VALIDATION OF AN INSTRUMENT TO MEASURE BEHAVIOR CHANGE AS A RESULT OF PESTICIDE APPLICATOR TRAINING
Susan P. Whitney, Extension Pesticide Coordinator
University of Delaware Cooperative Extension System

Newark, Delaware
9/22/2000
 
Abstract
    An evaluation instrument was administered at Delaware Pesticide Applicator Training from December, 1994 to September, 1996. Attendees identified the most hazardous activity in their work and pledged to adopt new practices that would reduce exposure during that activity. Five to 14 months later, these applicators were asked if they had tried one of the new practices at least once and if they had adopted any. In March, 1996, the evaluation instrument was validated for "used at least once" through face-to-face interviews using an instrument with an ordered Likert Scale. In March, 1997, the evaluation instrument was validated for "adopted routinely."

Introduction

    In 1996 Whitney presented three methods for measuring adoption of safety practices as a result of Pesticide Applicator Training (PAT): Use-Observation, Evaluation Form, and Needs Assessment. The research presented in this paper was conducted to validate the evaluation form of method II. 

Methods ("Used at least once")

    PAT was conducted five times in Delaware from 12/94 to 9/95. Each PAT consisted of 1 ½ day of training on the law, environmental protection, calibration, drift control, transportation, storage, spill clean-up, pests & pest control, IPM, the label, PPE, and symptoms of poisoning. At the beginning of each PAT, a 3-part NCR evaluation instrument "PUT SAFETY INTO PRACTICE!" was distributed and discussed. Attendees were asked to wait until all presentations had been made before they completed the evaluation form. Fifteen minutes for completing the form was listed on the agenda at the end of the second day. Attendees were then asked to identify the most hazardous activity in their work and list three new safety practices that they could start using in their work to reduce pesticide exposure during this hazardous activity. Attendees were told to keep one copy of the evaluation form and turn in the other two copies to the trainer. 

    From 12/94 to 9/95, 285 applicators attended PAT. Submitted survey forms numbered 267, of which 29 were discarded because of incompleteness or out-of-state residency. In January 1996, the remaining 238 forms were returned to their authors. Applicators were asked to check the practices that they used at least once since training. They were given instructions to return the form to the University of Delaware. A business reply envelope was enclosed. The mailing sequence was: heads-up post card, letter with original evaluation form, post card reminder, and second letter to non-respondents with photocopy of evaluation form. Of the 238 forms, 201 were returned to the University. Sixty-six of these were discarded because of post office returns or because the applicator did not obtain a license or apply pesticides during the year. Of the remaining 135 forms, 133 indicated that those applicators used at least one new safety practice at least once.

    In March 1996, the evaluation instrument was validated through face-to-face interviews with a subsample of 101 of the 133 respondents who indicated that they had used a new practice. Enumerators hired by the Delaware Agricultural Statistician were contracted to conduct the interviews using a second instrument  with an ordered Likert Scale. The questions on this instrument were composed to reflect the applicator's responses on the evaluation form. For example, several applicators wrote, "Read the label," as a new practice they pledged to adopt on the evaluation form. This statement was incorporated into the Likert Scale instrument as, "How often do you read the label before applying?" Many applicators pledged to, "Calibrate equipment." This statement was worded on the Likert Scale instrument as, "How often do you make sure your application equipment is calibrated?"

    The enumerators interviewed each applicator by reading each question on the Likert Scale instrument and recording the applicator's answer on the interview form. After the completed Likert Scale forms were submitted to the University of Delaware, they were paired with the evaluation form for each applicator. Pairs of forms, with names removed, were given to a panel of judges. The judges were two pesticide inspectors employed by the Delaware Department of Agriculture. Each behavior that an applicator indicated as having practiced "at least once" on the evaluation form was searched for on the Likert Scale form. If responses on the Likert Scale form indicated that the applicator did practice that behavior, "seldom," "sometimes," "often," or "always," then a positive score was recorded. 

Results and Conclusions

    The judges found that each behavior that an applicator indicated as having practiced "at least once" on the evaluation form could be found on the Likert Scale form as either, "seldom," "sometimes," "often," or "always." Thus all scores were positive. The evaluation instrument, "PUT SAFETY INTO PRACTICE!" was determined to be a valid instrument for practiced "at lease once." 

Methods ("Adopted Routinely")

    From 12/95 to 9/96, 155 applicators attended PAT. Submitted survey forms numbered 134, of which 19 were discarded because of incompleteness or out-of-state residency. In January 1997, the remaining 115 form were returned to their authors. Applicators were asked to check the practices that they used at lease once since training and those that they adopted as routine. The same procedures used in 1996 were followed. Of the 115 forms, 97 were returned to the University. Twenty-three of these were discarded because of post office returns or because the applicator did not obtain a license or apply pesticides during the year.Of the remaining 74 forms, 65 indicated that they had adopted at least one practice.

    In March 1997, the evaluation instrument was validated through face-to-face interviews for the answer "adopted routinely" using the same procedure as in 1996. A subsample of 55 was selected from those who had indicated they adopted at least one new safety practice since training . After face-to-face interviews using the Likert Scale form, pairs of forms, with names removed, were given to the panel of judges. Each behavior that an applicator indicated as having adopted since training on the evaluation was searched for on the Likert Scale form. If responses on the Likert Scale form indicated that the applicator practiced that behavior, "often" or "always," then a positive score was recorded. 

Results and Conclusions

    For 53 of the 55 applicators, the judges determined that behaviors indicated as having been "adopted routinely" on the evaluation instrument were found on the Rickert Scale instrument as either "often" or "always." For two applicators, the judges determined that behaviors indicated as having been "adopted routinely" on the evaluation instrument were found on the Rickert Scale instrument as "never," "seldom," or "sometimes." The evaluation instrument "PUT SAFETY INTO PRACTICE!" was determined to be a valid instrument for measuring adoption of safety practices. 

Discussion

   The evaluation instrument "PUT SAFETY INTO PRACTICE!" can be used to determine which practices applicators can adopt from those which they pledge to adopt as shown in Whitney (2000).  This information will allow educators to modify their lessons and emphasize those safety practices that applicators have difficulty in adopting.  An advantage to using this evaluation instrument is that applicators choose the behaviors they wish to change.  Thus, they buy into the idea of adopting new practices in their work.  This evaluation instrument is also a learning tool, because it encourages trainees to process information they have just learned.  The instrument then gives trainees a second learning experience when the form is returned to them and they are reminded of their commitment to change behaviors.  This evaluation method tracks individuals, as well as groups and can demonstrate a cause and effect relationship between training and behavior adoption.  There are some disadvantages to this method.  It requires four large mailings, NCR duplication, and analysis of the forms after final submission.

Acknowledgements

    This project was made possible by an EPA Region III grant.  Peter Nowak, Professor of Rural Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison was instrumental in helping to develop, validate, and refine this evaluation procedure. The University of Delaware College of Agricultural Sciences statistician, John Pesek, gave advice on statistical analysis of this procedure.

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Dr. Susan P. Whitney
swhitney@udel.edu