Thursday, April 12, 2012

Designing a program with the end in mind.

I don't know about the rest of you, but it is common for me to begin a program with a great idea, thinking of some activity that would be a fun, learning situation for the students.  That's the time when it would be smart to stop, get out a pad and pencil and jot down some notes, not waiting too long before asking the question, "What do I actually want my students to learn from this event or activity?"  You could say it is starting with the end in mind.

In University Extension settings we have adopted a method called the Logic Model.  Here's how it goes, and I am using an example from Colorado Cooperative Extension because it is centered around 4-H Shooting Sports.  Even so, it could be adapted to any teacher-student / coach-pupil learning situation or activity.

First, consider what your situation is.  Here's an example...

Nearly two thirds of all U.S. homes have firearms. It is important that our youth learn and understand the safe, acceptable and responsible use of firearms and archery equipment, in and around the home as well as when participating in legitimate shooting sports activities. No other youth sport can match the record of the
shooting sports in regard to its outstanding record of low number of reported sports injuries. The shooting sports rank 3rd in popularity among international sports, behind track & field and swimming. The Shooting Sports are accessible to boys, girls, young, old, physically challenged and total families.

Second, plan what the desired outcome will be.  Having fun is a great outcome I agree, but it is hardly one that satisfies the organization paying for your labor and facilities to hold the activity.

Example Outcome Summary:
To provide a comprehensive 4-H youth development program focused on the 4-H shooting sports. Program to include development of individual life skills, leadership development, safe & responsible practices and supporting events and activities.

Next follows the "nuts and bolts" of program planning when you ask the questions, What do I need to do to accomplish this? What are we going to do?  Who are we going to reach?

Example Inputs - (What we invest) National 4-H Curriculum, National Instructor Training, State Instructor / Volunteer Training, Faculty, Time, Funding, Equipment, Resources, others?

Example Outputs - What we're going to do, and who we're going to reach.  Conduct Youth & Adult Classroom Training, Youth & Adult Hands-On Training, Youth Skills events, others(?)  In what setting?  Youth in 4-H Shooting Sports Clubs, Special Interest Youth in Summer 4-H Camps Youth in Private Summer Camps

Finally, what are your actual Outcomes and Impacts going to be that can be measured in a meaningful way?  Consider these example short, medium and long range outcomes for this shooting sports example:  

  • Short term: Participants gain & improve target shooting skills.
  • Medium term: Participants will gain skills in leadership, self-confidence, concentration and sportsmanship.
  • Long Term: Improved public perception of the Shooting Sports.
Last but not least the program planner needs to consider any Assumptions and contributing External Factors. what may help or hinder your plans. Here are some samples of each:

  • Trained volunteers will deliver proper training to youth following the National Curriculum.
  • Camp planning committees will include shooting sports.
  • County Faculty will recruit volunteers to attend instructor training.
  • Youth will choose to fully participate.
  • Participants will follow safe & acceptable activities in day to day living.
  • County Faculty will support & assist volunteers
Possible External Factors:
  • Funding in support of programs continues or grows with the program.
  • Program needs support of Management and Faculty as well as stakeholders.
  • State Leadership for the program is maintained.
Planning programs keeping the Logic Model in mind will help the planner achieve success in the short run, and ultimately will contribute to sustaining a quality program for the long term.

Acknowledgments: I'd like to thank Colorado State University for providing the background for this information, however it is also available from many state extension programs.  The document this was taken from is Logic Model for Colorado 4-H Shooting Sports, Quality of Life – Personal / Individual Development.  Another great paper for this is Using Logic Models for Program Development, by Glen Israel of the University of Florida, 2001, 2007, 2010.

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