Monday, May 8, 2017

Ignite Learning with a Growth Mindset!

By Sam Piha


Sam Piha
We know from research that fostering growth mindsets in young people can promote very positive outcomes. Last year, we sponsored a Speaker’s Forum in Oakland, CA featuring Eduardo BriceƱo, Co-Founder and CEO of Mindset Works. We also sponsored a Speaker’s Forum in Los Angeles with Jacquie Beaubien, Senior Program Manager at Project for Education Research that Scales (PERTS) at Stanford University. 

Much of the Growth Mindset research  comes from Dr. Carol Dweck. You can view her 10-minute TEDTalk video, which has been viewed nearly 6 million times, by clicking below. 



We recently worked with our Central Valley colleagues (Central Valley Afterschool Foundation, California Teaching Fellows Foundation, and Visalia Unified School District) to host a Speaker’s Forum entitled “Ignite Learning with a Growth Mindset!”. Below is an interview with our presenter, Emily Diehl, Director Professional Learning and Curriculum Design at Mindset Works. 

Q: Very briefly, can you describe what we mean by "growth mindset" and "fixed mindset"? 

A: Fixed mindset: the belief that abilities and intelligence are fixed and unchangeable
Growth mindset: the understanding that abilities and intelligence can be developed our whole lives




Q: Afterschool, or as it is sometimes referred, expanded learning, is still growing. Conservative estimates state that there is well over 10 million young million in these programs. Do you think that these informal settings are good ones to promote the idea of growth mindsets?

A: Any setting where students are with adults and peers who create a sense of belonging and help students build a strong sense that they can develop and grow is a great setting for promoting a growth mindset. These informal settings might be particularly helpful in that they tend to be lower stakes as far as achievement goes and so students are able to experience growth and reflect on their process to achieve that growth, without as much fear of failure.

Q: As our understanding of the needs of youth and afterschool research and literature expands, there is increased pressure on afterschool programs to do more - there are a large number of frameworks and related program practices which results in growing demands on afterschool staff. Does promoting growth mindsets require a complex set of practices? 

A: No, I would not say it's complex; however, it is not easy. The changes we make to be more growth-minded can seem very simple, but what might seem simple is not because we have to re-learn our responses and assumptions. Changing those beliefs and responses takes time, reflection, self-awareness, and practice. What's more our emotions and desires can get in the way. An example of emotion getting in the way is embarrassment for making a mistake. We are less likely to risk trying new approaches if we think we will fail in front of others rather than knowing that the only way we can grow is by taking on challenges. Thus, we might know we can grow, but avoid growth opportunities because we want to avoid embarrassment.




Q: For afterschool leaders who are interested in ensuring that their programs promote growth mindsets, what do you recommend? Where should they start? 

A: There are two great places to begin which many educators have found to be a successful first step. First is to change our feedback to students from person-centered praise ("You are so talented!") to process related feedback or questions ("I noticed you didn't stop when it got tough!"). We have a great deal of resources for this on our website and Twitter. The key is to think about the messages we send when we tell people they are smart when they do things perfectly and without trying very hard. That sends a message that smart people don't try hard and don't make mistakes. The opposite is true. So switching up that message to one of taking on a challenge, even if I might fail, because I will learn a lot, is the key to cultivating growth mindsets.

A second place to begin is to talk about the brain as malleable and changeable. Talk about how our brains change with practice - whether we are practicing "good" or "bad" habits - and we can re-map our brains all the time with effective effort.  This helps place growth in a student's internal locus of control - "the things I do and have control over can make me smarter".  This creates hope. There are many resources available on our website and other places for help promoting this message.

