What does personal development have to do with professional development?
I've had many people ask me some version of this question.
In other words, why bother working on myself? I should spend my time working on my job skills, my staff, my responsibilities, my "stuff."
And, okay, I get that. Tending to others, as I've pointed out, gives me a purr for sure.
But here's the thing that I've come to realize (slowly and begrudgingly and after being repeatedly put in situations to remind me of it):
If you tend only to others and neglect yourself, you will start to wither and die on the inside.
What kind of flowers do we love?
We love flowers in full bloom, showering us with their full lush petals, their beautiful fragrance, their delicate stems. Not flowers that have lost all their petals and have shriveled up for the winter, leaving behind a crisp brown stick of a reminder of the beauty that once was.
Okay, harsh maybe.
But you get my point?
Full, lush beautiful flowers are absorbing the gifts of the sun and the soil and the rain and the bees and the butterflies and the hummingbirds and the loving gardeners that surround them.
So should you.
When was the last time you asked yourself: What do I need?
What do you need?
Personal development is about figuring that out.
Personal development says: hey, there, beautiful flower... time to think about yourself for a sec, here. Do you need more water? Do you need more warmth? Do you need company? What do you need?
The more you listen to the answers to that question, and—more importantly—the more you heed the answers to that question, the more fully you will bloom. The more fully you will be in bloom.
And do you know who that's good for? You, obviously, because you start to feel better...great... beautiful.
But everyone else too.
And there is the big AH HA! Of it all. The more you tend to YOU, the more you ultimately are tending to OTHERS.
Sometimes you have to be selfish to be giving.
Sometimes you have to look inward to be able to give outward.
Hey there beautiful flower. You need some water? Ask for it, please. We'll all be better for it.
How can you tend to you today?
For breakfast I had coffee. Lots of coffee.
Planning a new program or improvements to an existing program usually involves setting objectives, planning activities, and other critical tasks. In the excitement of planning something new, it can seem like a buzzkill to ask, "What could go wrong?"
Several months ago, I started asking this question consistently with staff teams in my division of the Ann Arbor Public Schools. We discussed it when we were planning a kick-off meeting for a district-wide initiative, when we were considering a major program change on a tight time frame, and when we were decided whether or not to cancel programs because of a forecasted snow storm. (Yes, I'm writing this in Michigan!)
I've found that staff teams benefit enormously from adding this question to the planning process. Sometimes staff have concerns but don't know exactly how or when to share them. Other times, "nay-say-ers" derail planning by peppering the conversation with all the detailed problems that could arise. Using a neutral discussion framework that's built into the planning process provides assurance to all staff that their concerns will be heard -- of course, it also helps prevent or minimize future problems.
I like using the Potential Problem Analysis (PPA) framework that's available from the non-profit TregoEd. (I work in a school district and have been trained in all four of TregoEd's collaborative decision-making tools.)
Broadly, a PPA helps you prepare for problems that could impact your program's success. It's helpful when you're implementing a new program, planning for a significant event, or making program changes.
Conducting a PPA is simple. All you need is a facilitator, your planning team, and some chart paper for recording responses.
1. First, ask the team "What could go wrong with our plans?" Ask the team to keep their answers succinct -- it's not necessary to go into every detail or repeat answers.
2. List people's answers on the chart paper, leaving space between each answer. The facilitator should let staff generate as many as they want, but don't allow the discussion to get too far out there (i.e. it's unlikely that aliens will land and disrupt the program).
3. Go back to the top of the list. For each potential problem, ask: "How could we prevent this from happening?" The answers often turn into specific action steps.
4. Return to the top of the list. Ask: "If this [potential problem] happens, what will we do to minimize the negative impact?"
5. If you end up with numerous potential problems, the team can prioritize 3-4 that are most important to prevent. Others can be worked on as time/opportunity permits.
6. For each potential problem on the short list, ask "What action steps will occur, Who will do them, and by When?"
I've used this process many times, sometimes as a full-blown process like what is outlined above, and sometimes just talking through the essential questions. The key thing is for the team to know ahead of time that you're going to have this conversation. This assures everyone (naysayers, too!) that there will be time to consider and plan for potential problems.
Using this simple question has improved program and event quality and decreased stress for staff at my organization. Hint: you can use it when making life decisions as well. Happy problem preventing!
For breakfast, I had an egg, turkey bacon, and cheese sandwich on an English muffin.
Under normal circumstances, I'm not one to be political in a public and professional forum, but really, I'm in need of some writing therapy. Every day, I read the latest news story about another negative appointment to the President- elect's cabinet. Who knew there were so many people who both seem to despise the role of government AND also want to lead it? While alarming, those aren't even the most upsetting parts of my daily doldrums. What really brings me down are the escalating stories about racist attacks on a whole array of people who are part of the fabric and heart of this country. Apparently freed by Donald Trump's purposefully divisive and unimaginably offensive comments, far too many people are letting lose what they really think.
To battle my dark cloud, I have three shining lights that brighten my day:
2) Expanded learning programs and staff who make a difference in the lives of young people.
3) The amazing young people who will be that difference.
The day after the election, the Partnership for Children & Youth co-hosted a public seminar on social-emotional learning in Sacramento. Driving up from Oakland that morning, I couldn't think past the previous night's unbelievable disappointment. I also assumed there would be zero attendance at the seminar.
Much to my surprise, the room was packed with energetic people, eager to be positive, forward-thinking and impactful. Love California! (If you haven't already, please read this inspiring statement from the California Legislature.) The conversation about social-emotional learning was certainly timely – what stronger call to action than the election of a person who lacks the most basic skills around self-management, social awareness, growth mindset, etc. As you can imagine, the conversation was rich. It focused on the educational imperative to go beyond testing and academics, and to intentionally and effectively support students in building the skills they will need to be responsible, inclusive and active citizens. These citizens – with stronger critical thinking skills and experience as leaders - can work together to build and maintain a positive community for everyone.
