Researchers from the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools are embarking on a collaborative project to enhance program evaluations for 4-H, the nation’s largest youth development organization.
CYFS’ Nebraska Academy for Methodology, Analytics and Psychometrics recently received a $225,000 grant from the National 4-H Council to review and revise the 4-H Common Measures, a set of surveys used to identify and measure youth outcomes.
As part of the yearlong project, CYFS researchers will provide recommendations to improve the rigor of 4-H Common Measure’s nine existing instruments. They will also develop new measures to document youth behavioral changes in science, healthy living, citizenship, positive youth development and career readiness.
Leslie Hawley, research assistant professor, and CYFS director Susan Sheridan are principal and co-principal investigators for the grant. The research team also includes Michelle Howell Smith, research assistant professor; Natalie Koziol, postdoctoral research associate; Ann Arthur, graduate student in educational psychology; and Andrew White, graduate student in school psychology.
“Our job is to evaluate the Common Measures instruments and existing data,” Hawley said. “Ultimately, we want to help refine the instruments so they can best capture the positive benefits of 4-H.”
To integrate new suggestions with existing measures, CYFS researchers will work closely with members of UNL’s 4-H extension program and a national 4-H advisory board. Board members will travel to UNL this fall to meet with CYFS researchers and assist with project recommendations. The advisory board provides a 360-degree perspective, Hawley said, as they provide important insight about 4-H programs and participants.
Diverse perspectives also strengthen the CYFS research team, as Sheridan and White will contribute expertise in youth development later this fall. Their assistance will help researchers choose age-appropriate vocabulary as they carefully revise and craft measures.
“In the true spirit of 4-H, this is very much a team effort,” Hawley said. “Everyone contributes different strengths, because enhancing the Common Measures requires many different voices.”