Using Clickers to Collect Data

by Melissa Cater, PhD and Debra Davis, PhD

Data can be collected using a variety of tools. Clickers, also sometimes referred to as audience response systems, provide a quick, easy, and interactive way of collecting data from a large groups. While students are the most familiar with clickers because of their proliferation in classroom settings, this tool may also be used in outdoor settings where the need for paper, pencil, and hard surfaces for recording answers is virtually eliminated by the a portable wireless receiver which records audience responses. Here are three examples of slides created for an in-class setting. Many of these questions could easily be adapted for an on-the-go setting like field days and field trips.

Broadband Evaluation Clicker Slides

4-H Ag Alley Field Trip Evaluation Clicker Slides

EFNEP Evaluation 5th gr Clicker Slides

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Using Plain Paper Scanners to Collect Data

by Melissa Cater, PhD and Debra Davis, PhD

The new generation of scanning software and hardware make creating scannable forms and inputting data easier and quicker than ever before. Below are examples of scannable forms that LSU AgCenter Extension programs have used.

Franklin Tensas Healthcare Needs Survey Scannable Example

ANR Base Program Survey Scannable Example

FCS Nutrition Scannable Example

4-H Camp Nutrition Track Scannable Example

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Using Online Survey Software to Collect Data

by Melissa Cater, PhD and Debra Davis, PhD

Collecting data using online survey tools is not only convenient for respondents, it is convenient for program staff, too. One of the advantages of online data collection is the access to instant results. Here are a few examples from recent LSU AgCenter Extension programs.

4-H OMK Camp Evaluation Online Survey Example

ANR Forage Program Survey Online Survey Example

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Engaging Participants in Group Discussion

Melissa Cater, PhD

Have you ever had a group of participants who just didn’t want to engage in group discussion? Or maybe there were those individuals in the group who just dominated the conversation? I was fortunate enough to attend a Kagan Cooperative Learning training recently. One of the major foci of the training was learning strategies for managing group discussions. One guiding principle was that individuals should first have the chance to discuss questions posed by the teacher in pairs before sharing with the larger group. Not only does this allow the participant to gain confidence in his or her answer before giving it in front of the large group, but it also builds trust between paired individuals. With careful planning, this trust-building phase could be extended to include many people as individuals are asked to change partners and share with other groups.

In practice, this strategy worked because, once a question was posed, the pair was allotted minutes, most often regulated by a timer, to discuss the question. At the end of the allotted time, the timer was reset and the other person in the pair was given time to speak. Many of you may be thinking that this sounds like a think-pair-share exercise, and it was. The noticeable difference was that there was a structure in place for guiding the pairs or groups to allow everyone to speak. An interesting variation of this technique was to assign individuals to pairs and two sets of pairs were assigned to work together in a group of four. In this manner, the ideas of the smaller pair were disseminated to a larger group of four. The feedback received within the pair or the small group of four provided both validation and support for the individuals. Ultimately, each group of four may be asked to share a discussion point with the overall larger group.

The take-away message for me from this training was that with a little pre-planning I could structure conversations within groups so that everyone’s voice was heard. However, this group discussion strategy was only one small part of the training as there were many approaches shared for making learning more engaging and fun. If you have the opportunity to attend professional development training that improves your skill as a teacher, I encourage you to do so. I personally rank this training as one of my top professional development experiences this year!!

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What is a Learning Organization?

Lisa R. Arcemont, Instructor

The world is changing faster and faster—technology, globalization, innovation, competition are all affected. The problems facing us seem to be growing ever more complex and serious. How do we navigate such change and address these problems—not only in our work lives but also in our families, communities, and schools? Many organizational change theorists believe that organizations—groups of people who come together to accomplish a purpose—hold an important key to these questions. When employees work together, learning and innovation are optimized. To be innovative, organizations are recruiting people with the ability to continuously learn new things. According to many theorists, the most important skill that college provides is the ability to continuously learn. The field of organizational learning explores ways to design organizations so that they fulfill their function effectively, encourage people to reach their full potential, and, at the same time, help the world to be a better place.