Expanded learning was a primary player in this conversation. With deep roots in youth development, expanded learning programs help young people understand their potential and reach for it. Staff, like you, are deeply committed to creating safe spaces, giving kids the opportunity to learn and practice skills, encouraging their ideas and actions, and teaching them about their impact on each other and the world. The essence of youth worker skill is captured in the CDE's quality standards that clearly define what we're doing to make young people feel "I am, I belong, I can" – the essence of SEL skills as defined by your peers in "Student Success Comes Full Circle." Thank you, ELO staff. You are nurturing the next and better generation.
My 16-year-old daughter cried the night Trump won. But, she woke up in the morning with a smile and the realization that she'll be 18 and eligible to vote in the mid-term election. And then there's my favorite map from the election – showing the beautiful blue voting patterns of 18 to 25-year-olds. Watch out, Trump! There are a lot of smart, extremely motivated young women and men eager to mess with your agenda. Amazing young people who will be the difference!
For breakfast, I've been adding extra sugar in my coffee, hoping to get rid of the bitter taste in my mouth.
Based on personal experience and observation, I want to discuss risk-taking and transitions and the ability to recognize that this process is part of being creative and uncomfortable. This isn't just for artists, it is for the creative youth worker, entrepreneur and/or leader. What we do with and for youth each day requires creativity and innovative thinking: we are card-carrying problem solvers!
I want to discuss reinventing yourself. Sometimes this process is otherwise known as F E A R.
I want to talk about taking a leap off a cliff -- where you feel like you're over the edge, hanging by a thread of a rope, and there's no one out there but you to figure out how you're going to pull yourself up. You have to decide if you're going to either fall into the deepest abyss or pull yourself up to safer ground. What is the question that you ask yourself in that moment?
What is that you're fighting for? I want to discuss being courageous enough to go against the grain and experience what it feels like to sit in the uncomfortable zone -- the space where you feel upside down. I want to discuss what happens when you stay in that space long enough to be pushed to the edge of your limitations, where you become so stretched that you have no choice but to keep fighting or let go. I want to discuss letting go of all the things that hold you back. And how, once you let them go, you are catapulted forward -- otherwise known as a breakthrough, or simply as FREE. Let's take that leap into the unknown in order to get to the next level.
It is my belief and experience that risk + fear + courage = change.
While none of this rhetoric is new, I think the process is always new when you're entering the next stage of your life. You may hear this message differently today because you aren't where you were last year or last week or even yesterday. Whether your challenge is personal, physical, intellectual, or professional, I believe that in order to progress to the next level a struggle must occur (whether it be caused by internal conflict or external factors). Your colleagues, family or friends may not see your choices as beneficial or 'making sense.' But the fact is, it's your journey, it belongs to you. Sometimes the right choices are not always what they seem to be at the time -- but there is always a reason for those choices and a lesson to be practiced.
We know these as teachable moments.
As a youth service provider you will be faced with constant challenges and obstacles. The more risks you take, the more creativity you push forward -- whether the challenges come from systemic issues in the school district, or from other teachers, or from parents, or your students. It's vital to remember the mission: working with young people to inspire them, to help them understand their possibilities, and sometimes even to save their lives. Don't let the naysayers hold you back from your mission, even when others don't understand your methods or goals. Stay strong and find your true self in your work. Remember, when you're feeling frustrated and cannot seem to break through, it's time to dig deeper into your ideas and methods -- think outside the box, get out of your own way, and fight creatively for the innovative work you do.
Persistence, passion and ritual are the keys to building path for our kids, and for your own future as a source of inspiration.
By the way, FEAR can also mean:
Let me conclude with references to three of my favorite thought-leaders. I follow these energetic daredevil coaches for action and inspiration, especially when I feel apprehensive about making choices for the methods and approaches I use. I look to these stimulating entrepreneurs who are making waves across the globe -- coaching adults and mentoring young people. Enjoy!
For breakfast, I am STILL having the same protein shake, with bananas, celery, carrots, green leafy stuff, almond butter, frozen fruit and I throw my vitamins in the Nutra-Bullet (tips from my wellness coach Jeffrey L. Jordan). #ritual #risk #change #transformation
The impact of yoga and mindfulness for children has become a topic of research and discussion. The findings in many studies are that yoga supports children with focus, concentration, self-regulation and coping with stress. Children and adolescents are faced with more stressors than ever before such as the pressures of standardized tests, social relationships and peer pressures, less time for physical activity, more time in front of technology devices (which can agitate the nervous system) and an overwhelming amount of sensory stimulus in the world around them. Yoga is being incorporated into school and after school programming for children in order to create a calmer and peaceful environment for learning. While there is no question that the practice of mindfulness for children has great benefits, what about the educators who work with children in the school and after school settings? Educators face the pressures of standardized testing, compliance with Common Core standards, managing children with challenging behaviors without the proper training and support, limited staffing, high expectations from parents and/or administration and overwhelming amounts of paperwork. Often times educators have a tremendous amount of dedication and commitment to the children they work with but become burnt out from high levels of stress, little recognition for their tireless efforts and a feeling of being overwhelmed with the many challenges and frustrations they face as educators. What happens to educators when they become overstressed and how does that impact the children they work with? The impacts of stress not only affect our physiological state but they also impact our mood, behavior and overall functioning in life.
When we are in a constant state of stress we can develop health issues to include digestive disorders, autoimmune conditions, heart conditions or a general sense of a lack of well-being. We can become agitated, angry frustrated, depressed or anxious and may be triggered more easily. Often times high levels of stress can lead to more impulsive or destructive behaviors such as over-eating, drinking, isolating from others, developing unhealthy relationships, inconsistent sleep patterns and a lack of self-care.
