February 2019 // Volume 57 // Number 1 // Tools of the Trade // 1TOT3
Volunteer Research and Knowledge Competency Codebook: A Tool for Identifying Volunteer Needs
Extension personnel are tasked with ensuring that 4-H volunteers have competencies identified in the Volunteer Research and Knowledge Competency (VRKC) Taxonomy, 4-H youth development's foundational volunteer skills framework. The VRKC Codebook is a qualitative analysis tool for accurately identifying VRKC-aligned needs expressed in volunteer needs assessment data. The codebook and accompanying guide were developed following a statewide volunteer needs assessment in which a need for VRKC-based evaluation tools emerged. 4-H educators can use the codebook and guide to efficiently detect areas of need that may otherwise be overlooked, empowering them to provide practical and impactful education and support systems better aligned with the unique research-based needs of their local volunteers.
Continual improvement of 4-H youth development volunteer education and support systems is central to creating and maintaining a thriving 4-H program. However, the education and support needs of adult volunteers vary widely, depending on volunteers' character traits, learning styles, communication preferences, previous 4-H backgrounds, and proficiencies gained through employment or personal experience. Therefore, one-size-fits-all approaches rarely work, a circumstance that highlights the essential role of accurate and detailed local needs assessments in the health of 4-H programs. Conducting needs assessments to determine what education and support systems are practical and impactful is crucial, but accurately identifying detailed needs expressed in volunteer responses to open-ended questions such as "What training do you need?," "What do you need to succeed?," and "What do you find challenging?" can be a surprisingly difficult task without a predesigned evaluation tool and plan.
Volunteer Research and Knowledge Competency Taxonomy
The Volunteer Research and Knowledge Competency (VRKC) Taxonomy is a comprehensive list of skills 4-H volunteers need to fully succeed in their role (Culp, McKee, & Nestor, 2006). Culp et al. (2006) developed the VRKC Taxonomy in the early 2000s from a research project on modern-day 4-H volunteer needs across 21 states (Culp, McKee, & Nestor, 2007; Nestor, McKee, & Culp, 2006). National 4-H Headquarters evaluated and approved the taxonomy in 2008, intending it to serve as the foundational framework guiding education and support for 4-H volunteers nationwide (Culp & Pleskac, n.d.). Included within the taxonomy are 42 skills arranged within six domains.
Nationwide, 4-H educators are tasked with identifying which VRKC skills and competencies local volunteers need. However, there is a lack of published VRKC-based tools and evaluation methods to help 4-H educators adequately detect specific VRKC-aligned needs within local assessment data.
To address the need for VRKC-based tools, our research team designed a coding tool and process for accurately and reliably identifying specific VRKCs represented in qualitative needs assessment data. Coding is a standard method of qualitative analysis whereby researchers use codes to label segments of data in order to condense and categorize information into meaningful groupings that address a research question or theme (Miles, Huberman, & Saldaña, 2013).
We designed the VRKC Codebook by employing the complete VRKC Taxonomy as the framework for all deductive codes. Within the codebook, the six VRKC domains serve as primary codes, with their associated skills and competencies organized beneath them as subcodes. The codebook allows for multiple coding methods, including those involving the use of
- deductive codes (i.e., predetermined codes),
- inductive codes (i.e., codes that emerge during coding),
- multiple codes within one passage,
- subcodes in combination with an associated primary code,
- a primary code alone if a passage does not align with a subcode, and
- simultaneous coding when a passage relates to more than one primary code.
Design of the VRKC Codebook was informed through pilot testing and use of a preliminary version of the codebook and an accompanying guide in analyzing open-ended response data collected during a statewide assessment of Washington State 4-H volunteer education and support needs. The codebook is shown in Figure 1.
