Media & Black Adolescents Series: Moonlight Disrupts our Expectations in Ways That are Both Captivating and Breathtaking

By Ariana Gueranmayeh & Annabell Lee, University of Virginia students

This blog post is the fourth in a Media & Black Adolescents Series by youth analyzing movies that reflect the experiences and identity development of Black adolescents. For more posts, please visit our blog. Special thanks to Dr. Valerie Adams-Bass for her support of this series and the youth in her classes. 

Highlights:

  • Undergraduate students taking a “Media Socialization, Racial Stereotypes and Black Adolescent Identity” college course were asked to critique movies and television series, analyzing the media content and applying theory or research.
  • This Media & Black Adolescents Series reflects on a spectrum of experiences for Black adolescents that are grounded in racial and media socialization reflected in the movies. These blogs address racial stereotypes as they relate to contemporary social issues and the identity development experiences of Black youth.
  • For this fourth of five posts in the series, the two youth writers review “Moonlight,” a coming-of-age film that follows the life of Chiron who is navigating his complicated identity as both a Black and gay man from growing up in Miami into adulthood.

For parents or educators who may choose to use this movie as a teaching/learning tool, here are some possible discussion questions:

  • What impact, if any, does the setting of the film (mainly in Miami and briefly in Atlanta) have on the storyline? In other words, if this were set elsewhere, like a small town for example, in what ways would the movie differ?
  • Would Moonlight have received the same praise and recognition for its new and daring storyline if it were released a decade or two earlier? What impact does the political climate in the United States have on conversations about this film?
  • What are some of the ways in which this movie combats stereotypes?
  • Are there any characters, scenes, or themes that you believe play into stereotypes? What role/purpose do you think these stereotypes play in this movie if any?

Source: Moonlight

The movie Moonlight is a 2016 coming-of-age film that follows the life of a young Black man named Chiron who grew up in Miami, Florida. The film follows three chapters of Chiron’s life (Little, Chiron, and Black) that chronicles his childhood, teenage years, and adulthood. Moonlight offers a contemporary and emotional take on many realities that represent Black American life. Specifically, it shows society’s stereotypical expectations of Black men and the subsequent damage that has been done to them. Chiron’s story is told through breathtaking cinematography and emotionally rich score, capturing scenes that are both moody and dark, yet lit with fluorescent pastels that reflect Miami perfectly (Aguirre, 2016).

Each of the three chapters in the film brilliantly captures Chiron’s daily life and its complexities. Moonlight “undoes our expectations as viewers” as it centers around Chiron who we meet as a quiet young boy and just beginning to explore his gay Black masculinity (Als, 2016). He yearns to escape his home life where his mother has fallen to a drug addiction, leaving a void in his life that of Juan, a dope dealer, and his soft-spoken partner Teressa fill. Chiron finds solace when he shares an intimate moment with his friend Kevin, taking a step into unexplored waters. This moment is pivotal and leaves a mark on him in the decade that follows until he reconnects with Kevin in his adult life. Moonlight breaks the stereotypical boundaries media has created for Black characters, especially that of a young Black man, and reintroduces humanity. Chiron is an exemplary character who demonstrates several boundary-breaking characteristics and is an outstanding character to focus this discussion around. The themes of sexual identity, masculinity, and identity development will be explored through the lens of Chiron’s character.

Read more from this critique by downloading this PDF.

-Ariana Gueranmayeh, a 3rd year student at the University of Virginia originally from Richmond, VA.


Source: Moonlight

One question I found myself asking was “Why does this movie feel different?” I believe that it was different on many levels. On an individual level it made me realize my own expectations of “Blackness,” and how this movie disrupted that. I recognize the idea of “Blackness” as a superficial representation that has been perpetuated by the media. According to Adams (2011): Blackness is defined as a superficial symbolic representations of cultural preferences, norms, expression, dress, language, mannerism and communication styles that are treated as representations of African American cultural and ethnic identities that have been defined by mainstream society and media.

This movie also feels different on a normative level, as movies typically don’t go against cultural stereotypes, rather, they perpetuate them. From a young age we are repeatedly shown images from the media that create this superficial image of what it is to be Black.

As Tynes and Ward say in their 2009 paper, “The Role of Media Use in African Americans’ Psychosocial Development,” the gradual exposure to stereotypes portrayed in the media causes us to take these representations and see them as reality. This is known as cultivation theory (Tynes and Ward, 2009). The implications of this for African Americans is especially dangerous as the media has chosen to portray them as one-dimensional characters reduced to either comic relief or the tough gangster, cops or robbers. This covert racism against Black people has primed viewers to have these expectations about the characterizations of Black characters. 

Read more from this critique by downloading this PDF

-Annabell Lee, a 4th year student at the University of Virginia originally from McLean, VA.


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Ariana Gueranmayeh is currently a third-year student at the University of Virginia originally from Richmond, Virginia. At UVA, she is studying Youth and Social Innovation with a minor in Public Policy and Leadership. Ariana is aspiring to use her academic pathway at UVA to lay the foundation for the work she hopes to do in our nation’s public schools. It is her hope that she can spearhead meaningful and lasting education reform that will positively impact our students. In her free time, Ariana enjoys hiking, cycling, and photography.

Author Bio: Annabell Lee is a fourth-year student at the University of Virginia majoring in Media Studies and Psychology, originally from McLean Virginia. She is interested in the effect of media on psychology and vice versa. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, and roller skating.

