Redefining Learner-centered Education to Build High Impact IPM Partnerships

Final report for EW16-010

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2016: $67,802.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2020
Grant Recipient: Oregon State University
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Mary Halbleib
Oregon State University
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Project Information


Given the complexity of pesticide risk reduction and biologically-based pest management, many Extension faculty members desire technical support to construct and lead integrated pest management (IPM) initiatives with farmers and other stakeholders. Through a needs visioning session conducted in 2015, agricultural Extension faculty identified four desired outcomes that would enable them to increase efficacy in their IPM education programs: 1) training in adult education, 2) mechanisms for increasing clientele feedback, 3) a tighter statewide network of professionals to work together on education programs, and 4) more time and funding to support their efforts. In response to this input, a professional learning program was initiated to streamline the avenues of support for Extension faculty in developing collaborative learning partnerships. Through providing in-project support using the Adaptive Learner-Centered Education (ALCE) approach (Halbleib and Jepson, 2016), project leaders fostered longer-term cohesive partnerships. Through the provision of evidence-based teaching and learning, coupled with technical pest management support, faculty expanded partnerships with new stakeholders, leading farmers, and others.

Additionally, two new learning mechanisms were initiated to expand the reach of the project: 1. a term-length professional learning course, Extend Your Teaching and Learning to Enhance Sustainable Agriculture, for agricultural Extension faculty from across the state, and 2. the Extension Teaching Network; a monthly online gathering to share insights and brainstorm new approaches for Extension program design and implementation.

Project Objectives:

The three project objectives include:

  1. To conduct professional development in participatory, learner-centered Extension education program design and implementation with a cohort of Extension faculty partners.
  1. To enable IPM implementation and pesticide risk reduction by enhancing faculty and partner skills in the development of new forms of decision support resources for use by farmers and other professionals.
  2. To enable a functional, statewide network in Extension IPM and teaching, that grows and reinforces itself over time.

Many Extension faculty are hired based on their content area expertise, and often have little to no training in adult education, instructional design, or program evaluation. Given that a significant portion of many Extension positions is providing actionable information to diverse stakeholder groups, this project provided Extension faculty with experience in creating innovative learning experiences for farmers and other clientele. To support sustainable pest management, faculty working in pesticide use and risk reduction often require additional technical support to address these issues through an IPM framework.

To better enable the use of IPM methods at the farm level, this project utilized the Adaptive Learner-Centered Education (Halbleib and Jepson, 2016) approach, which ultimately enables decision-makers to expand their skills in selecting and implementing locally relevant farming practices. The resulting applied learning experiences for faculty and partners within the IPM projects provided direct experience using new conceptual knowledge and practical skills in adult education methods.

The long-term goals of this project are to 1) increase the capacity of farmers to implement higher levels of IPM and to reduce pesticide risks, and 2) foster a network of faculty across Oregon to support each other through co-learning on IPM and learner-centered adult education.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Darrin Walenta (Educator and Researcher)
  • Stuart Reitz (Educator and Researcher)
  • Cassie Bouska (Educator and Researcher)
  • Richard Hilton (Educator and Researcher)
  • Gordon Jones (Educator and Researcher)
  • Gwendolyn Ellen (Educator)
  • Mace Vaughn (Educator and Researcher)
  • Chris Hamilton (Educator)


Educational approach:

This capacity building project was conceived and implemented using a constructivist philosophy that emphasizes supporting learners (both faculty and farmers) in actively and socially constructing meaningful connections between prior knowledge and new knowledge. Adult learners bring a wealth of practical experience to the table, and instructional designers should embrace this knowledge as it is often highly relevant to other learners. Using the Adaptive Learner-Centered Education (ALCE) approach, we applied a backward design process to allow project teams to clarify the essential conceptual knowledge, locally-relevant decision support resources, and learning scenarios that would contribute to achieving the intended learning outcomes. Through the use of evidence-based active teaching strategies, including supporting farmers in practicing using new forms of decision support information, providing opportunities for peer-to-peer exchange, and ensuring farmers also serve as teachers, the projects maximized the benefits of two-way learning.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Adult Education and IPM Capacity Building

1. To conduct professional development in participatory, learner-centered Extension education program design and implementation with a cohort of Extension faculty partners.


