An I in Teen Perceived Agency in a Youth Development ProgramReport as inadecuate

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Afterschool Matters, n25 p29-37 Spr 2017

As she reviewed participant feedback from the out-of-school time (OST) youth development program she managed at the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library (N-YHS), the author was excited to recognize a pattern. Many of the teen participants wrote responses like "I am proud of what my team was able to accomplish" and "I enjoyed being able to plan an event on our own and actually see it happen." These participants were reflecting a high level of ownership of their accomplishments in the program. The N-YHS OST program already had assessments to collect the kinds of outcomes research has shown to result from participation in youth development programs: academic success, initiative, personal responsibility, and the like. What they didn't have was a system for measuring whether the program improved participants' sense of agency. Using instruments she designed herself, the author found that participants in the N-YHS program who reported a moderate to high degree of perceived agency also reported improved academic, personal, and social skills over the course of their program--more than their peers who perceived lower levels of agency. Participants who experienced agency also expressed their engagement with the program. In this paper, the author describes the program, provides context from the literature for the significance of agency, outlines the methods used to measure participants' sense of agency, and describes how perceived agency correlated with intended program outcomes and with youth engagement. Finally, she shares lessons learned that OST practitioners can use.

Descriptors: Youth Programs, Youth Agencies, Program Descriptions, Historians, Participatory Research, Leadership Training, Student Leadership, Student Surveys, Pretests Posttests, Correlation, Student Participation, Student Projects, Museums, Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12

National Institute on Out-of-School Time. Wellesley Centers for Women, 106 Central Street, Wellesley, MA 02481. Tel: 781-283-2547; Fax: 781-283-3657; e-mail: niost[at]; Web site:

Author: Frosini, Chelsea


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