In order to teach healthy minded children, we must have healthy minded teachers. As educators we create the space for our students. If we are in a stressed or agitated state, this is the energy we bring to our students and this is the overall tone we set for our classroom or program environment. In reality, we have very little control over the "system" in which we work in and more often than not we may not be able to change the people or circumstance we are in but we can change the way in which we react to the stressors in our lives.
Here are 5 Stress Management Techniques for Educators to bring more peace and calm to themselves and the students they work with.
1. Begin and end the day with the mantra – "I am grateful for"
We can often get caught up in all of the injustices of our life or the things that are going wrong and causing frustration. When we remind ourselves of what we have to be grateful for it shifts our attention from what is lacking to what we have to be thankful for. Even the smallest statement of gratitude can shift the energy from negative to positive. Practice this mantra as you are driving to work and before bed each day. There is always something to be grateful for! Celebrating even the smallest accomplishments of your students or the children you work with can be a reminder to you of just how important the work you do is.
2. Check in with your BODY and focus your attention on your BREATHING
When we become stressed we can tend to move into more of a chest breathing which can escalate the sympathetic response or fight/flight/freeze response. Although we do not have control over circumstances in life, we can control our breath. When you start to feel a sense of agitation or anxiety, check in with the sensations in your body, then take 3 deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the nose (or out through the mouth if that is more accessible). When you breathe in feel a sense of expansion in the diaphragm and the areas of your body where you feel tension, when you exhale release the tension with your breath.
3. "Check In" and Do a simple Yoga Pose
Doing yoga does not mean that you have to take an hour to go to a yoga class. One or two poses a day can keep us in tune to the tensions in our bodies. When we become stressed our bodies are often the first to respond to the stress by tensing or holding stress in certain areas of the body. Often times due to a combination of stress and poor physical posture from working at a computer or sitting at a desk, many educators experience back pain, neck and shoulder pain and/or tension headaches. Here is a simple yoga pose that can help alleviate tension in the body, release stress and soothe the nervous system.
Seated forward bend: Sit on the edge of your chair in front of a table or desk. Make sure feet have contact with the floor and knees are at a 90-degree angle (if not place a book underneath your feet). Lengthen your spine as you lean forward and place your head on your desk/table (a folded hand towel under the forehead is suggested). Make sure the back of your neck is long. Bring awareness to the space between your shoulder blades and breathe your breath deeply into the backside of your body between your shoulder blades (breathe in through nose and out through nose or out through mouth if that is more accessible). With the inhalation, think of expansion and with the exhalation release tension and worry with the breath. Stay here for at least 5 breaths.
4. Take your breaks!
Each system is different in terms of how many breaks you are allotted in a day and for how long but the reality is that often educators choose to work through their breaks, including their lunch breaks. The reasoning often being, "I have too much work to do". The truth is, no one is going to tell you to take your breaks so it is in your hands to take that time to reset. Leave your classroom or program environment and have your lunch outside or in another space away from your "work space". These moments of "resetting" are crucial to the restoration of the body and the nervous system. Taking a break away from your workspace for lunch or snacks also supports a more mindful experience with eating which supports healthier digestion.
5. Ground Yourself
This may sound funny but it can be quite effective in reducing stress. Make a commitment to set aside 5 minutes a day to take your shoes off and stand in the grass or on the earth barefoot. There is a reason why we call the earth the ground and why we use the word "grounded" to describe a feeling. Anxiety and stress is what we call Vata energy. Vata energy has an airy quality, which is in constant motion. By taking our shoes off and connecting to the earth it creates a greater sense of grounding, provides proprioceptive feedback to the nervous system and literally "roots" us and offers a more stable and grounded sense of being.
Try to make these activities and integral part of your day and practice them daily. It takes time to establish a routine but continual practice will eventually make your routine a habit. Notice how you are feeling before starting your routine and check in with yourself a week later to see if there is a difference in your mood and energy. Then notice if this daily routine has affected your interactions with the kids you work with or others in your work environment. Notice if this calmer, less stressed version of you has a more calming effect on the children around you. Better yet – teach your students or the children you work with some calming activities and practice them together! You'll be amazed what a difference it makes!
For breakfast I ate an Acai bowl with fresh strawberries, blueberries, gluten-free granola and shredded coconut for breakfast!
Photo credit: Tim Hardy
Now that we are a few weeks into the school year, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how to get into the groove. We have weathered the lead up to program start up and are now several weeks in...so, how do we turn the corner, how to we get ourselves on track for success throughout the year, how do we get in tothe groove? (play the Madonna song for inspiration!)
Here are some of my strategies...
1. Celebrate start up success. Celebrate getting through start up activities and acknowledge yourself and those you are working with who are working hard to make the program a success.
2. Get on a more regular schedule. We can all do some crazy hours trying to get everyone hired, screened, trained, and settled in. I admit I need to practice this one more but I think it is helpful to start planning for a schedule that will be manageable for the rest of the year.
3. Seek inspiration. Now that the pace of back to school is winding down, seek out ways to stay inspired throughout the year. You can take class, start a book you have been wanting to read, set up a standing lunch date with a mentor, or spend some time with Ted Talks, whatever gets you in a productive zone.
4. Evaluate your workload management. Do a time study on yourself and encourage others you work with to do the same. You may need re-calibrate from start-up mode to make sure you are allotting appropriate time for the important components of your work.
5. Measure your progress. Plan opportunities throughout the year for your team to revisit progress towards goals and evaluate program quality. This is key to keeping the groove going and ensuring your and your team's motivation remains high.
How do you get into the groove?
For breakfast I had a boring piece of toast but some much more exciting pineapple and a really amazing and needed coffee.