Description: The science of teaching and learning is advancing at a rapid rate, and Extension faculty need support in translating this into actionable best practices. This project provided three mechanisms for Extension faculty to gain skills and experience in developing and teaching learner-centered education programs with adults: 1. IPM team-based education capacity building partnerships, 2. Extend Your Teaching and Learning to Enhance Sustainable Agriculture course for cohorts of newer hires to co-learn through creating an outreach program using backwards design and teaching using principles of adult education, and 3. The statewide Extension Teaching Network that meets monthly on Zoom.

Outcomes and impacts:

Training Efforts and Outcomes

Education provided: An in-person ALCE faculty skill-building workshop was held in 2017, Biologically-based IPM train-the-trainer development program, and in 2019, a new term-length, cohort-based course, Extend Your Teaching and Learning to Enhance Sustainable Agriculture. In the three IPM education projects, ten learner-centered workshops were developed and conducted with farmers and other professionals, including two demonstrations and three events with on-farm tours.


  1. Enabling Extension faculty to gain skills to implement learner-centered Extension approaches

Before the 2017 capacity building workshop, 29% of the faculty felt capable of conducting an outcome visioning session, and following the training, 100% reported having the skills to lead this process with stakeholders. Fifty-seven percent did not have the skills to design active learning experiences before the training and after 100% had gained this capacity.

After the term-length Extend Your Teaching and Learning to Enhance Sustainable Agriculture course the cohort 100% achieved the learning outcomes they were seeking in the course.

Learner-centered design and teaching for Extension Before: Moderate to high confidence After: Moderate to high confidence
Level of understanding of the approaches you can use for creating learner-centered education programs 17% 100%
Level of confidence for developing creating learner-centered education programs 0% 100%
Level of confidence in teaching learner-centered education programs for your clientele 17% 100%

During an interview a year after the Extend course, one participant reflected:

When I think about developing Extension programs, this course has helped me understand and appreciate the needs of the audience. I have the tendency to want to teach people "all the things," but Mary did a great job outlining why that isn't necessarily helpful and provided ways to boost learning. I can now be more considerate of my audience, both in what I teach and how I teach.

  1. Providing pesticide decision-makers and applicators with the knowledge to increase willingness to change practices or pesticide selection to protect surface water and sensitive sites (Middle Rogue Pesticide Stewardship Partnership project)

A diverse group of pesticide users attended the pesticide license recertification credit workshop in 2017 (n =61). Nearly half of the learners reported that knowing the pesticides of concern for Middle Rogue PSP will affect their pesticide selection in the future, 33% indicated that knowing the pesticides of concern they will adjust their future pesticide application practices, and 39% will avoid spraying near sensitive areas on marginal weather days.

At the first IPM Festival (n = 24) in 2017, 62% of participants reported that knowing the pesticides of concern for the watershed will affect which pesticides they intend to apply in the next season and 59% felt that knowing the pesticides of concern for the watershed will affect the pesticide application practices they intended to use in the next season. Over two-thirds of the learners indicated that they intended to use weather forecasting information more often for pesticide application timing decisions or recommendations. After the program, 78% intended to implement or recommend the use of alternative pesticides that are a lower risk to aquatic life and 58% indicated they would implement or recommend practices to reduce off-site pesticide transport.

At the second IPM Festival (n = 44) in 2018, 71% were likely to change one or more pest management practices based on what they learned and 72% became more able to find useful online resources on the safe use of pesticides.

  1. Supporting farmers in reducing pesticide resistance development risk (Cranberry Pesticide Resistance Prevention project)

At the 2018 Oregon Cranberry School workshop, 97% of the participants (n = 29) had learned about pesticide resistance in cranberries in the past. After the program, 81% of farmers reported they will consider pesticide mode of action more often in their pesticide selection decisions and 65% intend to share what they learned with others.

A review of 2018 spray programs during a follow-up pesticide resistance session at the 2019 Oregon Cranberry School, found that 95% of growers had rotated insecticides and 72% had rotated fungicides. All of the participating agricultural service providers intend to use the skills they gained to their educational activities and services with farmers.

