AAI Announces Center for Positive Youth Development

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LAWRENCE – The Achievement & Assessment Institute (AAI) has announced its newest center, the Center for Positive Youth Development.

Led by Director David Hansen, associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Kansas School of Education & Human Sciences, the Center for Positive Youth Development (PYD) will focus on adolescent development and the out-of-school/out-of-school time.

PYD as a concept and practice has emerged from a wealth of knowledge of youth practitioners and is now a preferred research model in many educational fields. Often taking place after school or during extracurricular times, the positive youth development framework recognizes that young people have the skills to achieve desired goals, are agents of their own development and learning, and exercise agency. to contribute to their own growth and community change. .

According to Hansen, programs outside of the classroom often provide space for teens to “explore their identity, learn initiative skills, develop emotion regulation, and practice teamwork.”

Adolescence is a crucial period for an individual, one during which significant brain growth occurs. One of the goals of the Center for Positive Youth Development, according to Hansen, is to develop research and practice around matching students with the skills they are ready to learn.

“With learning outside of school, we often see students exhibiting agency and developing skills that they will carry with them into adulthood,” Hansen said. “It is important that young people have spaces where they can try new things and foster understanding, purpose and meaning in life. That’s what these spaces tend to be.

Joining Hansen at the new center is Michael Lemon, director of the Kansas Enrichment Network. Lemon will transfer to the new center a portfolio of projects that already use a PYD approach with young people and partners.

“The focus on positive youth development will enhance our work and enhance our impact,” Lemon said. “Our work on the ground and alongside our partners will continue to benefit the youth development field and the children, youth and families they serve.

Having both a research and practice component is one aspect of this center that Hansen is particularly excited about.

“I describe myself as an applied development researcher. I try to study the processes of development, growth, learning in this space. With his experience, Michael brings a practitioner perspective, what is really happening in the field,” Hansen said.

“Connecting the research with those in the field, doing that work, doing the practice and helping others in that practice – for me, that’s a perfect match.”

Lemon echoes this relationship between fieldwork and research. “I see us moving from theory to practice and from practice to theory. I see that our team wins a lot and also gives a lot. It really is a great partnership. »

Hansen also envisions the center to be a lab on PYD, with a number of graduate students already targeted to join the center’s research arm.

For Neal Kingston, director of the AAI and professor emeritus at the university, the Center for Positive Youth Development is a natural evolution of the Institute for Assessment and Achievement’s work in educational research.

“AAI has many projects and centers, covering a range of areas within education. And just as it’s important for us to seek out and maximize impact in the classroom, it’s important for us to understand and seek out other spaces where learning, development, and growth occur.

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