Judges are teachers

People who serve as 4-H judges are content experts, but also teachers to youth.

The role of a 4-H judge is much more than just evaluating a youth’s project and placing classes; they also serve as teachers to youth. The evaluation that the judge does of a project can have lifelong impacts on a 4-H member’s attitude about their project.

The evaluation, or judging, portion of project development occurs during the “reflection” portion of the Experiential Learning Model. During this time, members are encouraged to share and reflect on their experience. The evaluation period provides a perfect opportunity for judges to ask questions to youth about what they learned over the year in their project and what their future goals in the project are. The judging experience should encourage youth to critically reflect upon their experience and share what they have learned.

Judges must recognize that they are part of the teaching process. In order to help judges be better prepared for their role as teachers, 4-H staff and show superintendents can provide resources such as question lists that encompass the various elements of the Iowa State University Targeting Life Skills Model. Michigan State University Extension educators have compiled a sample question list that can be used to help guide judges, superintendents and volunteers in preparing and evaluating youth’s projects. The sample questions can be found at http://4h.msue.msu.edu/resources/competitive_event_resources.

The judging experience can either encourage or discourage youth in a particular project area. Providing a positive learning environment, where youth have the opportunity to assess their learning with careful and thoughtful guidance from a professional judge, is key.

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