Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Good youth programs help teens learn to think not just logically, but strategically

07.06.2011
Teens develop strategic thinking skills in youth activities that they rarely learn in the classroom, says a new University of Illinois study of 11 high-quality urban and rural arts and leadership programs.

"In school you learn how government is supposed to work. In youth leadership programs, youth learn how government actually works. They also learn how to influence it," said Reed Larson, a professor in the U of I's Department of Human and Community Development.

Strategic thinking involves more than logic; it involves learning to anticipate the disorderly ways that events unfold in the real world, he said.

Whether a teen is writing a computer program, planning an event, or creating an art production, their work rarely unfolds in a straight line. Youth working on these types of projects learn to brainstorm and plan for unexpected twists and turns, Larson said.

Larson followed the development of strategic thinking in 712 interviews with 108 ethnically diverse high-school-aged teens. Six of the organizations studied were leadership programs that involved planning community activities, lobbying government agencies, or other activities. Five were arts and media arts programs in which the teens' work was often presented to the community.

According to the research by Larson and his colleague Rachel Angus, "In these programs, youth learn to navigate paradoxes, catch-22s, and the strange dynamics of human affairs."

They learned that it's good to have a plan, but they also learned they need to have backup plans. And they began to understand the thinking of the people they were trying to influence, he said.

"During adolescence, higher-order circuits of the brain are developing," Larson said. "Teens become able to think at more advanced levels about the peculiar dynamics of the real world. They become able to strategize. But they learn this only if they have the right experiences."

The research suggests that skills learned in youth programs transfer to other settings. Teens describe using their newfound strategic skills in school and elsewhere. They were better time managers, set goals, and made plans that took into account the things that could go wrong, he said.

Elena, now in college, looked back on her time with Youth Action. She said, "It definitely helped me be more critical and to understand my situation. Now I say, 'Well, this might work, this might not.'"

While conducting a fundraising campaign, the teen girls in Sisterhood said they had learned to anticipate and preempt their tendency to procrastinate. "We set a timeline for ourselves and consequences because we know how we are," one member said.

How did teens learn these strategic skills in youth programs? "Teens learn by thinking and talking through the demands in a situation," Larson said. "They often reported, 'I figured out that . . .,' 'I realized that . . .,' and 'I just thought about it and. . . .'

"In one program, a boy was working on an art project. Although everyone around him was busy, he had stopped, prompting the others to ask him what he was doing. 'I'm thinking,' he told them. He had realized that thinking through scenarios would help him avoid dead ends," Larson said.

The best leaders of youth programs struck a balance between providing structure and assistance while allowing teens to strategize and maneuver through challenges on their own, he noted.

"The most effective leaders weren't charismatic types who pulled kids along with them, showing them what to do. They were more often self-effacing, leading from behind," he said.

These advisors were particularly good at redirecting youth without stifling them, a challenging task because teens have high expectations but little experience, he said.

"Leading from behind is an art. In some ways, it can be more difficult than classroom teaching," he said.

As the adolescent brain is developing, teens need to be given opportunities to develop their potential, he said.

"The best way for teens to acquire strategic thinking skills is to use them in working through real-life problems and situations," he said. "This study shows that good after-school programs provide a valuable context in which teens can learn to think strategically."

The study was published in a recent issue of Child Development. Rachel M. Angus of the U of I was a co-author. The study was funded by the William T. Grant Foundation.

Phyllis Picklesimer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.illinois.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry

23.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Gamma rays will reach beyond the limits of light

23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The end of pneumonia? New vaccine offers hope

23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>