Building upon work related to clearly articulated program elements being indicative of quality programs (Granger, 2008; Roth & Brooks-Gunn, 2003), the purpose of this study was to describe what youth practitioners (in a large ASP organization) discuss when describing their program models. There are four main findings from this preliminary work: (1) pro-social outcomes were the most frequent categories of goals described by program staff; (2) individual site coordinators identify slightly different lists of program elements, even when operating within the same organization; (3) associations between activities and outcomes were most frequently correlational; and (4) practitioners rely upon a wide variety of types of information within the practices, but personal beliefs and the youth participants themselves were the most frequently mentioned.
Of the goals identified, two major categories emerged from the data: youth-centered goals (i.e., personal/psychological, social development, academic, fun/enjoyment, homework completion, whole-child, outside the program, and physical) and program-centered goals (environment, fill time, and individualized programming). A variety of activity categories also emerged from the program descriptions (i.e., art, games, enrichment, group activities, homework assistance, academic, student choice, behavior management strategies, community involvement, and technology). When describing the associations between goals and activities, the primary relations described were correlational--lacking clearly identified mechanisms of association.
Of the types of information practitioners discussed they used, four major categories emerged: (1) practitioner-centered information (i.e., belief, personal preference, experience--as a professional, personal background, professional development, education, and experience--as a participant); (2) site-specific information (i.e., youth participants, logistical pragmatics, tradition, fun, goals, participant families, school affiliation, and trial and error); (3) organizational learning (i.e., knowledge sharing, organizational requirements, supervisors); and (4) external information (i.e., Internet, local community, time of year, contemporary culture and events, written materials, educational policies, research--conceptual and explicit, funders).