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Open Access Publications from the University of California

More effective professional development can help 4-H volunteers address need for youth scientific literacy


Nonformal education programs like 4-H can help address the need to improve scientific literacy among K-12 youth in the United States. To accomplish this, however, it is imperative that adult volunteers who serve as 4-H science educators engage in effective professional development. Currently, most 4-H volunteers who lead science projects and activities with youth participate in professional development opportunities involving episodic workshops that are considered largely ineffective with regard to fostering meaningful change in educators' knowledge and skills. In contrast, professional development models that involve communities of practice (CoPs), whereby groups of educators work toward shared learning goals through authentic work, have been shown to be effective. Professional development models that utilize CoPs represent potential strategies to help meet the professional development needs of 4-H volunteers who implement science programming with youth. Further investigation of these models within the context of 4-H science is recommended.

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