Research and the Real World, Are They a Match?


Above, Joanna Williams speaks to a standing room only crowd of colleagues and students, at the February Youth-Nex Works in Progress Meeting on “Investigating Diversity in Early Adolescence.” (Audio of the talk here.)

Williams is an associate professor at the Curry School of Education and is affiliated with Youth-Nex and Youth and Social Innovation (YSI).

In her recent blog for the William T. Grant Foundation, Joanna Williams asks if research matters in the real world. Published with the foundation’s consent here are her thoughts. Continue reading

Why Enroll Your Child in After-School Activities?

By Nancy L. Deutsch, Ph.D.

Deutsch is an associate professor of Research, Statistics & Evaluation and Applied Developmental Science at UVA and is an affiliated faculty member with Youth-Nex. Her research examines the socio-ecological contexts of adolescent development, particularly issues related to identity. She has focused on the role of after-school programs and relationships with important adults.

This blog was originally published at www.infoaboutkids.org, as “After-school activities: Why are they important and what should you look for?”

As the school year begins, many parents are thinking not only about what classes their children will take in school, but also what their kids will do after school. After-school activities offer opportunities for kids to learn new skills, explore different areas of talent, deepen existing expertise, get support for areas they aren’t as strong in, make friends, and form relationships with supportive adults. Participation in structured after-school activities has also been linked to a number of positive outcomes. For working parents, after-school activities are often more than a luxury, they are necessary child care in those gap hours when children are out of school but parents are still at work. Research shows that there are risks of kids being unsupervised after school, so after-school activities are an important resource to parents seeking to make sure their kids are in a safe and structured place once they leave their classrooms.

So what does the landscape of after-school activities look like and how should you choose the right one for your kid?

After-school activities range from extra-curricular activities (school-based clubs or teams), to comprehensive after-school programs (school or community-based), to private lessons, faith-based groups, and specialized tutoring or mentoring programs targeted towards specific needs. Programs differ in their costs and offerings. Whereas both of these factors are important for families, the aspect of programs that affects kids the most is their quality.

Research suggests that participation in structured after-school programs and activities can have benefits for kids, including social skills, emotional development, and academics. But the quality of and the child’s engagement in a program both influence the impact it will have.

High quality programs provide a safe space with supportive relationships, appropriate structure, and positive expectations for behavior. But beyond that they also provide opportunities for belonging and skill building and give youth a place to express themselves, take on responsibilities, and tackle challenging tasks. Researchers studying after-school programs focused on social and personal skills found that programs with four features, called the “SAFE” features, had an impact on both social-emotional and academic outcomes. These programs had a (S)equenced set of activities, emphasized (A)ctive learning, had a component that (F)ocused on building social and emotional skills, and communicated in an (E)xplicit way about the skills they were trying to develop in youth. Other researchers have found that programs that allow youth to actively shape activities and take on meaningful roles in “real world” projects (including artistic performances and other types of public presentations) provide opportunity for youth to develop important social, emotional, and cognitive skills. The adult staff in such programs play an important role in creating opportunities for learning, setting expectations, serving as role models, and providing useful feedback and scaffolding.

So can there be too much of a good thing?

About a decade ago, the notion of the “over-scheduled child” took hold. Some people argued that children are too scheduled during the after-school hours, leading to undue pressure on kids, with potentially negative outcomes. In reality, very few kids participate in extremely high levels of after-school activities. Overall, kids average about 5 hours per week of scheduled after-school activities, and about 40% of kids don’t participate in any organized after-school activities. There does not appear to be evidence that more activities, in and of themselves, have a negative impact on kids. But of course it is important to be sensitive to your kid’s needs.

Whereas parents in some communities may be concerned about over-scheduling, parents in other communities are struggling to find high quality programs for their kids. Youth from lower income households participate in out-of-school activities at lower rates than their higher income peers and there is substantial unmet demand for high quality programs, especially among lower income families.

So, what are some things to keep in mind as you try to find the right after-school activities for your kids?

