Date of Graduation

5-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Agricultural & Extension Education (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology

Advisor

Leslie D. Edgar

Committee Member

Donna L. Graham

Second Committee Member

Mark Russell

Keywords

4-H, Equine, Program evaluation

Abstract

Assessment of the Arkansas horse 4-H program utilized stakeholders’ perceptions to describe inputs, outcomes, preferences and impacts provided by the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. Stakeholders’ perceptions were captured through three studies. Studies included the following: a pre- and post-test evaluation of the 2016 summer horse camp, purposive interviews with county agents (n = 6), volunteer leaders (n = 4), and parents (n = 4) of horse 4-H clubs, and a statewide survey provided to Extension staff (n =26) and volunteer leaders (n = 28) affiliated with horse 4-H clubs.

The 2016 summer camp evaluation found the goals to improve horsemanship, safety, and interest in horse projects were largely fulfilled. Innovative practice to design, implement and evaluate the camp were found effective.

Purposive interviews revealed implementation factors presented by club members, program staff, communities and determined program outcomes. Interviews also explored communication aptness. Emergent themes described need for supportive parents, safe horses, and inexpensive competitive/educational opportunities among diverse youth. Levels of support provided by Extension staff and/or parents effects volunteer leaders’ ability to facilitate clubs. Geographic location and community resources impact club opportunities. All clubs provide positive youth outcomes, a source of motivation among stakeholders. Information about club opportunities is commonly received through email, then shared with diverse audiences and channels. Equine-related information and knowledge is sought from the state’s Extension headquarters, personal resources, and youths’ educational opportunities.

Club characteristics, program staff characteristics and program outcomes were described by Extension staff and volunteer leaders through statewide mixed-mode surveys. Impacts associated with club participants included equine interests, access to resources, parental support, and financial capacity. Impacts associated with program staff included internal relationships, horse-related competencies, horse-related interests, stakeholder support, and club membership levels. Both clubs and program staff are impacted by the availability of community resources. Program outcomes were largely positive at youth and community levels.

Recommendations include reporting program outcomes to improve parental engagement and support, thereby improving youth recruitment and retention. Strategy meetings at the club and program staff levels are recommended to foster support and innovation. Recommendations for future research include exploring the impact of volunteer leader management practices.

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