Wednesday, February 20, 2019

An Interview with Youth Development Researcher, Reed Larson

By Sam Piha

According to the Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring, "Reed Larson’s seminal research on the lives of teenagers helped to launch the field of positive youth development, and his insights and findings continue to enrich the work of mentoring researchers. His work explores the contexts of daily life and how developmental processes unfold in extra-curricular activities."

Researcher, Deborah Vandell (UC Irvine), stated, "Reed Larson did some really  important work looking at the development of initiative and engagement. What he found is that when children are in school what they often are doing is putting forth a lot of effort, but they're not really motivated. What happens in afterschool activities, when they're really working, when they're active, they're choosing those activities and they are also focused on them. It's the best combination for learning."

Reed Larson will share his work at a Speaker's Forum entitled, "How Demanding Program Roles Can Facilitate Youth’s Positive Development" on April 19, 2019 in Oakland, CA. You can register here. We recently interviewed Reed and some of his responses are below.

Reed Larson
Q: You have been a pioneer in the field of youth development. What drew you to this work? 
A: I have done research and teaching on the age period of adolescence all my life. We know it is a time of enormous potentials for growth. Yet our society does not get that. Teens are disrespected, misunderstood, and terribly underestimated. As a result, they are not given the opportunities to develop their potentials. I discovered that after school and out of school programs were the main exception. They are a part of teens’ lives where they have opportunities to develop their full potentials.

Q: The work of promoting youth development is not easy. In your research, what did you find to be the greatest challenges facing youth workers? 
A: There are a lot of challenges: being present and attuned to youth, being both a friend and a mentor, teacher, or sometimes parent; seeing societal injustice and hurt in teens; having too few resources; taking care of yourself at the same time you are engaged in caring relationships with others. 

Q: What settings and practices are most successful in engaging youth? 
A: I don’t claim to have all the answers. But in our research, youth have described becoming highly motivated in youth program settings where they feel safe, feel they belong, experience positive relationships, and experience a culture that supports these positive ways of being. Further, in settings where they are engaged in activities: that have meaningful goals, are challenging while allowing them to experience competence, and involve high-functioning collaborative relationships. I’ve also observed that high quality programs provide an environment that helps youth disengage from distractions and anxieties in their lives at the beginning of the program session, and reflect on what they have learned at the end.  

Q: What is the most important lesson that you learned in your research? 
A: I have seen again and again that young people have enormous resources. They can be extremely resilient. They are eager, active learners who learn from experiences. They are ready to have deep insights about complex social and emotional truths. We just need to provide the right conditions for them to feel save, loved, and to see a way forward. 

Q: What most surprised you? 
A: It is maybe not a surprise, but I have been impressed by meeting many, many wonderful, smart, and caring people who have devoted themselves to working with young people. It has been increasingly clear to me that to improve programs the field needs to seek out, understand, and draw on the expertise of experienced youth development practitioners. Communication between researchers and practitioners need to involve two-way conversations. 

Q: What are you working on currently? 
A: We just finished a research paper on how “substantive demanding roles” can provide powerful opportunities for youth’s development of new competencies, including responsibility to others. (This will be the main topic of my Speaker's Forum presentation). Although my research has been mainly focused on processes of positive development, I am currently interested in times when youth in programs experience “psychological meltdowns” from a setback or being overwhelmed, and how staff are effective in helping youth respond with resiliency. 

Reed Larson’s seminal research on the lives of teenagers helped to launch the field of positive youth development, and his insights and findings continue to enrich this field. His work has involved over a thousand interviews with youth and front line staff in diverse youth development programs. It has focused on understanding how developmental experiences unfold in programs (including extracurricular activities) and how program staff are effective in supporting these learning processes. His team’s research was the basis for the Weikart Foundation’s research-practitioner collaboration that identified effective staff practices for supporting social emotional learning in programs. Reed is a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was recently the President of the Society for Research on Adolescence. He also served as Editor-in-Chief of New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development (with Lene Jensen).

Friday, February 15, 2019

Collaboration Leads to Successful SEL Implementation

By Guest Blogger, Jennifer Peck

Jennifer Peck
As educators, afterschool providers, and advocates for children, we know social emotional learning (SEL) is the foundation for academic success for all students — especially children experiencing trauma and extreme stress. The challenge we face today is implementation and that challenge is why we joined others (ASAPconnect, CalSAC, California AfterSchool Network, and Temescal Associates) in forming the Expanded Learning 360°/365 initiative in 2015. That challenge is why The Aspen Institute released its recommendations for SEL implementation earlier this month, and why our partner, Temescal Associates researched and published Promoting SEL and Character Skills in Expanded Learning Programs.

Partnership for Children and Youth’s focus within the 360°/365 initiative is to assist California school districts with SEL implementation across the school day, afterschool, and summer. The American Institutes for Research evaluated Expanded Learning 360°/365’s work and saw impact like:

  • Increased Professional Development: Monthly videos, articles, and activities to build common SEL understanding; meetings to align practices; and sessions to build culturally responsive teaching practices and student and adult SEL strategies.
Source (clockwise): LA's BEST; Kimochi Dolls; and Educare Foundation
  • Collaboration Between School-Day & Expanded Learning Staff: Deliberate efforts built into SEL action plans included joint classroom walkthroughs and expanded learning staff participating in school-day staff meetings.
  • Stronger Data Usage & Sharing: Engaged in a cycle of continuous improvement using student data to establish system- and site-level goals, assess readiness, and track progress; including pre-post measures of relationship skill-building, SEL competencies, school climate, and program observations.

