Fall 1990 // Volume 28 // Number 3 // Feature Articles // 3FEA9

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Volunteers as Master Teachers


Betty Feather
Professor and Chair,
Clothing and Textiles
University of North Carolina-Greensboro

Extension offerings can be increased by using volunteers to teach basic courses continually in demand. This "frees" Extension faculty to teach advanced courses. Volunteers are selected for their knowledge and experiences, but they frequently lack teaching skills. Selecting and preparing volunteers is important because we want them to succeed by developing new skills and confidence, and we want Extension well-represented. The volunteer selection process should therefore be carefully planned and implemented so we invest our efforts with those who have success potential. Volunteers should be informed of our expectations before they make a commitment.

The Missouri Master Teacher Program (MMTP) addresses this situation by developing two program guides: one for county agents and the second for volunteers to use as their lesson plans. County agents are given a MMTP guide that includes course content and selection procedures, which includes media releases, sample brochures, application forms, suggested interview outlines, and an orientation meeting agenda. Inservice training prepares county agents for their roles in support, supervision, and evaluation of volunteer teachers.

Volunteers learn essential teaching skills in a five-lesson sequence that provides the opportunity to learn subject matter as well as the adult's learning processes. For example, clothing specialists work with volunteers who demonstrate their clothing construction competence by developing samples that can be used as resource materials during teaching. These samples provide the basis for evaluation of volunteers' standards and skills. In four of the five lessons, volunteers are given opportunities to practice teaching techniques they've learned by giving brief demonstrations and presentations.

The Missouri Master Teacher Program is ongoing. We find the selection and training efforts have provided good dividends. Volunteers report that the resource materials, practice demonstrations, and the subject-matter guide are essential for a quality program. County agents have confidence in volunteers, knowing they're competent to teach and are teaching a prescribed curriculum.

To express appreciation to Master Teachers, county agents invite them to be guests at workshops and programs where they're introduced as Master Teachers. Recognition is important to Master Teachers and the program - it acknowledges the individual's contribution to the community and creates interest in the program.

The MMTP has been used extensively in Missouri and throughout the United States. More than 120 Master Teachers have been trained in Missouri; most have taught a scheduled series of classes. Master Teachers also demonstrate clothing construction techniques at stores, fairs, and special events, as well as judge at fairs and 4-H events. Some are even venturing into retail and home-based businesses.

Twenty-five states purchased the MMTP and, in a follow-up survey, 11 of 21 respondents indicated they've drawn on the Missouri guide for program development. Some states are using the program "as is," while others have selected their own subject-matter topic, but retained or added more emphasis to the selection and training volunteer portion.