Does it matter if adult volunteers or 4-H staff are paired with youth to complete assessments?
Early results from our Minnesota 4-H Quality Improvement Study suggest that youth and volunteers can indeed assess quality and can work with local 4-H clubs to improve their programs. We have also learned that, for the most part, whether youth are paired with adult volunteers or staff made little difference.
Traditionally, program quality is assessed using reliable, trained
assessors. Taking that model to scale in a youth organization with more
than 130,000 youth would be impossible, so our study sought to discover
how to measure quality in a youth and volunteer-led organization.
The study design called for 40 coaches (20 youth and 20 adults)
receiving a two-day training on how to observe program quality using the
Weikart Center's Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA).
Participants were grouped into 20 pairs: half of them one youth and one
adult volunteer; the other half one youth and one 4-H staff member.
Each youth-adult team assessed at least two 4-H clubs for a total of 40
4-H clubs observed.
The goal of the study was to investigate the nuances of using an
alternative assessment approach. It was not designed to measure the
actual extent of quality improvement attained or compare trained
assessors with volunteer assessors. We viewed the process of engaging,
as a member of the 4-H program, as a step toward building a quality
Results revealed that:
• Youth and adults played an equal role in the observation and initial assessment scoring.
• Youth involvement in the data collection was seen as extremely valuable.
• Observed 4-H clubs were receptive to this opportunity and viewed the assessment process as a positive one.
We at the Extension Center for Youth Development are taking this work
to scale in 4-H clubs around Minnesota. The project represents a fine
expression of the University of Minnesota's land-grant mission: to
bring research and practice expertise together to support local
community needs. For more on program quality and how to measure it,
visit our website's program quality research page.
Is your youth program finding ways to measure program quality? How are you doing it?
Samantha Grant, assistant Extension professor, program evaluationRead the Preliminary Minnesota 4-H Quality Improvement Study.