Creating Empowering Environments in Youth Media Organizations
Renee Hobbs, Ed.D. and Jiwon Yoon, Ph.D. candidate, Temple University
How can we understand the differences between youth media programs? What are the characteristics of high-functioning programs? How can youth-serving organizations best provide meaningful learning experiences with media and technology, given the inevitable limitations of budget, time, staff, and other resources? Using a case study of a youth media organization which serves out-of-school youth, this paper presents a theoretical model designed to examine how certain programmatic and structural features of youth media organizations contribute to the quality of student learning, growth and development. The model emphasizes alignment between the following key elements: (1) program goals and outcomes, as articulated by leaders and staff; (2) the use of texts, tools, and technologies, (3) approaches to instruction and youth participation, including expectations of youth as learners; and (4) approaches to program management, including staff development and resource allocation. The model was generated from a case study of a struggling youth media program in a large metropolitan area that gives educational and vocational opportunities to out-of-school urban youth ages 17 – 21. After identifying how role confusion, staffing problems, and low expectations can combine with power relations issues among participants and program staff to the detriment of achieving learning outcomes, we identify four key elements of youth media programs, using data including interviews with program leaders, staff, and students; participant observation data; and analysis of staffing strategies. Youth media organizations should focus on strengthening student competence, confidence, character, connection, and contribution. However, media production instruction and youth participation in media and technology activities (by themselves) do not always guarantee that students develop these capacities. This paper argues that careful alignment between four key elements can help administrative leaders and educators in youth media programs to offer meaningful learning outcomes to program participants.
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