YFE Week: Krista Collins on Supporting Positive Developmental Outcomes

Hi! My name is Krista Collins, and I am an Applied Developmental Psychology doctoral candidate at Claremont Graduate University.  As a developmental psychologist and practicing evaluator, I am interested in how youth-participatory evaluation can engage youth in meaningful activities that will enable them with the tools to promote their own development. Best practices about how involving youth can benefit both our evaluation, as well as support cognitive, social and emotional development for our youth participants have already been shared.  To contribute to this conversation, I want to share with you the developmental rationale for why these activities are successful and how we can implement them into our evaluation work.

Hot Tip:  Provide Opportunities for Decision-Making and Reflection – Giving youth power to make decisions is a great way for youth to improve practical skills that will help them be successful in life.  Evaluators can promote higher-level thinking by guiding youth through decision-making activities that involve goal-setting, time management and problem solving.  Similarly, encouraging youth to reflect about decisions they’ve made supports skill integration, so that the lessons learned will be readily available in the future.  Research has shown that youth who participate in these types of structured activities are more likely to be empowered and demonstrate leadership in other areas of their life.

Hot Tip: Encourage Teamwork and Mentoring – Group work gives youth opportunities to build their social network by interacting with new and diverse people, learn group process skills (e.g. compromise, idea-sharing), as well as discover prosocial values.  Activities that connect youth to positive adult and youth role models can introduce participants to community organizations and resources that share and support their interests.  In addition to expanding youth support systems, opportunities for teamwork and mentoring can promote social competence, self-regulation, and civic engagement as well as build professional skills that will be useful to their future careers.

Hot Tip:  Facilitate Active Learning – Structured activities, such as participatory evaluation, introduce youth to a host of new interests that are often times unavailable.  Giving youth opportunities for active learning allows them to explore their abilities through trial and error, as well as support identity development by realizing their strengths and limitations.  Youth who have engaged in activities that encourage self-knowledge are more likely to self-select future environments and relationships that will promote their success.

Rad Resource: Dworkin, J.B., Larson, R.W., & Hansen, D.M. (2003).  Adolescents’ accounts of growth experiences in youth activities.  Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 32, 12-26.

Rad Resource:  Hansen, D.M., Larson, R.W., & Dworkin, J.B. (2003).  What adolescents learn in organized youth activities: A survey of self-reported developmental experiences.  Journal of Research on Adolescence, 13, 25-55.

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.


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