Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Framework for Promoting Learning in Afterschool Programs (Part 1)

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
Several years ago, Bill Penuel (formerly at SRI International) and I developed a Framework for Promoting Learning in Afterschool Programs. This framework, like the LIAS project, focused on learning so as to capture both the interest of afterschool leaders and education leaders. This framework focused on learning that contributes to school success. When I dug it up recently to review, I was pleasantly surprised how well it held up, given all the new research on learning and the brain, character skills, grit, tenacity, and social emotional skills that influence learning. The citations are not so recent but the ideas and concepts are still relevant. You can view a series of Power Point slides that align the framework here

The framework looked at learning that affected outcomes measured by schools (grades, test scores, attendance, and behavior), the inputs that afterschool learning can contribute are listed below as Afterschool Learning Outcomes and Afterschool Practices to Promote Afterschool Learning. I believe these are still relevant to afterschool quality practice. 

Afterschool Learning Outcomes

Mastery Motivation and Persistence in Intellectual Tasks
Bill Penuel,
University of Colorado
at Boulder

Importance and Links to External Indicators: Students who adopt mastery goals for learning approach learning tasks as potentially challenging and as requiring effort to complete. Students who are more concerned with performance-avoidance, that is, preventing others from seeing them fail, tend to give up more easily on difficult tasks, especially if they are low-achieving (Ames & Archer, 1988). Students with mastery goals tend to persist more in the face of difficulty on challenging intellectual tasks (Ames & Archer, 1988).

Role of Afterschool Programs: Afterschool programs have been successful in promoting mastery goals and in providing youth with opportunities to persist on authentic, challenging tasks (McLaughlin, Irby, & Langman, 1994). 


Importance and Links to External Indicators: Self-regulation is the process by which students plan for, organize, and monitor their own learning.  Higher levels of self-regulation are associated with higher achievement levels in school (Butler & Winne, 1995).

Role of Afterschool Programs: Afterschool programs can improve student self-regulation, particularly students’ skills in planning and organizing activities and in reflecting on significant experiences associated with participation (Nichols & Steffy, 1999; Youniss & Yates, 1997).  

Collaborative Skills
Importance and Links to External Indicators: Collaborative skills are increasingly important for both schools and the workplace. Cooperative and collaborative learning experiences are positively associated with student achievement (Slavin, 1990; Johnson, Johnson, & Stanne, 2000).

Role of Afterschool Programs: Afterschool programs can improve students’ social skills and can also reduce anti-social behaviors (Catalano et al., 1999; Mahoney et al., 2003; Weisman et al., in press). 

Bonding and Commitment to School
Importance and Links to External Indicators: Bonding to school has been cited as an important protective factor in supporting youth development (Cheney et al., 1997). Students vary in their level of identification with school and with doing well in school, a factor that has been used to explain the failure of some groups to do well in school (Ogbu, 1987). 

Role of Afterschool Programs: Afterschool programs can help students feel more connected to school (Catalano et al., 1999; Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 1999).

Afterschool Practices to Promote Afterschool Learning

Positive culture of learning
  • Encouraging inquiry as an attitude and approach to difficult situations
  • Providing a program environment where mastery goals are rewarded
  • Discouraging comparisons among participants with respect to school performance  
Meaningful learning activities
  • Relying on authentic intellectual activities to engage youth
  • Organizing activities that connect to youth’s interests and life experiences
  • Opportunities for collaboration in contexts where a diversity of expertise is needed for success  
Effective adult assistance
  • Attunement to youths’ needs and interests
  • Solving problems with youth rather than for them
  • Providing feedback focused on how to improve
Support for self-regulation
  • Help with planning for studying, organizing for intellectual tasks, and monitoring progress toward goals
  • Providing youth with experiences of regulating their own learning process in a safe environment
  • Opportunities to reflect on and revise ideas
Positive connections to school
  • Tasks align with and complement schools’ focus on students’ individual academic needs
  • Adult staff articulate the importance and value of school learning
  • Adult staff help youth build bridges among the cultural worlds of school, home, and community
Support for parent engagement in youth’s learning
  • Staff communicate regularly with parents about students’ learning progress and needs
  • Staff encourage parents to talk to teachers about their child’s learning
  • Staff serve as advocates for parents in the school

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Programs Hungry for Recognition; Youth Ready to Weigh In

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
Kim Boyer, Executive Director
Central Valley
Afterschool Foundation
Over the last few months, I've been honored to work with a dedicated group of afterschool advocates in Fresno, CA. This group included Kim Boyer (Central Valley Afterschool Foundation), Lori Carr (Fresno County Office of Education), Adam Valencia and Diane Wilcock (Tulare County Office of Education), Johannes Troost (California Department of Education - After School Division), Mike Snell (California Teaching Fellows Foundation), and Corey Newhouse (Public Profit). This group came together to donate their time to launch a program to acknowledge older youth afterschool programs that were well aligned with the  Learning in Afterschool & Summer (LIAS) learning principles with the awards coming in the form of digital badges.
Lori Carr, Fresno County
Office of Education

Now that the project is nearly complete, we asked them what stood out in conducting this effort. There were three themes: 1) programs are more than willing to put in some extra work if it will result in their being recognized for the good work they do;  2) young people are more than willing to take their time to observe and give feedback on the practices of afterschool programs; and 3) young people have plenty to say about what they consider as quality programs. 

Sharon Arce (Afterschool Program Site Coordinator)
 and Margo Perkins (Principal), Coalinga High

Brad Lupien, Co-President
Thanks to Brad Lupien and ARC for providing a one-day leadership retreat for those youth who observed and scored afterschool programs on their alignment to the LIAS learning principles. This may have been the first time in California that older youth have been involved in assessing the quality of older youth programs alongside local afterschool leaders. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Afterschool Program Participation and the Achievement Gap

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
In October of last year, University of California at Irvine researcher, Deborah Vandell, released an important study on the positive effects of afterschool programs.  Her study revealed that "more consistent time spent in afterschool activities during the elementary school years is linked to narrowing the gap in math achievement, reduced school absences and improved behavioral outcomes for students."(1) 

More specifically, the math achievement gap was measured
Deborah Vandell
at grade 5. The more consistent the afterschool attendance, the narrower the gap between high-income and low-income students. Conversely, the greater the inconsistency of attendance, the wider the achievement gap. But also, those children that spent more time in afterschool programs showed:

- Better work habits
- Improved academic performance
- Gains in self-efficacy
- Improved GPA
- Increased attendance, fewer school absences

This is important information to share with program and in-school stakeholders. Click here for a colorful summary of the research.


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