Changing Beliefs, Behaviors, and Outcomes

Research makes clear that what students think about their potential as learners—and what educators think about their students’ potential—dramatically affects adolescents’ learning trajectories. When students believe in their ability to learn, and when they are armed with effective problem-solving strategies, they work harder, persist longer, and achieve at higher levels. Further, when educators believe in students’ ability to learn, they can engage their classes in more rigorous tasks that challenge students to demonstrate their understanding in multiple ways.

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Changing the Culture of Learning

To be effective, efforts to improve academic outcomes must address individual students, group interactions, and the overall culture of the learning environment. We know from research that relatively modest interventions aimed at shaping the culture of classrooms can have powerful effects on student success.

AYD, then, can ultimately serve whole schools and districts. Participating students develop knowledge and skills to share with and model for their peers, thus becoming change agents in improving the learning culture of classrooms and the outcomes of students. Teachers and administrators are equipped with powerful research, insights, and strategies to shape their practice with all of the students they serve.

Both of the student-facing programs include comprehensive professional development for participating teachers—face-to-face and online—to help understand the research behind the key ideas, and to help them enact the program with students. The feedback teachers give about the quality of the professional development has been overwhelmingly positive, and they report positive changes in their approach to teaching.

Academic Youth Development Programs

AYD transforms the way adolescents think about themselves as learners, and helps educators create and manage a powerful learning culture in their classrooms and schools. Students learn new ways to approach and work through challenges, and educators reflect on their practice and plan ways to incorporate research findings into their work.

AYD also provides opportunities for rigorous analysis, problem solving, collaboration, and presentation to enable students to internalize new ways of thinking and engaging in school. Included are critical concepts, such as:

  • Learning mindsets
  • Effective effort (grit)
  • Self-management
  • Communication and collaboration

To serve learners and educators in ways that most meet their needs, the AYD program has multiple forms – two student-facing programs and one educator-only program of professional development for teachers, counselors, and administrators:

Summer-Start AYD (SS-AYD) is for students who are preparing for Algebra I in the fall. Through a summer immersion experience, the program readies students to excel in high school, to believe that they belong there, and to understand and embrace their role in constructing a positive learning environment for themselves and their peers.

School-Year AYD (SY-AYD), for students in grades 8-10, is taught during advisory, homeroom, and after-school programs, and provides students with strategies to be successful across their school day.

An Educator’s Course in Academic Youth Development (E-AYD) is a professional development course for educators, including teachers, academic coaches, guidance staff, and district leadership, about the research and the practices that are most crucial to student learning and achievement.