Application of theory-based evaluation on a voluntary nonformal adult education program
Hubbard, William Gary
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This purpose of this study was to investigate the relationships of mediating, moderating, and outcomes elements of a theory-based impact evaluation on a voluntary nonformal adult education program. Mediators (knowledge change, use of informal education, use of professional assistance and products, use of social networks) and outcomes (forest management activity) were measured and their relationships studied. Several moderators (age, gender, education, etc.) were also measured to determine influences on mediators and outcomes. A multiple mediator-moderator model was developed to measure these relationships. Six hundred and forty-seven participants of the 2004 Master Tree Farmer Program served as the population for this study. The response rate was 38%. Mean age of the respondents was 61 years. Eighty-five percent of the respondents were male. Ninety-six percent of the respondents were Caucasian. Seventy-five percent of the respondents earned at least a Bachelor’s degree, and 58.4% had at least an annual household income of $75,000. Key findings include that knowledge change was a powerful predictor of increased forest management activity and explained 32% of its variance. Mean increases for the four mediator variables and one outcome variable ranged from low to moderate on a scale of 1 (no change) to 4 (substantial change). Of fifteen moderator variables studied, age class and the importance of the non-economic objectives of managing for wildlife, for recreation and beauty, and for the next generation were the only statistically significant predictors of change in mediator and outcome variables. There high statistical correlations between the mediator variables and outcome (r’s greater than or equal to .57). Based on these findings, recommendations for research and practice include: the need for qualitative research regarding the relationships between knowledge change and mediators, additional use of program theory-based models and evaluation techniques to better account for feedback loops and causality, and increased interaction with participants following program participation to understand motivations and barriers to use of mediators.