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Emily Diehl
Emily is Director of Professional Learning and Curriculum design at Mindset Works. Mindset Works provides in-person, digital and printed growth mindset training and resources to thousands of schools. Mindset Works helps teachers and students enable a world in which people seek and are fulfilled by ongoing learning and growth. Emily has spoken at numerous schools, districts, events and conferences for educators, students and district leaders. She supports schools across the country in implementation of mindset programs and professional learning sessions. She has contributed a great deal to the Brainology programs as well as educator programs such as MindsetMarker™ and LeaderKit™. She is editor of the Mindset Works blog and online newsletter. Twitter: @emilyadiehl

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

21st CCLC: Now and Then

By Sam Piha


Sam piha
"President Trump has unveiled his budget priorities—and his plan singles out afterschool funding for elimination. Congress is getting ready to determine whether local afterschool and summer learning programs remain open, reduce their services or close their doors. If the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative is eliminated, many programs will not survive. More than a million children will be affected, leaving parents without reliable afterschool choices." - Afterschool Alliance 

To advocate for continued federal support for afterschool programs, it is important that afterschool stakeholders understand two things: 1) The historical context surrounding the federal 21st CCLC initiative; and 2) How best they can educate lawmakers on the value of afterschool programs. 


Photo by Gage Skidmore
HISTORY OF FEDERAL 21ST CCLC 
The federal 21st CCLC initiative was the first federal effort dedicated to promoting afterschool programs. This initiative was launched in 1994 by President Clinton in response to a "perfect storm" - growing concerns around crime and safety involving young people; changes in the composition of families and women entering the workforce resulting in "latch key kids"; and the need for more educational support. 


Photo Credit: Temescal Associates
This initiative garnered the support of law enforcement, educators, parent groups, and more.


Photo Credit: Fight Crime - Invest in Kids
Support for afterschool was partially driven by research that showed a spike in crime during the afterschool hours.

Photo Credit: Fight Crime - Invest in Kids
The 21st CCLC initiative was described by some as the fastest growing federal initiative in history.

Photo Credit: FIght Crime - Invest in Kids
The 21st CCLC initiative enjoyed the bipartisan support of the congress and three U.S. Presidents. Now, there are calls from the Trump Administration to eliminate all 21st CCLC funding. 



To read more about the history of the 21st CCLC initiative, click here

SAVING THE 21ST CCLC INITIATIVE 
Below, we offer the advice of the California Afterschool Network


President Trump’s proposed budget calls for the elimination of 21st Century Community Learning Center funding, saying the program lacks evidence of improving student success. It is now up to Congress to counter these drastic cuts or approve them. If approved, the budget would eliminate programs across the nation that keeps kids safe and engaged. Over a million children and families would be left with no quality afterschool and summer learning programs nationally.

Check out this blog from the Afterschool Alliance around evidence that afterschool and summer learning programs work. To see the impact these cuts could have on California programs, youth and families see the breakdown here

Visit the Afterschool Alliance for more information or read the statement from Jodi Grant, Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance.  

You can make a difference by:
  • Add your organization to the list of organizations supporting that 21st CCLC remain funded at current funding levels.  
  • Email, and encourage (via family engagement, social media, etc.) emails to congress members and telling them to protect funding for afterschool and summer learning programs!   
  • Locate your members of congress. Visit local district offices and invite your members of Congress to your site to continue to educate them about the value and impact of quality afterschool and summer learning programs.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Looking Ahead: Perspectives from California Expanded Learning Program Leaders

By Sam Piha


Sam Piha

In an earlier post entitled, Expanded Learning Leaders Look to 2017, we shared the views of national expanded learning leaders regarding the upcoming trends and challenges facing the field. We wanted to get the thoughts on expanded learning leaders in California who work closer to the ground who run or oversee youth programs. Below are some of their responses to our questions. 


EMERGING TRENDS IN EXPANDED LEARNING PROGRAMS

Frank Escobar, Program Manager
Visalia Unified School District
Frank Escobar: I do see school climate and culture elements as a continuing trend in 2017 for expanded learning opportunities (ELO’s) since it continues to be a significant initiative in districts under local control accountability plan (LCAP). This would/could include social emotional learning (SEL), positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), School Safety models/professional development (PD), etc. (Note: Frank Escobar and his colleague, Rico Peralta, created a Facebook page that provides helpful information, tools, resources and inspiration to the afterschool site lead community.)

John Fuentes: Emerging trends in expanded learning programs include safety around immigrations rights for students, families and staff; more literacy support for 9th graders; and intentionally working closely with school admin to design programs using the school performance framework (SPF) data.   