Youth Action Lab: Undergraduates Reflect on Leading and Learning with Local Youth

By Anya Pfeiffer, Kennedy Eagle, Olivia Burke, Kate Price, & Alexis Allen

Highlights:

  • Youth Action Lab (YAL) helps young people develop social science research skills to transform their lives and communities.
  • YAL uses a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) framework to engage youth as researchers who systematically explore community issues they care about.
  • In this article, undergraduates serving as mentors in the YAL reflect on their experiences working with local high schoolers to design research studies, gather and analyze data, and take action to address the issues they explored.
Source: Students participating in YAL created this video to explain the YPAR framework.

As Youth and Social Innovation (YSI) majors, we joined Youth Action Lab (YAL) as our community-engaged project for the YSI capstone class, an accumulating applied course required for all seniors in the YSI major. The goal of YAL is to equip young people with research skills to transform their lives and communities.

Youth Participatory Action Research

In YAL, we used a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) framework where youth become researchers, systematically exploring issues that impact their schools and communities. Building on their lived experiences and expertise, our high school students develop research questions, design social science studies, gather and analyze data, and then take action to address the issues they explore. YAL uses a mentor-led approach, where we, as undergraduates at the University of Virginia, teach a YPAR curriculum through interactive lessons tailored to meet each group’s needs and objectives. By building community and promoting equity and inclusion, YAL empowers youth through research and collaboration.

Tackling Virtual Learning

One of our first tasks for YAL was researching best practices for virtual learning. Some strategies we found helpful were using digital collaboration tools and providing opportunities for flexibility and student choice. Collaboration tools (such as using breakout rooms and Padlet) allowed students to work together in smaller groups and participate in interactive experiences.

Allowing students to co-construct our lessons by asking what they’d like to learn or how we could support their project also created a more engaged learning environment. Sometimes, this looked like just showing up to listen and provide a space to discuss current events instead of a lesson. Most importantly, we learned to make a plan but be open to adjusting — extending a meaningful activity or discussion is much more important than doing scheduled activities.

YPAR in Action

We applied our research on virtual learning as we started working with two high school student groups, Charlottesville City Youth Council and Albemarle High School Black Student Union. Throughout the year, our team meets with each group biweekly to help guide them through lessons that support the research process.

Youth Council (YC) decided to explore why some students attend private middle schools instead of Walker and Buford but then return to Charlottesville City Schools for high school. Here are some highlights from their research project:

  • The students created a survey to ask local high school students about their middle school experiences and perceptions of different schools. The survey received over 70 responses.
  • YC is now in the process of interviewing adult stakeholders including parents and school board members. Conducting a mixed methods research project has allowed them gain experience with surveys and interviews and engage with different community stakeholders.
  • By the end of the year, YC will present their research findings to City Council and/or the Charlottesville City School Board. YC hopes their research will push the City to implement more programming to address the stigma around public middle schools.

Our team of facilitators have loved working with this group. They are wise beyond their years and show a high-level understanding of societal issues including classism and racism which they are mindful of in their research.

Black Student Union (BSU) is a student organization focused on sharing and supporting the culture and experiences of Black students at Albemarle High School. During our first meetings, BSU identified several issues at their school and decided to examine the lack of racial/ethnic diversity in Dual Enrollment (DE) and Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Since most BSU students have experienced being one of few Black students in higher-level classes, they had a personal connection to the issue. Here are some highlights from their research project:

  • With support from their principal, BSU recently sent surveys to students, teachers, school counselors, and families and are planning interviews to help identify potential solutions. 
  • One idea they have is a summer program that will serve as a bridge to prepare students to transition to more advanced classes. BSU’s overall goal is to make higher level courses more accessible and ensure students of color are prepared to succeed.
  • BSU plans to present their research findings to the Albemarle High School staff and leadership and are also exploring the possibility of presenting to the Albemarle County School Board.

In addition to conducting this research project, BSU continues to advocate for Black students and has held multiple events for their school community to celebrate Black culture and history. Our team has been beyond impressed by this group of motivated and passionate students.

Final Thoughts

Working with two very different and incredibly inspiring groups of high school students has been such a wonderful opportunity. As YAL facilitators, we teach high schoolers how to frame and investigate real world issues through social science research, but we undoubtedly learned just as much from them about framing and addressing problems in our own lives and communities.


YAL is supported by the Equity Center and Youth-Nex. We are always looking for new partners interested in bringing YPAR to the youth they serve. To learn more about YAL and YPAR resources, please visit our website.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Anya Pfeiffer is a fourth year Youth & Social Innovation Major and a first year candidate for a Master’s of Public Policy and Leadership from the Batten School. After graduation, she hopes to work on education or housing policy.


Author Bio: Olivia Burke is a 4th year Youth and Social Innovation major and Public Policy minor who is passionate about education research. Next year she will pursue her M.Ed. in Quantitative Analytics at UVA. 


Author Bio: Kate Price is a fourth year student majoring in Youth & Social Innovation in the School of Education. She is extremely interested in applying youth developmental frameworks to practical settings which help prompt adolescents to critically reflect, use their voice, and make a difference in their communities. 


Kennedy Eagle and Alexis Allen are also YSI students.

