Growing Agricultural Service Providers’ Program Outcomes with Producer Co-Educators

Progress report for WPDP22-001

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $84,995.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2024
Host Institution Award ID: G369-22-W9214
Grant Recipient: Oregon State University
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Mary Halbleib
Oregon State University
Colette DePhelps
University of Idaho Extension
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Project Information


This project provides agricultural educators with the experiences and support necessary to develop successful learner-centered educational programs through utilizing an outcome-based design approach with producers as co-educators. Outcome-based education is an instructional design framework that begins by asking what skills or knowledge learners must have to address an expressed need or opportunity in their lives or work. The project supports seven educators across Oregon to engage with producers throughout the educational planning and design process to ensure the resulting programs will meet the needs of the participating farmers and ranchers. Educators accepted into this project will begin the learner-centered design process by identifying a sustainable agriculture issue or topic to design an outcome-based educational program. To explore their existing teaching philosophy, the educators participated in a Real Colors® temperament workshop and completed a personal learning styles assessment. Educators will also investigate the core principles of adult education and how to implement effective teaching and learning strategies. To create content, participants will receive educational design and planning tools with guidance on instructional design, engaging with farmers as co-educators, teaching and learning plans, and program evaluation. Throughout the project, educators will receive mentoring from the farmer-educators on the leadership team and have extensive opportunities to engage directly with one another to share information, practice new skills, and provide feedback to increase the opportunity for learning. Each educator will design and implement at least two outcome-based sustainable agriculture educational programs with producers as co-educators. At the final cohort retreat, participants will share insights from their evaluation data and self-reflections on their learning experiences. This project will result in a professional development process with transferable resources that others can use with educators to promote further the implementation of effective sustainable farming and ranching practices.

Project Objectives:
  1. To increase agricultural educators' knowledge and skills to create instructional designs that will enable producers as co-educators to achieve relevant, authentic learning outcomes and, therefore, make the desired changes and work to increase the sustainability of their farm and ranch operations.
  2. To expand agricultural educators' skills to more effectively facilitate adult learning experiences through having ASPs teach in project meetings using the practices outlined in Sustainable Agriculture Through Sustainable Learning (Bell and McAllister, 2021)
  3. To enhance agricultural educators' ability to engage with producers throughout the educational planning and design process to ensure the resulting programs will meet the needs of the participating farmers and ranchers.
  4. To support agricultural educators in exploring how personality tendencies and perspectives on learning influence their approaches to program design and teaching with producers.
  5. To expand agricultural educators' program evaluation skills to create instruments to gather valuable feedback from producers to improve future programs and document behavior change.
  6. To enable agricultural educators to gain the skills to conduct cost recovery, including funds to compensate producers as experts and educators.
  7. To empower farmers and ranchers to see themselves as co-educators and value their time by being paid as consultants.
  8. To engage agricultural educators in understanding the more significant effects of outcome-based, co-taught programming with producers to capture community-level impacts. Agricultural educators will also experience the power of Ripple Effect Mapping and be able to employ this approach in their programs.
  9. To articulate a professional development process and create transferable resources that can be used by others working with agricultural educators to promote further the implementation of effective sustainable farming and ranching practices.

Gantt Chart_Halbleib_WSARE PDP_2yr

Assumptions and resources

The approach reflects the beliefs and experiences of the project team, that providing the essential knowledge coupled with authentic learning experiences will translate into changes in how the participants engage with producers. The project funds will support the farmer-educators and principal investigator, producer workshop mini-grants, workbook graphic design, and workshop travel.


The two farmer-educators currently committed to working with this cohort will serve as mentors to the participants and share their hands-on experience and knowledge on how to increase progress towards sustainability when working in collaboration with producers. Colette DePhelps will contribute to team meetings, facilitation of in-person meetings, develop successful examples for the workbook, and facilitate evaluation and assessments. Mary Halbleib will coordinate the project, co-design project processes, co-instruct, develop the workbook, and manage program evaluation.


Recruitment plan

A single cohort of ASPs will be recruited at the beginning of the first year. To be accepted participants will have an expressed interest in improving their knowledge and skills in learner-centered approaches to adult education and developing an outreach program with producers that focuses on one or more aspects of enhancing agricultural sustainability.


