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Extension > Youth Development Insight > January 2013

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Are you a manager or a leader? Can you be both?

Mark-Haugen.jpgTime is like money. If you don't invest it properly, you will not receive the return you are looking for. How do we in youth development organizations decide where to spend our limited time, to get the return we need?

I see two ways to go about it: Shall we be managers of groups, events, volunteer programs, finances and day-to-day activities? Or should we focus our efforts, as leaders, supporting evolution and growth of programs as a chief motivating officer? If you reviewed how you spend your time, would it show you to be a manager or a leader?

Both managers and leaders support teams of people to achieve their goals. Like many of you, I often feel like a firefighter putting out fires, with a daily barrage of emails, lining up details and prepping for the next meeting or event. I ask myself, "Is this what I should be doing?"
Holly Caracappa, on the popular blog Leadership Freak, summarizes the two roles in the workforce and how both are needed. I've created a graphic that maps it out (see right). What if you are the only manager and leader in your organization? Can you play both roles?
I've seen many gifted individuals blend the two. In my observation leaders with management skills are highly effective in accomplishing goals. I also see managers with leadership skills who are able to lead organizations to improve and grow. If we are not both can we develop skills of the other?
I am interested in your thoughts! Do you see yourself as a manager, leader or both? Which role receives the majority of your attention and time? Do you budget time in your day or week to focus on your role as a leader?
Throughout the spring I will continue to reflect on this topic and will present new thoughts, links and your comments in a blog post this May. I'm excited to read your comments, have some friendly debate and learn from you!

-- Mark Haugen, Extension educator, regional 4-H youth development programs

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What is inquiry? Setting standards for the next generation of science learners

Hui-Hui-Wang.jpgIf you asked a science educator to describe the essence of science education, the answer very likely would be "inquiry" -- how a scientist (or anyone) goes about finding the answer to a question. So it is surprising that the word "inquiry" does not appear at all in a new policy document that will set standards for science education in the US for years to come.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is now under review nationally, and you are invited to read and comment through January 29. It is being developed by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve, the facilitator.

Inquiry was a central element of science education as defined by the predecessor to NGSS, the National Science Education Standards, published in 1996. But now, the hottest topic among science educators is the NGSS.

One of the biggest questions is where inquiry is, because the word is not mentioned in the NGSS. But inquiry is still there, if you look. It is embedded in many of the practices of the NGSS -- the way we as educators can lead youth to harness their own curiosity to learn.

The challenge in teaching inquiry is that it has been interpreted over time in many different ways throughout the science education community. The hypothesis-research-predict-test-conclusion model is the familiar way in the classroom. In a nonformal setting, we are able to let youth lead the inquiry in different ways. Many science educators "know" inquiry and the importance of teaching it.

girl-in-grass-with-magnifying-glass.jpgBut there is no one way to teach it. Therefore, parts of the NGSS do explain better and extend what science inquiry means, and the range of cognitive, social, and physical practices that it requires as performance expectations. Instead of inquiry, the NGSS uses the term "practice". It emphasizes that engaging in scientific investigation requires not only skill but also the knowledge that is specific to each practice. Teaching inquiry in the NGSS becomes concrete practice, rather than an abstract concept. I would say that "inquiry unpack" is a better term to describe this action.

The NGSS is scheduled to be published in March, and I intend to write about the final version in a future blog post. The NGSS will be the guideline for science education in the US, and will be the basis for judging program quality, for all stakeholders, including founders. You can give your feedback on this important document through January 29.

Starting this year, science teaching and learning in the US will enter a new era. How do you think about practices in NGSS that relate to inquiry? Have you commented on the NGSS?

-- Hui-Hui Wang, assistant professor and Extension educator, STEM education

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

They're thriving in the program, but do they have goals beyond it?

Jessica-Russo-2013.jpgAlexander Cho and other participatory observers of a high-quality after school digital media program discovered that youth who were some of the most engaged and committed to the program also began to shrink from school obligations and abandon plans for attending college.

For these young people, the future was vague and uncertain "due in large part to lack of family financial resources and the absence of an intuitive post-secondary roadmap." In short, they were unable to connect the 21st century skills they were gaining in the program to future possibility, such as higher education or career options.

To me, this dissonance between the learning environment and the future of these youth points to the vital importance of helping young people connect WHAT they are learning to what they can DO with that learning.

In a white paper that my fellow blogger Trudy Dunham cited recently Henry Jenkins et al claim that "a focus on expanding access to new technologies carries us only so far if we do not also foster the skills and cultural knowledge necessary to deploy those tools toward our own ends."
Here in the Urban Youth Development Office, Teen-Power-studio-shot.jpgwe've named this as the critical issue driving our business plan -- the need of youth, particularly those from low-income communities, to learn how to overcome economic, educational, and social barriers in order to connect their skills and interests to possibilities for their futures and build their potential to author their own lives. Our strategic goal is more about welcoming youth into a culture of possibility than engaging them in a youth program on digital media or entrepreneurship.

One of our clubs is focused on media production, and while the youth love and are deeply engaged in the content they are learning, the depth of their experience depends on our staff, volunteers, and mentors, who are constantly helping them reflect on what it is that they're really getting out of the experience. They take the youth to campuses, help them fill out financial aid packets, and guide them on getting into college. They are, in the words of Cho, helping youth "frame and mobilize these skills to their own advantage."

How can we help youth go beyond even deep engagement in content or participation in a program or activity? How do you address that issue? Are there other aspects of youth programming that we all intuitively know, but that somehow are continually missed or undervalued?

-- Jessica Russo, assistant Extension professor and director, Urban 4-H Youth Development Office

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.
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