This blog post isn't going to be research-filled or one of great insight and wisdom, but one that comes from my heart. As I sit to write this week, I am reminded that ten years ago, a student I worked with passed away in a sudden accident. He was a senior in high school. I was six years into full-time youth ministry and had been in the youth development field for over ten years. I was on a bus full of youth headed back to the church from a service project when I received the call. Nothing had prepared me for having to break the news to the high school students on the bus. When we arrived at the church, youth had started to gather and within two hours, over 200 youth congregated in the basement of the church.
Results tagged “Nicole Pokorney”
The more I research and study the facets of teaching, the more I am aware that we as educators don't always apply the same methods of reflection on ourselves as we do to the youth we serve. Do we study to be scholarly teachers? Do we understand the scholarship of teaching as it pertains to our professional development and promotion? Do we take the time to dive deep into reflection to become experts in our teaching?
A class I'm taking this spring has introduced me to the concept of the teaching philosophy. In my 20 years as a non-formal educator, I have thought a lot about how and why I teach, but I have now fully experienced the power of documenting and sharing that philosophy.
Why should non-formal educators understand and develop their own teaching philosophy?
Are you engaging youth in program evaluation? You may be wanting to do so, but having trouble finding a way to do it. In October, educators from our center and youth workers from several area youth programs embarked on a journey to explore innovative ways to engage youth in program evaluation. The Innovators on Youth Roles in Evaluation Cohort emerged as the laboratory for this exploration. The Innovators began to gather the information about Youth Participatory Evaluation (YPE) from our early meetings and Kim Sabo Flores' presentation that month, Transforming Youth/Adult Relationships through Research and Evaluation.
Have you seen the power of reflection in youth development? You can witness the power of reflection during the Minnesota State Fair. In the 4-H Building this week, more than 3,000 4-H'ers with general exhibits are going through conference judging, where they sit down with a judge and a group of peers to explain their project and be interviewed about it. Each exhibitor is asked to reflect on how they developed the project, along with technical details of the project area.
Reflection is an essential part of learning. In fact, reflection actually influences brain development.
One of the experts on this is Abigail Baird, a professor of psychology at Vassar College. Earlier this year, she delivered a presentation at the University of Minnesota's Howland Symposium on Trends in Adolescent Brain Development: Implications for Youth Practice and Policy. In it, she stressed the importance of encouraging youth to think of experiences and consequences of actions as a bodily response. What does your gut tell you?
In 2009, the youth population was recorded at nearly 3 billion strong, almost half of the world's population! Generation Y is technologically savvy, generous, diverse, and global. However, in his book, Generation iY, Tim Elmore takes a reality check on youth. Through interviews, literature and many other methods, his research describes youth as overwhelmed, overly connected, overprotected and overserved. Tim writes, "These kids really do desire to change the world; they just don't have what it takes to accomplish their lofty dreams". His bottom line? Adults are not prepared to lead youth into the future!
The Great Minnesota Get-Together is in full swing! As I walk through the 4-H Building, exhibits display the intense work of youth from across the state. These youth have researched, created and implemented more than 3,000 projects covering a range of topics that amazes me. The reason for this impressive variety is the imagination and self-direction of the youth themselves - the glory of 4-H projects is the self-directed learning that takes place.
What is self-directed learning? Maurice Gibbons, one of the leading thinkers of SDL, defines it as when "the individual takes the initiative and the responsibility for what occurs. Individuals select, manage, and assess their own learning activities, which can be pursued at any time, in any place, through any means, at any age."
"Service learning" is a term that is overused, misunderstood and under-implemented. Too often, secondary and higher education compartmentalize service learning into standalone courses, reducing the benefits to the learner and the effectiveness of service learning pedagogy.
The National Service Learning Clearinghouse describes this mode of learning: "Service-Learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities."
Youth engagement is the essence of deep, enriching learning in any experience. The physical environment in which that engagement happens does not necessarily matter; but the atmosphere matters very much. In fact, it is a key factor.
How do we, as educators, create environments where informal learning is supported, encouraged and fostered? What are the characteristics of educators who cultivate fertile learning environments?