Evaluation of Professional Development Resources for Swine Science Distance Education Instructors

By Wiers, Rebecca; Miller, Greg | NACTA Journal, March 2017 | Go to article overview

Evaluation of Professional Development Resources for Swine Science Distance Education Instructors


Wiers, Rebecca, Miller, Greg, NACTA Journal


Introduction

Swine production in the United States is a growing industry. A March 2005 inventory reported 59.9 million head of hogs and pigs (U. S. Department of Agriculture, 2005). The same quarterly inventory from March 2015 reported 65.9 million head-an increase of six million head in just ten years (U. S. Department of Agriculture, 2015). There are many jobs available in the swine industry; however, many professions connected with swine production are not located on producers' farms.

Dr. M. Hogberg is a member of the Swine Science Online Policy Committee and sits on the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence (USPCE) Board of Directors. He said the National Pork Board analyzed the number of and enrollment in swine classes offered by U.S. colleges. This analysis revealed a need for additional educational programming (Hogberg, M., personal communication, August 4, 2015). A partnership between the National Pork Board and universities in the Great Plains AgIDEA consortium helps meet this need. The USPCE established online courses to provide an opportunity for students to learn more about swine production regardless of the university they attend, and students register for the courses through the Great Plains AgIDEA program. The main goal of the Professional Swine Manager (PSM) and Swine Science Online (SSO) programs is to provide a greater number of trained personnel for the swine industry in the future (Hogberg, M., personal communication, August 4, 2015).

While the number of instructors associated with PSM and SSO is small, this group is crucial to the education of students interested in the swine industry nationwide. Because of the importance of this group, research into how these instructors prefer future professional development is needed to ensure quality education for swine industry professionals.

Bjelland et al. (2014) conducted a study to identify professional development needs of instructors in the PSM and SSO programs. Because of the needs assessment, three professional development resources were created. A workshop occurred in summer 2013, a webinar was offered in October 2014 and instructors gained access to a webpage in January 2015.

The present study was an outcomes-based evaluation of the value of these resources to PSM and SSO instructors.

Questionnaires are often used in evaluating programs when it is desirable to collect information quickly and easily (McNamara, 2006). Because questionnaires are easy to analyze and inexpensive to administer, they are also recommended when limited resources are available for the evaluation (McNamara, 2006). The PSM and SSO instructors are located across the country and have busy schedules. Using an online questionnaire allowed the instructors to participate at their convenience and eliminated potential interview scheduling conflicts between researchers and instructors.

Other researchers who studied similar strategies for professional development found that certain components are helpful in participant learning. One of those components is informal networking and interaction with one another during the professional development. Finsterwald et al. (2013) evaluated a teacher education program using, in part, a survey with qualitative, openended questions and quantitative closed questions. Finsterwald et al. (2013) found there to be a positive effect of knowledge exchange with colleagues during the professional development. Eller (2010) recommended that program planners set aside unstructured time for participants to network and learn from one another. Hustler et al. (2003) found that new teachers saw their professional development as connected to their need for interaction with more experienced teachers and wanted more interaction with other teachers. These studies show the need for interaction among instructors during professional development.

Many studies show the importance of professional development for teacher knowledge. Finsterwald et al. …

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