Professional Development Foundations
4-H promotes effective teaching strategies (known as pedagogy)
In 4-H, we promote the use of learner-centered, constructivist-based teaching strategies including experiential learning and inquiry-based teaching. Constructivist-based teaching strategies are learner-centered, foster knowledge and skills development, and hold promise for improving youth scientific literacy. Unfortunately, science education has a history of being taught through didactic teaching strategies – lectures, demonstrations, presentations – emphasize the direct delivery of information (from the "expert") and youth memorization of known facts. These methods do not provide learners with an in-depth understanding of science content and do little to contribute to their abilities to use scientific thinking.
- Worker, S. M. (2017). Volunteer educators bring their own ideas about effective teaching to a 4-H curriculum. California Agriculture,71(4), 208-213.
- Worker, S. M. (2016). Examining tensions among youth, adults, and curriculum as co-designers in 4-H STEM learning through design programs. In C. K. Looi, J. L., Polman, U. Cress, P. Reimann (Eds.), Transforming Learning, Empowering Learners: The International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2016, Volume 1 (pp. 322-329). Singapore: International Society of the Learning Sciences.
- Worker, S.M. (2013). Embracing scientific and engineering practices in 4-H. Journal of Extension, 51(3).
- Schmitt-McQuitty, L., & Smith, M.H. (2011). Moving beyond the demonstration model: The importance of experiential learning in the 4-H youth development program. In Advances in youth development: Research and evaluation from the University of California CE 2001-2010.
- Colburn, A. (2000). An inquiry primer. Science Scope, 42-44.
4-H promotes ongoing professional development and not "one-time" workshops
To become proficient at using effective pedagogical strategies to teach science, science educators require access to and participation in professional development opportunities that model constructivist-based, learner-centered methods- such as communities of practice and lesson study. Professional development should exhibit key characteristics, including extended duration, active learning, emphasis on pedagogical knowledge, authentic context, use of data, and connections to broader organizational and systemic efforts. Unfortunately, most professional development opportunities in science involve a highly skilled professional demonstrating knowledge and skills to less experienced individuals who are in the role of being passive recipients of information. This strategy perpetuates the use of didactic teaching methods and is viewed broadly as being ineffective.
- Smith, M. H., Worker, S. M., Schmitt-McQuitty, L., Meehan, C. L., Lewis, K. M., Schoenfelder, E., Brian, K. (2017, August). Prevalent approaches to educator professional development in state 4-H programs. Journal of Extension, 55(4).
- Worker, S.M., & Smith, M.H. (2014). Curriculum and professional development for OST science education. Afterschool Matters, Fall 2014, 21-27.
- Smith, M., Schmitt-McQuitty, L., Ambrose, A., & Worker, S. (2014, October). Professional development in 4-H: A case for reform. California Classroom Science, 27(2).
- Smith, M.H., & Schmitt-McQuitty, L. (2013). More effective professional development can help 4-H volunteers address need for youth scientific literacy. California Agriculture, 67(1), 54-61.
- Smith, M. (2013). Findings show lesson study can be an effective model for professional development of 4-H volunteers. California Agriculture, 67(1), 54-61.
Tools of the Trade II
An after school staff-development guide that uses a “train-the-trainer” approach to deliver a comprehensive 21½ -hour training for afterschool program frontline staff and youth workers on incorporating science, engineering, and technology (SET) into afterschool programming. Using a handson, interactive skill-building approach, it provides tools drawn from research and best practices to help afterschool staff enhance communication, management, and educational delivery of afterschool programs. Each session provides complete instructions, readily available supplies and session evaluations.
4-H Experiential Learning Website
This website contains three modules with activities to use with 4-H staff and volunteers.
- I. Understanding the Experiential Learning Cycle
- II. Inquiry-Based Learning and the Experiential Learning Cycle
- III. Developing and Adapting Curricula to Integrate Experiential Learning
National 4-H Science Professional Development Website
Contains resources and materials such as the 4-H Science Competencies training guide and inquiry based learning videos. Create an account to gain access to these free materials.