YFE Week: Anne Gleason and Miranda Yates on Practical Tools for a Youth Research Camp

Hi, we are Anne Gleason and Miranda Yates from the Program Evaluation and Planning Department at Good Shepherd Services in New York City and we would like to share some tools we put together for a youth research camp. Two summers ago, we partnered with youth in one of our afterschool programs to conduct research on what youth think it means to be successful, a topic that the students selected, which ultimately culminated in a student-produced documentary. Drawing on techniques we learned at the Critical Participatory Action Research (CPAR) Summer Institute offered by CUNY’s Public Science Project, we facilitated a series of research camp days with a group of twenty 10-14 year olds. The days were organized as follows: What Is Research, Survey Design Parts I and II, Data Entry, and Data Analysis. Check out the camp schedule for more details.

The project provided an enriching learning experience for everyone involved.  Youth gained a unique first-hand experience conducting research by playing a lead role in the design and implementation of the study and the data analysis. In turn, their insider perspective helped us to better understand how to form more meaningful questions and interpret results. For example, one survey question presented a list of resources and asked respondents to rate their importance to achieving life goals. For the goal of attending college, we saw that older students rated having a supportive family/supportive teachers as less important when compared with younger students. We initially were perplexed as to why older students would hold less value for supportive adults. The youth participants posited that older youth may feel more independent and, thus, be more confident in their own ability to achieve success. This insight underscored the benefit of partnering with youth in research.

Lessons Learned:

  • If you plan to conduct a full youth participatory project, allow yourself plenty of time. Ideally, we would have liked a few extra days to delve deeper into research techniques and data analysis.
  • If you’re limited with time or resources, you don’t have to give up the idea of drawing on participatory techniques. We have also found ways to incorporate youth voice into our evaluation activities that are less time intensive, but inspired by a participatory approach. For example, we routinely conduct focus groups throughout our programs to gather feedback on surveys and other evaluation tools and develop action plans.

Rad Resources: Our camp curriculum included activities, role playing and group discussions. Here are two handouts that might be useful to those considering a camp of their own: Survey Development 101 and Survey Administration 101.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Youth Focused Evaluation (YFE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the YFE AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our YFE TIG 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 aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “YFE Week: Anne Gleason and Miranda Yates on Practical Tools for a Youth Research Camp”

  1. Hello, I read your post with a focus on collaboration. More specifically, (1) youth engagement with adults as well as together as a team is so very important, (2) being able to expose youth to opportunities “when they grow up” is also important from a collaboration point of view for future students and colleges, and (3) the collaboration with youth for assessment gives them a voice and provides the evaluators a better picture of what/how to measure.

    A small group of undergraduate students at Texas A&M University-Central Texas are working toward an afterschool program evaluation. The information provided in your post could be valuable to our assessment strategies.

    Best regards,
    Barbara Burrow

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