Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

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

Date:
June 6, 2011
Source:
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Summary:
Teens develop strategic thinking skills in youth activities that they rarely learn in the classroom, says a new study of 11 high-quality urban and rural arts and leadership programs. Strategic thinking involves more than logic; it involves learning to anticipate the disorderly ways that events unfold in the real world.

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.

Related Articles


"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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. The original article was written by Phyllis Picklesimer. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Reed W. Larson, Rachel M. Angus. Adolescents’ Development of Skills for Agency in Youth Programs: Learning to Think Strategically. Child Development, 2011; 82 (1): 277 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01555.x

Cite This Page:

University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. "Good youth programs help teens learn to think not just logically, but strategically." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110606171537.htm>.
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. (2011, June 6). Good youth programs help teens learn to think not just logically, but strategically. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110606171537.htm
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. "Good youth programs help teens learn to think not just logically, but strategically." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110606171537.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins