Sites for Evidence Based Practice Here
Reports "What Works for Children and Young People" Here
Childtrends in 2007 selected some 130 programmes were selected for inclusion in their Effective Programme report. These sources address nearly 50 different programme featuresOverarching Conclusions
- Staff training
- Staff Experience
- Participant Staff Ration
- Staff Wages
- The interactive approach V the Information only approach
- Flexible, participant-oriented approach
- Multi-component and “whole person” approach
- Clear and consistent programme goals
- Group size
- Diversity of activities
- Incentives for participation
- Parental involvement
- Dosage and Duration
- Overall programme quality
Information from experimental research, non-experimental research, and provider wisdom sources indicates that staff training (i.e., courses of study, workshops, or supplemental classes relevant to the programme’s specific participant population or programme design) is linked with positive programme and participant outcomes.
Practitioner wisdom suggests that experience in combination with high-quality interpersonal skills and programme-specific training is a positive and important programme component in centre-based or after-school programmes for older children, teens and youth. This difference may reflect a nonlinear pattern, whereby some experience is positive, but too much experience represents outmoded strategies or provider fatigue. Also, it is possible that years in the field affects providers differently according to their institutional setting, or that working with different populations “matures” providers in different ways.
Non-experimental information suggests lower participant-staff ratios may be beneficial for children in centre-based programmes. However, provider wisdom suggests that for groups of older children, teens, or youth, too many staff present can be detrimental to the comfort level of the participants and the youth-centred dynamic. The correct ratio in this case may vary according to the specific setting, programme type, and participant group.
Provider wisdom sources indicate that higher, more competitive, and/or more satisfying staff wages and benefits are beneficial to programme outcomes. Provider wisdom sources indicate that this component is important for staff who serve participants of any age. Provider wisdom suggests that this component is important because staff who are satisfied with programme compensation are more likely to stay with their programmes and may also develop higher levels of engagement with the programme.
Experimental research, non-experimental research, and provider wisdom all find that interactive programme approaches, especially as compared with didactic, information only approaches, are relatively promising in producing positive outcomes in older children, teens, and youth. programmes that engage participants through activities such as role-playing and group discussions in center- or classroom-based sessions, for example, have been linked with positive behavioural outcomes (e.g., decreased substance use, deferred sexual initiation). In regard to non-interactive, information-only approaches, three sources find that they are not a promising approach for generating notable positive outcomes, yet one source finds that this approach may be promising when targeting specific genders. Furthermore, information-only approaches have occasionally been linked to changes in the level of participant knowledge about a targeted programme topic, but not to changes in behaviours.
Many programme approaches can be described as interactive or non-interactive. As evident in the two discussions that immediately follow, slight variations on the interactive programme approach have been found to be promising as well.
Non-experimental research and provider wisdom sources indicate that dynamic, participant-oriented approaches are particularly positive. Specifically, this supports programmes that change and adapt to accommodate participants’ growth and development. Positive caregiver behaviours for this approach—for regular staff as well as for adult volunteers in mentoring programmes—include being flexible in the interaction or teaching styles they employ with participants, and not imposing a preexisting, rigid “agenda” that they may have for participants. This approach is also closely tied to encouraging teen and youth participants to have a voice in programme development and activity planning. Youth involvement is particularly important according to provider wisdom; this practice addresses youths’ needs to feel useful and to find reason to engage in the programme. However, it is important to note that, for younger children, this kind of flexibility has been linked in non-experimental studies with negative outcomes.
Both non-experimental research sources and provider wisdom identify multi component and “whole person” approaches as particularly promising. These approaches are designed to address the varied needs of participants and the various contexts in which they exist (e.g., academic, family, social, residential/neighbourhood), as well as the cross-cutting pressures endemic to playing multiple roles and having multiple needs (e.g., school-work conflict, sexual decision-making, pressure to join a local gang). The goal of the whole person approach is often the promotion of multiple positive skills in order to avoid or minimize negative behaviours, and healthy development for its own sake. The multi-component programme typically effects change through addressing participant needs in various domains of his or her life, or through working with and involving people (e.g., parents, teachers) and institutions (e.g., schools, communities) from these other domains. Often, programmes with these approaches teach a battery of social, problem-solving, and general life skills to enhance competency in these various domains. These approaches have been discussed mostly with regard to teens and youth, and are complementary to the ideals set forth in youth development theory, but they are also in line with child development researchers as well (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000).
Both non-experimental research and provider wisdom sources provide information on the apparent effects of clear and consistent programme goals. However, the information from the sources address different contexts in which to communicate these goals, and are—conceptually—slightly contradictory. Non-experimental sources suggest that in prevention programmes, the practice of staff articulating to participants the programme goals (e.g., to prevent drug use) or the programmes’ stance on certain behaviours (e.g., zero tolerance for drug use) facilitates achieving programme goals for the participants (e.g., no drug use). However, provider wisdom asserts that it is occasionally detrimental to programme success when behavioural goals, particularly those related to negative or stigmatised behaviours, are articulated. Participants and/or their families may be resistant to involvement in programmes that address behaviours they feel do not apply to them (e.g., reproductive health programmes, if parents do not believe their teen is, would be, or should be sexually active). On the other hand, however, provider wisdom suggests that it is appropriate and beneficial to articulate positive programme goals (e.g., teaching problem solving, refusal skills) which often attract participation, and the achievement of which typically affects other (potentially stigmatised) behaviours.
