Ball, associate professor and department chair of agricultural education and leadership, and others in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, work with researchers across the university to add unique, custom educational components to grants and projects. The goal of their Center for the Collaboration and Development of Educational Innovations is to show the general public the importance of research findings, and what they mean for them.
“I try to show the researcher – here’s the really cool way you can get people excited about this,” Ball said. “By design, good research is narrow – how do we connect it to the public?”
Often Ball and her team create an outreach to school children, to help them better understand a scientific topic. Another project included an App to get the researcher’s newly created technology directly into the hands of the public. Ball said they are trying to move researchers beyond just putting on a workshop (although for some projects this can still make sense). Partnering with educational experts can strengthen a grant application in the eyes of a funding agency, she said.
“I like the challenge of getting to know other people’s research,” Ball said of the Center’s work. “I get energized by their passion – that’s contagious.” She said the goal is for the researchers to focus on their research area, while letting her team tackle their expertise – the educational component.
Ball and her team also can help with measurements at the end of big grants projects – did the research make the difference it set out to make? Ball recently was part of the Broader Impacts Intensive Training presented by Mizzou’s Office of Research to show how research evaluation tools work.
Researchers interested in the Center for the Collaboration and Development of Educational Innovations can contact Ball for an initial meeting about the project (CAFNR projects get priority). It would be ideal to contact her before a grant is submitted so educational components and their cost can be built into the grant, although her team can help evaluate outcomes at the end as well.
Ball heads up the Center, which was created nearly two years ago. Other collaborators include Mary Hendrickson and Mary Leuci, Rural Sociology; Tracy Kitchel and Jon Simonsen, Agricultural Education and Leadership; and Carol Lorenzen, Animal Sciences.
“Let us help you create something that makes your research more accessible,” she said.