Mentoring Innovations: The Power of Groups

By Nancy Deutsch & Gabe Kuperminc

Highlights:

  • Group mentoring programs can be effective in fostering at least short- term improvements in a broad range of youth outcomes.
  • The multiple types of relationships between and amongst peers and mentors in group mentoring programs contributes to youth’s experiences in, and outcomes from, group mentoring.
  • Limiting the size of the mentoring group (i.e., the ratio of mentors to mentees) and incorporating practices that foster peer support among the mentors can support program quality.
Source: National Mentoring Resource Center

January is National Mentoring Month. When you think about mentoring, you probably picture an adult who has volunteered to take an active and supportive role in a young person’s life. If you’ve heard of programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters, you’re probably familiar with the one-on-one approach to mentoring. But whereas one-on-one mentoring programs are widespread, did you know that group mentoring programs actually now serve more youth than one-on-one programs?[i] Group programs come in various shapes and sizes but are differentiated from one-on-one programs in that one or more adults work with multiple youth.

This may sound like a lot of settings you see every day, like after-school clubs, sports teams, or arts programs. Indeed, the basic ingredients for group mentoring exist in many places where multiple youth and one or more adults interact together over time.

But what makes group mentoring different from other programs that involve adults and youth is that it must include intentional mentoring activity and group processes, including meaningful, two-way interactions between one or more mentors and at least two mentees.

Formal programs that match mentors with groups of youth are very popular, with estimates that 35% of youth mentoring programs use a group format and an additional 12% use a combination of one-on-one and group mentoring.[ii] In other group settings, like after-school programs, sports teams, and classrooms, specific efforts may be needed to systematically foster mentoring relationships between the adults and youth.[iii]

In a recent review of group mentoring for the National Mentoring Resource Center, we found three main types of programs:

  1. The first type includes programs in which all activities occur in a group or team-like setting. An example of the first type is a program in San Francisco, CA called Project Arrive, where groups of six to eight students who are vulnerable to dropping out of school meet with mentors each week throughout their 9th grade year to build a sense of belonging in school and a supportive peer network.
  2. The second type of group program blends the popular one-on-one approach to mentoring with group activities. An example of this second type is the Young Women Leaders Program based here at UVA.
  3. The third type of program occurs in existing youth programs, like sports or arts organizations; these programs incorporate intentional elements of mentoring into existing youth programs, and usually include specific training of the adult leaders in topics related to youth development and mentoring and time during the program for explicit mentoring activities.

As group mentoring grows in popularity it is important for researchers and practitioners alike to be attuned to both the potentials of this program format for supporting young people, and also the recommendations that have been identified by the field so far for best practices (see, for example, the recently published supplement to the Elements of Effective Practice for Group Mentoring). In terms of the potential of such programs to have a positive impact on young people, our review uncovered evidence that group mentoring programs can be effective in fostering at least short- term improvements in a broad range of youth outcomes, including those in the behavioral, academic, emotional, and attitudinal/motivational domains. Evidence of longer-term effects is still limited. It should also be noted that there is limited evidence on incorporated programs, as most research has focused on conventional or blended group mentoring programs.

In terms of who benefits the most from group mentoring, our review found some isolated evidence suggesting that group mentoring is particularly effective for youth exposed to higher risk, but group mentoring appears to be potentially effective for youth from a variety of backgrounds.

Program effectiveness may be influenced by the socioemotional and relationship skills and histories that mentors bring to the program, and group facilitation skills is an important additional skill for mentors in group programs. Two features of programs that appear to be important for program quality include limiting the size of the mentoring group, or the ratio of mentors to mentees, and incorporating practices that foster peer support among the mentors.

Group mentoring shares many features of more traditional mentoring programs, but what makes group programs unique is the presence of peers and, often, multiple mentors. This allows for multiple types of relationships between and among mentors and peers that can contribute to youth’s experiences in, and outcomes from, group mentoring. In addition, attributes of the group, such as cohesion and belonging, mutual help, and a sense of group identity, may also contribute to youth outcomes. Researchers and practitioners are often concerned with the potential for negative outcomes, or “negative contagion effects,” particularly when youth exposed to significant risk are grouped together. Our review found that the potential for negative contagion in group mentoring programs does exist, but the presence of strong group facilitators and training for mentors in group programs, as well as intentional planning of assignment of mentees to groups, helps guard against negative consequences. Overall, group mentoring appears to be a promising approach to extend the reach of mentoring to a larger number of youth (and maybe even at a lower cost) than one-on-one mentoring, and to open up new avenues for promoting important skills and social connections that young people need.


Citations

[i] Garringer, M., McQuillin, S., & McDaniel, H. (2017). Examining Youth Mentoring Services Across America: Findings from the 2016 National Mentoring Program Survey. MENTOR The National Mentoring Partnership.

[ii] Garringer, M., McQuillin, S., & McDaniel, H. (2017). Examining Youth Mentoring Services Across America: Findings from the 2016 National Mentoring Program Survey. MENTOR The National Mentoring Partnership.

[iii] Banister, E. M., & Begoray, D. L. (2006). A community of practice approach for Aboriginal girls’ sexual health education. Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry / Journal de l’Académie Canadienne de Psychiatrie de l’enfant et de l’adolescent, 15, 168–173.


