Graduate Project

Using systematic evidence review to inform family forest owner educational program development

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  • Purpose: Natural resources education and extension is at the intersection of diverse disciplines, where effective practice and policy decisions rely on the impartial evaluation and synthesis of multiple sources of information. This investigation examines contemporary information sources describing attributes of Oregon family forest owners, with the objectives of identifying potential educational program interests of these owners, and identifying information that might be useful in the development of specific educational programming. Methodology: Two questions frame this inquiry: 1) What interests might family forest owners have about the management of their forestland that can be inferred from the available literature? 2) What can the available literature tell us about the interests, motivations, beliefs, and prior knowledge family forest owners have about specific topics? The first question is answered by using content analysis to evaluate the source materials for manifest and inferred interest in potential topics of interest to family forest landowners. The second question is answered by using content analysis of the source material to identify manifest landowner expressions related to five potential program topics: Intergenerational Planning; Invasive Species; Climate Change; Riparian Management; and Forest Management Plans. An important step in the systematic review of multiple sources of information is the evaluation of the validity and generalizability of source materials; often these sources represent different target populations and measured constructs, and comprise both qualitative and quantitative forms of data that are difficult to evaluate for validity and generalizability by unified standards. A framework for the evaluation of validity and generalizability is proposed that makes express factors that contribute to the validity and generalizability of source materials used in the systematic evidence review process. Validity criteria for quantitative research follow generally-accepted survey and experimental standards. Validity criteria for qualitative research are grounded in critical realist epistemology. Generalizability criteria include factors associated with Fisherian, Bayesian, and deductive forms of inference. A model is described for the Reliability of the Generalized Inference (RGI), an index based on the internal validity of the source material and the strength of inference between the source material and the target of generalization. Results: A total of 77 potential educational topics were identified by the analysis of subject literatures for evidence of inferred and manifest landowner interest. The top ten topics of interest inferred from the subject literature were; conservation easements and land trusts; sustainability; stewardship incentive programs; business planning; creating a management plan; ecosystem services; carbon sequestration/carbon credits; forest health; small woodland owner networks and co-ops; and forest taxation. Content analysis for manifest landowner expressions of interest, prior knowledge, and concern with respect to the five specific topics analyzed found the lowest number of manifest landowner expressions in the topic of invasive species management, and the highest number of manifest expressions in the topic of intergenerational planning. Conclusion: Although there was considerable evidence of generic landowner interest in the five topics analyzed for manifest landowner expressions, the information extracted from the literature may not by itself be adequate for theory-based educational program development. Much of the reviewed literature may nevertheless contain theoretically-relevant information that was unavailable through the content analysis methodology used by this analysis. Re- analysis of the literature using a less restrictive data extraction methodology and a better-defined theoretical and conceptual framework is recommended.
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