The third issue of the Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities (JELO) has arrived! This spring issue launched at the 2016 BOOST conference and features a conversation about quality programming in afterschool, an article on the role that social emotional learning can play to close the achievement and learning gaps, and an article focusing on the links between professional development and quality STEM learning experiences. You can visit the first week's installment about social emotional learning, last week's piece with a researcher and practitioner conversation. Today's blog features a study conducted by Deborah Lowe Vandell, Ph.D., Rahila Simzar, Ph.D., Pilar O'Cadiz, Ph.D. and Valerie Hall, Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine.
This project was supported by funding from the S. D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, and the Samueli Foundation in collaboration with the Afterschool Division of the California Department of Education. The views expressed in this paper are those of the named authors and are not necessarily the views of the project funders.
This study reports the results from a STEM learning initiative involving 96 public funded afterschool programs in California. Relations between professional development, staff beliefs, quality of STEM learning activities, and changes in student outcomes were examined over an academic year (2013-2014). STEM professional development experiences were linked positively to program staff beliefs about the value of STEM learning, which were linked to the quality of STEM learning activities reported at the programs, which were linked to several student outcomes, including gains in student work habits, math efficacy, science efficacy, and science interests. These findings support the utility of STEM professional development in afterschool settings.
Keywords: afterschool, STEM learning, professional development, staff beliefs
Findings From an Afterschool STEM Learning Initiative: Links to Professional Development and Quality STEM Learning Experiences
Improving the quality of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education has become a national priority (Dabney et al., 2012; Krishnamurthi, Ballard, & Noam, 2014; National Research Council, 2011, 2012; Simzar & Domina, 2014). Although the majority of these efforts during the K-12 period have focused on improving in-school STEM learning, there is a growing awareness of the potential role of afterschool programs in promoting STEM learning (Bell, Lewenstein, Shouse, & Feder, 2009; National Research Council, 2015). However, efforts to introduce ongoing and high quality STEM experiences in out-of-school (OST) settings face serious challenges. One challenge is that a substantial proportion of afterschool staff members have limited education and training in STEM subjects (Vandell & Lao, 2015). A second challenge is high staff turnover (Vandell & Lao, 2015). A third challenge is structural barriers—many afterschool programs have weak relationships with host schools, which limit programs' access to STEM learning materials and opportunities to coordinate activities with classroom teachers (Bennett, 2015).
The purpose of the present study is to examine the effects of an afterschool professional development initiative in the State of California to determine (a) if professional development activities are linked to program staff beliefs about the importance of STEM learning; (b) if, in turn, staff beliefs are related positively to quality of STEM-related activities in the afterschool classrooms; and (c) finally, if the quality of STEM-related experiences is associated with changes in student STEM-related dispositions over an academic year.
A Compelling Need for Staff Professional Development
Although program staff are charged with leading engaging and meaningful learning activities at afterschool programs, their education and training is typically more limited than K-12 classroom teachers. K-12 classroom teachers have four-year college degrees as a minimum, and the majority (56%) have a master's degree or more (U.S. Department of Education, 2010). In contrast, less than half of afterschool staff members have four-year degrees and less than 20% have a master's degree (Nee, Howe, Schmidt, & Cole, 2006). In addition, K-12 classroom teachers complete hundreds of hours of pedagogical training and supervised field experiences prior to becoming the instructor of record in their classrooms. Staff members in afterschool programs do not typically undergo this type of preparation (Nee et al., 2006).
Thus, while many afterschool staff members bring energy and commitment to their work, there is a great need to expand staff development opportunities for further education and training in the field, especially if programs seek to expand their offerings to include enriched STEM (Dennehy & Noam, 2005). The present study examines the effects of one such effort to offer professional development at multiple afterschool sites. Here, professional development refers to a diverse set of activities such as trainings offered by other organizations, informal and formal meetings among staff members, meetings with classroom teachers, and coaching by internal and external advisors.
Context for the Present Study
There are a growing number of public and private efforts to create meaningful STEM learning opportunities in afterschool contexts (Bevan & Michalchik, 2013; Krishnamurthi et al., 2014). Included in these efforts is the work of 17 statewide afterschool networks that have sought to coordinate efforts to support afterschool STEM learning (National Research Council, 2015). The present study focuses on one such initiative that was developed by the California Afterschool Network and a consortium of foundations. This statewide initiative was a three-year project aimed at increasing STEM learning opportunities in publicly funded afterschool programs serving low-income, ethnically diverse students.
Figure 1 presents the logic model underlying this state-level initiative. The logic model is sequential, with Professional Development and Curricula Innovation support represented in the box on the left side of Figure 1.
Figure 1. Logic model for the out-of-school time STEM initiative. Professional Development and Curricula Innovation support is represented by the box on the left. Professional development was expected to yield improvements in (a) Staff Beliefs about the value of STEM learning and feelings of efficacy when implementing STEM activities, and (b) Program Offerings (the quantity and quality of STEM activities offered by programs). Staff Beliefs and Program Offerings were expected to be mutually reinforcing, as illustrated by the bi-directional arrow between the two circles. Staff Beliefs and Program Offerings were then expected to yield improvements in Student Outcomes, the diamond box on the far right of the figure. Student outcomes included student reported work habits, student reports of efficacy in math and science, science interest, and career aspirations in the STEM domain.
Professional development was expected to yield improvements in (a) staff beliefs about the value of STEM learning and feelings of efficacy when implementing STEM activities, and (b) the quantity and quality of STEM activities offered by programs. Staff beliefs and program offerings were expected to be mutually reinforcing, as illustrated by the bi-directional arrows. Staff beliefs and program activities were then expected to yield improvements in student outcomes, the box on the far right of the figure. Student outcomes included student reported work habits, feelings of efficacy in math and science, science interest, and career aspirations in the STEM domain. These student dispositions are important predictors of students' likelihood to pursue STEM topics in the future (Bell et al., 2009; Bevan & Michalchik, 2013).