According to Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization, an organization is learning when it can bring about the future it most desires. This is achieved when an organization is rooted in powerful principles, values, and discipline. Learning is much more than just a way to create the future you want. In today’s fast-paced, highly competitive work world, it may actually give your organization fulfilling purpose and thereby, the edge it needs to survive.

The learning organization learns to: 

  • Operate using the systems thinking principles as core disciplines – systems thinking, team learning, shared vision, mental models, and personal mastery.
  • Avoid making the same mistakes – employees learn from their mistakes and don’t repeat them because they share the knowledge of what went wrong and how to avoid such pitfalls. 
  • Make continuous performance improvements – constant improvements are made as a result of constant learning. These improvements are shared with others throughout the organization to encourage continued improvement. 
  • Share information – Hoarding knowledge is seen as a habit to break. Employees are rewarded for sharing their best practices and knowledge to help others improve performance through the whole organization (Lussier, 2010).

Before any organization can become a learning organization, planning the journey begins with knowing where you want to go. A vision for businesses as well as organizations will help define your destination. Once an organization has determined its vision and communicated it to its members, it is important to assess three key areas in the organization:

  • Knowledge Base – the strengths and weaknesses of your organization’s knowledge base including experience and practice
  • Learning Practices – the management and operating practices that foster or hinder learning
  • Learning Cultures – the work culture and its effect on learning which includes opportunities for innovation, recognition of conflict and errors, leadership, staff development, information and communication systems, team-based work and addressing incomplete learning cycles.

Once these three areas are assessed within an organization, the assessment can provide a great opportunity for staff development to train them in the areas that are lacking. Above all, it is most important to continue to measure and assess your organization’s learning capacity which can be measured against the baseline to evaluate progress. As an organization changes its learning practices, it will also need to change its vision and strategy. Continual realignment is the key to making an organization’s journey to become a learning organization valuable, progressive and successful. For more information on Peter Senge and The Learning Organization, click here or visit

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Finding Funding Sources

By Tamara Sabine

In previous blog posts, I’ve discussed writing your first grant, crafting the project and budget narratives, the importance of a succinct needs statement and the ins and outs of the project budget. Today I’m going to give you some insight into the sources you’ll need to be familiar with to find upcoming grants.

LCES Grant Resources SharePoint Site:  The resources for helping you find more grants begin with me – and my role as Extension Grant Coordinator. One of my duties is to research grants and make those opportunities available to faculty and staff in the manner in which they can use them. I know some folks email this information around, but that could get a bit cumbersome, so in an effort to not become a 24/7 emailer, I’ve established the LCES Grant Resources SharePoint site on the LSU AgCenter intranet. You can visit this site – on your time schedule – and see any open funding opportunities that might fit your program needs. You can also sign up for an RSS feed to get updates in Outlook whenever information is added to the site! Application deadlines and other important dates are kept on the calendar, documents related to any open opportunities are kept in the shared documents, the team discussion area is for grant-writing teams to chat and discuss issues. Now, if you’re interested in looking for grants on your own, there are also lots of websites that have lots of information on grants and other funding opportunities. Some are more user-friendly than others. The repository for federal grants is It can be a little overwhelming (confusing) for first-timers, so I suggest signing up for the daily email of new and updated opportunities from their site.

National & Regional Foundations: One of my favorite organizations to hear about new funding opportunities from national and regional foundations is The Foundation Center.  Corporations and foundations from across the country submit their Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for listing on their Philanthropy News Digest. You can view by subject, receive an RSS feed as the opportunities are updated, or receive an email each Friday. I receive the weekly email and reviewing it is one of the last tasks of my Friday each week.

