COMMUNICATION IN EXTENSION

Communication is an activity much taken for granted. Extension education is essentially a process of communication. Communication of ideas and skills between and among people. Ability to communicate determines to a very large extent the success or failure of an extension worker. This topic – communication in extension –is the topic of discussion in this post.

After studying this, you should be able to:

· explain clearly the term ‘communication’

· discuss, vividly the communication models

· outline briefly the components of communication process.

The Meaning of Communication

The word communication is abstract and possesses numerous meanings.

According to Clevenger (1991), it is inconceivable that any person cannot communicate. The process of communication is fundamental to extension, training and passing on information. Thus learning processes, the dissemination of innovations or social change cannot be explained without reference to communication.

Communication can be given a broad and inclusive or a restrictive definition. It can also be seen in the light of communication as linked to or not linked to intention and judgment.

Communication can be defined as:

  1. The means of sending messages
  2. The transmission of information
  3. That situation in which a source transmits a message to a receiver with conscious intent to affect the latter’s behaviours.
  4. The verbal interchange of thoughts or ideas
  5. The process that links discontinuous parts of the living world together
  6. A process that makes common to two or several what was the monopoly of one or some.

Extension services are essentially communicative (Akeredolu and Ajayi, 1995). The ultimate aim of an extension system is to effectively deliver information to end-users in a comprehensible and utilizable manner.

Extension services bear great potentials for improving the productivity of natural resources and promoting the right attitudes among natural resource managers (Adebayo and Adedoyin, 2003). The service is recognized as essential mechanism for delivering information and advice as input into modern natural resource management. The structures and institutions engaged in extension services encompass a diverse range of socially sanctioned and legitimate activities that seek to improve the ability of natural resource managers to adopt more appropriate and often new practices and to adjust to changing conditions and societal needs (Jones and Garforth, 1997).

Communication always occurs in context, that is, in a setting or situation. As such, the context of communication can be divided theoretically in a variety of useful ways. One such approach is; divide the field vocationally into categories like health communication, business and professional communication and instructional communication (Littlejohn, 1999). Communication can be divided along the lines of the level of involvement of technologies as unaided or aided communication. Often, intercultural communication is distinguished from intra-cultural communication.

The most common division of communication is along the lines of the number of actors involved in the communication scenario (Adebayo, 1987; Bittner, 1989; Littlejohn, 1999). In this case, communication can be intrapersonal (involving only one person), interpersonal (dealing with face-to-face, private settings), group (relating to interaction of people in small groups, sometimes in decision making settings), organizational (occurring in large cooperative networks) and mass (dealing with public communication, usually mediated).

EXERCISE 1

  1. What is the use of communication in extension?
  2. Divide communication along the lines of the numbers of actors involved in the communication scenario.

Elements of the Communication Process

Let us compare two situations:

  1. I have a coin in my hand and I want to give it to someone else. I do this simply by putting it in the other person’s hand. Note that the coin does not change, that the other person’s hand was empty before I gave him the coin, and that my hand is empty after I have given it to him.
  2. I have an idea that I wish to pass on to someone else. Is this any different from passing a coin? We think the following differences are important:
    1. ideas do not become scarce. I can give away ideas without having fewer myself.
    1. the receiver’s head is not empty before I gave him the idea. On the contrary, his existing ideas help him to appreciate my idea and to include it with his own;
    1. a coin does not change when it is passed to another person, but an idea does. An idea exists only in the human mind and cannot be transferred physically like a coin.

We can draw the following conclusion from this comparison of passing a coin or an idea: the process consist of six essential elements

These elements provide the building blocks from which all models of communication are drawn (Adedoyin, 1989; Lither, 1989; Adebayo, 1997; Littlejohn, 1999) they are:

  1. Source/sender
  2. Message
  3. Channel/medium
  4. Receiver
  5. Effect, and
  6. Feedback

A basic model of the communication process

The source or sender is the individual or a group working together or an institution responsible for initiating communication and ensuring that the objectives of the exercise are clearly defined and achieved. In addition, the source must strive to update his knowledge through training, subject matter wise, as well as in the methodologies of communication itself.

The message is the stimuli or idea that the source transmits. Messages must be clear, useful to the audience, relevant to the environment and timely with respect to their livelihood activities. Message content should be relevant to the receiver; this implies that the message sent must be technically feasible, economically beneficial and acceptable with respect to the norms and values of the society.