Selena Levy, Program Manager
CalSAC
Selena Levy: There are a couple of emerging trends in expanded learning programs in 2017. I think given this current political climate, programs will need to increase their support to families as well as become stronger and more vocal advocates for their programs. The students and families in expanded learning programs are under serious attack from all different angles. There is going to need to be increased support to the students as well as their families from the expanded learning programs. I think given the unknown future of funding for programs on the state and federal level makes  it even more important that programs take action. The expanded learning programs are the best ambassadors and advocates for their programs as well as for the families and students they serve. The time to speak out and take action is now.


MOST SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGE FACING THE FIELD OF EXPANDED LEARNING 

Frank Escobar: Connected to the obvious budget issue is the aspect of quality staffing.  This is multi-layered in impact on quality.  Whether its budget to hire and retain quality staff or budget to “train” low-mid quality staff or budget to pay for subs with the high absenteeism rates across programs.  Some organizations are better suited to support absences and vacancies and others are left to 1-30 and 40 ratios at times because they don’t have any other options.  In many cases, Site Leads are having to directly supervise students during program just to cover for absences and vacancies which is a recipe for poor program quality and outcomes.  I am aware of districts that are managing these scenarios regularly and constantly in “survival mode” rather than “thrivival mode” which is what we are hoping for all programs. 

This is obviously a direct impact on “quality” and programs’ abilities to pursue goals and aspirations.  In many cases, sites may be fully staffed but with mid to low quality staff (little experience, no training, lack of passion for educating kids) and little to no professional development opportunity due to budget restraints.  My programs are an example of that.  I’ve had to fly positions 2 and 3 times to access a pool of 2 to 3 applicants for our positions whom have no experience, no training and are not considering education as a career but would prefer to work after school vs. fast-food.  We then have no funds to provide training and it all falls on our Site Leads to coach and support while managing the day-to-day.  It’s a daily struggle, which then wears and tears on people over time, particularly those who are not overly passionate (like myself) about this work. 


John Fuentes, Program Manager
Bay Area Community Resources
John Fuentes: The most significant challenges facing the field of expanded learning include staff retention in the Bay Area as the cost of living continues to be a challenge; funding as the demographics change here in the Bay; and more support and training/coaching for direct service providers. 

Selena Levy: The most significant challenge facing the field right now is both funding for programs to stay open and continue to serve the young people in their programs as well as the challenge of supporting staff who work in the expanded learning programs. Staff are coming to program each day with their own pain and trauma in this political climate and need to be supported as well. Expanded learning programs need to continue to invest in their staff and help them strengthen their own competencies around social-emotional learning and character development to ensure they can continue to support the young people they serve every day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Youth Development 2.0

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
Not that many years ago, we defined young people as “problems about to happen”. These problems included juvenile delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, gang membership, school failure, and on. Youth programs presented themselves as able to prevent these problems and program providers chased funders that were structured around these categories. Research focused on “risk factors” - family and environmental factors that could predict future youth problems. 

Then, for those of us at the ground level, we noticed two important things: 1) We found that most of the kids that had these risk factors were not showing problems; and 2) Regardless of the categorical funding focused on preventing problems, we tended to attract the same kids and successful programming was based on providing safe environments, forming positive relationships, and offering activities that were meaningful to young people. We moved away from deficits and began seeing young people as assets. Soon, the focus was positive youth development instead of prevention, thanks to the pioneering work of people like Michele Cahill, Karen Pittman, James Connell, Sylvia Yee, Carla Sanger, Sue Eldredge, and others. 

Photo Credit: CNYD Youth Development Guide

In 2001, the Community Network for Youth Development, in partnership with the California Department of Education, published the Youth Development Guide: Engaging Young People in After-School Programming. This guide offers strategies for designing youth programs around the issues of promoting a sense of safety, encouraging relationship building, fostering meaningful youth participation, providing opportunities for community involvement, and creating learning experiences that build skills. You can download it here or view it in a magazine-style format by clicking here

Despite the fact that this was published 15 years ago, the framework is heavily aligned to today’s California Quality Standards for Expanded Learning Programs. What was revolutionary about the youth development framework (created by James Connell and Michelle Gambone) was that it promoted shared responsibility of not just the youth worker, but the provider organization, as well as funders and policy makers.