Organization Websites: Don’t forget to check the websites of organizations. For example, Honda offers grants for technology, science, engineering programs geared toward youth. Information about this program is found on the American Honda Foundation website, which I found by starting at Look under ‘Corporate Information’ on any organizations you’re interested in.

Sources for program funding are all around, if you look closely. Don’t forget, we’re here to help, please feel free to contact me.

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Coaching – Growing the Relationship

Lisa Arcemont, Instructor

“Our traditional organizations are designed to provide for the first three levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs: food, shelter and belonging…The ferment in management will continue until organizations begin to address the higher order needs: self-respect and self-actualization.” ~  Bill O’Brien in Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline

Leaders actively seek ways to provide greater decision-making authority and responsibility for their employees by developing capable, self-confident teams. This is achieved by having the faith to let other people lead. Acting as coaches, they help others learn how to use their skills and talents, as well as learn from their experience (Goldsmith, Lyons and Freas, 2000). In developing the coaching relationship, leaders make the lasting difference. After all, it really is about the relationship. Not convinced….answer these statements:

  • Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
  • Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
  • List five teachers who had the greatest influence on you.
  • Name six people who have made you feel appreciated or special.

Which ones were easier to answer? I’m guessing but I would say probably the last two. The people who make a difference in our lives are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones who care. This is why the coaching relationship between leader and protégé is so very crucial in organizations today (Kouzes and Posner, 2002).

Coaching is a comprehensive way of linking employees to each other in your organization. The coaching relationship can inspire protégés to greater achievement partially because of the quality of the relationship with their coach. Because of the uniqueness of the coaching relationship, the person being coached is better motivated to accomplish goals for the good of the organization. Therefore, a key advantage of coaching is that it generates new possibilities for action and facilitates breakthroughs in performance (Dubrin, 2009). These breakthroughs can only occur through continual communication throughout the process between the coach and the protégé.

It is a good idea for coaches to begin the coaching process with the point that the conversation is not a witch hunt and that you are not looking for someone to blame. Instead, the goal is to find structural solutions to issues. Blame would only shift the focus away from the issue that really needs to be dealt with. Setting the right atmosphere and using a non-judgmental style are also key in coaching conversations. Whether their office or yours, informal venue in the lounge or a more formal meeting arrangement at the board room table, a coach needs to give careful thought to the setting for a conversation (Stanfield, 2000).

In most cases, coaching conversations can be a tool for raising the level of responsibility of the protégé as well as the person coaching. First and foremost, asking the right questions is the most important tool in developing the relationship. The coach needs to let the questions do the work and emphasize the objective cause of a problem and what need to be done to fix it (Stanfield, 2000). With some employees, the mere chance to talk about their situation clarifies it enough for them to be able to move ahead and address the issue.

A sample coaching conversation could include some of the following:


I remember you told me the other day that you were going to work with XYZ team on a joint project. I am very interested in how it went. Do you mind talking about it?


  • What is the problem you are dealing with?
  • What is your role?
  • What skills are you using and how much time does it take to accomplish?
  • What’s the mood with the group about the project?
  • Why might that be?
  • Where is the breakthrough needed?
  • What will enable the project to move forward?
  • How might you help them?
  • What other things could you try?
  • What resources do you think you’ll need?
  • What will you need to do next?
  • How can I help?


This is a very interesting issue you are dealing with. If there is any way I can help out, please let me know. I wonder if you might find it helpful to talk to (name) to assist you (Stanfield, 2000).

For most conversations, pick only applicable questions. You certainly wouldn’t want a protégé to think the conversation was an inquisition or interrogation. It is also important to first say why you are holding the conversation so that they don’t think you are prying into their work or setting them up for a layoff. The right questions and conversations may also make the employee willing to talk about what they do openly and comfortably. It takes considerable courage to decide to initiate these conversations, but in the long run, the payoff will be rewarding and valuable for the protégé and also the person coaching (Stanfield, 2000).

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