Tuesday, April 23, 2013

New Glossary of Terms for Afterschool and Summer Programs

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
There are a growing number of important terms that are used in the expanding field of out-of-school learning. In this glossary, the LIAS project lists some of these terms and offer working definitions. It should be noted that sometimes terms have different definitions depending on the user, organization or the geographic location in which it is used.

This glossary is a wiki-like effort with contributions coming from a number of programs across the country. If you would like to see us add a term, you can send the term and definition to spiha@temescalassociates.com. We will periodically expand the glossary and reissue it to the field. Definitions, which are taken directly from other sources, are noted and the references can be found in the endnotes. 

To download this glossary, click here. You can find other valuable resources by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Interview with California Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
In early 2013, the Learning in Afterschool & Summer project conducted a video interview with California's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, to gather his views on the LIAS learning principles and his vision of afterschool and summer programs. Below are excerpts from that interview. 

Q: We are focusing our efforts on the idea of improving our approaches to how children learn. While these are related to what we know about youth development, we have chosen to stay close to the research on learning since many of our stakeholders and partners are educators. Do you see this as an important shift in talking about afterschool and summer programs? 

Tom Torlakson
A: There’s a shift occurring in afterschool and summer programs towards incorporating more hands-on learning, discovery, and looking at the new STEM opportunities. We can incorporate some of these principles of engagement, and add excitement by having students learning in teams, collaborating, and doing experiments together. Because it’s hands-on, it’s something they’re going to remember longer and have fun doing.

Q: Could you say a little bit about your vision of afterschool and its value in promoting academic and broader youth development?

A: Afterschool and summer programs are expanded learning opportunities. They are fantastic for our students in California. It helps them get deeper into the subject matter, it helps them explore areas that they don’t normally have a chance during the regular school day to explore.  Afterschool programs have always been a safe place for kids to go after school and a place where they can finish their homework.  But now we envision afterschool and summer programs as a way to really expand learning time.

Q: How are these LIAS principles related to what we are doing in school reform efforts?

A: One of the greatest things about these new principles around our afterschool and summer programs, is that they fit right in with the transformation of education during the school day.  We have new national standards in mathematics, science, and in language arts, calling for deeper and more critical thinking. Some call them “21st century learning skills”. Also, the call for more hands-on learning is in keeping with the transformation of the classrooms during the day. We’ll be seeing more emphasis on the hands-on experimenting, exploring, and discovering on their own, as part of problem solving, hands-on activities.

Q: Can you speak to one or more of these principles that most resonate for you when you think about creating learning environments and activities for kids?  

A: More meaningful learning can occur in our afterschool and in our summer programs when the learning is relevant and connects that student to real world experiences. This expands their horizons, their opportunities, as well as their time in learning. It connects to them personally in a greater way and connects them to other students, resulting in a deeper and richer learning experience that will last.

Q: Afterschool settings often offer opportunities for informal learning that is not structured in a way that we see in traditional classrooms. Can you say something about the importance of inquiry and discovery that is led by the child? 

A: As a science teacher, the expanded learning opportunities through quality afterschool and summer program learning is fascinating in terms of how it can connect to an individual student. It can give them the chance to explore things, to discover through hands-on, problem solving activities in a way that they normally don’t during the regular school day.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

LIAS and Recent Trends in Education and OST (Part 2)

By Sam Piha
Sam Piha

There are several new trends or movements as stakeholders look to improve the quality of formal education and learning outside of the classroom. They include the topics of school reform, Common Core Standards, extended learning opportunities, program quality measurement, STEM, 21st century learning skills, and social-emotional learning (SEL). We will dedicate this second blog post to briefly name and describe four more important trends and on the relevance of the LIAS learning principles according to leaders in each of these movements: 

OST PROGRAM QUALITY MEASUREMENT: Given the large federal and state investments in afterschool and summer programs, there has been a call to promote the quality of these programs. To this end, many organizations have developed tools and instruments to gauge the level of quality. The LIAS project conducted a crosswalk between leading quality measurement tools and the LIAS learning principles. This work revealed a high correlation between what the LIAS project calls for and what these instruments measured in the name of quality.   The one LIAS principle that was underrepresented in the program quality tools we examined was: expanding the horizons of program participants. 
Bill Fennessy

“The LIAS principles speak directly to the components required to create a quality instructional delivery framework.  When implemented, programs can truly engage the youth of today.  While many successful afterschool and summer programs already embody and demonstrate the LIAS principles, these principles now being clearly identified, defined, and articulated, will provide for an understandable and intentional approach to attain successful quality programming across the field.  In addition, the LIAS principles provide a common language for the field of afterschool that has been up until now missing and desperately needed.  I have personally seen the LIAS principles easily taught to line staff, which might not have been intuitive to them previously. I have witnessed the empowering affect it has had on them, resulting in improved program quality.  The LIAS principles have also given them the ability to understand for themselves, and communicate with others, their vital role and the value of afterschool and summer programming.”  - Bill Fennessy, THINK Together

STEM: There is a growing movement to increase young people’s interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).  However, STEM activities are meant to be more than just content – they need to be designed to motivate and excite young people so that they will be tempted to pursue STEM activities and eventual careers beyond the life of any one activity or program.

At the Coalition for Science After School, we find that there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding as to what high-quality STEM programming afterschool means. But once we apply LIAS principles to examine science afterschool, we can quickly identify what quality should look like and which promising practices we should support that may lead to increased youth interest and engagement in STEM. 
Carol Tang

LIAS principles outline the program characteristics most likely to foster scientific inquiry and sense-making in youth and help them recognize the relevance of science and technology to their future. LIAS principles help clarify what high-quality science in out-of-school settings should look like and makes STEM accessible to youth development and afterschool staff.  What I like best about LIAS is that it allows OST professionals to view STEM as a way to achieve their youth outcomes using existing best practices in youth development--science afterschool is seen as part of good youth development, rather than an added burden on afterschool program staff.”    - Carol Tang, Coalition for Science After School

21st CENTURY LEARNING SKILLS: In order for young people to be competitive in a knowledge-based economy of the 21st century, they need to learn to collaborate with others and connect through technology. The 21st century skills are broken into several categories:

  • Ways of thinking - Creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and learning
  • Ways of working - Communication and collaboration
  • Tools for working - Information and communications technology (ICT) and information literacy
  • Skills for living in the world - Citizenship, life and career, and personal and social responsibility

Bernie Trilling

According to Bernie Trilling, Global Director at Oracle Education Foundation and co-author of 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, “The five Learning in Afterschool & Summer principles are perfectly aligned with a 21st century learning approach – active, meaningful, collaborative learning projects that provide opportunities to expand one’s horizons and master important knowledge and skills – this is the heart of 21st century learning.” 

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING (SEL): SEL helps young people develop the skills to handle themselves and their relationships. These are also important skills for the workplace. They include recognizing and managing emotions, developing caring and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, making responsible decisions, and handling challenging situations constructively and ethically. “They are the skills that allow children to calm themselves when angry, make friends, resolve conflicts respectfully, and make ethical and safe choices.”  According to research, having these skills are related to more positive youth outcomes including academic outcomes.   
Joseph Durlak

“The LIAS principles of collaboration, meaningfulness, and expanded horizons are each consistent with the types of skills that compose SEL such as skills relating to managing one’s emotions, developing and maintaining satisfactory relationships with others, and enhancing self-awareness.  In general, the LIAS principles and the five SEL domains allows flexibility and adaptations to occur for work with different types of youth at different developmental stages, and with different needs and interests.” - Joseph Durlak, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology, Loyola University, Chicago

Reed Larson’s Research on Youth Development

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