How Scratch-Off Cards Can Boost Learning in Entomology Extension
For entomologists working in extension, training sessions and workshops are where research gets turned into action. The lessons they impart to growers, pest management professionals, homeowners, and other clients can often be put to use immediately out in the field or community. Thus, it’s valuable for extension instructors—and for the learners, too—to know just how well that knowledge is being absorbed.
Erin Hodgson, Ph.D., associate professor and extension entomologist at Iowa State University, speaks to a variety of audiences in diverse settings as part of her outreach work. “Sometimes it’s a high-tech teaching classroom, and sometimes it’s in a pole barn in the middle of nowhere,” she says. “I need to be flexible based on the situation.”
That’s why Hodgson has gone low-tech in the last couple of years with a tool for on-the-spot evaluation: Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique (IFAT) cards—or, in simple terms, scratch-off tests.
Hodgson conducted 12 extension programs in the state of Iowa in 2016 and 2017 to educate farmers about integrated pest management practices for the soybean aphid (Aphis glycines), particularly in light of the confirmation of pyrethroid-resistant strains in Iowa and three other states in 2017. At each meeting, she used the IFAT scratch-off cards for a pre-test and post-test of the participants. She collected the cards after the all the meetings to evaluate program effectiveness, and she reports on the utility of the IFAT technique in extension work in an article published in February in the open-access Journal of Integrated Pest Management.
“Many people in my sessions were excited to try the scratch-off cards,” Hodgson says. “It was a good change of pace from the remote clickers used pretty heavily in our extension events. They liked being anonymous but still able to actively participate in my session. I felt like they were more alert and more willing to ask questions with these cards.”
Part of the appeal of the scratch-off card method is the instant learning. If a participant scratches off the correct answer, a star is revealed. If they select the wrong answer, they see a blank space, and they can then try another choice. As Hodgson writes in JIPM, “By using IFAT cards, participants will always discover the correct answer to every question if they keep trying.”
Participants in Hodgson’s extension sessions used the scratch-off cards for a five-question test at the beginning of the session and again for the same five questions (with only the order of the answer choices changed) at the end. She reports that participants showed improved performance on all five of the questions between pre- and post-tests.
Scratch-off cards may offer a tangible, perhaps even fun (like playing the lottery!) element to for evaluation and learning reinforcement in extension programs, though Hodgson says she’d also like to try out platforms that let participants use smartphones to answer questions and also to find a way to follow up with participants six or 12 months after the meetings.
“Demonstrating our impact in extension is mandatory, and most of us aren’t formally trained in evaluation,” Hodgson says. “Even if people don’t end up using immediate feedback cards, I hope to inspire extension entomologists to think about novel ways to evaluate their programs.”
Journal of Integrated Pest Management
(Hodgson portrait photo credit: Rachel Kennedy)