A Self-Assessment Approach to Understanding 4-H Professional Development Needs in the Northeast


  • Marycarmen Kunicki Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • Marissa Staffen Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • Jennifer E. Cushman University of Connecticut
  • Rachel Lyons Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • Lisa Phelps University of Maine
  • Kevin Sullivan Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey




PRKC, professional development, 4-H, positive youth development, self-assessment


In 2017, the National 4-H professional research, knowledge, and competencies (PRKC) taxonomy was updated reflecting the current needs of 4-H youth development professionals. Knowledge and skill gaps of 4-H professionals need to be identified to optimize resource allocation for professional development on the state and regional level. We developed a web-based self-assessment of the PRKC tool using Qualtrics, that evaluated the core competencies across the 6 PRKC domains: (a) youth development; (b) youth program development; (c) volunteerism; (d) equity, access, and opportunity; (e) partnerships; and (f) organizational systems. The responses from 188 Extension 4-H professionals (approximately a quarter of the 4-H Extension professionals in the Northeast region) were analyzed to (a) identify the knowledge and skills gaps in competencies within 6 domains, and (b) provide suggestions for professional development that would be of value to each state or region, based on the aggregate data. The results show respondents perceived their personal knowledge, skills, and competencies highest in the domains of access, equity, and opportunity and organizational systems. The domains with the lowest perceived personal effectiveness were youth program development and volunteerism. Not surprisingly, the aggregate results indicate that respondents with a greater number of years of experience in Extension reported higher competency in three domains (youth program development, volunteerism, and organizational systems). This tool can be utilized by Extension at any level to better understand the needs of the 4-H professional workforce. Results can aid the design of professional development opportunities to meet the knowledge and skill gaps identified among respondents.


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Research & Evaluation Studies