A Mixed-Methods Evaluation to Measure 4-H STEM Program Quality

Joseph L. Donaldson, Karen L. Franck

Abstract


The 4-H Science: Building a 4-H Career Pathway Initiative was a 3-year collaboration among National 4-H Council, Lockheed Martin, and state 4-H grantees to help more than 50,000 youth in 13 states develop STEM and workforce skills for STEM professions. A mixed-methods design used observations and interviews to assess program quality. Researchers observed 4-H STEM programming and conducted individual and focus group interviews with youth, parents, community volunteers, corporate volunteers, and professionals. Observations were conducted using a validated observational tool, the Out-of-School Time (OST) Observation Instrument with STEM Plug-In. This instrument measured youth relationship building, youth participation, staff relationship building, staff instructional strategies, activity content and structure, and STEM instruction. Findings from the observations and interviews were combined to assess program quality. Sites scoring highest on the OST Observation Instrument reported using quality STEM curriculum, especially National 4-H Youth Science Day lessons. The 4-H STEM programs demonstrated highly evident and consistent youth relationship building (e.g., being friendly and collaborative) and youth participation (e.g.., contributing ideas and taking leadership). Yet, in many cases, STEM youth skill development (e.g., drawing connections to real-world concepts) and STEM staff instructional practices (e.g., discussing how youth could pursue STEM content through their education and/or career) were inconsistent and rarely evident. Recommendations include substantive professional and volunteer development for both STEM competencies and enhanced youth development. The OST Observation Instrument with STEM Plug-In provided a comprehensive tool to evaluate program quality, and it is recommended for use in evaluating other 4-H STEM programs.


Keywords


4-H STEM; program quality; program evaluation; out-of-school time; mixed-methods

Full Text:

PDF

References


Creswell, J. W. (2015). A concise introduction to mixed methods research. Los Angeles: Sage.

Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. L. (2018). Designing and conducting mixed methods research (3rd ed.). Sage.

Donaldson, J. L., & Franck, K. L. (2018). 4-H Science: Building a 4-H career pathway initiative final report. University of Tennessee Extension Publication W668. https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W668.pdf

Dorsen, J., Carlson, B., & Goodyear, L. (2006, February). Connecting informal STEM experiences to career choices: Identifying the pathway. ITEST Learning Resource Center.

Flores-Lagunes, A., & Timko, T. (2015). Does participation in 4-H improve schooling outcomes? Evidence from Florida. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 97(2), 414-434.

Fu, A. C., Kannan, A., & Shavelson, R. J. (2019). Direct and unobtrusive measures of informal STEM education outcomes. In A. C. Fu, A. Kannon, & R. J. Shavelson (Eds.), Evaluation in informal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. New Directions for Evaluation, 161, 35-57.

Hawley, L.R., Stevens, J. Pense, S., & Perez, A. (2017). Click2SciencePD: Triangulated evaluation. University of Nebraska Academy for Methodology, Analytics & Psychometrics. http://www.click2sciencepd.org/sites/default/files/attachments/MAP_ClickTriangulatonReport_FINAL.pdf

Heck, K. E., Carlos, R. M., Barnett, C., & Smith, M. H. (2012). 4-H participation and science interest in youth. Journal of Extension, 50(2). https://www.joe.org/joe/2012april/a5.php

Horton, R. L., & House, P. L. (2015). Fish farm challenge provides STEM design experience for youth. Journal of Extension 53(4). Article 4IAW6. https://www.joe.org/joe/2015august/iw6.php

Larson Nippolt, P. (2012). 4-H Science: Evaluating Across Sites to Critically Examine Training of Adult Facilitators. Journal of Youth Development 7 (4) Article 120704FA001. https://jyd.pitt.edu/ojs/jyd/article/view/114/100

Lerner, R. M., & Lerner, J. V. (2013). The positive development of youth: Comprehensive findings from the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development. https://4-h.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/4-H-Study-of-Positive-Youth-Development-Full-Report.pdf

Mielke, M., & Butler, A. (2013). 4-H science initiative: Youth engagement, attitudes, and knowledge study. Policy Studies Associates. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED591155.pdf

National 4-H Council. (2015). Filling the STEM pipeline: National 4‑H Council and Lockheed Martin to prepare more diverse youth for STEM careers. https://4-h.org/media/filling-the-stem-pipeline-national-4-h-council-and-lockheed-martin-to-prepare-more-diverse-youth-for-stem-careers/

National Informal STEM Education Network (2015). Profiles of national youth-serving organizations: Collaborating with youth-serving organizations on STEM activities locally. https://www.nisenet.org/sites/default/files/Profiles%20national%20youth%20serving%20organizations%2011-28-15%20FINAL.pdf

Nelson, R. K. (2017). Stakeholder perspectives on site-visit quality and use. In R. K. Nelson & D. L. Roseland (Eds.), Conducting and using evaluative site visits. New Directions for Evaluation, 156, 57-73

Patton, M. Q. (2015). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (4th ed.). Sage.

Pechman, E. M., Mielke, M. B., Russell, C. A., White, R. N., & Cooc, N. (2008). Out-of-school time (OST) observation instrument: Report of the validation study. Policy Studies Associates.

Rice, J. E., Rugg, B., & Davis, S. (2016). Minnesota 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge: Infusing agricultural science and engineering concepts into 4-H youth development. Journal of Extension, 54(3). https://www.joe.org/joe/2016june/iw4.php

Riley, D., & Butler, A. (2012). Priming the pipeline: Lessons from promising 4-H science programs. Policy Studies Associates.

Ripberger, C., & Blalock, L. B. (2013). Training teens to teach agricultural biotechnology: A national 4-H science demonstration project. Journal of Youth Development 8(3) Article 130803FA003. https://jyd.pitt.edu/ojs/jyd/article/view/84

Shah, A. M, Wylie, C., Gitomer, D., & Noam, G. (2018). Improving STEM program quality in out‐of‐school‐time: Tool development and validation. Science Education, 102(2), 238-259. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.21327

Worker, S.M., Schmitt-McQuitty, L., Ambrose, A., Brian, K., Schoenfelder, E., & Smith, M.H. (2017). Multiple-Methods Needs Assessment of California 4-H Science Education Programming. Journal of Extension 55(2). Article 2RIB4. https://www.joe.org/joe/2017april/rb4.php




DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jyd.2020.835

Copyright (c) 2020 Joseph L. Donaldson, Karen L. Franck

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.