Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Science of Learning and Development Part 1

By Sam Piha

There has been a great deal of effort in research, policy, and practice to promote systems and settings that support whole-child efforts, including the Science of Learning and Development (SoLD) Alliance. While many of these efforts are geared toward K–12 education, the youth development field is translating the learnings for afterschool systems and settings.

Dr. Deborah Moroney is the Managing Director at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), and she recently authored a briefing paper entitled, “The Science of Learning and Development in Afterschool Systems and Settings.”

This brief includes:
Select findings from the SoLD Alliance’s efforts;
Relevant, actionable key takeaways for the youth development field in afterschool;
Suggestions for practical ways to support high-quality afterschool systems and settings; and
Outlines the elements of developmentally rich contexts that foster learning and healthy development.

Many of the practical applications of SoLD findings for afterschool systems and settings will be familiar to students of youth development frameworks (see the YD Guide 2.0). The emphasis on the need for systems to invest in professional development (PD) opportunities and tools is particularly important as funds for PD are drying up.

Dr. Moroney will serve as our featured speaker at an upcoming Speaker’s Forum. She will be joined by Jeff Davis (California Afterschool Network), Dr. Femi Vance (AIR), and a youth worker and an afterschool participant from the All Stars Project of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dr. Deborah Moroney
Below Dr. Moroney responded to some of our interview questions. In Part 2, our next blog post, we will share the rest of Dr. Moroney's responses to our questions.

Q: What can you tell us about SoLD?

A: The SoLD Alliance is a partnership of leading education research, practice, and policy organizations dedicated to using the lessons learned from SoLD to drive equity and excellence in the education system. The SoLD Alliance does this by identifying and translating key lessons from SoLD. The governing partner organizations of the SoLD Alliance include AIR (this is where I work), EducationCounsel, Forum for Youth Investment, Learning Policy Institute, Populace, and Turnaround for Children. The SoLD Alliance began working together in 2016 based on the hypothesis that the emerging lessons from SoLD could provide important insights on the best ways to educate and support young people. Since then the SoLD Alliance has convened leading scientists and education experts across fields to triangulate and translate those insights for education practice and policy.

It is a significant and important contribution to our field(s) and one that I am humble to have a peripheral role in my position in the youth development practice area where that work “lives” at AIR.  At AIR, we work together to ensure we are supporting the positive development of young people both in and out-of-school. As the SoLD work evolved, I was eager to ensure that the valuable contributions from the SoLD Alliance would be applied to the fields where young people live, play, and learn that are outside of the traditional school day- community based and summer programs, afterschool, juvenile justice, and child welfare to name a few.

Q: Why did you think it was important to focus on afterschool settings and systems?

A: The SoLD findings and related initiatives have the potential to meaningfully inform – and perhaps even change – the ways educators create conditions for teaching and learning. Children and youth spend more than 80% of their time outside of school (Afterschool Alliance, 2019)  – and we know that afterschool settings provide key developmental opportunities for young people. It only made sense to apply the SoLD learnings to afterschool. Plus, my afterschool friends were asking for it. They saw themselves in the work.

To be continued in Part 2.

The Science of Learning and Development Alliance
The Science of Learning and Development: Initial Findings 
The Science of Learning and Development (video)
Meet the Expert: Deborah Moroney
Afterschool and Expanded Learning at AIR

Dr. Deborah Moroney is the Managing Director, American Institutes of Research (AIR). She specializes in bridging research and practice, having worked as a staff member for out-of-school programs early in her career. She's written practitioner and organizational guides; co-authored the fourth edition of “Beyond the Bell®, A Toolkit for Creating High-Quality Afterschool and Expanded Learning Programs,” a seminal afterschool resource; and co-edited Creating Safe, Equitable, Engaging Schools: A Comprehensive, Evidence-Based Approach to Supporting Students and Social and Emotional Learning in Out-of-School Time Foundations and Futures.  Presently, Dr. Moroney serves as the principal investigator on national studies of afterschool initiatives. 

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