October 1999 // Volume 37 // Number 5 // Research in Brief // 5RIB2

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Stakeholder Satisfaction with a 4-H Extension Program for Five- to Eight-Year-Old Children

Stakeholder evaluations are essential for modifying or adjusting a program to ensure it is meeting its goals. A sample of 277 parents, 144 volunteers, and 44 agents/program assistants were surveyed to determine the perceived value and acceptance level of Ohio's 4-H K-2 program and its curriculum. The results were clear. The stakeholders of Ohio's 4-H program believe it is beneficial and effective for improving life skills for five- to eight-year-old children. Other states could benefit from using stakeholder evaluations to determine the immediate concerns of the people directly involved in the success or failure of a program.

Scott D. Scheer
Assistant Professor and State Extension Specialist
The Ohio State University and OSU Extension
Columbus, Ohio
Internet address: sdscheer+@osu.edu

Kenneth R. Lafontaine
Assistant Professor and Chair
Hardin County
Ohio State University Extension
Kenton, Ohio
Internet address: kenl@postoffice.ag.ohio-state.edu


Ohio 4-H in 1993 developed a comprehensive education program for K-2 or five- to eight-year-old children. The program and curriculum were based on the National 4-H, K-3 Youth in 4-H: Guidelines for Programming (National 5-8 Curriculum Task Force, 1991.) Further advances in the goals and philosophy of the program were conducted in 1996 that were consistent with the National Association for the Education of Young Children's position statement on developmentally appropriate practice in the primary grades (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997). The Ohio philosophy and system believed there should be a comprehensive educational plan that provides a total framework including a defined curriculum format, volunteer education, participation guidelines, and a flexible delivery system.

The goal of Ohio's five-to-eight-year-old program is to promote healthy development in children by enhancing life skills (social-interaction, self-esteem, physical mastery, making choices, and learning to learn) through developmentally appropriate learning experiences. Features of the program include short-term, success oriented, non-competitive, and fun activities based on a broad array of subject areas.

The program is unique in that it provides parameters as well as a defined framework for adults and youth volunteers to work within (Scheer, 1997). There is some flexibility, but the flexibility is kept to a minimum to maintain high quality and consistency across counties.

To evaluate the K-2 program, a stakeholder evaluation was developed. Stakeholder evaluations are vital for improving a program, indicating stakeholder expectations, and guiding evaluation objectives for the program under review (Lawrence & Cook, 1982). This type of evaluation measures individual perceptions of stakeholders who have a share in the success or failure of a program. Stakeholder evaluations help to modify or adjust a program to ensure it is meeting its goals. The survey gave respondents an opportunity, in an anonymous and confidential method, to voice their opinions about how to improve the program.

The purpose of the study was to learn the perceived value and acceptance level of the 4-H K-2 Program and the K-2 Curriculum. The data will provide information needed to improve the program by measuring stakeholder perceptions of: life skill enhancement, curriculum and program benefits, non-competitive activities; and improving the program through open-ended questions.


The sample population consisted of three stakeholder groups: 4-H agents/program assistants, program volunteers, and parents of participating children. Each group is a critical component in the success of the program; without their "buy-in" it would be impossible for it to succeed and be effective. Three surveys were developed with input from agents, volunteers, and state Extension faculty to assess stakeholder perceptions. Each survey was one page (front and back) for quick completion.

All 88 county Extension offices in Ohio received the surveys. The agents and program assistants were asked to complete the Extension Professional Survey and to randomly distribute surveys to program volunteers and parents of participating children.

The surveys consisted of demographic questions (type of group setting, ethnicity of self and children, number of children in group, age of children, etc.). There were five Likert items (strongly agree to strongly disagree) asking respondents whether they perceived the children improved in: self-esteem, making friends, making choices or decisions, learning skills, and physical skills (movement or coordination). Other questions asked whether the curriculum and program was beneficial for their children or group members, and were non-competitive activities best for young children. Finally, there were open-ended questions related to what the respondents liked most and least about the program and what suggestions they have to improve it.


Of the 88 counties in Ohio, 50% (44) responded to the survey. Thirty-six agents and 8 program assistants, 144 volunteers, and 277 parents returned completed surveys. The following descriptive statistics are percentages of those who responded according to each stakeholder group (that is, parents, agents, and volunteers).

Eighty-two percent of the parents, 81% of the volunteers, and 91% of the agents reported the curriculum as beneficial for the children. Eighty-six percent of the parents, 85% of the volunteers, and 98% of the agents/program assistants agreed or strongly agreed that non-competitive activities were best for the children. The stakeholders agreed or strongly agreed that overall the program was beneficial for children (91% of the parents, 90% of the volunteers, and 98% of agents/program assistants).

The respondents were asked to indicate if their children or 4-H members improved in the five life skill program objectives. On a Likert scale from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree," the stakeholders reported that their children improved in life skills as seen in Table 1.

Table 1
Life Skill Parents
(N = 277)
(N = 144)
(N = 44)
Self-Esteem 73% 84% 86%
Making Friends 89% 91% 98%
Making Choices 83% 77% 74%
Learning Skills 78% 81% 93%
Physical Skills 61% 73% 71%

(Percentages are based on stakeholders responding as either "strongly agree" or "agree" that their children or members improved in that life skill area). *PA = Program Assistants

There were numerous positive and few negative comments about the program. Suggestions on ways to improve the curriculum and program included the following: "have more meetings so my home-schooler can be with other children," "lacks livestock activities," "keep the program separate from the older kids in 4-H," and "let children ride and handle horses like the older youth."

Discussion and Conclusions

The results provided clear information that the stakeholders of Ohio's 4-H program believe it is beneficial and effective in improving life skills for five- to eight-year-old children. The parents, volunteers, and agents/program assistants perceived non-competitive activities were best for children. The research literature has empirically shown that children in this age group have a difficult time handling and understanding competition (Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Minuchin, 1977). Even though research has shown non-competitive activities are best for children, it is just as important for stakeholders in the program to accept and believe in this perspective.

Ohio's program was not largely supported when first implemented, based on agent feedback from volunteers and program observations. The current findings support that, over time, if an Extension program is grounded in research and well-structured, it will gain support and become an established state-wide effort. There is always room for continuous improvement, which Ohio is doing by addressing the suggestions for making it better. For example, additional activities and curriculum are currently under review and development and there have been additional activities added in the animal subject area, within the program parameters and philosophy (Scheer, 1997).

Other states could benefit from using stakeholder evaluations to determine the immediate concerns of the people directly involved in the success or failure of a program. The findings in a stakeholder evaluation contributes to the strategy of data triangulation in evaluation research (Reichardt & Cook, 1979). Regardless of the results, whether positive or negative, the data will help policy makers and program administrators make informed decisions for future program directions.


Bredekamp S., and Copple, C. (Eds.). (1997). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (1989). Cooperation and competition: Theory and research. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Co.

Lawrence, J. E. S., & Cook, T. J. (1982). Designing useful evaluations: The stakeholder survey. Evaluation and Program Planning, 5, 327-336.

Minuchin, P. (1977). The middle years of childhood. Monterey, CA: Brooks.

National 5-8 Curriculum Task Force. (1991). K-3 youth in 4-H: Guidelines for programming. Families, 4-H and Nutrition, Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture.

Reichardt, C. S., & Cook, T. D. (1979). Beyond qualitative versus quantitative methods. In T. D. Cook & C. S. Reichardt (Eds.), Qualitative and quantitative methods in evaluation research (pp. 7 - 32). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Scheer, S. D. (1997). Programming parameters for 5-to-8-year-old children in 4-H. Journal of Extension, 35(4).