The use of existing data to investigate
community needs is not only smart but necessary. However, with
this type of data you can explore only the statistics and trends.
This leaves many gaps in the information needed to plan Extension
programs and allocate limited resources. Another method for gathering
information to merge with the existing data is the use of an attitude
Attitude surveys are used to gather
information that is not only based on the outward facts, but also
on how residents' opinions, desires and observations. Using existing
data from the population based on race, age, occupation and other
demogrpahic characteristics, a representative sample is selected
to survey. A survey goes out to this representative sample using
a variety of mechanisms and information is gathered about different
issues related to the community's well being. This survey can
be done in many ways. Data are collected by means of personal
interviews, telephone surveys, hand-delivered questionnaires or
mail questionnaires. Seevers, Graham, Gamon and Conklin (1997)
suugest the following tips for constructing questionnaires:
- Use the same scale for all questions;
people find it easier to respond.
- Scales with five or more points
allow more insight into the responses than yes or no answers
- Put questions about age, gender
and income at the end. A first question needs to be more interesting
then "How old are you?"
- Take out any unneeded questions
- Shorten, shorten and shorten
again. People have limited time and interest.
- If a question is asking about
two things, divide it into two questions
- Choose words and phrases with
very clear meanings.
- "Test drive" your survey
before taking it to your intended audience. Are any parts confusing?
Do you say what you mean to say? Are there errors or omissions?
Initiate a discussion about the never-ending calls from telemarketers
trying to sell you a product or service. Use the following
scenario to stimulate discussion (or make up your own - we
all have true stories here…):
"You just walk in from work, there is nothing planned
for dinner and the family is hungry. The pets need to be fed,
there is laundry to do and bills to pay. The phone is ringing
when you walk in; you decide to just let it ring - they'll
leave a message if it is important. Twenty minutes later,
the phone rings again. Thinking it is probably your family,
you answer. After hearing a slight click, someone asks to
speak to you (and they mispronounce your name). You realize
that you are being targeting with a telemarketer, what do
the group has time to tell a few of their own stories in this
area, discuss the following questions:
if they indicate they just want your opinion? Does it change
how you respond to them?
if they let you know right away that they are local?
How is local and wanting your opinion different from local
and wanting you to buy something differently?
How do you respond to receiving questionnaires in the mail?
Do you respond differently to questionnaires when there is
nothing to buy? When the organization or company is local?
When they just want your opinion?
with the group the number of people in the county who were
involved in your Extension programs last year. Write this
on a chalkboard or flipchart. Now share the total number of
the population of your potential audience (for your community,
county or state). Indicate that it is not reasonable to assume
that Extension programs will include the entire population.
Nonetheless, it is important to attempt to align limited program
resources with the actual wants, needs and issues of the population.
that the advisory members have been asked to serve for a variety
of reasons. However, one thing that is common to them all
is that we need their input and their help in securing others
input. One of the ways they can help Extension better plan
worthwhile programs is through their many relationships and
insights into the communities.
common method for securing community input is the attitude
survey. The advisory members will help formulate an action
plan for generating a survey and taking it to the community.
one copy of "Existing Data Summary" to each participant.
Remind them that this is the data you worked on at the last
meeting to get a picture of "Where We Are".
From this data, have the group help decide how many people
will be surveyed from each segment of the population.
discuss how the surveys will be done. Ask them to recall the
previous pitfalls of phone or mail surveys. Place an emphasis
on how to get information from clientele that are currently
using the Extension Service as well as residents who are not
currently participating. While this is to be the group's decision,
some of the following suggestions may stimulate discussion:
our current clientele respond to a mail or phone survey? If
so, who will do it? Ask for volunteers from the advisory group
members. If not, how should we reach them?
current clientele and non-users respond to an email survey?
If so, how will we secure the email addresses?
How will we reach residents who do not currently use Extension
services? If we can secure some phone numbers for a representative
sample, would they answer our questions? Would they return
our mail or email survey?
we do a mass mailing to all postal customers? Is that feasable?
Worth the money it will cost in printing and postage?
Could we get volunteers to take the surveys to local interest
groups, libraries or grocery stores to do personal interviews
and solocit opinions and information from our non-users?
we look for others who play key social roles in each segment
of the population and encourage them to help us solicit this
that who and how we will seek this needs data are decided,
we need to define what type of information we want to find
a copy of "Example Phone or Interview Survey" (may
depend on how they decided to attempt to secure the information
from the public). The example survey can be modified for use
as a phone or mail survey or a personal interview guide can
be used in multiple ways as well. While it serves as a
tool, it needs to be modified to address local needs and
issues and may need other refining as well. For
example- there are some questions on the example that address
public recognition/evaluation of programs - is that the information
you are looking for or are you more interested in their help
in identifying issues??
the advisory members have examined the example, ask for suggestions
and changes to the format and/or questions. Some things that
may need to be considered are:
- What local non-formal
educational issues exist?
- Are the issues different
for different areas of the community/county/state?
- What programs have
the widest public recognition? Why?
- Are some programs
based on history or are they practical in today's
advisory members to their roles in the attitude survey process.
Recognize that the Extension employees will have to make a
significant effort to help pull together this survey and coordinate
the effort. However, keep members of the advisory council
involved in their roles (conducting the phone interviews,
doing the personal interviews...). This way it is the whole
team's project to assess the community needs and issues, not
just yours. The advisory council will feel a viable and necessary
part of the team and their input will be invaluable to you.
the advisory members that they have an opportunity to probe
further if conducting phone surveys or personal interviews.
Take the extra time to find out more and record their input.
it! Then create a summary titled "Attitude Survey
R. D., Liles, T. R., Pettitt, M. J. (1988). Working with our
publics - module 2:
The extension education process. North Carolina Agricultural
Extension Service and the
Department of Adult and Community College Education, North Carolina
S., Barks, N., McKee, R., Peterson, S., Rice, B. Getting on
board - module 2:
Audience/clientele base module. Retrieved May 15, 2002, from
Purdue University Web site: http://www.admin.ces.purdue.edu/field/gob/audience.html
B., Graham, D., Gamon, J., & Conklin, N. (1997). Education
through cooperative extension. Delmar Publishers, New York.