Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Multiple Reflections: Comparison of Frameworks for Promoting Youth Learning and Healthy Development

By Sam Piha

Every year researchers and experts on youth learning and development issue reports with new concepts and frameworks. They are developed to guide the design and implementation of community initiatives, schools and youth programs. 

While many of these frameworks and their critical features are not “new” or surprising, they do offer a more granular examination or focus on a specific issue. These frameworks include (not an exhaustive list):


  • Youth Development
  • Foundations for Young Adult Success
  • The Learning in Afterschool & Summer Learning Principles (LIAS Principles)
  • Social Emotional Learning (SEL) 
  • Trauma-Informed Practices
  • The Science of Learning and Development (SoLD) and Whole Child Development
  • Program Quality Standards

“In the past several years, a large number of frameworks and standards have been created to provide guidance on what young people need to learn.”- UChicago Consortium on School Research


It is important for youth program leaders to closely follow the release of new frameworks and to be literate in and able to integrate the language and concepts they offer.  Many of these frameworks have critical features in common with and are born out of earlier youth development frameworks.

In our most recent paper, Multiple Reflections, we compare recent frameworks and note their commonalities. We offer a summary or overview of many of these frameworks as well as resources to learn more. We also provide a crosswalk chart to learn where their critical features overlap. (Note: Harvard’s Explore SEL has catalogued a large number of program frameworks and allows the reader to explore and compare frameworks to others in the field.) 

All of the frameworks named above offer critical features (some use other terms like experiences, components, non-negotiables, principles, factors, or competencies) that are deemed essential. They are all useful in guiding the design and implementation of youth programs, their values and intentions; along with program practices, activities, and assessment tools to gauge fidelity and effectiveness.

Although they do not use these terms, they are essentially about love, acceptance, respect for self and others, mentorship, agency, and preparing youth for success in school, work and life. 

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