In recent years, we have been introduced to new research and new terms - many of which are products of a positive youth development setting. They include growth mindsets, non-cognitive skills, social emotional learning, soft skills, 21st century competencies, grit, character building, pro-social behavior, and more. 

Many say that the new research and terms are an extension of positive youth development. We can call them Youth Development 2.0. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Social Emotional Learning: How Do We Best Communicate What We Do in Expanded Learning Programs?

By Sam Piha
Sam Piha
There has been a great deal of research and conversation about the importance of social and emotional learning (SEL). There have also been a number of terms and lists that are close cousins to SEL: non-cognitive skills, grit, growth mindsets, and others. How can practitioners sort all of this out and how best should we communicate with our K-12 colleagues and parents?

The Wallace Foundation recently commissioned Edge Research, Inc. to examine “the linguistic landscape of the many terms used to describe non-academic skills and finding some familiarity with ‘social and emotional learning.’” The primary goals of this research included:
  • Understanding the landscape of terminology from the perspective of key stakeholders
  • Understanding what motivates K-12 public school, Afterschool and Policy leaders to be interested in the topic of SEL
  • Helping the field develop a common vocabulary on the topic of SEL
They conducted a review of the literature, gathered surveys, and held focus groups with K-12 educators, afterschool leaders, and parents.

Photo Credit: Edutopia.org


The key findings of this marketing research were:

1. There is no “silver bullet” term, but across the research phases, “social and emotional learning” emerges as one that is familiar and clear for Policy, K-12 and Afterschool leaders. It also tests well in parent focus groups.

2. Over the course of research, we moved away from terms that had strong, ancillary or even negative connotations (21st Century Skills, Whole Child Development, Soft Skills, Character). We also eliminated familiar terms deemed too generic for this topic (Youth Development, Success Factors).

3. In framing this issue, a concept that speaks to “Gains” for children has traction. Specifics about SEL skills (i.e. building positive relationships, navigating social environments), plus positively asserting that all children benefit, make this frame popular across stakeholder and parent audiences.


4. Other frames include language that resonates. Consider the right time to weave in themes and ideas about: all adults having a role, the learning equation, children realizing their potential, future citizens and the opportunity gap.

5. Despite agreement that SEL should be a priority, challenges exist for the future. The field identifies training and professional development as much-needed. Parents are wary of school and afterschool overstepping their bounds.

Edge researchers, Pam Loeb and Stacia Tipton, presented their study in a webinar sponsored by the Wallace Foundation. We urge field leaders in expanded learning to give it a listen by clicking here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How Race and Class Influence Student Learning Outcomes and Development

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
We have been following the work of Dr. Pedro Noguera for several years. Dr. Noguera is now a Distinguished Professor of Education at the Graduate School of Education and Information Sciences and Director, Center for the Study of School Transformation at UCLA. Dr. Noguera has been a speaker at past How Kids Learn conferences and has shared his thoughts on the relevance of the Learning in Afterschool & Summer (LIAS) learning principles. This video can be viewed here.  

In partnership with LA's BEST, we recently hosted a Speaker’s Forum in Los Angeles on September 13, 2016 featuring a presentation by Dr. Noguera entitled, How Race and Class Influence Student Learning Outcomes and Development. He was introduced by LAUSD Superintendent of Schools, Michelle King. 


You can view his presentation by clicking on the video below.  


Monday, August 29, 2016

Quality STEM and Afterschool: An Interview with Dr. Carol Tang

By Sam Piha

Carol Tang is a long-time champion of quality STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities in afterschool and summer programs. She is the Executive Director at the Children's Creativity Museum in San Francisco, and former Director of the Coalition for Science After School. She is also a Board member of the How Kids Learn Foundation

She agreed to a video interview about the relationship between the Learning in Afterschool & Summer learning principles and quality STEM activities, which can be viewed below. This brief video interview is a good resource for afterschool staff to discuss. 



More recently, Dr. Tang agreed to answer additional questions about quality STEM activities. 

Q: Can you list a couple of qualities that good STEM activities demonstrate? 

