Identifying and assessing youth volunteer competencies of adult Tennesee Master Gardeners

Alison B Leathers, Tennessee State University


Tennessee Master Gardeners are Cooperative Extension volunteers that maintain their certification through required education and volunteer hours. Volunteering with youth is one way Tennessee Master Gardeners fulfill their required hours and contribute to positive youth development. Tennessee Master Gardener manuals and training are heavy in content knowledge, but there are no resources on the skills needed to volunteer with youth. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to identify how Master Gardeners rated the importance of and their ability levels in the skills needed to volunteer with youth. In the Fall of 2014, a stratified random sample of Tennessee Master Gardeners completed a questionnaire constructed using the National 4-H Program's Volunteer Research, Knowledge, and Competency Taxonomy. There were similar demographic findings between Tennessee Master Gardeners and other Master Gardener studies. Master Gardeners primarily volunteered with youth through community or school gardens and through 4-H programs. All 43 skills had means that indicated the skills were either important or of some importance to Master Gardeners. Master Gardeners rated their ability levels in the 43 skills on average as either below average, average, or above average. Mean weighted discrepancy scores were calculated between the importance and ability level of each skill to determine training priorities. Skills related to 4-H program management, educational design and delivery, and positive youth development had the highest mean weighted discrepancy scores. One-way analysis of variance tests found the most significant differences were between a skills' importance or ability level and the demographic variable of education. Parental status, region, and gender had little to no effect on the skill's importance and ability levels. A majority of Tennessee Master Gardeners had volunteered with youth, while some had never volunteered with youth. Training Master Gardeners to volunteer with youth should focus on the skills that had the highest mean weighted discrepancy scores. Training may need to be tailored based on the Master Gardener's educational background. Overall, Tennessee Master Gardeners are important community volunteers that have the potential to impact positive youth development.

Subject Area

Horticulture|Adult education|Agricultural education

Recommended Citation

Alison B Leathers, "Identifying and assessing youth volunteer competencies of adult Tennesee Master Gardeners" (2015). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI1592028.