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Showing posts from August, 2012

Finding the balance in program design

By Rebecca Meyer Have you ever seen a youth program that tried to do too much in the time allotted? Or one that was all about engagement but lacked learning outcomes? Finding the balance between these is key to good program design. Here are two relevant examples from my own family: My twin 3-year-old boys participated in a day camp experience focused on camping. Each session was 90 minutes in length. During the first session, the instructor involved the children in learning about: each other, the instructors, basic components of a camp pack, how to put up a tent, how to prepare camp snacks, and hiking in the woods. For the age of participants and the amount of time available, the program tried to cover too much ground. In contrast, my six-year-old son had ecstatic reviews about a class field trip to a new museum, could not describe a single thing he had learned, even though we probed. In their book Understanding by design , Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe refer to these phenomena a

The power of reflection on learning

By Nicole Pokorney Have you seen the power of reflection in youth development? You can witness the power of reflection during the Minnesota State Fair . In the 4-H Building this week, more than 3,000 4-H'ers with general exhibits are going through conference judging, where they sit down with a judge and a group of peers to explain their project and be interviewed about it. Each exhibitor is asked to reflect on how they developed the project, along with technical details of the project area. Reflection is an essential part of learning. In fact, reflection actually influences brain development. One of the experts on this is Abigail Baird, a professor of psychology at Vassar College . Earlier this year, she delivered a presentation at the University of Minnesota's Howland Symposium on Trends in Adolescent Brain Development: Implications for Youth Practice and Policy . In it, she stressed the importance of encouraging youth to think of experiences and consequences of actions

What makes an evaluation report compelling? (or not)

By Samantha Grant Okay, time for true confessions here. How many research or evaluation reports do you have sitting on your desk? You know there was blood, sweat, and tears put into the creation of those documents, but somehow you don't feel compelled to read them. Why not? I'm willing to guess that the answer is either: A. you don't have time or B. the reports are way too boring. (By the way, reason A is just a disguise for reason B.) The truth is that many evaluation reports are dull, but there are also great ways to spice them up by focusing the message and using pictures and stories to illustrate points. I have set a goal of unlearning some report-writing habits to make mine more interesting, and thus more likely to spur action. A new learning experience that I'm taking part in is the American Evaluation Association's eStudy series: An Executive Summary is Not Enough: Effective Reporting Techniques for Evaluators . In it, Kylie Hutchinson sets out to

Olympic spirit: Motivation for inclusive learning environments

All eyes are on London this summer for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics Games. Like many people across the globe, I find the Games to be so inspiring. I am particularly drawn to the Olympic spirit of diversity and inclusion and that same spirit motivates me in my youth development profession. In fact, each time I build a youth program, I ask myself this question: How can I build an inclusive learning environment? We know from research that programs serve youth best when the learning environments in which they function are intentionally inclusive. But the word inclusive can be rather hollow if you are not sure how to apply it. Here are some tips to consider when building inclusive learning environments. Mind your own language The way we speak about young people reflects our attitudes and influences what youth programs can achieve. Use language that honors youth. Phrasings such as doing things with youth, rather than for or to youth show that you value young people and t