A: While some folks may believe that STEM activities need to have science facts or math formulas to be good, in fact, high-quality STEM activities may not look like a traditional science lesson at all! Good STEM should include open-ended questions where children have a chance to apply their existing knowledge and experience in a hands-on activity. The best STEM activities are ones where more questions are generated than answers and where children end up wanting more time to explore. All STEM activities should also have dedicated time for children to share their ideas with each other and work together to solve challenges. 

Q: Why do you think that afterschool and summer youth programs are a good setting to promote STEM knowledge and activities? 

A: I strongly believe that out-of-school time offers a unique opportunity to engage youth in STEM learning--partly because these experiences don't feel like a homework assignment. Afterschool programs and their staff are already aware of children's individual interests and learning styles and they are prepared for the daily challenge of delivering engaging programming. I find that afterschool staff intuitively value open-ended exploration, collaboration, and unstructured play and these are exactly the principles that should be applied to good STEM experiences as well.

Q: Are there certain populations that have less access to STEM experiences and are ones that we should target?

A: Many studies have shown that children in both urban and rural communities lack access to both classroom and out-of-school time STEM enrichments that are crucial for inspiring interest and building confidence in STEM. This means that even children who have an aptitude for STEM may never get the role models and encouragement they need to see themselves pursuing STEM in the future. Many studies have shown that if girls and students of color do not receive experiences that both spark and sustain their interest in STEM, they will no longer identify with STEM in their lives. In my eyes, this is not just a tragedy on an individual level, but it is a loss for our society that depends on the creativity and talents of all.

Q: In your work, what have you seen as the challenges to those offering STEM activities in out-of-school or informal learning settings? 

A: I am heartened to see that in the years since I started championing STEM in afterschool, the awareness of its importance has become more and more common across settings and programs. The challenge I still see however, is that there are not enough resources within programs to maintain a diversity of STEM offerings to keep kids engaged throughout their formative years. Even when programs do offer high-quality STEM, it's often based on just a few activities or an occasional visit by a partner. Even in well-resourced communities, there is still a lack of continuous experiences that can deepen a young person's budding interest in STEM topics. 

Q: In what way do you think STEM activities intersect with social justice? 

A: First, while all children can benefit from access to the economic stability that STEM careers can bring, wealthy children have safety nets that other children do not; thus it is more imperative that low income families have the ability to climb the economic ladder through STEM jobs. But my passion for STEM goes beyond STEM jobs. There is just no getting around the fact that the environmental, health, and technological issues we face as a society impact different communities in vastly different ways. If under-resourced communities are not armed with the knowledge about the impacts of pollution, lack of healthy food, loss of natural spaces, and climate change, they cannot protect their own interests. I strongly believe that STEM not only offers a good defense, but it can provide the way for positive solutions. Communities can use STEM and creative problem-solving to tackle the issues that impact them and not wait for trickle-down solutions.

These societal and community challenges can be harnessed and used to engage children's interests in STEM. The most powerful experiences are ones where young people design their own projects to address the issues they care most about. It's been well-documented that girls and students of color are more deeply engaged in STEM projects when they have real-world applications. That is when they personally see how STEM can be both personally satisfying and impactful for their communities.

Q: There is a lot of talk about the importance of promoting a sense of "agency". Is there any way this is related to quality STEM activities? 

A: As a former scientist, I think that a STEM "mindset" is empowering because there is no question or problem that I think is impossible to tackle. I have a set of skills and attitudes that allow me to understand that even the hardest challenge can be broken down into questions, variables, and experiments--it might be hard and complex but I have faith that creative and prepared people can solve it eventually. So ultimately, I think participating in STEM activities gives youth agency--the set of skills, abilities, and attitudes to think critically, plan, and successfully carry out a project. They develop agency through the one STEM activity in front of them that one afternoon--but more importantly, over time, good STEM activities will strengthen their sense of agency and ability to be successful in life.

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Carol M. Tang, Ph.D. is the Executive Director at the Children’s Creativity Museum and former Director of the Coalition for Science After School. She is experienced in non-profit management, strategic planning, envisioning, meeting facilitation, team building, fundraising and public speaking. She also has extensive experience in teaching, organizing, and leading science education efforts including out-of-school programming, exhibitions, teacher professional development, public programs, volunteer management and higher education.

Carol is active in professional service through grant review panels, Board membership, advisory committees, technical working groups and conference sessions.