A total of 601 afterschool program sites, located in five of California's afterschool regions, participated in the STEM learning initiative in 2013-14. These five regions were originally selected in 2012-13, following a statewide competition. As part of the initiative, programs received technical assistance from Regional Innovation Support Providers (RISPs) who facilitated access to high quality staff training materials and curricular resources and who assisted partnerships among programs and support agencies. In this paper, we focus on the effectiveness of the initiative in 2013-14 at 96 program sites with all five regions represented by at least eight program sites.
A research team from the University of California, Irvine was responsible for overseeing data collection. Surveys were administered to program staff and to students using an online format. Program staff also reported the quantity and quality of STEM activities on a daily basis using STEM Activity Documentation Forms.
Program staff surveys. Online surveys were designed based on studies and administered to 178 staff in fall of 2013 and to 90 staff in spring of 2014 in which program staff reported various demographic characteristics (gender, age, ethnicity), educational background (highest level obtained), professional experience, and job tenure in their current position (Noam & Sneider, 2010). Staff reported their professional development activities, which included how often they attended (1) general professional development training, (2) STEM-related trainings, (3) staff meetings on general topics, and (4) staff meetings on STEM topics in the past academic year. Staff also reported how often they met with classroom teachers to discuss STEM concepts being taught in school (Vandell, Warschauer, O'Cadiz, & Hall, 2008). A complete list of these measures and corresponding items are provided in Appendix A.
Staff reported their beliefs about the value of STEM learning for youth and their feelings of confidence (efficacy) when implementing STEM learning activities (adapted from Vandell et. al., 2008). Staff beliefs about the value of STEM learning for youth was assessed with seven items (e.g., "I think students look forward to coming to the afterschool program when we have STEM activities going on"). Staff efficacy for implementing STEM activities was assessed with seven items asking staff to report on their sense of competency leading STEM activities (e.g., "I feel confident about teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and/or Mathematics in the afterschool program"). These constructs were scored on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). A complete list of items and internal consistencies of the scales for pre- and post- surveys, which were all acceptable, are provided in Appendix B.
Student surveys. Online surveys based on literature were administered to 3,738 students in fall 2013 and to 1,871 students in spring 2014. Students self-reported their work habits, math efficacy, science efficacy, social competencies, science interest, and science career aspirations (Noam & Sneider, 2010; Tyler-Wood, Knezek, & Christensen, 2010; Vandell, et al., 2008). Students' work habits were assessed using six items (e.g., "I follow the rules in my classroom"). Both efficacy measures (math and science) were assessed using four items each (e.g., "I am good at math/science"). Science interest was assessed using 22 items (e.g., "Science is something I get excited about"). Social competencies were assessed using seven items (e.g., "I work well with other kids") and students' science career aspirations were assessed using four scales (e.g., "I will have a career in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics"). These constructs were scored on a 4-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). A complete list of items and internal consistencies of the scales for pre- and post- surveys ranging from acceptable to excellent, are provided in Appendix C.
STEM Activity Documentation Forms. These forms were developed by the authors to document specific activities at program sites. Staff recorded the following information about each STEM activity that was implemented: (a) date and duration of the activity; (b) number of students participating in the activity; (c) name of activity and STEM content area addressed; and (d) 4-point ratings of the level of student engagement, level of challenge, and overall assessment of success of the activity. A total of 2,457 STEM activities were reported during 2013-14.
A total of 178 program staff at 78 sites reported their background characteristics. As shown in Table D1 (Appendix D includes Tables 1 through 8), a substantial majority of the staff was female (72%). The staff was ethnically diverse: 46% were Hispanic, 25% were white, 11% were Asian and 6% were African American. The staff was relatively young, with almost half (49%) being between 18 and 25 years, and 30% being between 26 and 35 years. The educational background of the staff varied widely. One-fourth reported having completed a four-year college degree, and 10% reported having post-graduate education. The remainder (65%) had less than a college degree, with the highest proportion (1/3) reporting "some college."
Staff reported diverse professional experience. The majority (61%) of the program staff reported having experience working in an afterschool setting (e.g., leading activities and/or working directly with youth) and approximately half (51%) of the program staff had experience working as a classroom aide or teaching assistant. Finally, staff reported the length of employment at the program site. Here, 29% reported working at the respective program sites for less than six months. Almost half of the program staff (47%) reported having worked at their program site for less than three years.
Surveys were completed by 3,738 students during the fall 2013 data collection. These students were fairly evenly divided by gender (49% male and 51% female). The majority of the students were in elementary school, with most of the students (72%) being in Grades 3 through 5. Twenty percent of the students who provided surveys were in middle school. Less than 1% of the students were in high school (Grades 9 through 12).
Types of STEM Activities That Occurred in the Afterschool Programs
A total of 2,457 STEM activities were reported by 84 staff at 53 program sites. As shown in Table D2, the majority (55%) of STEM activities focused on science. Typically, 28 students participated in each activity. Activities were between 30 and 59 minutes in duration. The majority of the reported activities involved students who were in third, fourth, and fifth grade (46%, 54%, and 47%, respectively). Staff reported that students were "mostly" engaged during 36% of the activities implemented and that they were "very" engaged during 56% of the activities implemented (an average of 3.48 on a rating scale from 1 to 4). Lastly, staff reported that the activities implemented went "mostly" well approximately 38% of the time and "very" well approximately 53% of the time (an average of 3.43 on a rating scale from 1 to 4).
Professional Development as it Relates to Staff Beliefs About STEM Learning
Our first substantive analysis asks if specific types of professional development were related to staff beliefs about the importance of STEM learning for youth and to staff feelings of efficacy when implementing STEM activities. Tables D3 and D4 present standardized regression coefficients predicting staff beliefs about the importance of STEM learning and efficacy for implementing STEM activities, respectively.
