Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication


Date of this Version

April 1991


Published in The Journal of Agricultural Education, volume 32 (1991), pages 47-53. Used by permission.
The Journal of Agricultural Education (JAE) is a publication of the American Association for Agricultural Education (AAAE). Its back issues are available online at


A variety of technical, economical, and social changes are rapidly altering the lives of people served by the Cooperative Extension Service (CES). At the same time Extension has been undergoing the difficult task of evaluating its effectiveness in addressing the needs of society. Reorganizing Extension programs to address the changing clientele directly affects the jobs of field-based faculty in the CES. As Extension responds to the Futures Task Force Report (COP, 1987) and moves to issues programming, a high degree of change will be required. “As we approach the year 2000, Extension is caught in the rapids of change” (Geasier, 1989). For Extension to experience change is a positive sign (Johnsrud and Rauschkolb, 1989). Boyle (1989) reminded us that change starts with changing ourselves and that we as individuals and as an institution must value change.

A major theme of the Futures Task Force Report was the need for a more adaptive and flexible Extension staff (ECOP, 1987). Helping current faculty adjust to changes and preparing future Extension faculty will be more complex. County level staff will be required to undergo substantial retooling (Tompkins, 1989). Some states are already experiencing the effect of reorganization. Morse (1987) reported that changes associated with reorganization within the Minnesota CES were stressful to extension faculty. Henry (1986) found that the lack of clarity in work objectives was a key concern of those who decided to leave the CES. Igodan (1984) found that 4-H youth agents in Ohio were already experiencing a higher rate of burnout than other agents within the CES because of increased pressures and changing expectations.

A key component of any educational program, institution or agency is the people who develop and implement the program at the local level. Staffing variations and flexibility will be necessary if issues are to truly drivee the system (Geasier, 1989). Preparing future agents, and up-dating those already working in the field to implement effective programs is critical if the CES is to change to respond on the needs of society. Staff preparation is also associated with the means by which the program is delivered. Geasier (1989) pointed to the need for more information about the effectiveness of alternatives and the staff’s knowledge and skills in the use of alternative methods. Decker, Noble, and Call (1989) identified the training of Extension professionals in new program delivery methods as an area which needed to be addressed.

Previous research has provided insights into the pre-service and in-service training needs of extension faculty. Wells (1985) investigated the pre-service training needs of future extension faculty by surveying experienced extension agents. In Illinois, Law (1985) studied the in-service training needs of extension faculty. Sendeu (1982) investigated the weaknesses of new extension employees as perceived by directors of CES and CEAA presidents across the United States. Certainly the preparation and in-service training of agents will continue to be important in this time of rapid change.

The purpose was to examine the trends in delivery of Extension programs and the staffing of field-based positions throughout the United States. With a better understanding of the trends in programming and staffing of field offices, a more effective pre-service or in-service education program can be developed to address the needs.