Does your program make a difference? Are your program participants and volunteers satisfied? Are your staff members effective? How do you know? Evaluation is critical for sustaining a successful youth program.
Comments on this page? Curator: Samantha Grant, evaluation director
Youth Development Insight
Our faculty blog about research, issues and trends in the field. Join the conversation!
- 6/17 Betsy Olson
Thinking about this week's national holiday, it occurs to me how important it is for youth to develop a sense of independence and agency. An article that explores how youth develop agency says, "The challenging issue for practitioners...is how to support a developmental process in which youth are the central protagonists and agents of change." How can we build structures within youth programming that better support youth authoring their own lives? Read more.
Collecting opinions from the youth in your program can be as easy as asking the right question. But in surveys, asking the right question can be tricky. The questions can be too complex, the responses can be mismatched or the vocabulary can be confusing. Don't go through all the hard work of collecting survey data from a group of young people without ensuring the responses measure what you intend to measure. Read more.
See all program evaluation blog posts
Reports & journal articles
With young people, discussing complex issues such as learning and leading in a focus group can be a challenge. To help prime youth for the discussion, this focus group featured a fun, interactive activity. This article includes a description of the focus group activity, lessons learned, and suggestions for additional applications. 2015.
Guiding principles and design strategies for the University of Minnesota Extension's Driven to Discover: Enabling Authentic Inquiry through Citizen Science project demonstrate how education and investigations grounded in real-world citizen science projects can capitalize on REAL environments to generate meaningful STEM learning. 2014.
The Science of Agriculture Challenge completed its pilot year of implementation in 2014-2015. Twelve teams distributed throughout the state took part in the final showcase which was a 2.5 day event on the St. Paul University of Minnesota campus. This report highlights the project and key evaluation findings. (PDF) 2015.
Youth organizations, like 4-H, are dynamic systems with structures that grow and change over time. In the current study, we examine differences in participation across gender, race, ethnicity, and area of residence. (322K DOC) 2014.
The purpose of this study was to examine academic outcomes of youth who participated in Minnesota's 4-H program compared to those who did not, and to understand how parent engagement and duration of 4-H participation affects youth achievement and attendance trajectories over five years. (PDF) 2014.
Out-of-school time programs can help youth develop skills and attributes they need to be ready for college, work and life, but few have the tools to effectively measure those outcomes. This guide reviews eight youth outcome measurement tools appropriate for use in after-school and other settings. (PDF) 2011.
Developing and Improving After-School Programs to Enhance Youth’s Personal Growth and Adjustment: A Special Issue of AJCP
This introductory article overviews the historical and current context of ASPs and then describes a developmental ecological model to guide research in this area. 2010.
Does the Amount of Participation in Afterschool Programs Relate to Developmental Outcomes? A Review of the Literature
Contrary to the findings from previous reviews we found little support for the general notion that greater amounts of participation in afterschool programs was related to academic, behavioral, or socio-emotional outcomes. 2010.
Hours of Opportunity: Lessons from Five Cities on Building Systems to Improve After-School, Summer, and Other Out-of-School-Time Programs (Volumes I, II and III)This three-volume report examines Wallace-supported efforts in five cities to build systems to improve the quality and accessibility of after-school, summer and other out-of-school time (OST) programs. The study concludes that the fledgling systems, which seek to coordinate the work of major OST players like schools, parks departments, and nonprofit after-school programs, hold some promise. 2010.
While the Minnesota 4-H Club program has been growing over the last six years, over 25% of youth do not re-enroll annually. Wanting to know how 4-H could improve its member retention rate, the Minnesota 4-H Retention Study asked 4-H members who left the program why they decided to join, stay and ultimately leave 4-H. (PDF) 2010.
Youth participatory evaluation (YPE) is an approach that engages young people in evaluating the programs, organizations, and systems designed to serve them. Through YPE, young people conduct research on issues and experiences that affect their lives, developing knowledge about their community that can be shared and put to use. 2008.
Outcomes linked to high-quality afterschool programs: Longitudinal findings from the study of afterschool programsA report explaining that regular participation in high-quality afterschool programs is linked to significant gains in standardized test scores and work habits as well as reductions in behavior problems among disadvantaged students. (PDF) 2007.
Minnesota Commission on Out-of-School Time
At the request of University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks, several members of our faculty examined Minnesota youth needs and produced a blueprint for ensuring Minnesota’s young people have engaging opportunities to learn and develop during the non-school hours. (PDF) 2005.
What we're reading
From journals and the popular media. Selected by Samantha Grant, evaluation director.
- Evaluate Naturally and Quickly with Just-in-Time Program Evaluation
- State of Evaluation 2016: Evaluation Capacity and Practice in the Nonprofit Sector
- Character Development within Youth Development Programs: Exploring Multiple Dimensions of Activity Involvement.
- Program Theory and Quality Matter: Changing the Course of Extension Program Evaluation
- Framing Program Evaluation: Why We Should Tinker With Theories of Change and Logic Models / Browse Our Publications / Publications & Resources / HFRP - Harvard Family Research Project
- Engaging Focus Group Methodology: The 4-H Middle School-Aged Youth Learning and Leading Study
- Evaluating youth development programs: Progress and promise - Applied Developmental Science -
- Connecting the Dots: Improving Extension Program Planning with Program Umbrella Models
- Decolonizing evaluation: The necessity of evaluation advisory groups in indigenous evaluation - Johnston-Goodstar - 2012 - New Directions for Evaluation - Wiley Online Library
Our past presentations
This webinar explores how youth in programs could be the very resource needed to improve program quality! Presenters draw from an ongoing pilot project aimed at including youth in program evaluation and 4-H program improvement planning, and highlight current research regarding the impacts of participatory evaluation practices with young people.
The webinar outlines best practices, investigates the important elements of youth-adult partnerships to engage youth in evaluation and assessment projects, and will leave you with some strategies that can help build participatory evaluation practices into any youth program. 2016.
March 14, 2013
A playful and cutting-edge approach to youth participating in evaluation that has the potential to radically shift the way youth and adults form partnerships. 2012.
This symposium focuses on how to assess non-academic outcomes such as the impact of programs on youths' engagement in their own learning. 2011.
This presentation focuses on research that looks in-depth at what happens inside after-school programs. More than just keeping kids safe during the 3-6 pm "risk hours," after-school programs can be vibrant settings that promote positive youth development. 2008