  1. Farmers gain and share knowledge and skills in implementing biologically-based IPM practices (Biologically-Based IPM for Northeast Oregon Cropping Systems project)

At the full-day workshop in September 2018 (n = 23), three farmers that are leaders in the biological IPM effort served as teachers. All of the farmers reported that they intended to implement new or altered practices to support beneficial insects on their farms. Eighty percent of the agricultural service providers and educators reported that they would change how they would advise growers or others about farm management practices to support biologically-based IPM. Before the workshop 20% reported understanding the basics of conservation biological control and after 73% had gained this knowledge. Participants also reported large gains in their ability to differentiate between functional groups of beneficial insects, skill in identifying conservation practices that support beneficial insects, and their capacity to identify resources for beneficial insects on and around farms.

Identifying and Developing New Decision Supporting Resources for Farmers

2. To enable IPM implementation and pesticide risk reduction by enhancing faculty and partner skills in the development of new forms of decision support resources for use by farmers and other professionals.


Description: Through a train-the-trainer approach and within project teams, we designed learner-centered education using the ALCE approach that includes developing actionable decision-support information. Through using the intended learning outcomes, the teams were able to determine the necessary information farmers need to make altered or new pest management choices that reduce pesticide-related risk and increase adoption of IPM practices. The three project teams identified and created new forms of decision-support information that farmers practiced using during the education programs. These resources serve as bridges that connect learners to actions on their farms after the program.

Outcomes and impacts:

Four new decision support tools were developed: for the Biologically-Based IPM project, a northeast Oregon beneficial insect and pest relationships table and a northeast Oregon plants for beneficial insects table, the Cranberry Institute Pesticide table was revised to assist on-farm pesticide selection decisions through making pesticide mode of action easier to identify with color-coding and grouping the pesticide mode of action classes, and for the Middle Rogue Pesticide Stewardship Partnership a Pesticide Uses and Risk Factors for Ground and Surface Water Contamination and five Crop Production Calendars for the Bear Creek Basin (

Statewide Network Engagement to Extend Professional Learning

3. To enable a functional statewide network in Extension IPM and teaching, that grows and reinforces itself over time.


Description: With the PI as a hub that enabled information flow between projects allowed for new ideas and successful strategies to be shared more quickly. The team-based approach supports peer-to-peer and co-learning on both teaching and technical pest and pesticide management content. Also, having shared language and enabling structures (e.g. instructional design templates) makes it easier to identify and achieve commonly held goals.

One project leader shared in an end-of-project interview:

You know that was all based on the preliminary work that we’ve been doing up until then and planning for these IPM workshops, and through that process, we discovered what was actually going on in this county on the ground and it opened up the doors for opportunity and brought in folks from all around the PNW and that resulted in me meeting out-of-state resource people. So, there’s all kinds of great benefits that just keep coming out of this effort. As far as for myself, you know I see my interactive capacity, networking capacity, has grown ever since we’ve started this process. I know more people not only around the state, but I interact with more people and collaborate with more people in the state on biological IPM.

Education provided: A collaboratively developed, peer-reviewed session, Lecturers Anonymous: Starting Down the Road to Active Engagement and Learning in Extension Programs, at the Oregon State University Extension Annual Conference in December 2019 was facilitated by Gordon Jones, Cassie Bouska, and Mary Halbleib. The conference participants’ intentions to incorporate new teaching and learning strategies into their Extension outreach included: seven participants noting they will increase active learning and reduce lecture, four expressing that they will ask more questions, use polling and quizzes, two intending to add reflective learning and one who will reduce the number of slides and increase imagery use. 

The Extension Teaching Network was launched in January 2020 by Gordon Jones, Cassie Bouska, and Mary Halbleib. This monthly Zoom gathering provides an opportunity for faculty across the state to share ideas and generate insights with their peers on ways to tackle educational challenges and effectively pursue new outreach opportunities. Participation in this newly network is steadily growing. Since January 2020 up to 10 faculty members from across the state have joined for support and sharing their ideas for education efforts in the Master Gardener Program, SNAP-ED, 4-H, pesticide management, and other farmer education areas.