|Volunteer Research and Knowledge Competency Codebook|
|Primary Codes and Sub-Codes||Coded Example Responses|
1. Communication Skills
d. Information Delivery & Dissemination
e. Marketing & Public Relations
f. Use of Technology
1d "general knowledge about parts of 4-H that I'm not directly involved in, so I can educate kids/parents when asked about it" (Inductive Code: 4-H options)
1e, 1f "utilizing different types of media for outreach"
2. Organizational Skills
a. Planning & Organizing
b. Time Management
c. Parent Recruitment & Involvement
d. Delegating Tasks to Parents
e. Service to the Community
f. Marketing & Publicity
2a "finding good times to meet"
2c, 2d, 3e "it's difficult when parents drop their kids and run and do errands during club events"
3. 4-H Program Management
a. Organization & Structure of Extension
b. Upholding the 4-H Mission
c. Risk Management/Risk Reduction
d. Liability Awareness & Reduction
e. Club Management
f. Behavior Management
g. Record Keeping
h. Financial Management
i. Computer Skills
3, 3a, 3e "understanding the organization and paperwork involved, and knowing all the rules and regulations that 4-H imposes"
3c, 3d "knowing the signs of abuse is important and one's safety to avoid allegations"
4. Educational Design & Delivery
a. Use of Age-Appropriate Activities
b. Utilization of Multiple Teaching Strategies
c. Understanding Differences in Learning Styles
d. Knowledge of Subject Matter
e. Team Building Skills
f. Application of Experiential Learning
g. Program Evaluation Methods
4c, 5c, 5e "how to judge what is appropriate for a particular member (not necessarily by age but by capability)"
4d, 4f "experiential education; specifically nature, art, science, and ecology projects"
5. Positive Youth Development
a. Developing Life Skills
b. Leadership Skills
c. Understanding Ages & Stages of Youth Development
d. Empowerment of Others
e. Practicing Youth–Adult Partnerships
f. Ability to Motivate & Encourage Youth
g. Appreciating Diversity
5c, 5d, 5e, 6 "it's hard dealing with youth being in charge"
4, 5b, 5d, 5e "how to train our youth club officers" 5f "getting the members to be committed to their project in the winter"
6. Interpersonal Skills
a. Care for Others
b. Compassionate Nature
c. Acceptance of Others
d. Honesty, Ethics, Morality
f. Ability to Develop & Strengthen Relationships
6, 2c "how to deal with difficult parents"
4a, 4b, 4c, 5c, 5e, 5g, 6, 6e, 6g "as with anything patience, adjusting to guide 4-H members, not all are alike"
VRKC Coding Guide
The VRKC Coding Guide (Figure 2) is designed to support novice evaluators through a basic coding process, from data collection to analysis.
|Volunteer Research and Knowledge Competency (VRKC) Coding Guide|
|Phase 1 Collection||
Collect responses to open-ended questions related to volunteer education and support needs. For example:
|Phase 2 Cleaning||
Data cleaning may include:
|Phase 3 Coding||
Two coders should assess each data set. It is beneficial to initially test the process with both coders using a small portion of data (e.g., 10%), and then discuss and improve the process as needed (i.e., preliminary intercoder agreement check).
Instructions for coders:
|Phase 4 Agreement||
Independently coded data are compared among coders to ensure the coders have reached an acceptable level of agreement.
Calculating intercoder agreement:
|Phase 5 Analysis||
The type and level of analysis depend on the research goals and resources.
Examples of simple approaches:
Note: Process designed for a novice coding team and informed by Guest & MacQueen (2008), Lombard, Snyder-Duch, & Braken (2010), and Miles, Huberman, & Saldaña (2013).
Conclusion and Implications
The VRKC Codebook and the accompanying VRKC Coding Guide are effective tools 4-H educators may use to identify specific research-based volunteer needs. These tools illuminate areas of need that may otherwise go unnoticed due to the comprehensive framework of the VRKC Taxonomy. This level of accuracy and depth allows educators to provide education and support systems that are better aligned with the unique needs of their local volunteers, improving local 4-H programs through practical and impactful resources.
We would like to acknowledge the other members of the Washington State 4-H Leader Education and Support Survey research team, who helped create, pilot test, and use the codebook and guide. In addition to us, team members included Rebecca Sero, assistant professor, evaluation specialist; Natalie Kinion, assistant professor, 4-H youth development regional specialist; Eric Larson, assistant professor, volunteer development specialist; Melissa Cummins, assistant professor, 4-H youth development regional specialist; and Jennifer Leach, associate professor, 4-H youth development faculty—all of Washington State University Extension.
Culp, K., III, McKee, R., & Nestor, P. (2006). Volunteer research and knowledge competency: Taxonomy for 4-H youth development. Washington, DC: National 4-H Headquarters. Retrieved from https://4-h.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/VRKC.pdf
Culp, K., McKee, R. K., & Nestor, P. (2007). Identifying volunteer core competencies: Regional differences. Journal of Extension, 45(6), Article 6FEA3. Available at: https://www.joe.org/joe/2007december/a3.php
Culp, K., III, & Pleskac, S. (n.d.). VRKC taxonomy: Overview. Retrieved from https://4-h.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/VRKC-Overview-Lesson-Plan.pdf
Guest, G., & MacQueen, K. M. (2008). Data reduction techniques for large qualitative data sets. In E. Namey, G. Guest, L. Thairu, & L. Johnson (Eds.), Handbook for team-based qualitative research (pp. 137–162). Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press.
Lombard, M., Snyder-Duch, J., & Braken, C. (2010). Practical resources for assessing and reporting intercoder reliability in content analysis research projects. Retrieved from http://matthewlombard.com/reliability/
Miles, M., Huberman, M., & Saldaña, J. (2013). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Nestor, P., McKee, R., & Culp, K. (2006). Core competencies for 4-H volunteer leaders differentiated by occupation, level of education, and college major: Implications for leadership. Journal of Leadership Education, 5, 61–77.