This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Understanding Writing Expectations and Self-Efficacy in the Cooperative Extension Service




Hancock, Clare

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Curriculum and Teaching


Communication, specifically written communication, is typically identified as a top competency for Extension agents (Benge et al., 2011; Cooper et al., 2001; Harder & Narine, 2019). However, the competencies within written communication have not been explored or clarified within these studies. As such, this study aims to better define what specific writing competencies are necessary to be an effective writer as an Extension agent, determine what specific types of writing exist in Extension, and assess the writing self-efficacy of Extension agents in Alabama (Bandura, 1997). This study consists of two parts: the first part uses a Delphi method, and the second part uses a quantitative survey method. In the Delphi panel, State Extension directors and other Extension leadership identified seven genres of writing in Extension and the necessary competencies within them. These experts considered each form of writing separately and showed that they considered the contextual differences between each and changed their expectations in response (Flower, 1994). In the second part of the study, Extension agents were asked to consider which genres of writing they engage in; participating agents reported that they engage in several forms of writing. Internal communications and social media were among the highest reported genres of writing that agents produce content for. Extension agents in Alabama also assessed themselves and shared their perceived effectiveness in each relevant writing genre and the competencies within that genre. Agents perceive themselves to be very effective in their writing within every genre of writing that was identified. Social media was reported as a form of writing that the majority of agents engage in, and it was also the writing genre that received the lowest average of effectiveness. Alabama Extension agents might benefit from more training that focuses specifically on writing for social media.