This evaluation affirms that collaboration and accountability are powerful forces for change — and that skilled facilitation is an essential catalyst for deep, effective collaboration. We are eager to share the lessons learned from the Expanded Learning 360°/365 initiative and hope you find this to be a useful resource as you expand SEL in your community.

If you have questions or are interested in partnering with us, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Thank you for everything you do for California’s students. Please share the findings widely! Here is a sample tweet you can customize:

Quality #SEL implementation takes collaboration between school-day, #afterschool, and summer staff, according to a new evaluation: #edchat #k12  

Jennifer Peck, Executive Director, has led the Partnership for Children & Youth (PCY) since the organization’s founding in 2001.  During this time, she has grown PCY to be the leading California intermediary building access to high quality expanded learning opportunities for students living in our state’s lowest-income communities. Jennifer led the creation of the California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance, the California Summer Matters Campaign, the California Community Schools Network, and HousED which builds on-site learning supports for students living in public and affordable housing. 

Dr. Shawn Ginwright
Temescal Associates recently sponsored a Speaker’s Forum led by Dr. Shawn Ginwright on the topic of Healing Centered Engagement.  For those that were unable to attend, Flourish Agenda is sponsoring a webinar on March 21st, 2019 at 10am PST on Healing Centered Engagement facilitated by Dr. Ginwright. This is a free online event but space is limited and filling up fast. To learn more, click here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Best Posts of 2018

By Sam Piha

Since we launched the Learning in Afterschool & Summer (LIAS) project, we have published over 354 blog posts, attracting 410,062 views. In 2018, we published 34 blog posts, attracting 57,050 views. Below, we list some of our favorites and most viewed posts.

Photo Credit:
The Power of Sharing Circles (May 2018)
We know that bringing together young people and offering them the opportunity to have their individual voices heard in the larger community is an important practice. We are referring to “talking or sharing circles” - bringing youth together in a circle and asking each individual to speak while the rest of the group practices active listening. Read more.

New Educational Trends and Terms (April 2018)
In America, educational trends and thinking don’t evolve. Instead, they tend to swing like a pendulum or cycle back and forth. To see a good example, just look at the writings of John Dewey from the early 1900s. Read more.

Shawn Ginwright
Shifting From Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement (August 2018) 

Dr. Ginwright recently authored an article entitled Shifting From Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement. In this post, we offer a few excerpts from his article and urge everyone to read it in its entirety. Read more.

In the Aftermath of Parkland: What is the Role of Expanded Learning Programs? (March 2018)
We were shocked and dismayed by another mass shooting, this one at  Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. As a field that promotes safety, youth voice, and youth civic engagement, we commend the students that have spoken up about gun violence. Read more.

HEARTSET: Transforming Teaching & Learning (March 2018) 
Have you ever thought that the challenges that educators face today are different from any in modern time?  With political and social unrest creating a stressful environment, how can we best uplift ourselves and assist our young people deal with life and learning? Read more.

How Not to Lose Your Mind Over Every New Trend in Your Field (March 2018)
It sometimes feels like risking whiplash to try to follow all the emerging trends in our field and the potential funding, resources and opportunities that come along with them. Every few years, sometimes more often, there are new trends that are often accompanied by or are a part of funding opportunities. Some of these trends stick around for awhile until something newer, younger and sexier gets introduced. Some trends seem to come around in cycles. Read more.

Johanna Masis
Johanna Masis Sharing Circles: Cyphers (May 2018)
At Oakland Leaf, all of our programs incorporate the practice of Cyphers. We believe in the power of people's stories and life experiences regardless of how many years they have been alive.  There is a collective wisdom that exists and needs to be honored. When we practice Cyphers, or community circles, the benefits are immense. Read more.

An Interview with Researcher Deborah Lowe Vandell (October 2018)
Deborah Lowe Vandell has been a leading researcher on expanded learning programs since 1985. Dr. Vandell agreed to respond to our interview questions regarding her research on the field of afterschool. Read more.

What Difference Does It Make? An Interview with Milbrey McLaughlin
Milbrey McLaguhlin
(June 2018)

Dr. McLaughlin recently released a new book entitled, You Can’t Be What You Can’t See: The Power of Opportunity to Change Young Lives. In this post, we offer her responses to a few questions regarding her work. Read more.

Practitioners Speak Out: Serving the Needs of Immigrant Youth (February 2018)
We previously published a blog post on the issue of supporting immigrant families and their children in afterschool. We want to follow this up by hearing directly from youth practitioners from Educators For Fair Consideration (E4FC) that specialize in serving this population. Read more.

Reed Larson’s Research on Youth Development

Source: Reed Larson, The Youth Development Experience Kate Walker By Guest Blogger Kate Walker, Extension Specialist, Youth Development, Uni...