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August 2011 Archives

What is the best way to foster self-directed learning?


Nicole-Pokorney.jpgThe 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."

Let's build upon the positive outcomes of camping


Rebecca-Meyer.jpgHappy birthday to camping! Over the past 150 years of organized camping in the United States, we as a field have done a good job of transforming camping into an educational experience in outdoor group living with measurable positive outcomes. Research shows that a well planned youth camp improves self-esteem, environmental awareness, peer relationships, and has other measurable positive outcomes. However, we often leave these outcomes at camp, and fail to build upon it. By thinking of camp as a stand-alone, situational learning experience, we miss an opportunity to capitalize on the gain. How can we make the most of what we work so hard to achieve at camp?

Sometimes youth workers got to go walkabout!


Joyce Walker, Youth Development Insight blogIn the 2008 film Australia, the love story between handsome Hugh Jackman and petrified Nicole Kidman is front and center. But youth workers who saw this film probably most remember Nullah, the half-Aboriginal boy caught between the white cattle-farming culture and the pull of his ancestral roots and way of life. Nullah survives in the "new" Australia but sets out on a walkabout -- a ritual Aboriginal journey -- to discover for himself what he needs to know from his land and his people.

Next month, 15 Minnesota youth workers will begin a year of Walkabout. It is a new fellowship program in which youth workers will rediscover the essence of the work they do and find innovative, practical ways to demonstrate for others their expertise, talents, accountability and commitment to high-quality youth work. Like Nullah, they'll trace old paths, learning of heroic deeds, sharing stories and connecting with other wise people. In walkabout tradition, they will leave something behind - not a stone or totem but writings of what they have learned.

Deborah-Moore.jpgWhat's wrong with praising youth? Actually, there's quite a bit wrong with it.

Countless research in the past 30 years shows overwhelming evidence that praising youth can harm their development. For example, in 1998, Mueller & Dweck wrote that praising intelligence can undermine their motivation and performance. While it may seem counter-intuitive and even downright unfriendly, the research is clear. Praise leads to unhealthy attitudes and behaviors in youth.

When we praise young people, it gives them the message that we -- adults -- are the judge of what comprises a good job. It does not allow youth to explore whether they think what they did was good and why. Praise takes the center of focus and control from youth and puts it back in the hands of adults.

Kimberly-Asche.jpgDo you as a youth professional mentor youth? Mentors can be critical to the success of careers and reduce high turnover in early career stages. Mentoring youth at a young age to find their passion can make a critical difference for them even before they enter the world of work.

Mentoring can be particularly valuable for youth who do not have a caring adult in their life besides their parents. An ongoing relationship with a caring adult is a positive indicator for youth development.).

Thumbnail image for nextgen-main-logo.jpgThe newest resource postings on the Next Gen home page indicate that there is momentum toward professionalizing the field of youth work with core competencies, ethics, and certifications. I am hearing a variety of reactions to this trend. Some believe it holds great promise for advancing our field because it validates our knowledge base, values our impact, and provides a measure of quality assurance. Others are hesitant or alarmed by the potential for reduced flexibility as a more formal structure develops rules and regulations that may inadvertently pose a barrier to high quality youth work.

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