In Table D3, Models 1, 2, 3, and 4 examine associations between specific types of professional development activities and staff beliefs about the importance of STEM learning. Model 1 indicates that higher levels of staff training during the past academic year is associated with a .32σ increase in staff-reported beliefs about the importance of STEM learning. Model 2 indicates that a one-σ higher level of STEM staff attending training during the past academic year is associated with a .29σ increase in staff-reported beliefs about the importance of STEM learning. Models 3 indicates that a one-σ increase in the frequency of staff meetings to discuss program issues is associated with a .29σ increase in staff-reported beliefs about the importance of STEM learning. Lastly, Model 4 indicates that a one-σ increase in the frequency of staff meetings to discuss STEM programming is associated with a .27σ increase in staff-reported beliefs about the importance of STEM learning.
In Table D4, Models 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 show associations between specific types of professional development activities and staff feelings of efficacy when implementing STEM activities. Model 1 indicates that, on average, a one-σ increase in staff attending training during the past academic year is associated with a .29σ increase in staff-reported efficacy for implementing STEM activities. Model 3 indicates that a one-σ increase in the frequency of staff meetings to discuss program issues is associated with a .30σ increase in staff-reported efficacy for implementing STEM activities. Model 4 indicates that a one-σ increase in the frequency of staff meetings to discuss STEM programming is associated with a .36σ increase in staff-reported efficacy for implementing STEM activities. Model 5 indicates that a one-σ increase in the frequency of staff meetings with classroom teachers to discuss STEM concepts being taught in school is associated with a .28σ increase in staff-reported efficacy for implementing STEM activities. Lastly, Model 6 indicates that a one-σ increase in the frequency of staff meetings with parents about STEM activities is associated with a .23σ increase in staff-reported efficacy for implementing STEM activities.
Staff Beliefs Linked to the Quality of STEM Learning Activities
Our second set of substantive analyses asks if staff beliefs are linked to the quality of STEM activities at the afterschool programs. Table D5 presents the standardized regression coefficients relating staff beliefs to two measures of STEM activity quality and Table 6 presents standardized regression coefficients relating staff efficacy for implementing STEM activities to two measures of STEM activity quality. The analytical model views activity quality as a product of these staff beliefs net of determinants such as staff gender, ethnicity, and the number of students participating in the activity. Because the reports of STEM activities reported by staffs that share a site are not independent, we clustered standard errors on site identification to account for the non-random assignment of staff into sites.
In Table D5, Models 1 and 2 indicate that, on average, a one-σ increase in staff beliefs about the importance of STEM learning is associated with a .25σ increase in staff reports of student engagement during STEM activities and a .14σ increase in staff reports of how well the STEM activities went overall. In Table D6, Models 1 and 2 indicate that a one-σ increase in staff efficacy for implementing STEM activities is associated with a .27σ increase in staff reports of student engagement during STEM activities and a .09σ increase in staff reports of how well the STEM activities went overall.
The Quality of the STEM Learning Activities Related to Student Outcomes
Our third set of analyses asks if the quality of the STEM learning activities predicts changes in student outcomes over the academic year. Tables D7 and D8 present standardized regression coefficients predicting six student outcomes (work habits, math efficacy, science efficacy, social competency, science interest, and science career aspirations). The analytical model views each student outcome as a function of prior functioning in the domain and other determinants such as measures of activity quality (student engagement and how activities went overall) and student gender. Because student outcomes for students that share a site are not independent of one another, we cluster standard errors on site identification to account for the non-random assignment of students into sites.
Student engagement in STEM activities. In Table D7, Models 1 through 5 show significant relations between staff reports of student engagement in STEM activities and student outcomes. Specifically, Model 1 indicates that, on average, a one-σ increase in staff reports of student engagement during STEM activities is associated with a .06σ increase in student reports of work habits. Models 2 and 3 indicate that a one-σ increase in staff reports of student engagement during STEM activities is associated with a .06σ increase in student reports of math efficacy and a .13σ increase in student reports of science efficacy, respectively. Model 4 indicates that a one-σ increase in staff reports of student engagement during STEM activities is associated with a .18σ increase in student reports of social competency and Model 5 indicates that a one-σ increase in staff reports of student engagement during STEM activities is associated with a .08σ increase in student reports of science interest.
Overall STEM activity quality. In Table D8, Models 1 through 5 show significant relations between staff reports of how well the STEM activities went overall and student outcomes. Specifically, Model 1 indicates that, on average, a one-σ increase in staff reports of how well the activities went overall is associated with a .08σ increase in student reports of work habits. Models 2 and 3 indicate that a one-σ increase in staff reports of how well the activities went overall is associated with a .14σ increase in student reports of math efficacy and a .04σ increase in student reports of science efficacy, respectively. Model 5 indicates that a one-σ increase in staff reports of how well the activities went overall is associated with a .20σ increase in student reports of social competency and Model 5 indicates that a one-σ increase in staff reports of how well the activities went overall is associated with a .11σ increase in student reports of science interest.
This study examined relations between professional development, staff beliefs, program activities, and student outcomes in a large, systemic effort to support STEM learning in California afterschool programs. The logic model guiding the initiative posited that specific types of professional development activities would relate positively to staff beliefs about the value of STEM programming, which would relate to the quality of STEM activities offered at the afterschool programs, which were expected to support gains in student outcomes.
Findings were consistent with this theory of change. In particular, staff who were exposed to more training activities (both general and STEM-specific) and who attended more staff meetings to discuss general program issues and STEM programming reported stronger beliefs about the value of STEM learning and stronger feelings of efficacy when implementing STEM activities. These findings support the value of a multi-prong approach to professional development within the afterschool context, one that incorporates dedicated training activities, staff meetings, and close links with host schools (Vandell & Lao, 2015).
