A Comparison of Youth-Driven and Adult-Driven youth Programs: Balancing Inputs From Youth and Adults

Larson, R.,
Walker, K.,
Pearce, N.
Journal Article
Year Published: 2005
Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Journal of Community Psychology, Volume 33(1):57-74, January 2005
W. T. Grant Foundation

The authors of this article examine the unfolding of experiences in youth programs that differed in the degree of youth and adult influence over program activities. They obtained in-depth qualitative data over a three- to four-month cycle of activities in two youth-driven and two adult-driven programs for high- school-aged youth. All programs had been identified as high quality, and in all of the programs, the adults were sensitive and respectful to the youth. Rather than finding that one approach was categorically better than the other, the authors' analyses suggested that each provided distinct developmental experiences, and that each presented somewhat different day-to-day challenges to the adults. In the youth-driven programs, the youth experienced a high degree of ownership and empowerment, and they reported development of leadership and planning skills. In the adult-driven programs, the adults crafted student-centered learning experiences that facilitated youth's development of specific talents. Across both approaches, youth also gained self-confidence and benefited from the adults' experience in other ways. The authors highlight balancing techniques that adults in both programs used for keeping youth's work in the program on track while keeping youth invested. Modified Author Abstract.

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