  • Stay focused on what your child likes to do. It is fine to suggest trying new activities to expose your child to a variety of interests. But your child’s enthusiasm for the activity is also important. Even if it is necessary for your child to participate in after-school programming every day, talk to them about what types of activities they find most engaging.
  • The after-school hours can be a great time for kids to explore different talents. As many schools have faced cuts in enrichment programs, after-school activities can offer your child the chance to demonstrate talents and learn skills they may not get to in school. This can be important not only for developing new interests, but also for kids to experience competence in different areas.
  • Be sensitive to your kid’s needs. Although there is no evidence to suggest that more activities are bad for kids, if your child is expressing a dislike of particular activities or a desire to do less, talk to them about what is motivating those feelings. Think about how you might be able to balance their activities in a way that gives them opportunities to develop skills and participate in activities they enjoy while also having some time for play and socializing in safe and structured environments.
  • Look for programs that offer sequenced, active, focused and explicit activities in safe spaces where youth have opportunities to shape and take on meaningful roles in activities. All of these are program features that research has linked to positive learning experiences and outcomes for kids.
  • Pay attention to the adults. Relationships with caring adults are associated with positive outcomes for kids. High quality after-school activities can be environments where kids can form relationships with adults who can supplement the support that you give your child. And good adult leaders translate to better experiences for kids.
  • If you have a limited budget, look into local community-based organizations that offer sliding scale fees for families, and often waive fees altogether for families that need it.

Proper citation link for this blog post originally published on infoaboutkids.org:
Deutsch, N.L. (2016, September 07). After-school activities: Why are they important and what should you look for? Retrieved from http://infoaboutkids.org/blog/after-school-activities-why-are-they-important-and-what-should-they-look-like/

Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress: A Comprehensive Review

By Aleta L. Meyer, PhD

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Aleta L. Meyer is Senior Social Science Research Analyst, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Meyer’s work focuses on the translation of theory and empirical research across multiple health outcomes into effective and feasible prevention programs for communities. At Administration for Children and Families (ACF) this includes the translation of research on early adversity to ACF programs, community-based-participatory-research to evaluate early childhood programs within American Indian/Alaska Native communities, and positive youth development.

In March 2015 we featured the first of 4 inter-related reports on self-regulation and toxic stress published by the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy, titled Seven Key Principles Identified in New Report on Self-Regulation Development, by Meyer who conceived the project, led the effort, and is the project’s program officer.

Since that time, the project published a second report, A Review of Ecological, Biological, and Developmental Studies of Self-Regulation and Stressa literature review on the impact of early adversity and chronic stress on self-regulation development from birth to young adulthood.

This post by Meyer, highlights the recently released 3rd report, Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress Report 3: A Comprehensive Review of Self-Regulation Interventions from Birth Through Young Adulthood. Key authors: Desiree W. Murray, Katie self-reg-coverRosanbalm, Christina Christopoulos, Center for Child and Family Policy, Duke University.
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Itching For Scratch

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By Valerie N. Adams-Bass, PhD

Valerie N. Adams-Bass is an Assistant Professor of the Youth and Social Innovations (YSI) program in the Curry School of Education and a Youth-Nex Faculty Affiliate, at the University of Virginia.

Educational Technology, Ed-Tech is garnering considerable attention as public school districts increasingly adopt and integrate technology into day-to-day instruction. In 2015, I worked as a research fellow with the University of California Davis School of Education on the Digital Promise Pilot to Purchase Project.

Considered a “short-cycle” research project, we worked at a rapid pace for the first half of the year to learn as much as we could from six districts that ranged in size from 1,200-to-96,000 students about how they pilot and make purchasing decisions about ed-tech products. To collect data, I touched down in 4 time zones and visited 4 states; Alabama, California, Idaho, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. After a demanding travel schedule, I wrapped up my data collection and headed home.

Many of our findings were published in Pilot-to-Purchase, Piloting Ed-tech Products in k-12 Public Schools report and we created a “tool kit” of resources that are the result of recommendations included in the report. In steps two, three and four of the toolkit I discuss planning, training and implementation and data collection, all important components of piloting ed-tech tools. You’ll find videos discussing these steps throughout this blog, courtesy of DigitalPromise.org.

Adams-Bass Video One:
From Digital Promise.org
Planning
When planning a pilot, districts must clearly articulate what they are trying to accomplish and how they will collect evidence to make an informed decision. Pilots produce the most useful results when everyone involved can answer the question, “What does success look like?”
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Ethnicity and Health: How Can We Maximize Urban Green Space for Health Promotion?

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by Jenny Roe, Ph.D. and Alice Roe
Originally published on The Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health (UD/MH) blog, here. [Jenny Roe, Ph.D., is Director of the Center for Design and Health, School of Architecture, University of Virginia. Her recent talk, at our sponsored lecture series, can be found here.]

