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Showing posts from August, 2011

What is the best way to foster self-directed learning?

The Great Minnesota Get-Together is in full swing! As I walk through the 4-H Building, exhibits display the intense work of youth from across the state. These youth have researched, created and implemented more than 3,000 projects covering a range of topics that amazes me. The reason for this impressive variety is the imagination and self-direction of the youth themselves - the glory of 4-H projects is the self-directed learning that takes place.

What is self-directed learning? Maurice Gibbons, one of the leading thinkers of SDL, defines it as when "the individual takes the initiative and the responsibility for what occurs. Individuals select, manage, and assess their own learning activities, which can be pursued at any time, in any place, through any means, at any age."

Malcolm Knowles, the pioneer of SDL, described it as a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, id…

Let's build upon the positive outcomes of camping

Happy birthday to camping! Over the past 150 years of organized camping in the United States, we as a field have done a good job of transforming camping into an educational experience in outdoor group living with measurable positive outcomes. Research shows that a well planned youth camp improves self-esteem, environmental awareness, peer relationships, and has other measurable positive outcomes. However, we often leave these outcomes at camp, and fail to build upon it. By thinking of camp as a stand-alone, situational learning experience, we miss an opportunity to capitalize on the gain. How can we make the most of what we work so hard to achieve at camp?

As anyone who has been to summer camp knows, the camp experience can be a rich and memorable one. These can be profound experiences for youth, producing lasting memories. Research shows numerous positive outcomes for youth who participate in organized camping opportunities. Among them are:
Self-esteemPeer relationshipsIndependenceAdv…

The dangers of praise -- how not to do a "good job!"

What's wrong with praising youth? Actually, there's quite a bit wrong with it.

Countless research in the past 30 years shows overwhelming evidence that praising youth can harm their development. For example, in 1998, Mueller & Dweck wrote that praising intelligence can undermine their motivation and performance. While it may seem counter-intuitive and even downright unfriendly, the research is clear. Praise leads to unhealthy attitudes and behaviors in youth.

When we praise young people, it gives them the message that we -- adults -- are the judge of what comprises a good job. It does not allow youth to explore whether they think what they did was good and why. Praise takes the center of focus and control from youth and puts it back in the hands of adults.

The effects are surprisingly negative for youth: shorter task persistence, more eye checking with the teacher, a focus on maintaining their own image, a shut down in challenges, less self-motivation, and highly competiti…

Career-focused mentoring benefits youth while they're still in school

Do you as a youth professional mentor youth? Mentors can be critical to the success of careers and reduce high turnover in early career stages. Mentoring youth at a young age to find their passion can make a critical difference for them even before they enter the world of work.

Mentoring can be particularly valuable for youth who do not have a caring adult in their life besides their parents. An ongoing relationship with a caring adult is a positive indicator for youth development.).

Mentoring relationships provide valuable support to young people; help guide youth through the sometimes awkward developmental stages that accompany the transition into adulthood. Great mentors listen carefully without taking on the other person's problem or giving advice, enabling the protégé to articulate the problem and sort our solutions. They also provide feedback and confirmation.

Mentors can offer academic and career guidance, and be role models for leadership, interpersonal and problem-solvin…

What are the implications of professionalizing youth work?

The newest resource postings on the Next Gen home page indicate that there is momentum toward professionalizing the field of youth work with core competencies, ethics, and certifications. I am hearing a variety of reactions to this trend. Some believe it holds great promise for advancing our field because it validates our knowledge base, values our impact, and provides a measure of quality assurance. Others are hesitant or alarmed by the potential for reduced flexibility as a more formal structure develops rules and regulations that may inadvertently pose a barrier to high quality youth work.

In the fall of 2010 the University of Minnesota Extension Youth Work Institute piloted a new 15-hour workshop called Leadership Matters. Twenty-two youth work supervisors and managers delved into the complexities of youth work supervision and leadership. One segment of the workshop examined core competencies, certifications and core knowledge. One particular activity that generated a great…