Pam Larson Nippolt on Soft Skills for Youth

My name is Pam Larson Nippolt and I am a University of Minnesota Extension Youth Development faculty member who works on a team of program evaluators in youth development.  I also have consulted with and evaluated programs for over 15 years.  I have found a recently-released resource for those of us who evaluate and study community learning programs for youth that is both practical and rigorous – offering something for evaluators and program practitioners alike.

Rad Resource:   The Forum for Youth Investment, with support from the William T. Grant Foundation, recently released a reviewed collection of youth outcome measures of “soft skills” – communication, relationships and collaboration, critical thinking and decision making, and initiative and self-direction.  The report cites  the Preparing Students for College and Careers  policy report that “according to teachers, parents, students and Fortune 1000 executives, the critical components of being college- and career-ready focus more on higher-order thinking and performance skills than knowledge of challenging content.”   In my opinion, the concise review of eight measurement tools does four things very well;

1)      it names outcomes that frame the niche of programs designed to build youth learning in community,

2)      it calls on those programs to align their activities with outcomes – an underdeveloped “muscle” of the youth development field,

3)      it lays out the measures in an easy-to-understand guide with details about reliability, validity, and costs associated with the use of the eight measures,

4)      it issues a call to action to advance the field by designing practical studies that are also technically sound, and by improving and advancing the measurement of soft skills.

This is a tool that should be on the shelf of every program evaluator designing evaluations for youth programs.

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 aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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