Tabulating Career Development Events: A Contest Management Approach

By Spiess, Mike | The Agricultural Education Magazine, March/April 2008 | Go to article overview

Tabulating Career Development Events: A Contest Management Approach


Spiess, Mike, The Agricultural Education Magazine


Participation in FFA and 4H has been shown to have a significant positive effect on student GPA and obtainment of baccalaureate degrees (Ball & Carton, 2002). Colleges of Agriculture commonly sponsor the career development events (CDE) for FFA and 4H. These events or contests are a recruiting tool for students in FFA and 4H. Hosting CDEs is also an important service to secondary agricultural education and 4H. Although the organization of these events varies widely from campus to campus, faculty are commonly asked to advise these contests. Organizing the contest requires knowledge of the contest rules, preparation of materials and classes (areas of the contest), and the tabulation of the results. At most institutions CDEs are held once a year so experience and practice in hosting the event is limited. In many cases tabulations is treated as simply a collation and summary of the contest scoring, however the systematic approach described here can increase tabulations success and reduce the stress of hosting the CDE. Implementing a systematic tabulations process that is integrated into the entire contest organization is the objective.

The goal of CDE tabulations should be to provide accurate results in a timely manner with minimum effort. For many host schools the CDEs are conducted during a span of less than six hours and final results are expected soon after the contest is concluded. The tabulations system should be designed around the following principles: Tabulations that are performed at the contest site and conducted as the contest is in progress are easier to troubleshoot because contestants and judges are still at the CDE venue. Well identified contest materials are more likely to be processed correctly than materials where students have to write their name or ID number on the materials. Double checking of tabulations is a key to quality assurance.

Contest Preparation

The CDE tabulations process should begin well in advance of the actual event with a review of the contest rules. The tabulations programs should be configured for changes in the contest rules and class or category name changes. These should be checked well in advance of the contest. It is particularly important that subtle issues such as determining sub-contest awards and tie breaking be worked out in advance. The quality of contest rules varies widely from state to state and contest to contest (California Agricultural Teachers'Associati on, 2007). Advisors are encouraged to work with governing bodies to clarify the rules if the rules are ambiguous.

Contest materials should be pre-labeled with the class and contestant number. Additional benefit can be obtained by pre-printing the rotation group on the materials so they can be easily sorted. It is most important that similar materials such as Scantron test sheets and placing cards be clearly identified since they can be easily mixed up by the contestants or the tabulators. The tabulations program can be used for this labeling or labels can be "mail merged" onto contest materials. Modern copy machines that can serve as printers can be used as an efficient and cost effective way to print materials customized with contestant number.

Contest Management

Registration should be conducted in an organized way to distribute contestants into balanced rotation groups and make the best use of contest materials. This is most easily accomplished by using name tags pre-printed with the contestant number and rotation group. Name tags are handed out in numerical contestant order during the registration process to contestants grouped into teams. No numbers are skipped if a team is not complete. Pre-assignment of groups assures that team members are in different groups. An example of ID number and the group assignments for six rotation groups is shown in Table 1.

Contest group leaders can easily separate contestants because the group is printed on the name tag. Using the same methods as contest material labeling the name tags can be prepared by the tabulations program or by "mail merging".

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