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New youth evaluation tool saves teachers’ time

The Issue

A valid evaluation tool is important in education programs designed to change behaviors, skills and/or self-efficacy. Most programs use a traditional prospective pre/posttest method of data collection. A pretest is given before the start of the program and a posttest using the same questions is given after the program. This method has limitations in real-world application, especially with adolescents.

Establishing rapport with youth at the first educational meeting is important for learning. Test taking at the start of the program may seem intrusive and be an obstacle to establishing trust. Youth may also rate themselves differently on the posttest, after acquiring new information during the lessons that was related to the test question. For example, youth may believe they eat enough fruits and vegetables until they learn the daily recommendations. When the posttest is completed, their responses may appear that they did not change behavior. Such miscalculation may mask actual behavior and skill changes resulting from the nutrition program.

What Has ANR Done?

Researchers at UC Davis and UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) tested a retrospective post-then-pre evaluation method on youth and adolescent dietary self-efficacy, skills and behaviors. With this method, particpants take only one test at the end of the program.

Youth (7th-8th grade) at a school in Calaveras County completed a traditional prospective pre-posttest evaluation at the start and end of the nutrition program. They then completed the retrospective pretest asking them to “think back six weeks, before you had any lessons.” Both assessments asked about current behaviors, skills and self-efficacy. Responses were compared to determine if youth responded differently to the two methods. The retrospective method was as valid as the traditional model.

The Payoff

Evaluation model provides more learning time

The retrospective evaluation model reduces the burden of testing youth twice, saving educators time and effectively assessing programmatic impact. Teachers are more willing to use program evaluation because the time savings provides more classroom learning time. In one county, evaluation of youth groups has increased from five to sixty teachers.


Supporting Unit: Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

Nutrition Department, UC Davis; Susan Algert, Brenda Roche, Yvonne Nicholson, Connie Schneider, Lenna Ontai, Marilyn Townsend. Contact: Marilyn Townsend, (530) 754-9222; mstownsend@ucdavis.edu