Summer 1990 // Volume 28 // Number 2 // Tools of the Trade // 2TOT4

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Adapting 4-H Manuals for Self-Instruction


Robert L. Horton
4-H Curriculum Specialist
Ohio State University-Columbus

Leaders use 4-H project manuals as teaching resources to direct project instruction and inspire group experiences. The manuals often come with lesson plans to help group learning. Because fewer adults are willing to direct project learning, Ohio has begun modifying 4-H project manuals for self-study. Ohio's new manuals have two primary components:

1. Experience-Based Activities. These clusters of self-study learning activities reinforce the concepts and principles in the text. The clusters direct individual learning and are benchmarks for evaluating achievements.

2. Member's Project Guide. The guide helps the self-study process through instructions and activities that help members understand, plan, carry out, and evaluate their projects.

Changing manuals has also led to modifying Ohio's project leader training. Leaders are now trained to enhance rather than direct project learning. Lesson plans being written to accompany the self-study manuals offer supplemental instruction that members can only get in a group setting. Training materials are also being developed to support the new role of the 4-H project leader.

Implications for Future 4-H Project Literature

Although more research is needed on the impact of self-study manuals, some observations can be made on its impact on future project development. Initial reactions by 4-H agents and volunteer leaders suggest that the self-study manuals clearly provide:

  • A role for parents to interact with their children in planning, conducting, and reviewing the project experience.
  • A standard to identify and evaluate learning outcomes.
  • A tool to evaluate a member's project experience.
  • An opportunity to recognize members who plan and complete their project.
  • A more realistic role for the project leader: enhancing rather than directing project learning.

Another long-term benefit of the new manuals is their role in supporting self-directed learning. A well-written series of 4-H self-study materials may help members learn to seek information, ask questions, and feel good about self-discovery. Because individual initiative and independent study skills are desirable outcomes for 4-H project experiences, Extension educators should consider modifying more member materials for self-study.