Professional Development

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10 Ways to Coach Toward Youth Program Quality

Monday, 28 April 2014 00:00

Quality is certainly on the forefront of afterschool/youth development programs across the country. Whether you are using a formal assessment tool for measuring Youth Program Quality or not, I believe all youth workers should have a concept of what quality looks like and ways to build quality into our programs. You can be an important coach to support your staff in growing their capacity towards recognizing and incorporating youth program quality.

Here are ten sequential and tangible ways to support your staff by coaching them toward integrating youth program quality:

  1. Train your staff - Show them what youth program quality IS, why it matters, and share how it is measurable and can improve youth programs. There is an abundance of information available.

  2. Acknowledge and celebrate staff strengths - Build connections with your staff by recognizing the strengths they offer for improving program quality.

  3. Establish trust - Quality measures should not be used as a performance tool to measure staff performance. Keep this focused on program improvement!

  4. Observe staff - delivering youth programming at point of service with youth. Take objective and factual notes about what was observed, using quotes, and objective descriptions of interactions between youth and staff.

  5. Provide reflective feedback - Schedule a time and lead a discussion where you serve as a mirror about the observation by sharing factual and objective notes taken during the observation. Take turns talking and listening during the feedback session.

  6. Active listening is essential - You want a sense of shared control during a feedback session. Give staff space to reflect on what THEY thought went well and what didn’t go well during the program observation.

  7. Ask divergent questions - Assure the feedback session is a discussion not a judgment. Use open ended questions to guide the discussion, not “Yes or No” questions.

  8. Let staff lead - Ask them what they think can be improved for youth program quality. Build on their suggestions to begin crafting an improvement plan.

  9. Agree upon a plan - Choose a few things to focus on for improving youth programming.

  10. Make a commitment - Observe the program again to support the plan and to recognize improvements.


By: Margo Herman, Extension Educator at University at Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development, based on her NAA 2014 National Conference presentation “Coaching to Quality”.