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Why should natural resource professionals incorporate best education practices into water management programs? How will the BEP Project make the case that incorporating best education practices in water outreach programming is worth the effort and resources? We’ve taken a four-part approach toward answering these questions.
- Best Education Practices: Study of Provider Needs
- Model Education Techniques
- Synthesis of Significant Research: The BEP Decision Tree
- Literature Search for Audience-Specific BEPs
The first step was to go to water-management professionals for insight and advice.
In 2002 we conducted the BEP Study of Provider Needs to identify what resources these professionals currently use, how the resources might better meet user needs, how the project can make them more accessible, and how it can promote the use of best practices in water outreach education. Informants included Extension Water Quality Coordinators as well as other U.S. water outreach and education professionals. Major categories of survey inquiry included:
- Use of the Internet.
- Preferred sources of materials and advice.
- Targeted audiences.
- Instructional strategies used.
- Methods of assessing quality of resources.
The study revealed that, in general, it is important for educators to have help assessing the needs of their audiences, help assessing and selecting the highest quality resources, and help finding and accessing water education materials. Respondents also suggested services that would enhance outreach and educational efforts by water quality educators.
To learn more about the results of the survey:
- Best Education Practices: Study of Provider Needs – An Overview
- Best Education Practices: Study of Provider Needs – Full Report
- Internet Resources Most Favored by Key Informants: A list of Internet sites for water outreach/education materials and support favored by study participants
Study respondents outlined instructional strategies they value for their outreach and education efforts. Examples of BEPs incorporated in successful water programs include assessing audience needs; judging the quality of water education materials; choosing appropriate instructional strategies; developing instructional skills; and evaluating Web site resources. Summaries of these and additional model techniques have been developed for the BEP Web site and are featured on the Essential BEPs and Frequently Asked Questions pages.
3. Synthesis of Significant Research: The BEP Decision Tree
The BEP Web site will offers a shortcut, in the form of a decision tree, for quickly exploring the components of learning, theoretical foundations of education, and components of practice (planning, implementation and evaluation), which provide the basis for understanding the importance of BEPs.
The BEP Decision Tree will familiarize natural resource professionals with outreach strategies, and will help them select one or more options most likely to lead to desired outreach impacts.
The BEP literature search identifies research findings that apply to water education of specific audiences. We are looked for unique tips or strategies that have been tested and shown to be effective with the following target audiences:
- Agency Partners
- Agricultural Commodity Groups
- Environmental/Conservation Nongovernment Organizations
- Industrial Water Users
- Local Decision and Policy Makers
- Neighborhood Organizations
- Recreational Businesses (water-related)
- Recreational Water Users
- Retailers of Water Recreation Equipment
- Service Clubs
- Soil and Water Conservation Districts
- Specific Ethnic Groups
Many environmental education research papers recommend education practices. Few of these papers, however, focus on adult audiences; and few identify education practices that are best for specific audience groups. Few resource management papers recommend education practices, relying instead on the admonition that good resource management needs to be accompanied by outreach to the public or to a target audience.
To call an education technique a best practice, requires that its outcomes be compared through empirical research to the outcomes of a range of educative practices that have been used in multiple cases to educate like audiences. Observers, participants, or both can identify good education practices based on their observations and experiences of a particular practice in a single educational situation. When comparing two practices, they might observe that one is better than the other for educating a specified audience. The Project is reviewed thousands of papers, thorough searches in multiple education, environmental, resource, and resource management journals and journal databases. We have identified few if any studies of adult outreach and education that could claim to identify best education practices for specific audiences. See BEP Research.
At the June 2004 Symposium: Best Education Practices for Water Outreach Professionals, national water outreach and education professionals helped build this repository of audience-specific best education practices and topic-specific water outreach resources. Participants assisted in the identification of relevant research, discovery of links to published information about water management topics, and access to case studies that demonstrate best education practices. View the 2004 BEP Symposium Proceedings.