Samantha Grant on Conducting Evaluations With Youth

Hi, my name is Samantha Grant, and I work for the University of Minnesota Extension as an Extension Educator for Program Evaluation. Some of my work entails designing and implementing evaluations with youth in the 4-H program. I would like to share some tips when conducting evaluations with youth.

Hot Tip – Build relationships:
“Kids don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.” This aphorism certainly helps to guide the way that youth workers interact with youth, but it should also influence evaluators. You shouldn’t expect to walk into a room of youth and have them give you honest feedback on an evaluation. Slow down. Take some time to get to know the participants, even if it means using more of your time. If you aren’t able to invest the time or think it influences the evaluation design, work with the leader- whether a teacher or youth worker- to administer the evaluation. If youth see that someone they trust is comfortable with the evaluation, they in turn will be more comfortable.

Hot Tip – Read:
Don’t assume that a youth audience can read and interpret evaluations. Especially when working with an elementary audience, read the survey aloud. This helps to break down barriers, assuring that everyone is processing the information in a similar fashion. If you have an additional person helping with the evaluation, have them float throughout the room and check in with youth that are speeding ahead or lagging behind.

Hot Tip – Explain, explain, explain:
As simplistic as it sounds, make sure to tell youth that an evaluation is not a test, and it will not be graded or influence their participation in the program. We are currently working with a youth climate that is saturated with standardized testing. It goes without saying that these experiences color perceptions of any form of assessment.

Also, as you administer an evaluation, make sure to answer clarifying questions. With a research study, you may not be able to give this clarification, but evaluation is usually built on the premise of getting the most useful feedback from participants. If youth don’t understand a word or what a sentence means, make sure to clarify. Your data will be much richer.

Hot Tip – Have fun:
Youth have great insights. Conducting evaluations with youth will make you a smarter, savvier evaluator, so enjoy!

This week’s posts are sponsored by AEA’s Extension Education Evaluation Topical Interest Group ( as part of the EEE TIG Focus Week. Check out AEA’s Headlines and Resources entries ( this week for other highlights from and for those conducting evaluations in an Extension Education context.

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