Focus group on youth motivation reveals common barrier
Dr. Kristen Elmore, PRYDE post doc, kicked off her research on youth motivation by traveling to Lowville, NY on August 15th to conduct a focus group with the Cooperative Extension office of Lewis County. Amid a lot of preparation for the NY State Fair, 4-H youth found time to talk with Kristen about their personal and professional goals and how those goals connect to their 4-H experiences.
How do young people think about the future? How do they make sense of their diverse experiences with 4-H development programs? These are the kinds of questions that Kristen hopes to answer through her research. She believes that by engaging in conversations directly with youth about how their involvement in these programs influences their goals, she may be able to further understand the nature of youth motivation.
A theme that came up during the focus group was that many of the kids struggled to overcome the fear of failure during attempts to try new things. What if they failed or looked silly? The youth confessed that these thoughts might make them hesitant at first, but they also pointed out that 4-H staff provide support and help with the new forays into the unknown in ways that their teachers may not always manage to do. “As a researcher listening to their responses, I left thinking that many 4-H staff and volunteers are connecting with youth in meaningful ways that classroom teachers may not,” said Kristen after her trip. It turns out that many of the youth found that while they weren’t good at the new activities on their first attempt, they eventually were able to overcome their initial fears and even master the concepts they were learning about through 4-H programs.
Kristen’s first focus group hints that offering more opportunities for young people to try new, challenging activities in a supportive environment may help youth uncover unexpected interests and possible paths towards the people they hope to become.
By Esther Kim