As we know, afterschool is not new. It did not begin with 21 st century learning centers or Proposition 49.
Ever since the states enacted laws limiting child labor and making education compulsory…
Out-of-school programs targeting young people have been an essential child development institution in this country since the late 1800’s
Robert Halpern’s book, Making Play Work offers a fascinating history of afterschool in America. One of the things he highlights is afterschool’s ongoing search for identity.
In 1992, A Matter of Time was published. This represented a coming of age for afterschool. It brought the importance of out-of-school time into America’s consciousness. The study challenged us to address both the risks and the opportunities of the out-of-school hours. It highlighted the large percentage of waking hours young people spend outside of the classroom.
It also made us aware of a spike in crime involving young people as victims or perpetrators between the hours of 3-4pm. These facts became cornerstones of the afterschool movement.
As a movement, we sought to address the issues of safety and risky behavior by going to scale. This chart shows the rapid expansion of federally funded 21 st Century Community Learning Centers. State funding for afterschool programs in California followed a similar trajectory with the passing of Prop 49. While we have worked to address the issues of risk, now is the time to consider the opportunities that should define afterschool programs.
Since the publication of A Matter of Time, we have a wealth of new research on learning that will likely join decades of previous research that has been largely ignored by education. However, as afterschool leaders, we don’t have to ignore this new knowledge.
Lessons from new brain research include: Memory and multiple pathways. Learning and memory recall of new knowledge is strengthened through different exposures (touching, seeing, hearing, and doing). Collaborative learning. Knowledge should be socially centered, as collaborative learning provides the best means to explore new information. Thematic instruction. Young people are able to learn best and apply new knowledge when information is chunked and integrated from different subject areas. For instance, if we want to learn about Brazil, we can incorporate history, biology, the arts, culinary cuisine, and sports. Emotions matter. Young people learn best in environments where they feel safe, relaxed, and free from anxiety. A positive emotional state is essential to acquiring new knowledge and focusing the attention of the individual. Involvement of the learner. Young people can be intrinsically motivated to actively participate when they are given some ownership over implementation practice and assessment.
Perhaps closer to home is the research by Reed Larson where he looked across settings of where young people spend their time and searched for times they were experiencing high motivation and concentration. He did this by asking adolescents to respond to journal questions whenever they were beeped during the day.
He looked at young people’s motivation in the classroom, which scored in negative numbers while showing limited concentration.
He looked at times when young people were hanging out with friends beyond the watchful eye of adults. He found positive motivation, but again limited reports of concentration.
The highest profile of motivation and concentration was when young people were pursuing interests in the arts and hobbies within youth organizations. I’m not claiming that young people should experience high levels of motivation and concentration across their entire day. But when during the day or week will a young person have this experience? I and other afterschool leaders across the country believe that these experiences are critical and afterschool is this time.
If afterschool is more than a time of day or a funding stream, then what is it? Now is the time to name and claim what we are about and ways that should define the afterschool experience. Doing so will both motivate and focus the field of afterschool. Afterschool should feature opportunities for young people to have formative learning experiences and build new knowledge and skills not offered in school or at home.
Some examples of features that should define afterschool include: A focus on skills young people need in order to learn and be productive within groups or teams Hands on or experiential learning The opportunity to build skills while moving toward a sense of mastery, and pride of accomplishment Learning that promotes inquiry and is based on young people’s interests in the real world There are those that say that these things are already cited as best practices and appear on assessments of program quality. But I believe we need to be more explicit in defining afterschool in these terms. There are also those who argue that naming these things would raise the bar for a field that is already challenged by capacity issues. However, I believe that by being more explicit, we can effectively focus our capacity building to improve program performance in these areas.
Note to Michael: This is an opportunity for you to name The Best of Both Worlds as an effort to explicitly define afterschool or add your own explanation of how this publication expresses your beliefs in regards to the above remarks.
I leave my colleagues with the following questions: Is now the time to describe the kind of learning that should define afterschool? What are these critical features or approaches to learning?
How do we best build a field consensus across California and the nation? What are the implications for messaging and policy, technical assistance and training, and program evaluation? These are not questions that can fully be answered during this session, but our presence today represents a good opportunity to start this discussion.
Learning and the Brain <ul><li>Memory and multiple pathways </li></ul><ul><li>Collaborative learning </li></ul><ul><li>Thematic instruction </li></ul><ul><li>Emotions matter </li></ul><ul><li>Involvement of the learner </li></ul>
Toward a Psychology of Positive Youth Development <ul><li>Research Paper: Reed Larson, Univ. Illinois </li></ul><ul><li>Publication: American Psychologist, Jan 2000 </li></ul><ul><li>Study: Developing Initiative as an Exemplar Learning Experience. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Intrinsic Motivation & Concentration </li></ul></ul></ul>
Features that should define afterschool <ul><li>Skills that promote collaboration </li></ul><ul><li>Hands-on learning </li></ul><ul><li>Opportunity to build skills, move toward mastery, pride in accomplishment </li></ul><ul><li>Learning that promotes inquiry </li></ul>
<ul><li>Is now the time to describe the kind of learning that should define afterschool? </li></ul><ul><li>If so, how do we engage youth voice? </li></ul><ul><li>What are these critical features or approaches to learning? </li></ul>Questions to Consider
<ul><li>How do we best build a field consensus across California and the nation? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the implications for: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>messaging and policy, </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>technical assistance and training, </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>program evaluation? </li></ul></ul></ul>Questions to Consider