Messages in extension communication bear particular characteristics which may enhance or hinder their acceptability by the target audience (Adebayo, 1977; Adedoyin, 1989; Adebayo et al., 2002). These characteristics are:

  1. Relative advantage- The degree to which an idea or technological innovation is perceived as being better than the one it seeks to replace
  2. Compatibility- The extent to which an idea or message is in line with prevailing or past socio-cultural values and beliefs.
  3. Complexity-The degree to which an idea or message is perceived as relatively difficult to use and understand.
  4. Trial ability/ divisibility- The extent to which an innovation can be experimented with on limited scale
  5. Observability- The degree to which the results of an innovation or message content are visible to others
  6. Risk level- The extent to which an idea or message is perceived to expose the receiver to vulnerability due to failure.

A channel or medium is the means by which a message travels from the source to the receiver. The human senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste and feeling) make up the most common means of exchanging ideas. The methods include visual and oral, spoken and written. The more senses employed in the communication process, the greater the chance that it is understood.

The receiver is the target or audience of communication. The audience are those whom the source/sender wishes to receive, understand and use the idea. In extension communication it is important that the receiver of each message be clearly defined and segregated into homogenous groups for effective communication. If the audience is to make progress, the extension teacher somehow helps them to change their knowledge, attitude or behaviour. If no change takes place there has been no communication – no progress. Good extension teaching requires a thorough study of audience. This means their abilities, backgrounds, interests and previous accomplishments. The more we know about the audience, the better job of teaching we can do.

The effect of the communication is felt when the receiver decodes the message (attaches meaning to the symbols) and develops an idea in his mind which he may or may not use. Feedback is the response from the receiver to the source of the message. Feedback is a control device and an important indicator of the success of communication as well as areas requiring modification and further enquiry.

EXERCISE 2

  1. List the components of a basic model of the communication process.
  2. Enumerate on the characteristics of messages in extension communication.

CONCLUSION

In this unit you have learnt the meaning of communication and the important elements that comprises the communication process. Other areas discussed here include communication models and its comparison.

From these discussions, you now know that communication is something we encounter every day in our lives.

SUMMARY

The main points in this unit are:

  • The process of communication is fundamental to extension, training and passing on information.
  • In general, communication can be defined as:
    • The means of sending messages
    • The transmission of information
    • That situation in which a source transmits a message to a receiver with conscious intent to affect the latter’s behavior
    • The verbal interchange of thoughts or ideas
    • The process that links discontinuous parts of the living world together
    • A process that makes common to two or several what was the monopoly of one or some.
  • The communication process consists of six important elements, they include:-
  • Source/sender
  • Message
  • Channel/medium
  • Receiver
  • Effect and
  • Feedback

QUESTIONS

  1. Explain what is meant by the term “Communication”.
  2. Discuss briefly the various communication models.
  3. Explain vividly the various elements of communication process.

REFERENCES/FURTHER READING

Adedoyin, S.F. (1989). Communication in training women extension

workers. In: Jibowo, A.A. (ed.). Strengthening Agricultural

Extension in Nigeria (FAO Project NIR/87/014 Report). Pp.

88-122.

Adebayo, K., Adedoyin, S. (2005). Communication and Advocacy

Strategies in Extension. In S.F. Adedoyin (ed). Agricultural

Extension in Nigeria. Publication of Agricultural Extension

Society of Nigeria, Pp 21-23.

Adebayo, K., Anyanwu, A.C. and Dsiyale, A.O. (2003). “Perception of

environmental issues by cassava processors in Ogun State,

Nigeria-Implications for environmental extension education:

Journal of Extension Systems. 19: 103-112.

Albercht, H., Bergmann, H., Diederich, G., Grober, E., Hoffmann, V.,

Keller, P., Payr, G., Sulzer, R. (1989). Agricultural Extension.

Rural Development Series. Volume 1, Basic Concepts and

Methods GIZ, 276pp.

Akeredolu, M.O. and Ajayi, A. (1995). “Communication issues in

extension: Informedness and explanatory ability of village

extension agents in Lagos State”. In: Adedoyin, S.F. and

Aihonsu, J.O.Y. (eds). Proceedings of the eight Annual

Conference of the Nigerian Rural Sociological Society, pp

294-301.

Bittner, J.R. (1989). Mass Communication: An Introduction , 5th Edition.

Prentice Hall, Englandwoods Cliffs, 440pp.

Clevenger, I. (1991) “Can one not communicate? A conflict of models”.

Communication studies 42: 351.

Jones, G.E. and Garforth, C.J.(1997). History, development and future

of agricultural extension. In: Sivanson, B.E., Bentz, R.P. and

Sofrato A. J. (eds). Improving Agricultural Extension: a reference

manual FAO, Rome, pp 3-12.

Littlejohn, S.W. (1999). Theories of Human Communication.

Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont, 409Pp.

Vanden Ban, A.W. and Hawkins H.S. (1985). Agricultural Extension.

Longman Scientific and Technical, USA, New York, 328pp.