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Nancy Deutsch is the director of Youth-Nex, the UVA Center to Promote Effective Youth Development at the School of Education & Human Development. She is a Professor of Research, Statistics & Evaluation and Applied Developmental Science and is also affiliated with the Youth & Social Innovation (YSI) Program. Deutsch’s research examines the socio-ecological contexts of adolescent development, particularly issues related to identity. She has focused on the role of after-school programs and relationships with important adults, and is especially interested in the process of adolescent learning and development as it unfolds within local environments for better understanding about how to create settings that better support youth, especially those at risk due to economic or sociocultural factors.

Author Bio: Gabe Kuperminc is Professor of Psychology and Public Health and Chair of the Community Psychology Doctoral Program at Georgia State University. His research focuses on 1) understanding processes of resilience and positive youth development in adolescence and 2) evaluating the effectiveness of community-based prevention and health promotion programs. He is studying the effectiveness of innovative approaches to youth mentoring, including group mentoring and combining mentoring with other youth development approaches (projects funded by the Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention). He also works with youth-serving non-profit organizations at local, state, and national levels, studying the effectiveness of prevention and youth development programs. A common thread in his work is an interest in understanding how cultural factors play a role in developmental processes and health behavior.

Measuring Key Processes in Youth Mentoring

By Julia Augenstern

Highlights:

  • Mentoring programs are essential resources in many communities and one of the best supported approaches for fostering positive youth development.
  • However, despite a long record of empirical support for their positive impact, little is known about how mentoring benefits are rendered or the specific processes by which mentoring relationships work.
  • Presented here is recent work to help assess five key mentoring processes with the hope that when used this survey can reveal what makes some mentoring programs more effective than others.

Over the past 30 years, there have been numerous studies that show mentoring can help reduce youth risk of substance use, school failure and delinquency, and can increase their sense of support, connection, and self-efficacy. Not all programs show these benefits, with some even showing null or negative impacts. The question still remains:

What makes some programs beneficial and how do these benefits occur?

This requires looking into the processes that make up mentoring interactions; to understand the “how” of mentoring. Through reviewing theoretical and practical literature on mentoring we identified a set of 5 processes that were commonly mentioned as occurring within mentoring relationship and developed an assessment tool to capture them (See the original research article in the Journal of Community Psychology at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22408).

Five Key Mentoring Processes

The follow five mentoring processes are measured by the Mentoring Process Scale (MPS):

  • Role Modeling – Activities and discussions that provide the mentee opportunity to experience the mentor as a role model or figure of identification, those in which the effect may be to evoke admiration, respect, felt positive similarity and connection, or emulation.
  • Advocacy – A process by which the mentor speaks up for or supports the mentee to others, connects the protégé with resources, and/or helps the mentee seek and access skills and opportunities, helping support navigation of social systems.
  • Relationship and Emotional Support – Instances where the mentor provides open and genuine positive regard and companionship to the mentee in ways that would be expected to lead the mentee to feel supported and cared for by the mentor. This process is characterized by regular and open communication, with empathy and/or reciprocity prominent.
  • Teaching and Information Provision – A process by which the mentor teaches new things to the mentee and/or provides information that might aid the mentee in managing social, educational, legal, family, and peer challenges.
  • Shared Activity – The mentor and mentee engage in activities together (e.g., cooking, playing sports, going out to eat, watching tv) or simply spend time together.
Click here to see the large PDF.

Our goal was to capture and understand these processes from both the adult mentor and youth mentee perspectives. Our study validated these five components as distinct and important factors making up the overall scale and showed that these processes relate to other important characteristics of effective mentoring, when rated by adult mentors. For youth, the items formed as a single general positive mentoring activity scale.

We think the scale can help reveal how mentoring works, what differentiates effective and ineffective mentoring, and what might be important training targets and skills for mentors.

This scale also has promise to help address inequities in access to quality mentoring. Presently, too often, the quality of mentoring available is dependent on economic and social resources, with little guidance on critical components of the mentoring relationship. If we can learn what makes mentoring effective, then training can concentrate on those skills and activities. The scale and the practices it measures can be used to help guide initial and ongoing training. It can also be used to highlight if and how mentors might be applying learned skills in their daily work with mentees. By better understanding the mechanisms of positive influences, disparities in mentoring program quality can be better identified and remediated, thus ensuring a greater likelihood for successful mentoring impacts across communities.

Mentoring in COVID-19

Finally, in a world of physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, mentoring programs must adapt to new ways of engaging youth. They must find ways to successfully maintain the mentoring relationship and address new and unique needs of youth and communities. By considering what processes to emphasize and assessing variation in engagement and outcome as different ones are emphasized, we can learn how to ensure effective mentoring in these new circumstances. These five key processes can be helpful in guiding program adaptation to ensure that important components of the mentoring relationship are still maintained, regardless of the modality through which contact is made.


For more information about this research and the MPS, please see:

Tolan, P. H., McDaniel, H. L., Richardson, M., Arkin, N., Augenstern, J., & DuBois, D. L. (2020). Improving understanding of how mentoring works: Measuring multiple intervention processes. Journal of Community Psychology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jcop.22408

or contact Patrick Tolan, Ph.D. at pht6t@virginia.edu


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Julia Augenstern, M.Ed. is a fourth year doctoral student in the Curry School of Education and Human Services Clinical and School Psychology Program. She studies positive youth development and social emotional learning in a Youth Nex affiliate lab and is a recent Curry Innovative, Developmental, Exploratory Awards (IDEAs) grant recipient.

