extension administrators should consistently reinforce the importance of integrated programming by rewarding county program professionals who are successfully utilizing the model.
Date: 2010-04-23
Degree: MS
Discipline: Curriculum and Instruction

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