Expanding 4-H Alumni Life Perspectives: An Experiential and Programmatic Evaluation
Keywords:4-H, alumni life perspectives, experiential learning, leadership and life skills development
Involvement with the 4-H program during youth has been empirically shown to have positive effects on participants and to influence their life perspectives and career development. The activities offered within 4-H allow individuals to build relationships with peers and mentors, develop life and leadership skills, and create a positive self concept. The focus of this study was to identify key touchstones which influenced 4-H alumni life perspectives and inform program development to ensure individuals are exposed to these activities during their 4-H involvement. Although numerous studies have examined the positive outcomes of 4-H programming, limited research exists identifying the context in which these influential experiences occur. This study employed a modified Delphi approach, using an expert panel (n = 31) to identify and generate consensus regarding 4-H experiences, events, and programs deemed influential in expanding alumni life perspectives. Thirty-six items were retained following the Delphi process. Two items received unanimous consensus: 1) interaction with diverse groups, and 2) hearing dynamic speakers and listening to accomplishments they have achieved because of involvement in 4-H. Retained items were analyzed for overarching themes using the constant comparative method (CCM). Five themes emerged following the CCM analysis: 1) professional skills and leadership development, 2) networking and mentorship opportunities, 3) 4-H events, programs, and camps, 4) 4- H projects and educational opportunities, and 5) internal influences. These themes may be combined with Robert’s (2006) model of experiential learning to identify the appropriate setting, duration, level, and intended outcomes of 4-H programming.