If you haven’t read Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed, I would like to encourage you to do so. Tough has taken a look at what he calls the non-cognitive skills. He speaks of the importance of grit and delayed gratification, perseverance, working well with others, and young people making choices about the work they will do. Reinforcing these non-cognitive skills is one of the things we in afterschool programs already do. Afterschool programs come from a mindset of youth development, and youth development is about helping young people to develop the resiliency they need to keep on keeping on.
Whether your youth development approach is based on the 40 Developmental Assets identified by the Search Institute or the work of Karen Pittman, or looking at the indicators from the California Healthy Kids Survey or some other source, youth development focuses on youth holistically and does not just weigh in on cognitive skills and academic performance. Youth development is about helping young people find a way to be successful, emotionally, behaviorally, socially, and cognitively while developing the resiliency and tenacity to never give up. It is about helping youth today prepare for a future that will allow them to be successful.
More and more the evidence is demonstrating that memorization of facts and the ability to take a multiple choice test really doesn’t indicate how successful a young person will be. The evidence is increasingly clear that these non-cognitive skills make a difference. So take a look at Tough’s book and a look at the natural connections to your program.
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