Learning to Improve Program Systems While Navigating Program and Institutional Constraints

Erica Jeanne Van Steenis

Abstract


Many youth worker professional development (PD) efforts tend to focus on individualized skill development, rather than learning as a contextualized phenomenon that impacts youth workers’ everyday experiences in the field. Youth worker learning is fundamentally embedded in a broader ecosystem of programs, institutions, and systems that influence how they make sense of and implement their learnings. Examining institutionalized experiences and how they shape youth workers’ response to PD requires attention to the larger ecology of the contexts in which they work. In this paper, I analyze a PD initiative facilitated by a school district in the Rocky Mountain West. Data collected during the PD show that participating youth workers made changes to their program systems. At the same time, participants reported a range of institutional constraints that did not cohere with the PD. I bridge sensemaking theory to research on youth worker self-efficacy to unpack youth workers’ reaction to and implementation of the PD, and I discuss implications for youth worker PD. I propose that PD efforts could more closely attend to youth workers’ institutional contexts.


Keywords


youth workers; professional development

Full Text:

PDF

References


Allen, C. D., & Penuel, W. R. (2015). Studying teachers’ sensemaking to investigate teachers’ responses to professional development focused on new standards. Journal of Teacher Education, 66(2), 136-149.

Baizerman, M., & VeLure Roholt, R. (2016). Youth worker professional development: Moving from practicing the symbolic to working substantively. In K. Pozzoboni & B. Kirshner (Eds.), The changing landscape of youth work: Theory and practice for an evolving field (pp. 51-71). Information Age.

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological review, 84(2), 191.

Bouffard, S. M., & Little, P. M. (2004). Promoting quality through professional development: A framework for evaluation. Issues and Opportunities in Out‐of‐School Time Evaluation, 1(8). Harvard Family Research Project.

Bowie, L., & Bronte-Tinkew, J. (2006). The importance of professional development for youth workers. Practitioner Insights Research to Results Child Trends, 2006(17), 13-24.

Coburn, C. E. (2005). Shaping teacher sensemaking: School leaders and the enactment of reading policy. Educational Policy, 19(3), 476-509.

Dennehy, J., Gannet, E., & Robbins, R. (2006). Setting the stage for a youth development associate credential. National Institute on Out-of-School Time, Wellesley Centers for Women.

Eccles, J., & Gootman, J. (Eds.). (2002). Community programs to promote youth development. National Academy Press.

Erickson, F. (1986). Qualitative methods in research on teaching. In M. C. Wittrock (Ed.) Handbook of research on teaching (3rd ed., pp 119-161). MacMillian.

Hartje, J., Evans, W., Killian, E., & Brown, R. (2008). Youth worker characteristics and self-reported competency as predictors of intent to continue working with youth. Child Youth Care Forum, 37, 27-41. (https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-007-9048-9)

Huang, D., & Cho, J. (2010). Using professional development to enhance staff retention. Afterschool Matters, 12, 9-16.

Huebner, A. J., Walker, J. A., & McFarland, M. (2003). Staff development for the youth development professionals: A critical framework for understanding the work. Youth & Society, 35(2), 204-225.

Patton, M. Q. (2010). Developmental evaluation: Applying complexity concepts to enhance innovation and use. Guilford Press.

Quinn, J. (2004). Professional development in the youth development field: Issues, trends, opportunities, and challenges. New directions for youth development, 2004(104), 13-24.

Ross, L., Buglione, S., & Safford-Farquharson, J. (2011). Training the “wizards”: A model for building self-efficacy and peer networks among urban youth workers. Child & Youth Services, 32(3), 200-223.

Schwarzer, R., & Jerusalem, M. (1995). Generalized Self-Efficacy Scale. In J. Weinman, S. Wright, & M. Johnston (Eds.), Measures in health psychology: A user’s portfolio. Causal and control beliefs (pp. 35-37). NFER-NELSON.

Spradley, J. P. (1979). The Ethnographic Interview. Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Starr, B., Yohalem, N., & Gannett, E. (2009). Youth work core competencies: A review of existing frameworks and purposes. Next Generation Youth Work Coalition. Retrieved February 22, 2020. (https://www.niost.org/pdf/Core_Competencies_Review_October_2009.pdf)

Tsang, S., Hui, E., & Law, B. C. (2012). Self-efficacy as a positive youth development construct: A conceptual review. Scientific World Journal, 2012. (https://doi.org/10.1100/2012/452327)

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press.

Walker, K., & Gran, C. (2010). Beyond core competencies: Practitioner expertise as a critical component of quality. University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development. (https://hdl.handle.net/11299/195259)

Weick, K. E. (1995). Sensemaking in organizations. SAGE.

Yohalem, N., Pittman, K., & Edwards, S. (2010). Strengthening the youth development/after-school workforce: Lessons learned and implications for funders. The Forum for Youth Investment.

Zhang, J., & Byrd, C. E. (2005). Enhancing the quality of after-school programs through effective program management. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 76(8), 5-10, 15.




DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jyd.2021.1106

Copyright (c) 2021 Erica Jeanne Van Steenis

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.