 

Access to parks and urban green space facilitates exposure to nature, exercise and social opportunities that have positive impacts on both physical and mental health. In the last decade, rates of migration have risen dramatically across the globe: by 2038, it’s expected that half of London’s residents will be of a black and minority ethnic origin (BME). Our cities, towns and communities are becoming increasingly multicultural and, yet there are inequalities. A recent report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission showed that in the UK, ethnic minorities are experiencing worse health outcomes. This is particularly the case for mental health: in 2012, the proportion of adults in England who were at risk of poor mental health was found to be higher among Pakistani/Bangladeshi and African/Caribbean/Black respondents than White respondents, and there were inequalities in accessing healthcare.

Hence, it is increasingly important that research reflects the diverse make-up of these populations. A new study has sought to better understand the differences in use and perception of urban green space among BME groups in the UK, and illustrated the need for park facilitators to accommodate the needs, attitudes and interests of our multicultural population.

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Time to Mobilize: Youth Development Scholars and the Movement for Black Lives

Arbeit Mimi_3601.jpgBy Mimi Arbeit, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow with Youth-Nex

The Movement for Black Lives is a coalition of more than 50 organizations fighting for Black liberation and for the end of state-sanctioned violence against Black people and communities.

The platform is divided into six sets of demands.

To examine how these demands relate to our work as scholars of youth development, we needn’t look any further than the first demand of the first set:

  1. An immediate end to the criminalization and dehumanization of Black youth across all areas of society including, but not limited to; our nation’s justice and education systems, social service agencies, and media and pop culture. This includes an end to zero-tolerance school policies and arrests of students, the removal of police from schools, and the reallocation of funds from police and punitive school discipline practices to restorative services.

This is not hypothetical. This is not up for empirical debate. This is happening, across all areas of society, as in, all the areas of youth lives that we study. And this is urgent.

“The urgency around Black Lives is not only relevant to scholars who list “race” among their research interests. It is relevant to ALL of us whose work touches our nation’s justice and education systems, social service agencies, and media and pop culture.”

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Restorative Practices and The 3 R’s – Restore, Rebuild, Reconnect

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This month’s blog is by Mark Marini, known to most as “Muggsie,” an Intervention Specialist at Albemarle High School. For the past 19 years, he has worked diligently in education to support struggling learners, both with behaviors and academics, by working both with students and teachers. He fills many roles at Albemarle High including: Intervention Specialist, English teacher, Special Education teacher, Mediator, School Based Intervention Co-Chair, Response To Intervention Specialist, AVID English teacher, and lifelong learner. Check out his blog, On Education.

Youth-Nex had the pleasure of meeting Muggsie at this year’s conference, “Youth of Color Matter: Reducing Inequalities Through Positive Youth Development.” We are grateful for his and fellow educators’ participation at the event.

There are some children in the world who were just born to be good. My daughter, who is now nine, seems to be one of those children. When she was small, still crawling around, my wife and I remember her going past an electrical outlet in our house. She started to reach towards it, and my wife gently said, “No; don’t touch.” She looked at my wife, looked at the outlet, and kept crawling. Several days later, she was crawling past the same outlet, and she stopped. Pointed at it and said, “No.” Then she continued crawling. For the most part, my wife and I did not have to teach her good behavior. It is as if she was born with a gene that helps her to do the right thing. But that does not mean she always does.


“My experience is that Restorative Practices, if implemented with the required support and training, can have a great impact on a community. This could be a school, a neighborhood, or even a family. With time and dedication, the gains for our next generation are great. For, while resolving conflicts with Restorative Practices, we teach children how to resolve future conflicts on their own.”


SomeWalkingAwaytimes, she needs additional support. She has a younger brother who tests her and her ability to make the right choices. In those moments when she is tested, she needs support to know how to act, and how, if she has caused harm, to fix it.