Also consistent with the STEM initiative's theory of change, the current study found that these staff beliefs were linked to the quality of STEM activities at the participating programs. Staff who endorsed the importance of STEM learning and who felt capable of implementing STEM activities reported higher levels of student engagement in the afterschool programs' STEM activities and the overall quality of the STEM activities implemented. Links between staff beliefs and their practices have been reported in the early childhood (Sheridan, Edwards, Marvin, & Knoche, 2009; Zaslow, 2009) and K-12 in-school (Loucks-Horsley, Stiles, Mundry, Love, & Hewson, 2010) contexts, but have not been specifically studied previously in afterschool programs.
Finally, student engagement in STEM activities in the afterschool programs predicted relative gains in students' work habits, math efficacy, science efficacy, social competency, and science interest over the school year. The strongest relations were found between student engagement and students' math efficacy and social competency. These findings represent one of the first cases in which STEM professional development has been linked to positive student outcomes in the afterschool context.
It is noteworthy that the program staff who participated in the current initiative are similar to the staff profile at many U.S. afterschool programs (National Research Council, 2015; Peter, 2002, 2009; Vandell & Lao, 2015). A substantial majority of the program staff in the current study had less than a college degree. The majority of the program staff members were young adults, between 18 and 25 years of age and had brief tenures in their current position. Almost one in three of the program staff reported working at the program for less than six months. Because their education, training, and prior experience is limited, staff may particularly benefit from ongoing and continuing professional development opportunities that provide curricula supports accompanied by dedicated trainings and opportunities to connect with other program staff, parents, and classroom teachers on STEM-related topics. Importantly, these experiences can enrich students' STEM experiences in afterschool settings and support growth in students' interests and efficacy in the STEM domain.
For breakfast, Deborah had a bowl of cereal topped with fresh peaches.
Pilar had his favorite Sunday brunch breakfast, which he makes all the time for my family - Mexican Huevos con Chilaquiles (scrambled eggs mixed with fried tortillas, veggies, chile salsa and cheese).
Rahilia enjoyed a piece of toast and scrambled eggs with cheese.
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In March of 2003, after being a stay at home mom for almost a year, I decided it was time to rejoin the workforce. I applied for and accepted a part time line staff position with a local after school program. I was assigned to work at Riverview Middle School in Bay Point. Riverview Middle had a tough reputation with students who resisted structure and authority. This program competed with the neighborhood gangs and drugs found at every corner. So having consistent student attendance was already a victory.
After the first few weeks, I questioned my decision of taking the position. Destructive student behavior and my car being vandalized was not exactly a highlight of my job. I learned that the majority of my students had already endured a tough life. Some were homeless, abused, neglected and even abandoned. Others were new to the country and struggled with settling into a foreign land and then with the deportation of their parents or other relatives. I devoted my time to my students as much as possible and made it my mission to be there for them and show that they can count on me as a constant source of support.
A year and a half later, I was promoted to a Site Coordinator at Riverview Middle School. By then we also had a new name. We were now the Mt. Diablo CARES After School Program serving students at 15 different school sites within the district. As a site coordinator, I worked with over 3000 students in over 10 years. It brings me joy to hear my kids (now adults) tell me that I am the reason they are teaching, in college or inviting me to their graduations. Knowing that they remember my name and specific details after so many years, countless mentors and teachers throughout their life, is an amazing reward. These students are the reason I continue to work in the after school world. They are the reason I continue to seek fresh ways to engage them. So when the opportunity to attend the BOOST conference came to me this past April, I was very excited. I had heard great things about it through colleagues who had attended in previous years. I truly did not expect to have the experience that I did.
I arrived to the conference and was checked in by the happiest people on earth outside of Disneyland. I entered the Expo Hall and it was sensory overload. There was fun music, hands on activities and vendors galore. I had entered my happy place. I felt like a kid in a toy store who can't make up its mind on what to play with first. So I took my time and visited every booth and played with everything I was allowed to during the next couple of days.
I listened to keynote speakers like Dr. Tererai Trent who shared her incredible story inspiring women everywhere to have a dream and work towards attaining it no matter the challenge to get to it. I attended workshops that motivated me to adjust my approach to the work I do. After sessions, I was able to network with folks from around the country and learn about the great things happening all around me. On my final day at BOOST, I walked out of the conference center feeling grateful for the experience. I sat in my quiet hotel room and reflected on all the great moments of the week and things I couldn't wait to share with my colleagues. I wanted to find the appropriate verbiage and attempt to explain how amazing the conference was. Everything from the interactive and informative sessions to the fun activities planned after the workshops. Every detail of that weeks' conference was well thought out and executed. I appreciated the wide variety of workshops that our entire program would benefit from. Workshops from nutrition education and STEM to working with students with special needs and staffing issues were wonderful. All of the presenters I encountered were engaging and knowledgeable. They provided real ideas and tools to take back to our sites.
I am looking forward to next year's BOOST conference and I hope to be accompanied by a core group from our team. I have attended conferences over the years, but none can compare to the energy, passion and intention that BOOST provided. After working for the CARES program for over 13 years, BOOST has contributed to reigniting the fire to dream bigger and seek to provide the best program possible for our students and the families we serve. After all, our students deserve to have the very best every day.
Don't miss out on the BOOST experience! Register for the 2017 BOOST Conference today!
For breakfast, I had a hard boiled egg (with cayenne pepper sauce – I love spicy food any time of day), fresh strawberries, ½ banana and cup of black coffee.
Rosa Palomino is the Nutrition Coordinator, Mt Diablo CARES After School Program in Concord CA.
