Skip to Main Navigation Skip to Section Navigation Skip to Main Content Skip to Footer
ACT for Youth

Positive Experiences

Young people thrive in quality programming that builds on their strengths, expands their horizons and comfort zones, and gives them agency and voice. Supervisors of positive youth development (PYD) program staff play a key role in developing, maintaining, and promoting quality programming in their organizations. In this section of the Supervisor's PYD Toolkit, we list resources that will help supervisors support:
  • Quality youth programming
  • Continuous quality improvement
  • Developing quality staff

Quality Youth Programming

Research over the past 20 years has provided insight into the characteristics of quality programming [1]. Critical to quality are a focus on positive youth outcomes and purposeful, well-supported youth engagement. The best youth programming also promotes positive relationships and positive environments that foster belonging and inclusion.
 

Focus on Positive Youth Outcomes

Effective programs have a clear and intentional focus on positive youth outcomes, incorporating new and challenging skill-building opportunities into program design. To ensure that positive outcomes are achieved, a good practice is to create a program model that links program activities to the desired outcomes.

Positive Youth Outcomes Framework: 6 Cs

This handout describes the 6 Cs framework for positive outcomes: competence, character, caring, confidence, connection, and contribution. ACT for Youth.

Handout

Program Planning: Build a Logic Model

Using youth development programming examples, this presentation describes how to develop a logic model. The Logic Model Tool can be used in the program planning process.

Slide Deck

Logic Model Tool
 

Youth Engagement

Quality programming incorporates youth engagement strategies that promote active participation and build young people's sense of agency and self-efficacy. Youth engagement involves identifying and building on young people's strengths, talents, and interests. And it means providing young people with opportunities for meaningful roles and responsibilities. It's possible to take a strengths-based approach from the very start by identifying strengths in the enrollment process. Supervisors can also encourage staff to regularly seek youth input on programming.

Youth Strengths Survey

This survey can be included in the registration/enrollment process. ACT for Youth.

Sample Survey

Meaningful Roles for Young People

This slide outlines the many different opportunities in which young people can be actively involved in organizations, such as opportunities to provide input on program evaluation and planning. ACT for Youth.

Slide

Youth Satisfaction Survey

Use this brief survey to gather feedback from program participants partway through a program cycle and again at the end. ACT for Youth.

Survey

Youth Feedback Questions

Staff can ask youth these questions to foster reflection and gather feedback after a program session. Program leaders may want to select just one or two questions. ACT for Youth.

Feedback Questions

Engaging Youth: Reflection Activities

This is a listing of fun activities that can be included as a reflection exercise after programming. ACT for Youth.

Activities
 

Continuous Quality Improvement

It is considered best practice to evaluate youth development programming on a regular basis and use evaluation findings for continuous quality improvement (CQI). There are many tools available for youth program evaluation.
 

Program Evaluation

Youth Program Quality Assessment

The Youth Program Quality Assessment, School-Age Program Quality Assessment, Social Emotional Learning Program Quality Assessment, and several extensions (STEM, Arts, Academic Skill-Building, Health and Wellness) were designed to assess the quality of learning environments and to identify staff training needs. The full package includes assessment of organizational supports (see Form B). Core resources are available in English and Spanish. David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality.

Introduction to Resources

Handbook

Tools

Quality Self-Assessment Tool

The Quality Self-Assessment Tool is meant to help your organization grow, and it is designed to be tailored to your needs. NYS Network for Youth Success.

Introduction and Videos

Tool

From Soft Skills to Hard Data: Measuring Youth Program Outcomes

This report describes, compares, and analyzes available program quality assessment tools. Forum for Youth Investment.

Report

Evaluation and Assessment: Resources

Find more resources and tools focused on quality program assessment here. Youth Today OST Hub.

Resource List
 

Observations

Supervisors can stay informed about programming successes and challenges through observations of program activities.

Informal Observation Form

This is a simple tool to support informal program observations. ACT for Youth.

Tool
 

Youth Participation in Quality Improvement

Supervisors can involve young people and staff in evaluation and quality improvement processes. This will require allocating staff time and other resources to support and prepare young people for meaningful engagement. Involve staff and young people in interpreting evaluation findings and identifying improvement strategies.

The Youth and Adult Leaders for Program Excellence (YALPE) Workbook

This resource kit is designed for groups that are seeking to promote positive youth development through strategies of youth participation, youth activism, youth voice, and youth-adult partnership. University of Wisconsin-Extension and ACT for Youth.

Manual

Youth Participatory Evaluation

Youth participatory evaluation (YPE) is an approach that engages young people in evaluating the programs, organizations, and systems designed to serve them. In this section of the ACT for Youth website, find information and resources on YPE. ACT for Youth.

Information and Resources

Dabbling in the Data

Dabbling in the Data provides step-by-step guidance on 15 different approaches to participatory data analysis, organized into five sections: distribution, change over time, contribution, categories, and communicating findings. Public Profit.

Guide
 

Developing Quality Staff

Program staff will be more successful in providing quality youth programs when they are knowledgeable about positive youth development, adolescent development, and the challenging environmental circumstances young people experience. Effective supervisors are committed to staff support, advocate for staff needs, and allocate funding for hiring qualified staff and professional development.
 

Strategies

  • Establish best practice youth-to-adult ratio for youth programs. The Center for Youth Program Quality, developer of the Youth Program Quality Assessment, suggests a youth-to-staff ratio of 15-to-1 for young people ages 10 and older [2].
     
  • Establish a schedule that builds in time for staff to prepare and reflect on programming and participate in regular team and supervisory meetings.
     
  • Hire staff who are knowledgeable about the positive youth development approach and experienced working with youth.
     
  • Offer professional development that builds core competencies and positive relationships.
     

Core Competencies

Competencies in Youth Work

What does it take to be a good youth work professional? We consider that question here. ACT for Youth.

Web Page

Youth Work Core Competencies

Core competencies articulate what it is that adults working with youth need to know and do in order to deliver high quality, developmental programming. This report reviews core competency frameworks. School's Out Washington.

Report
 

Staff Development Resources from ACT for Youth

Positive Youth Development 101

The Positive Youth Development 101 curriculum offers an orientation to the youth development approach for professionals new to the field of youth work. Use this free curriculum to provide professional development to new youth workers, supervisors, administrators, funders, and community volunteers. ACT for Youth.

Curriculum

PYD 101 Online Courses

Positive Youth Development 101 Online is a series of free, short, self-paced courses intended to introduce PYD to new youth work professionals, volunteers, and advocates. ACT for Youth.

Online Courses

Creating Inclusive Program Environments for Young People with Different Abilities

Young people with learning disabilities, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, or trauma do not always disclose these conditions in program settings. Fortunately, even when facilitators lack this personal information about participants, there are ways to make programs more inclusive. Many of the strategies and resources included in this training can be used to create inclusive program spaces in general. ACT for Youth.

Curriculum

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Toolkit

The SEL Toolkit offers web-based resources to help youth work professionals provide opportunities for social and emotional learning. Resources include manuals, activities, fact sheets, videos, and websites. ACT for Youth.

Resources
 

References

[1]   Catalano, R. F., Berglund, M. L., Ryan, J. A. M., Lonczak, H. S., and Hawkins, J. D. (2004). Positive youth development in the United States: Research findings on evaluations of positive youth development programs. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 591(1), 98-124. doi.org/10.1177/0002716203260102
 
[2]   Youth Program Quality Assessment. David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality. cypq.org/assessment