Analysis Of Ost Program Components ( Activities And Goals )

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This research was guided by three questions that pertained to practitioner reports of OST program components (activities and goals), rationales for the components, and use of research as a rationale. Findings related to each question are discussed and then implications for closing the science-to-practice gap are considered. First, all 21 practitioners identified goals and activities for their programs. Common goals included providing a safe environment and developing academic and social-emotional skills. These goals are in line with features of youth programs that can promote positive youth development (Eccles & Gootman, 2002). However, these were program level goals. Some work has shown practitioners do not have specific goals for their…show more content…
Different from a strict “science to practice” approach to decision making, most practitioners chose components using input from multiple other sources including stakeholders (i.e., youth and parents), personal beliefs, and program requirements (Honig & Coburn, 2008). Fun or enjoyment for youth was the most common rationale. Whether a program is enjoyable has not typically been included in measures of OST program quality, but perhaps it should be one. Enjoyment is a property of engaging programs (Bohnert, Fredricks, & Randall, 2010) and engagement, in turn, is critical for attracting and retaining youth. Staff who create engaging environments tend to be youth centered in their approach to programming and are effective listeners and observers of the youth they serve (Larson, Walker, & Pearce, 2005; Larson, Walker, Rusk, & Diaz 2015). Building skills was also a common rationale. Different from the origins of OST programs in the U.S. as settings designed to provide supervision during the gap between the end of the school day for youth and work day for parents (Mahoney, Parente, & Zigler, 2009), programs in this study were described as educational and development contexts aiming to augment competencies and/or reduce risks. Indeed, most practitioners viewed youth development as a main objective alongside safety. This is an encouraging result because, although the current study does not provide evidence that the skill building
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