Here in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we're less than two weeks from the last day of school and the launch of 11 weeks of summer day camps. My division of the Ann Arbor Public School district – Community Education and Recreation – is busy preparing for over 100 camps, dozens of staff, and thousands of campers. Through our popular High school Volunteer Program, 160 teens will build skills and provide assistance at our summer camps.
For many of our teen camp volunteers, this is a first job-related experience. Of course, we provide training on safety, working with children, assisting lead counselors, communicating with parents, and so on. But we also want to engage teens to think of themselves instrumental in setting a positive camp culture.
How do you build teen volunteers' awareness of and capacity to contribute to a positive camp culture? Here are Ann Arbor Rec & Ed's top 5 training activities for teen volunteers.
1. Ideally, experienced teen volunteers will be your partners in developing and leading your training agenda for new volunteers. According to the Youth Driven Spaces Initiative, developing youth leadership and voice can happen through Youth Advisory Councils and other program structures, with the overall goal of increasing engagement and skill of older youth.
2. Share your organization's vision and mission for summer camps. Why do you provide summer camps? In what ways do you strive be a positive force in children's lives? Use aspirational language to explain your organization's purpose. Invite your teen volunteers to react and add to this vision, sharing their own experiences where applicable.
3. Conduct a quick self-assessment. A quick review of a core set of skills for working with children can be really helpful to teens, especially those in this role for the first time. We like this basic list of 5 skills and qualities for those who want to work with children: patience; the ability to hide frustration and annoyance; keeping calm in an emergency; communication; and enthusiasm. We ask our teen volunteers to talk about their areas of greatest strengths and weakness in this skill set.
4. Help teen volunteers understand their unique contributions to a positive camp culture. High school students are likely to relate the idea of "camp culture" best in relation to their own lives at school.
○ Large group brainstorm: Think about your favorite high school class, one where you're really engaged and enjoy learning. How would you describe the classroom culture? Generate a list of the aspects of the class they like, including relationships, traditions, attitudes, and activities.
○ Reviewing the list, ask if another person were to walk into your favorite classroom, what would he or she observe? (Examples: Smiling faces? Would students be active and engaged in their learning? Are students showing respect to each other?)
○ Help them "crosswalk" their answers from their favorite classroom to what a favorite summer day camp might look like. What characteristics would be the same, what would be different? What would they add to make it even better?
○ Finally, have them take a 2-3 quiet minutes to think about what they believe their unique contributions to a child's favorite camp would look like. They can share with a partner or the whole group.
5. Monitor, support, coach - When observing teen volunteers at camps, be sure to notice and give feedback when you see them contributing to a positive camp culture.
Teen volunteers can be an essential part of any day camp. Help them understand their role as a mentor and change-maker in the lives of younger children -- they and their campers will reap the rewards.
For breakfast this morning, I had a bowl of cereal and a banana. (And coffee, of course.)
You may have a book of notes, business cards, ideas, and inspiration you brought back from the BOOST Conference. Let's be honest – we jump right back into our routines and there are many times we put what we brought home aside and tell ourselves that we will get to it later. What if you carved out time to connect with people you met, had a team gathering to debrief what you learned, and reviewed your week personally?
Here are 10 debrief ideas you can use. These can be used personally, with the team you went with, and/or shared with others in your organization that didn't go to the BOOST Conference.
If you brought a group to the conference, send out an online survey to your team about what went well and what can be improved for next year for your team. Make this specific to the logistics of team planning, time as a team at the conference, etc. Here is a website of 11 questions to help think about what you want to ask your team.
Have each team member present a 10-15 minute presentation of what they learned from one session. Consider this a mini-recap of the session. This way, attendees get a scope of many more topics than what they were able to attend. Teaching something is often the best way to remember it and put it into action.
Organize all of your notes, conference swag, business cards and review your notes. Writers from Travel2.0 suggest highlighting or placing a checkmark next to the important insights. Write extra notes that expand upon what struck you in the session or what you are thinking now. Here are some prompts:
• Big ideas
• New opportunities
• Actions that need to be taken
Next, organize your ideas into a summary document, a blog, a slideshow, or an infographic. Here are some heading ideas:
• Session themes: the consistent big ideas
• Trends: based on data and compelling evidence
• Better practices: things you could be doing better
• Imperatives: things we must start doing or do differently
Follow up with Idea 3 by asking yourself:
• "What lingering question(s) do I have?" Reach out to your colleagues or presenters. Email, tweet, message the conference speakers. We will have materials from the workshops posted soon on our website.
• What is your call to action that you will create for yourself professionally and personally from your personal learning experience?
Dave Palmer from Dunk Tank Marketing suggests using your calendar as a powerful professional development tool.
• Develop a calendar of how you're going to research, implement, change or improve on something that you learned at BOOST. A realistic plan executed with consistency will help you to make substantive changes without it turning into a failed New Year's resolution.
• Set up calendar reminders of things that you learned or were inspired by at BOOST. Have them occur throughout the year so that you're reminded of them. Include links to videos, articles, or email addresses of people you met and want to stay in touch with.
Julie Sesser from ASAPConnect recommends committing to incorporating 52 ways to make a difference on Monday's from the Keynote Matt Emerzian's Book Every Monday Matters.
Form a book club in your organization from the books that were available from Meet the Authors. Create incentives and fun for your staff to read and discuss these books.
Use videos from the Keynote Speakers as professional development opportunities for your whole team throughout the year. Create questions, agendas, and creative response opportunities around the topics and
As many people suggested in our #BOOSTBlues blog post, reconnect and follow up with people who you met on site. Michele Lawson suggests, "The first 3 weeks are a critical time to reach out and begin nurturing the relationships with other attendees and vendors. Acting early assures that details of conversations will be fresh on your mind and theirs."
What are you and/or your team doing to debrief and put into action what you learned, how you were challenged, or how will you implement the inspirational ideas? We would love to hear from you!