Evaluating the Evaluation of Master Gardener Training in Virginia


The purpose of this project was to determine what types of evaluation survey tools, more specifically survey questions, are being used to evaluate master gardener volunteer training programs in Virginia. This project was conducted to start the process of developing stronger evaluation tools to measure master gardener volunteer training program impacts across Virginia. Examples of evaluation survey tools for master gardener training programs in Virginia were collected and evaluated to understand the breadth of evaluation already occurring. After asking 60 master gardener units to submit evaluation survey tool documents from their volunteer training programs, eleven individual training programs responded submitting 23 evaluation survey tool documents. Those eleven training programs represented 20 cities and counties from across Virginia. In total, 352 questions were sorted. Questions were analyzed in a number of ways. First, questions were analyzed using the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program logic model to determine if they were focused on evaluating inputs, outputs or outcomes. Next, the questions were sorted by theme, question format, question use and question type. The majority of questions, 66%, were process evaluation oriented, focused on inputs and outputs, and 34% outcome evaluation oriented. Meaning, more of the questions collected information on the processes of the training courses and less on the outcomes of them. This indicates there is a need to include more questions that help document program impacts by utilizing more outcome-oriented survey tool questions. One way to do this is through developing a template of evaluation survey tool questions for master gardener volunteer training that can be used, in whole or in part, to collect meaningful data from across the state. For now, it is imperative to collect data that improves training experiences, records impact and sustains the master gardener program.