Date of Award

12-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Educational Psychology and Research

Major Professor

Russell L. French

Committee Members

Gary J. Skolits, Judith A. Boser, Shirley Hastings

Abstract

This study aimed to describe extension agent perceptions of the Tennessee Extension Agent Performance Appraisal System. A survey instrument was developed to address the research questions. The instrument had two sections: Satisfaction with the Current Appraisal System (14 items) and Satisfaction with Appraiser Performance (7 items). The instrument was reviewed by an expert panel and pilot tested with a group of 39 extension agents. The instrument was deployed online to the study population.

The population studied consisted of all extension agents employed by the University of Tennessee and Tennessee State University in January, 2010 (N=312). The total completed responses were 218 for a completed response rate of 69%.

In this study, seven in ten respondents (78.8%) felt that the current appraisal system should be improved. The desired improvements included: (a) The extension agents’ desire to have direct, annual appraisal interviews with the regional director; (b) The extension agents’ desire for a performance appraisal rubric that more accurately reflects their actual job duties; (c) The extension agents’ desire to make the performance appraisal system less time-consuming and efficient; and (d) The need for more instruction in performance appraisal for county directors.

Overall, extension agents were satisfied with the roles and behaviors of their appraisers (county directors), and county directors were equally satisfied with the roles and behaviors of their appraisers (regional directors). The majority of extension agents and county directors viewed their appraiser’s performance in conducting the appraisal with positive judgment, fairness, and trust by their subordinates.

The major recommendations emerging from this study are the provision of professional development for all appraisers to ensure accurate and effective performance appraisal, and exploration of strategies to require less effort on the part of the extension agent to prepare the appraisal materials.

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