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Showing posts from February, 2011

Don't let borders get in the way of learning

Cultural education is an important part of preparing youth to thrive in a global world. Today’s youth live a world with greater opportunities for interactions with people from different cultural backgrounds and worldviews than ever before. These differences might serve as obstacles to effective interaction and learning if one is not equipped with the cultural abilities to bridge across these differences and reap the tremendous value rooted in intercultural interactions. The nonformal learning environments found in many youth programs are ideal places to nurture this cultural learning. Unbound by the rules and expectations faced by schools, they have the potential to be relaxed enough so that youth feel comfortable sharing personal experiences and challenging their own and others’ thinking.
Below is a summary of four commonly used cultural education approaches; each has a distinct purpose and role in fostering cultural education and puts forth a unique form of critical pedagogy. The ap…

Who can assess the quality of a youth program?

Can youth and volunteers effectively assess program quality? Does it matter if adult volunteers or 4-H staff are paired with youth to complete assessments?

Early results from our Minnesota 4-H Quality Improvement Study suggest that youth and volunteers can indeed assess quality and can work with local 4-H clubs to improve their programs. We have also learned that, for the most part, whether youth are paired with adult volunteers or staff made little difference.

Traditionally, program quality is assessed using reliable, trained
assessors. Taking that model to scale in a youth organization with more than 130,000 youth would be impossible, so our study sought to discover how to measure quality in a youth and volunteer-led organization.

The study design called for 40 coaches (20 youth and 20 adults)
receiving a two-day training on how to observe program quality using the Weikart Center'sYouth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA). Participants were grouped into 20 pairs: half of them one y…

Do outcome evaluations put young people down?

In the winter issue of New Directions for Evaluation, Sarah Zeller-Berkman, director of the Beacons National Strategy Initiative, argues that youth development evaluations reinforce the "status quo" for young people in the United States. She suggests that Western society systematically excludes young people, and that the designs for outcome evaluations play a role in that exclusion. Evaluation studies are largely designed based on assumptions that youth are incomplete and "less than" adults. We do this, she contends, by focusing on individual youth outcomes and ignoring the differences that youth make when they engage with adults, in organizations, and in communities.

The author reviewed 209 evaluations of out-of-school time programs contained in the Harvard Family Research Project database and found that "only a handful of them measured community- or systems-level outcomes, while the majority measured individual gains related to academic achievement and y…