UConn 4-H was one of 10 states selected for a pilot program, in the form of the Common Measures 2.0 Cohort Challenge Grant, to implement Common Measures program evaluation. The evaluation instruments Common Measures 1.0 and Common Measures 2.0 were created by National 4-H to help 4-H staff with planning and assessing local, state, and regional programs.
Many 4-H Extension educators find it challenging to evaluate the impacts of their programs across different subject matters, and to share resources, learned skills and knowledge with other youth educators who share their vision. As a part of
the Common Measures pilot program, a team of UConn 4-H professionals, Jennifer Cushman, Ryan Faulkner, Maryann Fusco-Rollins, Miriah Russo Kelly, and Nancy Wilhelm, joined forces to try this innovative approach to program evaluation.
Common Measures 2.0
Common measures are designed to measure the impacts of 4-H programs in science, healthy living, citizenship, college/career readiness, and positive youth development. The goal of Common Measures is to establish a common core of youth outcomes and indicators consistent with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Plan of Work system. This includes using information from a national database for evaluating, improving, and reporting on programs and their impacts.
The UConn 4-H team developed a user-friendly survey platform using online Qualtrics software for the National 4-H Common Measures 2.0 instrument. While developing this platform the team also focused on building capacity and excitement in the 4-H program around data collection, analysis, and communication. Data communication uses tools such as Stats iQ and social media.
The 4-H team designed an annual survey that can be used by UConn 4-H youth to capture data relevant to each individual’s program participation. The team customized features in Qualtrics to match surveys to participants’ UConn 4-H program experience, ensuring they received relevant surveys.
Once completed, surveys were emailed to 4-H youth members’ parents/guardians, for consent. After parental consent was received, the 4-H youth could participate in survey. The surveys were designed to be short and engaging. In this pilot year we collected surveys from 127 4-H members enrolled in science projects, 109 in healthy living projects, 151 in civic engagement projects, 168 in college/career readiness programs, and 131 in mindset and social skills, referred to as the universal measures. The team developed this evaluation platform with an eye on the future, and is now poised to conduct a 5-year longitudinal study of program impacts.
In November of 2018 the team hosted the Northeast Region 4-H Evaluation Capacity Building Training Event with participants from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. This event had two tracts, basic and advanced, and covered three areas, data collection, data analysis, and data communication.
Before delving into each of the three topic areas, Miriah Kelly presented a comprehensive overview of key terms
and concepts. In the area of data collection, Jesse Mullendore from University of Nebraska-Lincoln presented on collecting data using Common Measures 2.0, and Ryan Faulkner covered creating a survey in Qualtrics.
In the area of data analysis, Teresa McCoy from the University of Maryland demonstrated ways to analyze data in Excel and Maryann Fusco-Rollins demonstrated analyzing data using Stats iQ. The final segments focused on data communication where Renae Osterman from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln discussed the basics of using the Common Measures reporting template and John Wilson of the University of Connecticut discussed Tableau, a more advanced tool for data visualization.
The Northeast Region 4-H Evaluation Capacity Building Training Event took place one month before the end of the UConn 4-H Common Measures 2.0 Cohort Challenge Grant. The team is now working on their next steps of analyzing and communicating the data from this first year. Knowledge gained from this research, and insights from the longitudinal study will be used to advance positive youth development and professional competencies by providing a means to ensure that programs are intentionally designed and providing meaningful engagement for all our UConn 4-H youth participants.
Article by Maryann Fusco