Outcomes and impacts:

The three learning partnerships have been sustained and are ongoing. The Biologically-Based IPM project has developed the instructional design for the Fall 2020 workshop with continued work to develop new resources to support the installation of on-farm habitat. The Pesticide Stewardship Partnership (PSP) project received two further grants and expanded the team to include local partners in leading the program. A major outcome is the development of a PSP Strategic Plan ( that clarifies expectations, roles, and the processes to guide future activities. This document was the first PSP strategic plan developed in Oregon and it is being used as an example within the state program for future planning in other watersheds.

As a group, we expanded our collective learning capacity through the use of the new after event reflection form to capture learning across education events so we can continue what worked well and improve areas that did not support learning as well as planned. Our collective learning will be captured in an Extension publication, Collaborative Partnerships for Team-Based IPM Education Projects Across Oregon: Insights from Implementing Adaptive Learner-Centered Education in Extension, to be published in late 2020. Our intention is to ensure our insights are made relevant and actionable to educators across Extension content areas.

The Lecturers Anonymous: Starting Down the Road to Active Engagement and Learning in Extension Programs at the 2020 Extension Annual Conference allowed for the team to learn more from each other and then share our collective learning from the projects and developing the session. The session was attended by 23 faculty members and won the People’s Choice Extension Award for Peer-Reviewed Programs.

The new Extension Teaching Network has had two Zoom meetings with up to 10 participants sharing ideas and helping create solutions for educational challenges their peers are facing. This platform is now being used to assist faculty in moving Extension learning content online in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Educational & Outreach Activities

5 Consultations
12 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 On-farm demonstrations
3 Published press articles, newsletters
3 Tours
3 Webinars / talks / presentations
9 Workshop field days
2 Other educational activities: 1. two day train-the-trainer course for Biologically-Based Integrated Pest Management
2. a 10 week online course for faculty, Extend Your Teaching and Learning to Enhance Sustainable Agriculture

Participation Summary:

73 Extension
17 Researchers
8 Nonprofit
21 Agency
28 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
185 Farmers/ranchers
28 Others

Learning Outcomes

66 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
47 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

2 Grants received that built upon this project
3 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

Through conducting needs assessments with faculty, farmers, and partners, this project identified gaps in both Extension faculty and farmer needs. Following the implementation of the project elements to address those gaps and enable new knowledge-sharing pathways, interviews were conducted with participants from the resulting IPM projects as well as faculty in the Extend Your Teaching and Learning to Support Sustainable Agriculture course to capture changes from these initiatives. Benefits occurred at both the faculty and project team levels, and for the farmers that participated in the resulting IPM education programs. Themes that emerged included: the value of expanding network engagement and positive outcomes from employing learner-centered teaching methods.

Farmer-To-Farmer Engagement:

Well it [farmer workshop] gives the growers a chance to learn about new techniques and materials but it also gives the opportunity for growers who may not have utilized these tools to talk to those that have, and so that can broaden the knowledge base quite a bit amongst the growers. What were the results? And that can give them the opportunity as a group just to chat and see each other again. — Farmer

Agent-to-Partner Engagement:

The relations among the organizations that support growers relative to these water quality concerns and IPM? Those relations have become appreciably stronger and I think relations between individual growers and those organizations have improved. — Project Leader

Learner-Centered Teaching:

The other thing that I really took away was that, adult learners have lots of experience and that it’s really useful to try to incorporate that experience into the learning activities and it really encouraged people to talk about what they have done and what works for them and how they’re going to use it in their work. – Extend Course Participant

Post-project evaluations furthermore suggest that learning through the ALCE approach is not just limited to developing skills and methods; it also allows faculty to gain the confidence they need to let go of control so that new ideas and approaches can emerge. Focusing on learners alleviates the pressure placed on Extension faculty to have all the answers, creating a more fulfilling and less stressful work environment. As one faculty IPM project leader noted:

I think this is probably the most important, is taking the approach of a learner when approaching an industry, and allowing them to instruct me and teach me and then foster that kind of an environment where we’re interacting with each other more as peers than as, the person whose supposed to know everything and then everybody else. I think that’s been really helpful. And then honestly just saying, ‘man you know, I don’t really know but I can try and find out for you’.

Overall, this project has resulted in expanded project teams that can accomplish more in IPM-related educational initiatives for farmers and other relevant stakeholders. The strengthened relationships and increase in trust amongst Extension faculty, and between faculty and stakeholders is evident in the more egalitarian ways in which each member of these projects has shown up.

16 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.