Youth Engagement in High Schools: Developing a Multidimensional, Critical Approach to Improving Engagement for All StudentsReportar como inadecuado

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Academy for Educational Development

Addressing the problem of youth disengagement from school is of paramount importance to the improvement of academic outcomes. Unfortunately, today's climate of accountability under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)--with its focus on data from standardized tests--has created a policy environment that makes it exceedingly difficult to provide students with an education that is both academically challenging and that engages and builds on their interests and passions. In an effort to address this problem, the Academy for Educational Development (AED) and the University of San Diego's CREATE convened a group of experts in youth engagement at the American Educational Research Association's (AERA) Annual Meeting in New York City in spring 2008. The purpose of this meeting of distinguished university faculty members, youth-community organizers, youth development experts, and foundation representatives was to discuss the state of work and research on youth voice and school and community engagement by and for youth. The intent of this discussion was to determine what, if any, aspects of existing research illustrated the interconnection between supporting engagement and improving learning environments and academic performance; and to determine what, if any, additional research should be supported. From this discussion the authors learned that one difficulty facing educators, researchers, and youth workers in general is the lack of a common language and understanding around the term and practice of youth (student) engagement. The work--both in-school and out-of-school to engage youth--varied tremendously based on the definition of engagement, explanations of how and why youth became involved in their education, and even the overall goals of youth engagement, be they academic, social, or political. The transcripts of the meeting, email exchanges with colleagues, and a review of literature on youth engagement in the fields of psychology, education, and sociology underscored that what was needed was a careful look at the concept of youth engagement itself. This paper is the authors' response to that need. In the pages that follow, the authors discuss the dilemmas of youth disengagement and the definition of engagement, and offer suggestions about the types of research needed to improve an understanding of youth engagement and its critical importance in young people's learning and the improvement of academic and other important outcomes. To this end, the authors suggest that researchers concentrate on understanding the relationship between settings for learning and identity issues when examining youth engagement in schools; they also discuss new and emerging studies in this area. Based on evidence from the research, they recommend that researchers study education settings that provide youth with opportunities to examine and critique the educational system in which they participate (or sometimes refuse to participate). They believe, and research confirms, that students need to understand and be engaged in defining/examining the purposes of their learning/education, and that their understanding is inextricably linked to their academic success. Participants at Meeting in Spring 2008 are appended. (Contains 1 footnote.)

Descriptors: Evidence, Educational Development, Youth Programs, Educational Research, Learner Engagement, Motivation Techniques, Student Motivation, Youth Opportunities, Youth Problems, Student Participation, Educational Environment, Improvement Programs, Student Improvement, Change Strategies

Academy for Educational Development. 1825 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009-5721. Tel: 202-884-8000; Fax: 202-884-8400; Web site:

Autor: Yonezawa, Susan; Jones, Makeba; Joselowksy, Francine


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