Adolescence in the Time of COVID-19: Building an Identity Focused Online Environment

By Karis Lee, Juliana Salcedo, Jack Wren, & Lily Zhang

Highlights:

  • Adolescents explore different identities as they begin to figure out who they are and want to be.
  • Identity development is impacted by one’s social environment including family, peers, community, and online activities.
  • Even with the switch to online learning, adults can implement strategies to support students’ identity development.
Source: Curry School of Education & Human Development

Identity development in adolescents begins with their personal backgrounds and changes as adolescents encounter new experiences, ideas, environments, and people. Adolescents begin to answer “who am I?” by thinking about themselves in various contexts and from different perspectives. Adolescents may identify themselves in many ways such as race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, and family. Younger adolescents are more sensitive to external feedback whereas older adolescents learn to hold stronger identity stances and consider themselves in broader contexts. There are many ways to navigate identity formation during adolescence that are relevant to education and distance learning. 

Why Identity Development is Important in Adolescence

According to Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, adolescence (ages 13-19) marks stage five of development and is key in the lifelong process of identity construction. During this period, individuals grapple with identity versus role confusion, and they focus on organizing their skills, interests, and values into a core sense of self. These tasks are also supported by key changes that occur in the brain during this time period, such as abstract processing, consideration of multiple perspectives and possibilities, and the reasoning of truths. Adolescents engage in the identity “search process,” in which they explore different identities and eventually commit and follow through. Adolescents spend a significant amount of time in school so peers and curriculum both play crucial roles during this search process. Since many students are engaging in distance learning at the moment, peer-interactions, online activities, and community support are elements educators must consider when building an identity-based learning environment. 

Adolescence is also the period in which individuals process their beliefs and attitudes about their ethnic-racial identity (ERI) membership. ERI is multidimensional, and it is impacted by how one’s racial identity is regarded by others, how identities are formed based on racial beliefs (or how a group “should” act), and the internal reconciliation of these various perspectives. It can be a combination of the maturity of one’s self-perception and the broader contexts that affect that self-perception. According to William Cross’s model of ERI development, a racial or ethnic “encounter” often catalyzes one’s processing. The “encounter” and how that impacts students’ ERI is especially important to keep in mind, as it could be affected by both the move to online classes and the current Black Lives Matter movement.

Adolescents Shifting to an Online Environment

Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the move online may affect adolescents’ identity development  by restricting their autonomy. In-person school can provide a needed environment in which students can engage in the identity search process, where they can “try on” different identities without familial identity constraints or pressures. For example, schools can provide a needed social outlet for  LGBTQ students to learn about their sexual or gender identity. Online learning, however, constricts students to their home environments and thus limits the search process. Students may not feel as comfortable exploring their identity with the influence of their parents and their parent’s beliefs surrounding them as they are learning.

In an online learning environment, teachers can continue to support identity development through assignments that have students engage with their interests. Teachers will likely need to rely on parents and families to engage with students through this process. However, not all students have the same access to resources at home so flexibility should be a guiding principle.

Building an Identity Focused Online Environment

Here are some suggestions for building a identity focused online learning environment that teachers could consider:

  • Have students read books that are of interest to them and form reading circles to share.
  • Create playlists of music, podcasts, or documentaries that relate to class material and introduce students to new ideas and perspectives.
  • Encourage students and parents to work together to engage with their community by walking around to historical sites and landmarks, or exploring historical sites online. Students can use this activity to talk with parents and/or other family members about their own identity. 
  • Have students reflect on current global and social events, such as the role of social media during COVID-19, being GenZ, the Black Lives Matter movement and Supreme Court cases.
  • Continue school-sponsored activities online so students have the opportunity to stay connected with others and gain support for organizations that are important for identity development.
  • Provide flexibility and freedom when doing identity-based work so that students are not constricted by labels. 
  • Cultivate cognitive routines with a set of prompts allowing the teacher to guide the activity rather than directly transfer knowledge (this helps students to develop their own opinions and think for themselves).Use prompts such as: “What was the biggest surprise?” or “I used to think ____. But now I think ___.” It is important to let students showcase their interests and knowledge!

In sum, the school environment plays a crucial role in adolescents’ exploration of identity, and their interactions both inside and outside the classroom help them answer the key “who am I?” question. It’s important for teachers to be aware of how the transition to online learning can impact this exploration and develop class strategies that allow students to continue engaging with the identity search process.


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Juliana Salcedo is a graduate student in the Curry School of Education and Human Development working on her master’s in teaching for secondary science education. She is a recent graduate of the College of William & Mary with a degree in Biology and Chemistry.


Author Bio: Karis Lee is a student at the Curry School of Education working towards her masters in teaching secondary language arts. She is a recent graduate of the College of William & Mary, where she studied English and history.


Author Bio: Lily Zhang is a graduate student in the Curry School of Education and Human Development working on her master’s in teaching for secondary English education. She graduated from the University of Virginia in 2019 with degrees in English and Psychology.


Author Bio: Jack Wren is a graduate student in the Curry School of Education working on a master’s in teaching for secondary Mathematics education.  He recently graduated from UVA in May 2020 with a degree in Mathematics.

How to Teach Your Kids When You Have No Idea What You’re Doing

By Andrew D. Kaufman

As the COVID-19 threat wreaks havoc on our lives, all of us are coping with the utterly unpredictable and traumatic circumstances as best as we can. For parents, in particular, who have been thrust into the role of a full-time stay-at-home mom and/or dad and full-time teacher, this new world is especially terrifying.