Online meetings

During regularly scheduled online meetings, the cohort will work in pairs or small groups to discuss new ideas, share their experiences, and get feedback on their workshop plans. In these meetings, the ASPs will have opportunities to teach using the principles of adult education to get practice and gain confidence in their abilities. Each person will do self-study on the area of sustainability their educational programming addresses, this learning will be shared with the other cohort members and project team.


In-person workshops

There will be two in-person workshops to go deeper into the work and enable further co-learning. The first workshop will be designed to explore personal learning styles, teaching approaches, and draft outcome-based education designs. Participants will gain insights into their existing teaching frameworks using the Real Colors® assessment tool, complete their initial teaching plans with feedback from peers and farmers-educators, and share learnings from self-study on agricultural sustainability. The second workshop will include sharing lessons learned, evaluation data, Ripple Effect Mapping, and a final reflection to unpack this professional development experience.


Producer workshops

In collaborations with experienced sustainable ag producers, each cohort member will design and implement at least two producer workshops that employ active learning approaches and are co-taught by experienced producers.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Diane Green - Technical Advisor - Producer (Educator)
  • Lora Lea Misterly - Technical Advisor - Producer (Educator)
  • Teagan Moran - Technical Advisor


Educational approach:

This project is based upon an outcome-based and learner-centered approach to co-learning with a diverse agricultural educator cohort. Cohort members represent Extension, a state agency, and one not-for-profit organization. The five-member leadership team includes academics and experienced farmer-educators and meets monthly with the cohort members for two hours to share experiences and support idea exchange on creating and implementing producer-centered approaches and engaging with a producer from the start. Each meeting employs active learning approaches, peer teaching, and open conversation to create a supportive space to explore potentially challenging topics and make it safe not to know. The project also uses an Extension Foundation Campus site to share resources, archive project files, and post files for feedback. The cohort members adapt the strategies shared in the project to co-create and co-teach sustainable agriculture programming.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Producer-Centered Adult Education

Enable cohort members to find a producer-educator to work with, build a relationship with this producer as a co-educator, co-create an educational program plan, and co-teach the educational program with the producer co-educator


Each month for two hours, the five-member leadership team and the cohort of seven agricultural educators meet to 1) explore new ways of working with producers as co-educators, 2) discuss options for using a producer-centered educational planning framework, 3) gain skills for implementing effective education with adult audiences and 4) share ideas and provide each other with feedback on educational plans (aka workshopping). During this time, the cohort members will co-lead educational programming for producers.

Outcomes and impacts:

In 2022, the leadership team recruited cohort members, and the cohort began meeting as a group in October. 

The cohort and leadership team created a Community Agreement to outline our expectations for how we will work together and treat each other.

We are exploring how to adapt existing educational planning tools and create new ones for use with producers as co-educators.

In the 2023 cohort meetings, a pair of cohort members taught the group using one of the five practices in the SARE Sustainable Agriculture Through Sustainable Learning publication.

We used discussion boards for part of 2023. The project leadership team has offered office hours between the monthly meetings to support cohort members.

The cohort members co-led educational programming with producer co-educators. 

Educational & Outreach Activities

11 Online trainings
3 Workshop field days
14 Other educational activities: 13 monthly online cohort meetings, 1 annual in-person cohort retreat (as of 12/23)

Participation Summary:

4 Extension
1 Nonprofit
1 Agency
5 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
59 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

20 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Here are highlights from the 2023 annual retreat survey, annual project survey, and annual leadership team and cohort member reflections.

The annual retreat evaluation captured the value of this in-person experience in building trust and connection in a cohort-based process. Quotes from cohort members about the most valuable thing gained from this experience:

Building relationships, learning from others, seeing the importance of workshopping, personality test

More clarity about education program design to meet learning outcomes AND connection to my peers and program trainers.

Engagement with peers in discussing program planning.

Recommendations about how to work with my producer co-educator

Insight from cohort members and producers while workshopping my idea. Their outside perspective was invaluable.


