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Passing requirements

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What level of mastery of a skill do forum members require before signing a scout off on a requirement? Asked another way, how do members of this forum test and sign off boys on requirements? Must they simply do the task in a group skill instruction session? Must they do the task individually? For an adult? For another scout? Must they demonstrate the skill an hour, a day, a week after the instruction session to be passed?

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The answers you seek are in the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures manual as well as in The Scoutmasters Handbook. Rather than have us tell you what we do (since some do it incorrectly) it would be more beneficial for you and your scouts to read the scouting resources and then if you have questions on how to implement the scout methods we could offer suggestions.


Bob White

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Thanks, Bob White. I don't have the Advancement Committee P & P manual (I'll be getting one), but I do have the Scoutmaster Handbook, and the wording in Chapter 10, on p. 120, "Step 2" is open to a little interpretation. It states that a leader can check off a scout who has "fully mastered a skill at the level expected."


OK, so what level of skill mastery should we expect? More specifically, what techniques do Scouters commonly use to test for mastery of a skill?

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In the AC Procedures and Policies, it states that a Boy Scout badge recognizes what a young man is able to do; it is not a reward for what he has done. The four steps of advancement are;

1. The Boy Scout learns.

2. The Boy Scout is tested.

3. The Boy Scout is reviewed.

4. The Boy Scout is recognized.

These four steps are expanded on, on page 24.

Under troop advancement goals, page 25, it states that it is necessary that the Scoutmaster understand the purpose of of the advancement program and the importance it has in the development of the scouts in the troop. The troop's program must provide advancement opportunities. By participating in the troop program, the scout will meet requirements for rank advancement.

As for your question of who can test. The Patrol Leader, Scoutmaster, assistant Scoutmaster, a troop committee member, or a member of his troop can do this. The Scoutmaster maintains a list of those qualified. For merit badges, the counselor teaches and tests.

Because I need to know what he is able to do, I observe the scout at a distance to determine his grasp of skills.


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I always look to the wording of the requirement to set the standard of what does and does not fulifill the requirement. For example: Requirement 6 of the Scout Badge, "Demonstrate tying the Square Knot", I would show the Scout to tie the knot, have the Scout and I tie the knot at the same time, then have the Scout tie the knot alone. If he could tie the knot, after that process, I would pass him on that requirement. If he could not, then more instruction and practice is needed, until he could demonstrate tying the Square Knot. This process is the same as step one and two on page 24 of the Advancement Committee Polices Procedures and pages 119 and 120 of the Scoutmaster Handbook.


I use the same process for Merit Badges, since I am a counselor for several.

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I post these comments not based on scouter training (I am StressBaby's ASM and thus also a novice in this game), but based upon my experience as a teacher (College Biology Professor).


I see the requirements break down into 2 categories:



First, there are those items that require the scout to DO something (take a 5 mile hike, cook a meal for the patrol, do a service project, etc.). For these, it is obvious that the scout be signed off as soon as he completes the action. This can either be witnessed, or you can take the word of somebody else that says it was completed (verification from the red cross that a scout did a service project for them, or verification from his patrol that he did in fact cook that meal).


Second, there are items that require KNOWLEDGE of a skill, such as first aid, knots, lashings, etc. In this case, I think the scout should demonstrate RETENTION. It would not be appropriate for a scout to be shown how to tie a clove hitch, and to check him off as he ties one while watching you also tie one. To verify that he in fact did learn how to do it, I would put some period of time between the teaching and the testing (how long will vary). Maybe teach them on Friday at camp and test on Saturday, or teach one meeting and test the next. This gap is important not only to verify that he knows the skill, but it give him time to review, practice, etc. before the test (assuming he knows it is coming and wants to pass). This repitition, reinforcement, and active learning will greatly increase his ability to actually learn the skill.


As with the first type of requirement, sometimes you will be taking someone's word for their knowledge rather than seeing the actual demonstration. For instance, to sign of on a scouts identification of 10 animals, you may have him tell you 10 he can recognize and have him tell enough about it to verify that he really does know that animal. He doesn't actually have to see the skunk in your presence if he can tell you enough about his encounter with it to convince you that he in fact does know what one looks (and smells?) like.


As with anything, there are always shades of grey, so there will be some judgement calls.




PS: I have some issues with "Merit Badge Universities" for some of the reasons outlined above. In many cases, requirements are checked off simply because they were exposed to the knowledge, not that they actually understood or retained any. I watched my Son (11) get the Electronics merit badge at one of these. He built the circuit board, and did soldering, etc. and these fit into category 1 above. But he also heard about Ohm's law in about 1 minute and was checked off for understanding and applying Ohm's law to circuits.

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Hey guys! With all the expertice that is out there, surely there are more opinions than 5 replies for this thread. How about some examples for Stressbaby? How does YOUR troop decide how much knowledge a scout has to demonstrate before signing him off in the book?

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I agree with shemgren. Pay attention to the wording of the requirements. If it says demonstrate that means the Scout must do something. If it says have knowledge of then the Scout must know what is required. He might not need to do anything other than have knowledge of the requirement. I counsel merit badges the same way.


Ed Mori


Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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In our troop, we do it this way:


MBs: We actively recruit counselors, some of whom are already registered leaders, some of whom are not (e.g., we have a school assistant principal for Scholarship, an exercise physiologist for Personal Fitness, Sports, and Athletics, and so on). We have more than one counselor on the list for many badges, and when a Scout wants a blue card for one, I steer him to the counselor I think will do the best job with him. Once the counselor's assigned, my input as SM into the process is essentially complete until I get the blue card back when the requirements are met. As far as knowledge retention is concerned, I really have two levels of expectation regarding MBs. I expect Scouts to retain and be able to regurgitate much of the MB knowledge/skills that relate to Eagle-required badges or those that have a high level of tie-in with the program (i.e., Orienteering, Pioneering, Cooking). On the more esoteric electives, I remember that one of the purposes of MBs is to expose Scouts to hobbies, skill areas, potential careers that they may not have otherwise. So when a Scout who earned Surveying to accompany a buddy, but isn't interested in surveying as a career can't remember a year later how to set up and sight in a transom, I'm not going to hold it against him.


I don't have a problem in theory with MB universities, colleges, roundups, or whatever you want to call them. First, I don't think it violates the spirit/intent of the program, since Scout participation is not mandatory, and if they choose to participate, they select the badge or badges they want to earn. Second, the nature of these things (a single long day) effectively rules out Eagle-required and many outdoor-related electives. The badges left are primarily those hobby/career/interest area badges I referred to earlier. Now, all this assumes that the counselors are registered, they've been trained, corners aren't cut, etc., etc.


Rank Advancement: Adult leaders can sign off advancement (and must for those that require it, such as T1, Scout Spirit, and the SM conferences). However, I encourage the youth leaders to do as much of this as possible. I believe that there's no better way to learn/retain a skill than having to teach it to someone else. I've found the PLC members are more demanding than many adults on these requirements, and if any of them are cutting corners, I'll know it when I see their Scouts in action...hasn't failed me yet. It also reinforces the authority and responsibility of the "Green Bars".


One aspect of this makes it a little more work for me. Sometimes the youth leader will forget to update at the PLC meeting, and a Scout may be further along toward rank advancement than I'm aware of. Consequently, we regularly collect handbooks from the FY Scouts at meetings/outings to verify that our information matches the handbooks and patrol record books.



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