Experimental research found that smaller group sizes produced more positive academic outcomes for school-age children. Non-experimental research indicates that, overall, smaller group sizes are a positive, though sometimes neutral, feature for all ages. For youth and adolescents, provider wisdom suggests, however, that the ideal group size may not necessarily be small. The ideal size would vary by type of programme, participant needs, staff ability, and programme resources; provider wisdom suggests that individual programme providers can most likely identify for themselves what group size would be most optimal for their specific group.
Both non-experimental and provider wisdom suggest that it is beneficial to provide a variety of activities—activities that are interesting, engaging, and enjoyable— to help meet the needs of the various learning styles and interests of school-age, teen, and youth participants. There is non-experimental evidence, however, that for very young school-age children—first-grade boys, specifically—attending a programme with “a larger number of different activities” was linked with negative outcomes. However, this finding may speak more to the fact that a greater number of different activities may not satisfy younger children’s needs for significant structure in their programmes than it speaks to problems with offering a variety of activities.
Experimental research and provider wisdom sources find that incentives, in general, are a positive programme component. An experimental study found that cash incentives helped students to be more engaged in the academic programmes in which they were enrolled. Provider wisdom suggests that incentives and rewards (e.g., trips, snacks) encourage youth to participate more frequently and potentially increase enthusiasm for the programme.
Experimental research, non-experimental research, and provider wisdom find that parental involvement can be a positive component in programmes; some experimental and non-experimental sources, however, also show that sometimes it appears not to matter. Overall, the effects of parental involvement appear to vary by level of participation, kind of participation and reasons for participation. Experimental studies have found that parental participation in a literacy programme and two obesity-intervention programmes produced significantly more positive impacts than involving the school-age children only. Regarding obesity, this may reflect the importance of involving the adults who buy and cook food. Parental involvement did not appear to matter in a social skills training programme, however. Non-experimental reviews found similarly positive findings for parental interaction with school-age and teen participants’ mentoring relationships and after-school programmes (but little apparent effect in services for young children, perhaps because parental involvement is ubiquitous at these ages). Provider wisdom sources, however, suggest that engaging parents in programmes for younger children clearly benefits participants.
All three methodological approaches suggest that in certain contexts, higher intensities of involvement—that is, the amount or quantity (“dosage”) of time in which a participant is involved—lead to more positive participant outcomes than lower intensities of involvement. This pattern was not significant for all ages or contexts, however. Experimental studies have found several examples of higher programme dosage producing more positive and/or longer-lasting outcomes among teens and youth in mental health and family reunification programmes and among younger children in education and low birth-weight intervention programmes, for example, but not among certain risky behaviour prevention or juvenile justice probation programmes. Importantly, slight differences in frequency often did not produce significantly different outcomes. Non-experimental sources have found both higher dosage and longer duration to be positive; duration was identified as particularly important in the context of mentoring relationships. Provider wisdom identifies sufficient dosage and duration as one of the most important aspects of programming, asserting that a programme’s design must incorporate enough time and meetings for programme providers to be able to address participant needs, and for participants to achieve programme goals despite any unanticipated delays that may occur.
It seems intuitive and self-evident that “overall quality”—often described in the context of a programme meeting or surpassing a battery of established standards, or following various best practices—is a programme characteristic that would be linked to positive participant and programme outcomes. Non-experimental research and provider wisdom sources confirm this expectation. Non-experimental sources find that quality— most often, environmental, as measured by several different established instruments—is related to positive child outcomes in the child care context even after controlling for various other potentially influential participant, centre, and location-based factors. The provider wisdom discussion finds overall quality to be important, as well, describing it as the end product of different programme practices and processes employed and the quality with which each of these individual components is implemented. Conclusions that combine these 14 overarching findings with the roughly 35 other components we addressed are presented in the form of “ideal” programmes. What would the perfect programme look like according to all of these findings on what components appear to promote positive outcomes, to not matter one way or another, or to detract from programme goals? Drawn from information across all three sources, a generic “ideal” programme is presented immediately below. Descriptions of age-specific “ideal” programmes follow, teasing apart differences in ideal programme implementation according to the varied developmental needs of different age groups.
What is Evidence Based Practice: Part 1 in a Series on Fostering the Adoption of Evidence-Based Practices in
Out-Of-School Time Programs
Centre for Effective Services : The irish based Centre undertakes a wide range of project work ranging from whole-sector strategic development, supporting evidence-informed policy and practice; to focused technical assistance for individual service-providing organisations.
C4EO: The UK Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children and Young People's Services provides a range of products and support services to improve outcomes . C4EO has over 150 examples of 'what works', what is 'making a difference' and 'approaches towards service re-design and/or transformation' for local authorities and other organisations across the country.
What works for Children UK: This website is for practitioners working with children in child public health and social care and interested in finding out about evidence from research. In our resources section you will find our Evidence Guide, EvidenceNuggets and research briefings, weblinks, and other resources to help you and your organisation make use of evidence from research.
Promising Practice Network: The US PPN website is a unique resource that offers credible, research-based information on what works to improve the lives of children and families
What Works US Cleqaring House: Has a search engines that lists programmes that work across a number of domains.