Insights captured through the 2023 annual cohort survey:

Seven of the eight cohort members shared that it is important to very important, on a five-point scale from not important to very important, to have experienced producer-educators on the leadership team. Two selected quotes:

I think this is tremendously important because we get to hear honest perspectives from the producers

themselves. It's important for us to ask people how they define success, rather than being prescriptive from an

academic standpoint.

Because their perspective and insight are helpful for creating and developing trusting relationships with our

producer co-educators, which is a core aspect of the project. I don't know what it's like to be a producer, so I like

that I have a resource to reach out to for advice; that way, I'm less likely to make mistakes that might threaten the

relationships I'm trying to build.


Seven of the eight respondents shared that the retreat was very helpful, on a five-point scale from not helpful to very helpful, to making progress on their project. Half of the cohort members have gotten help from another cohort member on their project

Two examples of what went well between the cohort member and producer-educator when planning the project together:

Identified key areas that producers might feel stress about and accordingly changed our educational plan.

We focused on creating learning outcomes and the associated learning activities based directly on the producer educator's experiences.


All cohort members who started their educational projects have used the outcome-based education design template to focus their educational design.


Five of the cohort members have shared their learning from this project with others:

I talk often about how much this has informed and improved my own lessons. I mentioned this in a working group

meeting with my colleagues, who were interested in learning more about improving their adult education methods. I shared the link to the SARE publication with them.

Shared learning and insights gained from the cohort; shared how important it is to create peer-to-peer learning

environments; shared how important it is to get feedback on presentations and trainings with others ahead of time

Through meetings, when planning other workshops, etc.

I've shared this experience with several people in my program and in cross-organizational planning teams.

Just today I shared a process I used in a focus group with farmers with some of my colleagues that was a direct

result of having worked on the mental models section of the SARE publication as part of our cohort meetings.


Other feedback the cohort members wanted to share:

It's a valuable group and I'm learning skills and ideas that I think are going to set me up for success in the

long-term since I deliver A LOT of trainings!

I very much appreciate being given room to be creative, but I need enough structure to let me know that my ideas

fall within the scope of the project. I haven't felt entirely assured on that point. Apart from that, I have loved being

a part of this project and group. I have learned so much, and I think that helps my "students" learn more as well.

THANK YOU so much for creating this space!


Learning captured through the annual leadership team and cohort member written reflections:

Leadership Team: Lessons Learned

  • The inclusion and recognition of diverse perspectives, experiences, and knowledge bases have made this project particularly impactful. The leadership team, comprising academics and producer-educators, provides a model for collaborative learning and allows the leadership team to support the varying needs of cohort members effectively.
  • Leadership team members learned how being leaders involves actively listening to others and responding to the evolving needs of cohort members. This means empowering cohort members to actively engage in their learning while offering guidance or challenging members to think differently about practical ways to apply new ideas in real-world situations.
  • The guides and templates for outcomes-based and learner-centered teaching have broadly applied to many unique contexts. The leadership team and cohort members have reported changing their practices or programming in response to these learning materials.

Cohort Members: Impactful Resources and Activities

  • It has been beneficial for everyone to engage in the process of sharing resources, discussing ideas, and providing and receiving feedback. This space for learning allows everyone to support each other in mutual growth.
  • The retreat's in-person meeting format invited greater engagement, trust, and collaboration.
  • The monthly meetings keep cohort members connected and on track.
  • Many found the SARE publication to be a helpful resource. Working through this document on the best practices for adult education as a group provided inspiration and will provide guidance when designing future programming.
  • Cohort members used the tools and templates for planning workshops with learner-centered outcomes in different projects and contexts.
  • Having producer-educator perspectives within the project has enabled cohort members to understand producer experiences better.

Cohort Members: Key Personal Learnings

  • Members have focused more on learning outcomes after exploring ways to intentionally connect learning objectives to activities.
  • By designing programs or projects with real-world applications and practicality, members center the needs of learners. This includes supporting people’s learning by connecting their existing knowledge to new information or opportunities for skill development.
  • Perspectives have been shifted to see producers and clients as co-educators. Recognizing this has encouraged members to involve producers in planning processes meaningfully.
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.