Source: Andrew Kaufman Blog

John Dewey, the famous educational philosopher and founder of experiential learning, said that “All genuine learning comes through experience.” And, thanks to COVID-19, just about every household in our country has just become an experiential learning classroom

As a parent with a seven-year-old and four-year-old now at home full-time, I know what it feels like. I’m also a teacher with a background in experiential learning, a teaching philosophy that puts students face-to-face with real life and then guides them through the process of learning from those experiences. 

A decade ago, I started teaching a class called Books Behind Bars at the University of Virginia, where my students meet regularly with youth at a juvenile correctional center to have deep conversations about Russian literature. 

It was an experiment. Such a course had never been attempted before. There were no roadmaps and no guarantees of success. What success would even look like was unclear. It was if I were attempting to build the Mayflower while sailing on it toward a destination I wasn’t even sure existed.

Sound familiar?

Many of the principles of experiential learning apply to the situation faced by parents across the country right now, so here are a few of my recommendations to help you navigate this new reality.

If you’re a parent, you’re already a teacher.

There’s a mystique surrounding the word “teacher,” but don’t let yourself become intimidated by the term. Some of the greatest teachers I’ve had never worked in any kind of formal classroom in their lives. They were the people I encountered growing up who were patient, cared for my well-being, motivated me to be better, encouraged me to take risks, taught me not by words but by example, and truly listened to me. Take heart in the fact that you’ve already been using these effective teaching methods for years. It’s called being a parent. 

Don’t teach by lecture, listen.

Active listening is probably a teacher’s greatest tool. Listening deeply to what another person tells us allows them to listen to themselves, to access their own creativity, and to find their own solutions—which will teach them more in the long run than anything you could possibly tell them. In order words, don’t feel like you have to lecture at your kids to teach them. 

Do the exact opposite by staying present and being curious. Ask them questions you truly want to know the answers to, not the ones you already have the answer to. Listen to them as you’ve never listened before, and they will learn more from this experience than ten hours of lecturing could ever give them. 

Co-create the curriculum with your son or daughter.

From day one of my Books Behind Bars class I told my university students that we would be co-creating this class together. I needed them just as much as they needed me in order to make it work. Those weren’t just inspirational words—they were the truth, and it took a lot of pressure off of me as a teacher. Approaching your new job as a homeschooling parent in a similar spirit will remove the pressure from you, as well. 

Sit down with your child. Ask them what they are interested in, what they would like to learn more about, what inspires them, what would they like to do? Listen to the answer without judgment. If they tell you that they want to run around outside all day in your yard and play Gaga ball with their younger brother, work with that. Go on the internet with them and learn about Gaga ball. If your child can read, then have them do the research themselves. Reading lesson accomplished.

As for math, ask them to find out the recommended size of a Gaga ball field. Do you have enough space in your yard to accommodate that? It’s a multiplication problem. If your child wants to play Gaga ball badly enough, he’ll do the math. And you do it with him.

Have your child teach you.

It’s okay that you’re figuring this out together. You don’t need to be a know-it-all. In fact, you shouldn’t be a know-it-all. Consider yourself lucky that your child is interested in a subject you know nothing about. Have her teach you about the subject. Not only will you learn something, but she will learn even more. 

As every teacher knows, you learn a subject the best when you’re trying to teach it to someone else, so turn your child into the teacher. Have her teach you one new thing about her favorite subject each day. Not only will this take the pressure off you, it will fill her with a sense of pride. And she’ll learn her favorite subject like she’s never learned it before. 

Forget perfectionism.

Perfectionism in teaching, as in everything else, is the enemy of the good. To give you a personal example: Like thousands of other college faculty across the country, I was recently told by my administration that I had to take my courses online within a week.  

The very core of Books Behind Bars—relationships between my university students and the correctional center students—will likely cease suddenly and completely. I don’t mean just the face-to-face relationships. I mean the relationships, period. The correctional center students are not allowed to have access to technology, so virtual teleconferencing isn’t a possibility. And after the semester is over, the so-called “no-contact rule” prevents further contact between the two groups of students for five years.

Imagine how traumatic this is all for the students on both sides. 

If I set myself the goal of creating an awesome class through all this, I’m doomed and so are my students. Some college administrations are putting pressure on faculty to maintain the same high standards in the online version of our courses that they expect us to have in the traditional classroom format. Such pressure is not only unethical but ludicrous, when people have mountains of pressure on them already. 

Now is not the time to be a perfect parent or a perfect teacher. Now is the time to radically adjust our expectations, and give one another—and ourselves—permission to be human and imperfect. 

Your most important teaching goal right now should be the well-being of your child.

There’s a saying in teaching circles that you start with the student, not the subject. This is more true now than ever.

The most important thing that should be on your mind in this traumatic moment is the well-being of your child. 

I am continually reminding my university students right now that my number one concern is their well-being first, their learning second. Imagine what college students must be going through at this moment. Some of them are be living at home, taking care of ailing parents, looking for work, and still trying to keep up with their studies. It’s insane. My students aren’t thinking about Tolstoy or Dostoevsky right now. They’re thinking about real things, big things, life things. 

If my students take nothing more from my class in five years than the knowledge of how to care and be cared for in a time of trauma, then this semester will have been a success. It will have taught them something invaluable.

The same is true for your child. If throughout this traumatic period they don’t learn one thing about math or reading, but learn instead that their parents love them deeply and are always there for them, then consider yourself a success as a teacher. 

