Positive Youth Development in the United States: Research Findings on Evaluations of Positive Youth Development Programs. Curriculum


Knowing the extent to which programs relied on a structured curriculum or structured activities is critical for program replication. This analysis identified an overlap between a program's use of a curriculum, and the likelihood it incorporated skills-based strategies, the two concepts being closely linked in practical application. Twenty-four (96%) of the well-evaluated effective programs incorporated a curriculum or program of activities. A program such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, which did not focus on skill-based strategies to build social competence, did not use a curriculum. Most skills-based programs assume that the outcomes are mediated by the opportunities associated with the direct learning and practice of its strategies. In a program such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the opposite is assumed:  positive outcomes are mediated by the bonding and other aspects of positive interaction (such as the presumed modeling of effective behavior by the adult) within the mentoring relationship.

Far fewer (20, or 50%, n= 40) of the excluded programs incorporated a curriculum or structured program of activities into their intervention. Those that did were mainly the programs in which there was some confidence in their evaluation designs (n= 12), or the five programs with excellent evaluation designs which proved to show no significant behavioral effects.