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TitleTransformative learning and the 4-H camp counselor experience
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                            2013
Transformative learning and the 4-H camp counselor experience
	Donna Leff
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Graduate Theses and Dissertations
Iowa State University Capstones, Theses and

Dissertations

2013

Transformative learning and the 4-H camp
counselor experience
Donna Leff
Iowa State University

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One counselor commented, “I can’t really pinpoint one experience, but every time I see

the campers have fun or learning something new, it makes me really happy. It’s why I continue

to return as a counselor.” Another counselor summed up her camp experience with similar

sentiments:

Choosing just one experience is almost impossible...camp is always a highlight of my

summer. My favorite part of camp is always the campers, especially the girls in my cabin.

Just getting to know them and building relationships with them is such a blessing to me.



A third counselor highlighted the importance of setting a good example for campers.

“Seeing how impacted the campers were by my specific actions, and how they followed my

examples of good behavior,” was that counselor’s favorite part of camp.

Perceived Change

A third objective of this study was to measure the extent to which 4-H youth camp

involvement as a counselor changed counselors in a number of ways. Counselors were asked the

extent to which their experience as a camp counselor changed them in a variety of ways.

Counselors rated each statement on a 5-point scale of strongly agree (5), agree (4), neutral (3),

disagree (2), and strongly disagree (1).

The highest ranking way counselors changed was by developing skills for working with

children (M = 4.81). Other top five ways camp counseling changed counselors included being

exposed to new people (M = 4.67), being exposed to new activities (M = 4.59), an improved

ability to work with children (M = 4.56), and being exposed to new experiences (M = 4.52)

(Table 7). All of these statements rated as strongly agree by participants.

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Table 7

Mean, Standard Deviation, and Range of Top Five Ways Camp Counseling Changed Counselors
(n = 27)

Statement n Mean SD Min Max
Developed skills for working with
children 27 4.81 0.40 4 5
Exposed to new people 27 4.67 0.48 4 5
Exposed to new activities 27 4.59 0.57 3 5
Improved ability to work with children 27 4.56 0.58 3 5
Exposed to new experiences 27 4.52 0.64 3 5

Note. Scale: 1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Neutral, 4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly Agree.

While skills for working with children and being exposed to new people, experiences,

and activities rated highly, counselors were less likely to agree with statements related to careers.

Being more likely to change what they planned to do for a career (M = 2.67) and being more

interested in a particular career (M = 3.37) both fell within the neutral range and had the lowest

two means on the scale. Being more aware of what they wanted to do for a career (M = 3.67)

received the next lowest rating. Being better able to show their identity or "true self" at home and

in their community and developing career skills tied for fourth lowest (M = 3.7) on the scale

(Table 8). The final three statements all fell within the agree range.

Table 8

Mean, Standard Deviation, and Range of Bottom Five Ways Camp Counseling Changed
Counselors (n = 27)

Statement n Mean SD Min Max
More likely to change what they
plan to do for a career 27 2.67 0.88 1 5
More interested in a particular career 27 3.37 1.01 1 5
More aware of what they want to do
for a career 27 3.67 1.11 1 5
Better able to show identity or "true
self" at home and in community 27 3.70 0.61 3 5
Developed career skills 27 3.70 0.72 2 5

Note. Scale: 1 = Strongly Disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Neutral, 4 = Agree, 5 = Strongly Agree.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

On the mantle of the fireplace at the summer camp where I worked during high school is

a quotation by the camp’s first director. It simply says, “Surround yourself with excellent

people.” I have been very fortunate to be able to do just that throughout my academic and

professional career, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many people who have

provided support and guidance throughout my research study and my master’s studies.

Dr. Mike Retallick, for his guidance through the research and writing process, for reading

every single version of this paper, and for the encouragement he provided, even when I fell

behind schedule in the goals I had for myself. His support and patience are greatly appreciated.

Dr. Nancy Franz, for sharing her enthusiasm for camp and providing the much-needed

spark it took to move my research proposal from paper to practice. Her expertise was much

appreciated.

Dr. Wade Miller, for his willingness to join my committee following the retirement of Dr.

Morris and his thoughtful feedback about my work.

The 4-H camp counselors who were willing to participate in this study to improve the

camp counseling experience for future counselors. None of this would have been possible

without them.

Shirley Doering, my first supervisor in Extension, for her relentless encouragement about

my career in 4-H and for allowing me to capitalize on my love of camp in pursuit of my master’s

degree. My career would look very different if it was not for her.

My parents, for their constant love and support throughout the process of obtaining my

master’s degree. They recognized and fostered my love of the outdoors at a young age, which led

me to attending summer camp as a young person until I was old enough to work there. They

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have always been so supportive of me in all of my endeavors, and pursuing my master’s degree

has been no different. There is no way I could have done it without them.

Finally, a very special acknowledgement to the rest of my wonderful family and friends

for their unending support, love, and encouragement throughout my master’s degree program. In

addition to academic lessons, this experience has also been full of twists, turns, and life lessons. I

have been so fortunate to be able to surround myself with excellent people to augment the

process. My utmost appreciation is extended to all of those mentioned and many who are not. I

am forever grateful for all of you.

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