Continuation of the Texas 4-H Post-Secondary Academic Success Study
The 2020 study (HS graduation years of 2013, 2014, and 2015) showed Texas 4-H members substantially outperforming the population of Texas high school students on graduation rates, baccalaureate degree completion, development of marketable skills, limiting student debt, elevating standardized admissions exam scores, and facilitating dual credit enrollment. While these results point to the potential of Texas 4-H as a powerful agent of academic success, results are far from conclusive. The correlational design of that study does not establish the direction of cause and effect. Post-secondary academic success may be a result of Texas 4-H participation, or Texas 4-H may simply attract youth who have strong academic talents. Given these results, the continuation of this study with the HS graduation year of 2016 will (a) examine if Texas 4-H alumni perform better academically than the population of Texas post-secondary education students, with respect to the four THECB 60x30TX goals, (b) examine if Texas 4-H alumni are better prepared for post-secondary education entry than the population of Texas higher education students, and (c) to determine if 4-H participation (sparks and dosage) is associated with post-secondary academic motivation and success of Texas 4-H alumni.
Magnitude Scaling: Calibrating Measures with Texas 4-H Campers
Labeled Magnitude Scales (LAM) are commonly used in food industry research to measure the intensity of subjective reactions to stimuli. They are developed by equating subjective indicators of magnitude (e.g., words such as extremely, somewhat, and very) to actual physical magnitudes, such as intensity of light, volume of sound, foot-pounds of pressure, and line lengths. Due to their efficiency and precision, LAMs are needed for youth program evaluation and research on structured experiences for youth. The purpose of this calibration was to develop a LAM scale for measuring immediate subjective states of engagement, immersion, and absorption of junior high and high school youth.
Experience Engineer Curriculum
The Experience Engineer training curriculum empowers people to use specialized knowledge to promote positive experiences for people who participate in recreation activities and events. By “experience,” we are referring to things you can watch people do and the unseen states of emotion, interest, and motivation people are feeling while they do those things. Behavioral science has identified three broad types of camp and recreation activities that produce different types of feelings: performance experiences, story experiences, and sensory experiences. Thus, this curriculum was specifically designed for training summer camp staff, including counselors, activity specialists, and others who work directly with campers. Currently, the research team is exploring the publication of this curriculum.
Experience Journey Map: A New Experience Design Tool for Structuring Youth Activities
We introduce a new experience design tool, an experience journey map, to assist youth professionals in planning engagement, immersion, and absorption activities. Experience journey maps are based on customer journey maps, which are widely used in business service design. This new approach highlights strategies for engendering deep structured experiences during the activity. The map is a matrix of columns and rows. Columns represent the sequence of the activity. Rows are experience-structuring strategies derived from the Theory of Structured Experience. These strategies include service performance strategies, deep structured experience strategies, and engagement, immersion, and absorption strategies. We present a case study showing how the experience journey map can be used to plan impactful youth activities.
Texas 4-H Post-Secondary Academic Success Study
We compared post-secondary academic achievement of Texas 4-H Alumni who graduated from high school in 2013, 2014 and 2015 against the Texas population. Data sources included the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), and an online survey. Texas 4-H alumni substantially outperformed the population of Texas higher education students on completion rates, baccalaureate graduation rates, marketable skills, student debt, ACT scores, and dual credit enrollment. Program opportunities for Texas 4-H to build upon this success are provided in the recommendations section.
As a whole, the field of youth development is moving toward creating engaging, immersive, and abporptive structured experiences for youth. With the emergence of a vast range of youth development organizations, youth now have the opportunity to learn and develop through out-of-school time (OST) structured experiences. There are many outcomes that result from participating in these experiences. Youth who participate in OST programs have better grades, greater aspirations for college, less substance abuse, less involvement in sexual activity, and better physical fitness than youth who do not participate. Yet, full participation and retaining members in OST programs are in decline. Why?
While it is impossible to find a single cause, it is clear that structured experiences are unsuccessfully competing with powerful economic and social forces directed at capturing and holding the attention of today’s youth. Kids are perpetually bombarded with an extraordinary and dazzling array of technology, devices, and media that vie for their attention both in and out of school. These technologies are truly amazing, with the ability to communicate virtually anywhere on the globe. Astoundingly realistic games and simulations also capture and secure youth attention, carrying them to rich, provocative, and sometimes frightening imaginary lands and scenarios. Fantasy becomes blurred with reality, attention is held hostage, and interactions with adults and other youth, rich potential for learning and growth, continue to diminish. This cycle continues daily for most youth in today’s world.
How can recreation, art, and sport-based OST programs hope to compete with these attractive (and sometimes distractive) technologies? How can managers, teachers, parents, and youth leaders provide developmental balance for their tech-bombarded children?
Our current research agenda is directed at finding strategies that result in highly engaging, immersive, and absorbing structured experiences for youth. We aspire to equip adult leaders with knowledge of specific strategies they can use to successfully compete. Our vision is not a world devoid of electronic attractions; those will be significant forces in the lives of youth for the foreseeable future. But, we do aspire to greater balance. We envision a world with fewer “virtuals” and more “reals.” In the world we envision, real adults and real youth learn and grow through real structured experiences that are highly engaging, immersive, and absorbing. We aspire to do our small part toward contributing to the evolution of that world.