Hello, we are Amanda Lambie, Cara Karter, and Michelle Lopez, three members of the Research & Evaluation team at After School Matters. As internal evaluators for an out-of-school time provider, we highly value youth voice as an essential ingredient in positive youth development. So we love that this year’s AEA theme is Speak Truth to Power.
Why promote youth voices in your work? Because when young people are placed in a position to be heard, that opportunity…
- Builds their self-determination and motivation which can affect academic, social, and technical skill development1.
- Improves their sense of ownership and belonging which can increase program engagement and participation1.
- Positions them in a place of influence, challenging traditional societal power dynamics and encouraging civic engagement2.
- Affirms an ethical ideal that participants deserve the opportunity to speak and be heard2.
- Include an open-response field in your end of session participant surveys. Approximately one-third of the teens in our programs provide comments about their experience. Our team reads every single one, categorizes them into themes, and shares them with our staff. Teen responses inform decisions we make across the organization – about recruitment, instructor professional development, programming, and more.
- Plan to regularly conduct focus groups or interviews with participants and compensate them for their time. We engaged 180 teens last year through focus groups and interviews to collect teen feedback about new initiatives or policies. We hold focus groups and interviews immediately before or after a program in the same location and we provide gift cards to participants. It can be expensive, but minimizes burden and reinforces the value of participants’ time and effort.
- Test your surveys using cognitive interviews3. Ever wonder what participants think of your survey? Stop wondering and do some cognitive interviewing to find out! Not only is this a great way to incorporate participant voices in your work, but it also results in a more valid and reliable instrument. Win-win!
- Employ a participant as an intern. Participants can help you develop more relevant indicators, identify themes in data you may be missing, and collect data that you may have been unable to collect.
- “Keeping it real”: An evaluation audit of five years of youth-led program evaluation
- Sound, presence, and power: “Student voice” in educational research and reform.
- Cognitive interviewing: A “how to” guide
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Chicagoland Evaluation Association (CEA) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from CEA members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to email@example.com. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.