Date of Graduation

12-2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Agricultural & Extension Education (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology

Advisor

Leslie D. Edgar

Committee Member

Casandra Cox

Second Committee Member

Kelly Way

Third Committee Member

Donald Johnson

Keywords

Education; Agricultural communications; Agricultural education; Crisis communication; Crisis communication education; Curriculum needs assessment; Delphi study

Abstract

Agricultural communicators and industry stakeholders need to be able to develop, prepare and implement crisis communication plans to help assure the sustainability of the agriculture industry should a crisis event occur. A thorough exploration of possible options and needs for training crisis communicators is a needed study in the agriculture industry. Students learning to prepare for managing crises in real life situations are rarely taught in a hands-on, experiential manner. Students can read and analyze case studies pertaining to crises, but without having an actual crisis; little means exist for preparing students for real world situations. There is a need for a more effective way of teaching students to develop, prepare and implement crisis communication plans for agricultural industry organizations. The purpose of this study was to determine crisis communication training needs for new professionals. Additionally, the study sought to outline specific skills, knowledge, competencies, and personal traits, needed to be taught to students, within the identified training need areas. The researchers used a five-round Delphi to identify these desired sets of related competencies and the extent to which they exist in industry professionals. A snowball sampling technique identified 49 crisis communication experts from three professional organizations with 31 agreeing to participate. Eight major competency areas were identified and verified in the first two Delphi rounds: (1) areas of experience; (2) communication, media and technical skills; (3) contingency plan and preparedness; (4) learning/training needs and opportunities; (5) media and technical skills; (6) networking opportunities; (7) personal traits; and (8) supplies and tools. Round three employed a five-point Likert-type scale to rank skill/knowledge needs within the eight competency areas. Within the eight needed training areas, 102 competencies emerged. There was no single skill/knowledge item where 100% of the participants ranked themselves as expert. The final two rounds created a succinct, yet comprehensive and validated list of skills/tasks/traits/tools needs. The final round assessed whether the items in each competency area should be taught using theory, application using simulation, application based on real experience, both theory and application, or neither. Results will assist higher education/industry training outlets to improve curriculum and instructional methods.

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