Godspeed. 

Read the original post on Dr. Kaufman’s personal blog.

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If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: A nationally recognized expert on teaching innovation and service-learning, Dr. Andrew Kaufman is currently an Associate Professor and Assistant Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Virginia. He supports faculty and teachers across the country in creating profound learning experiences that change the way students think, act, and feel, while making important contributions to their communities.

Teaching through Relationships

By Theresa Pfister

Source: The BOLD Blog

It was my first month of teaching and it wasn’t going particularly well. A native Midwesterner, I laughed loudly and smiled easily, two of the worst possible things a new teacher could do.

“Your lesson was good,” my coach told me, “but you’re coming off as too warm. Too friendly.”

“I—”

“They’re going to walk all over you.”

“I—”

“You’re here to teach them, right?”

I nodded.

“Then stop trying to be their friend, and be their boss.”

Read more of this post on the Blog on Learning & Development (BOLD).

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If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Theresa Pfister is a PhD student at the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on adolescence, the importance of relationships, and equity. An educator first and foremost, she believes deeply in the importance of working in partnership with schools, communities, and students and using research as a tool to empower others.

Dialoging for Democracy, the 7th Youth-Nex Conference

By Johari Harris

Highlights:

  • Youth-Nex hosted their 7th conference in November 2019.
  • The title of the conference was “Dialoging for Democracy: Youth Moral Reasoning and Social Justice.”
  • Co-chair Dr. Johari Harris discusses why this conference was chosen and what participants got from attending.

The Unite the Right White Nationalist march that took place in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12th 2017 demonstrated the resiliency and inherent violence of White supremacy. In the time since, this nation has continued to see a rise in hate crimes directed at different, often marginalized, communities within the United States. These events run parallel to larger conversations about justice and human welfare happening both in the U.S. and abroad. From immigration to global warming, people are grappling with what solutions to these problems should look like. While these issues and subsequent conversations are often viewed as “best left to the adults,” events like March for Our Lives, the Global Climate Strike, and A Day Without Immigrants demonstrate the vested interest today’s youth have in these and other moral issues and the health of our overall democracy.

We at Youth-Nex wholeheartedly support these efforts. Further, we believe that, rather than overlooking the concerns of youth, our educational and policy systems should center youth in the process of understanding complex problems by paying attention to how youth think about these issues and how adults can support youth’s engagement in creating solutions to them. I had the wonderful opportunity to co-chair the 7th Youth-Nex conference on “Dialoging for Democracy: Youth Moral Reasoning and Social Justice” with Dr. Nancy Deutsch (Director of Youth-Nex) in November 2019. 

We realized during the planning of this, however, that there are key questions we must consider as we seek to support and collaborate with youth.

First, how does youth’s thinking about complex moral and social issues shift as they grow and change? What does the science of child and adolescent development tell us about how to best scaffold youth’s engagement with moral issues and how do we then engender civic engagement among youth? Second, what is the role of dialogue in this process? What are best practices for engaging youth in moral issues? Finally, how do we engage youth in moral issues in our current social and political climate? In particular, how do we do this work within K-13 spaces, both formal and informal educational settings?

To begin answering these questions, the conference looked closely at the developmental processes related to how youth think about moral issues, the power (and constraints) of dialogue, and the relationship of both of these constructs to democracy. Importantly and intentionally, we kept the structural issues youth face at the forefront of the conversation. There must be an understanding of macro-level forces, like systemic racism, that dictate the effectiveness and expression of individual agency. Therefore, we discussed how implicit and explicit issues of power cannot be divorced from the types of dialogue in which youth can engage. We unpacked the developmental process related to moral reasoning, empathy, civic engagement, and perspective taking, and provided examples of best practices of how to do this work in a range of spaces from classrooms to camps.

Our hope was that participants left the conference ready to return to their own spaces better equipped to amplify youth’s engagement with moral issues and social justice in ways that further their existing capacity as today’s change makers, and the future leaders of our democracy. You can watch video from all the sessions and many performances at the conference on the Youth-Nex youtube channel and our website.

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If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Dr. Johari Harris is an Assistant Research Professor at the Curry School of Education and Human Development. Her work examines how social identities, specifically race and gender, along with cultural values systems, like Afro-centric values, influence African American adolescents social-emotional competencies. Her research is grounded in intersectionality, developmental psychology, and social psychology theories.

Special Journal Focuses on Civic Engagement, Moral Identity: Charlottesville’s Summer of 2017

We resume blogs about Positive Youth Development with a focus on the center’s three new core areas: a) Out-of-School Time; b) Educational Systems: Middle School; and c) Community Engagement: Civic and Political.

We start with the Journal of Adolescent Research Special Issue focus on Youth Civic and Moral Engagement. Nancy Deutsch penned the introduction, posted with the permission of the publisher, which shines a light on the events that transpired in Charlottesville over the summer of 2017.

Introduction to the Journal of Adolescent Research Special Issue on Youth Civic and Moral Engagement

As our editorial team was putting together this issue, our home, Charlottesville, Virginia, was still reeling from the events of the summer of 2017. Images of angry White, mostly male, faces holding tiki torches and weapons, wearing white polo shirts and khakis, chanting fascist and racist slogans were still fresh in our minds. Many of these faces were young; the leaders were under 40. The man charged with killing Charlottesville community member Heather Heyer, who was one of the counter protestors on August 12, was 20 years old. For those of us who study young people, these images could seem to signify a crisis of civic engagement—a reflection of youth whose disengagement from the moral fabric of our society was so great as to lead them to a White supremacist movement that advocates violent hatred.