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Have Courage – The Connection Between Race and Trauma

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Lauren Mims is a Ph.D. student in the Curry School of Education’s educational psychology-applied developmental science program. She is also affiliated with Youth-Nex, and is a fellow with Virginia Educational Science Training (VEST). Mims interned at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans in the summer of 2015 and posts regularly on their blog. This article is reposted with the permission of the U.S. Dept of Education, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

I will never forget my experience working as a Mile 22 Hydration Station volunteer at the Boston Marathon when bombs exploded at the finish line. I can still picture the chaos that ensued moments after the bomb exploded at the finish line: the speeding of police cars from the security station behind me, the confused looks from runners who asked me what was happening, the screams from sprinters passing by as they called the names of fellow teammates, and the sobs of onlookers doubled over in fear and distress. I offered Gatorade and words of comfort to runners until the road in front of me was clear. Continue reading

Good Sports and PYD

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SuperStarters Tennis & Teamwork Activity

Ellen Markowitz is a social entrepreneur who uses sports to help youth become their “super selves.” She studied Sport Psychology and Positive Youth Development through sport at the Curry School of Education. She founded SuperStarters Sports which offers sports-based youth development programs and consulting. Markowitz received a BA from Yale University, an MBA from New York University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, in 2010.

Playing sports as a young girl, changed my life. When I was in high school, being part of a team helped me feel good about myself, and gave me tools to connect with others. So it has been my passion to help other girls feel connected and competent through physical activity and sport.

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SuperStarters Tennis & Teamwork Activity

In the ‘90’s, when I started working in the world of after school programs in New York City, there were no acronyms like “PYD” or “SBYD (sports-based youth development).” Practitioners and researchers understood that after school programs could provide many diverse opportunities — as safe spaces for youth to connect with peers and adults, as growth places for youth to explore new activities and identities, and as home bases where youth could learn skills and competencies that could open doors to unimagined futures.

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An Inside Look at AERA 2015

Chicago – Site of 2015 AERA. “ChicagoOverheadTiltShift”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Over the course of five days in mid April, thousands of researchers, teachers, and administrators came together to discuss current educational issues. Valerie Futch, Ph.D., gives us a look into the 2015 American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference held in Chicago this spring. aera jpeg

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Valerie Futch, Ph.D., is a Research Assistant Professor of Education, and Youth-Nex faculty member at the Curry School of Education. Her current work includes several projects that aim to improve understanding of youth experiences in the classroom, in after-school programs, and in relationship to adults. Futch is Program Chair for the American Educational Research Association Out-of-School Time (OST) SIG, American Educational Research Association, 2015 & 2016 Conferences. She was a Youth-Nex postdoctoral fellow from June 2011–August 2014.

Since I’m only one person and can’t be in multiple places at once, I followed a lot of the concurrent sessions on Twitter. If you want a great recap of the main points as well as links to lots of other resources, definitely check out the #AERA15 conversation.

The theme this year was “Toward Justice: Culture, Language, and Heritage in Education Research and Praxis” and many of the keynotes took up issues of achievement and opportunity gaps, disciplinary discrepancies, access to quality schools, and issues of education policy and reform. For a full listing of keynote speakers and information about their talks, visit the conference page.

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AERA OST-SIG Business Meeting Panel

I also had the opportunity to chair the program for the Out-of-School-Time Special Interest Group (OST-SIG). We had several roundtable and paper sessions, as well as a few posters. Some of the topics that were covered included discussions of what constitutes quality in after-school programs, how we can build collaborative opportunities in out-of-school-time settings, a full paper session documenting outcomes in these programs, and a look at global programs for youth. We also had a very productive business meeting with leading researchers in the OST field where we discussed the ESEA renewal debate in Congress and the importance of funding after-school programs. We are working on compiling all of the slides from our presenters and will post them on our SIG webpage for you to have access to in the next few weeks. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter to have access to these materials when we post them!

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Maxine Greene Memorial Program

There were somber moments as well, as several memorial sessions honored and mourned the loss of brilliant scholars. Two who were influential to me were Maxine Greene and Greg Dimitriadis. Both took up issues of art, aesthetics, justice, and philosophy of education. Their ideas fuel many educators and researchers and inspires us to create classrooms that spark creativity. The full rooms and heartfelt memories shared by former colleagues, students, and friends attests to their long-lasting influence on many in the education field.

The highlight of my trip was definitely the Saturday morning Youth Research Festival coordinated by AERA President Joyce King and Distinguished Professor Michelle Fine. Over ten teams of youth researchers from across the nation (and one group from South Africa!) presented their participatory research projects and highlighted the impact these projects had in their local communities. You can learn more about several of the projects by visiting the Public Science Project webpage. I’m looking forward to chairing the OST-SIG program again next year and encourage you to submit your work for presentation at the 2016 conference, to be held in Washington, DC.