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Connecting the dots: What can we learn from other disciplines about behaviour change?

Conte, J., Baudains, C.ORCID: 0000-0001-8340-864X and Lyons, T. (2010) Connecting the dots: What can we learn from other disciplines about behaviour change? Extension Farming Systems Journal, 6 (1). pp. 105-109.

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Agricultural extension evolved from, and has drawn on, the disciplines of social psychology, education and rural sociology. However, agricultural extension has not remained connected with developments in psychological, educational and sociological theory. This paper proposes that there are critical lessons to be learned by aligning extension practices to developments in social science theory and practice. The theory of planned behaviour (TPB) from social psychology proposes that behaviour is partly explained by: people’s attitudes towards the expected results of changing behaviour and how highly valued this is; norms related to the behaviour and degree to which people want to comply with these norms; and the degree of perceived control people have about conducting the behaviour, i.e. their perceptions of their ability to do it. While current agricultural extension practice already focuses on some of these areas through attempts to influence attitudes and improve skills and knowledge, application of this theory to agricultural extension may provide more rigour, more direction on the types of attitudes to influence and the way in which to do this. This could lead to improved rates of behaviour change as a result of extension programs and has the potential to be incorporated into both planning and evaluating these programs. In addition, while adult learning theory is regularly applied in agricultural extension, self regulation of learning (SRL) theory has not been implemented or trialled. SRL theory has been applied in environmental education in order to successfully increase rates of behaviour change and there may be lessons for agricultural extension. This theory also has many similarities to adult learning theory as it relates to: active involvement of learners in setting their learning goals; choices in the way they will learn; self-monitoring of achievement; and maintaining motivation to achieve goals. Three key learnings are: the theory of planned behaviour may provide some rigour to attempts to influence behaviour change in farmers; self regulation of learning theory has been successfully applied to environmental education; and while there are similarities between SRL and adult learning theories, SRL theory needs to be tested in extension.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Australian Farm Business Management Network
Copyright: (c) The Authors and AFBMN
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