Yet that is not the full Charlottesville story. On the evening of August 11, 2017, a group of students from the University of Virginia faced down a mob of tiki torch wielding White supremacists who had marched across the school’s campus. The students linked arms, surrounding the statue of Thomas Jefferson that sits at the heart of campus, in front of a sign proclaiming “VA Students Act Against White Supremacy.” These students took the ultimate civic stand—putting their bodies in harm’s way to defend the values that we hold dear. Members of the antifascist movement, whom some clergy members credit with saving their lives during the protests on August 12, are also primarily young people. Furthermore, for weeks, months, and even years before the August events, local youth had been working within our community to organize for racial and social justice. It was a high school student who started the petition to have the confederate statues removed from our local parks. Local high school students started a Black Student Association and an organization to help undocumented students. Their story is one of civic and moral engagement of the highest caliber.

This fall, as I walked across campus every day, I was reminded of the courage and moral fortitude of our local youth. At the same time, I could not ignore the continued presence of White supremacy and the increasing public presence of hate groups across the globe, groups that often prey on disengaged young people for recruitment. The time for a developmental focus on youth civic and moral identity and engagement is now.

In line with our mission, and following that commitment, our editorial team decided to create a special issue featuring articles focused on civic engagement and moral identity. The four articles in this volume feature a range of perspectives from across the globe. Some consider contexts or interventions that may promote civic engagement, such as schools, service learning, and youth councils. Others consider the development of moral and/or civic identities. We felt that this topic was timely and deserving of a dedicated issue. We hope that you agree. And we hope that some day #Charlottesville can come to represent not the violent reemergence of hate groups in the United States but the power of youth civic engagement and moral identity, and the tremendous ability of young people to promote positive social change.

Nancy L. Deutsch
University of Virginia
Youth-Nex: The UVA Center to Promote Effective Youth Development
Charlottesville, VA
nld7a@virginia.edu

Articles in the issue: (access depends on your individual or institutional permissions):

If Someone Asked, I’d Participate: Teachers as Recruiters for Political and Civic Participation
Rebecca Jacobsen, David Casalaspi
First Published October 24, 2016; pp. 153–186

Youth Civic Engagement: Do Youth Councils Reduce or Reinforce Social Inequality?
Astraea Augsberger, Mary Elizabeth Collins, Whitney Gecker, Meaghan Dougher
First Published January 4, 2017; pp. 187–208

Globalization and Moral Personhood: Dyadic Perspectives of the Moral Self in Rural and Urban Thai Communities
Jessica McKenzie
First Published October 9, 2016; pp. 209–246

Development of Adolescent Moral and Civic Identity Through Community Service: A Qualitative Study in Hong Kong
Huixuan Xu, Min Yang
First Published March 20, 2017; pp. 247–272

https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558418756524
Journal of Adolescent Research
2018, Vol. 33(2) 151–152
© The Author(s) 2018
Reprints and permissions:
sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0743558418756524
journals.sagepub.com/home/jar
The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in the Journal of Adolescent Research, Vol. 33(2) 151–152, February/2018 published by SAGE Publishing, All rights reserved.

Series: Media Socialization, Racial Stereotypes And Black Adolescent Identity

 
This is the first post in a series based on Professor Valerie Adams-Bass‘ UVA class, “Media Socialization, Racial Stereotypes And Black Adolescent Identity.”

Introduction by Valerie Adams-Bass, Ph.D.
TV talks. The characters we view on television shows and in movies speak to us through the written scripts and through the physical bodies of the characters. Media socialization—the exposure to mass communication (television, radio, internet, newspapers) messages, which teach people socially accepted behaviors that have: (a) a direct influence on cognitive ability and behavioral functioning, and (b) a mediating or facilitative indirect influence on learning (Adams & Stevenson, 2012), has been identified as a notable factor during adolescence. Arnett, 1995; Lloyd, 2002; Strasburger, Wilson & Jordan, 2014). Students in EDHS 3100, Media Socialization, Racial Stereotypes and Black Adolescent Identity, are learning about the scripts that are associated with black media images and discussing the impact on African-American adolescents. Their blog entries reflect an understanding of the scripts viewed in television sitcoms, drama, reality shows, or movies and the potential impact of exposure to theses media images on viewers.


The Parkers, “That’s What Friends Are For”
By Alysa Triplett, UVA student

The Parkers is a sitcom about an African-American mother-daughter duo in Los Angeles, California who both attend a local community college. In this particular episode, both mother (Nikki) and daughter (Kim) prepare for a final examination for a class taught by professor, and love interest of Nikki, Stanley Oglevee. Just a few days before the exam, Nikki’s high school friend, Flo, arrives in town for a charity walk and stays with the Parkers. Flo’s presence proves to be a hindrance to Nikki’s studies as she repeatedly convinces Nikki to go out instead of studying, even the night before the test. On this particular night, Flo leaves Nikki at a party, which eventually results in Nikki getting arrested and missing her morning exam. On Kim’s side of the story, she and her [musical] band (with friends Stevie and T) book a lot of gigs in the days leading up to the exam. This leaves them with little time to study and thus they resort to cheating. Continue reading