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Showing posts from September, 2011

Let's measure everything that matters

What outcomes do we want for our children and youth? What outcomes can we expect from expanded learning opportunities during the non-school hours?

What we measure and hold up now is pretty limited -- test scores, drug use, cheating on tests. Sometimes we get stuck in the mode of just using the data we have, even when they are not the measures we need. How many times are we forced to consider how well our youth are doing by just looking at deficits or test scores rather than strengths?

I believe we do need to be accountable for our collective impact, not just our program and organizational impact. I also believe that we need a set of valued and visible measures for youth -- measures that:
are valued for what they do capture about youths' experiences while they are in those expanded learning opportunitiesare visible to the public and remind people of how important and needed community learning opportunities are for our youthinclude academic measures, but go beyond themdon't just …

Observation should inform program evaluation

Have you ever watched a youth program where everything seemed to be working? As a youth worker, your gut reaction can be a good gauge of when things are "clicking" inside youth programs and when things need improvement. Sometimes with the current pressure to show the outcome and impact of our programs, we lose sight of the skills we develop through experience in youth work - our ability to observe and assess.

Observational methods in evaluation or research are gaining popularity in school and youth settings. In Minnesota 4-H, we have been investing in the Youth Program Quality Assessment. This standardized observational tool allows youth workers to assess safe environments, supportive environments, interaction, and engagement. There are many other tools for assessing youth program quality. Check out The Forum for Youth Investment for a review of tools.

An article in the spring 2011 Afterschool Matters publication takes a look at the Self Assessment of High-Quality Academic E…

Decision-making -- a risky business for teens

Research has shown the more we practice making decisions the better we become at it. Learning how to make decisions and to be able to defend them helps one to be independent and responsible -- a part of growing up.

As we look at teen decision making, one has to consider the development of the brain during adolescence. Teens' brains are going through a period of intense development, and they naturally seek out risky, novel experiences and peer approval. As a result, decision making can be less than rational.

It's during this period of development that brain wave activity is busiest in the prefrontal cortex. This area is responsible for advanced reasoning: cause and effect, planning, managing impulses, etc. Teens strengthen their thinking about thinking at this time. Along with this development comes actions like teens being quick to point out inconsistencies between adults' words and actions, and viewing conflicts from different perspectives. For example, is a clean room a…