Are youth participating with motivation and intentionality?

One additional element of youth participation in your program is their intentionality and motivation, sometimes referred to as level of engagement.  Are they coming because they are required or just tagging along with a friend, or are they there to learn new things?

Measuring and Tracking Engagement: Motivation and Intentionality
While youth cannot possibly learn new skills without signing up for activities and attending them, simply being present does not mean that the youth are learning.  They may attend, but be bored and not really paying attention.  A youth may attend regularly and consistently over time showing high intensity and duration, but he/she may do so only as a requirement, not because he/she is invested in learning something new.  On the other hand, youth who are required to participate in an activity may still become fully engaged with it. 

Engaged youth will demonstrate some or all of the following:

  • Concentration, effort, following rules, avoidance of trouble
  • Emotions, such as reactions to peers, staff, and activities
  • Thoughtfulness, self-control, and investment of significant effort to master something difficult

This kind of participation cannot be measured in the same ways as the other kinds of participation discussed here.  Staff can observe youth behaviors to determine if they appear bored or interested or particularly motivated.  Youth can also respond to questions regarding their level of interest, the extent to which they think that they are learning, and the extent to which they see that they have an impact on the program.

By Urban Institute


Sources Cited

Bonhert, A., Fredricks, J., Randall, E. (2010). Capturing unique dimensions of youth organized activity involvement: Theoretical and methodological considerations. Review of Educational Research (80)(4), 576-610.

Tiffany, J.S., Exner-Cortens, D., & Eckenrode, J. (2012). A new measure for assessing youth program participation. Journal of Community Psychology (40)(3), 277-291. TEPPS

Zaff, J., Boyd, M., Li, Y., Lerner, J. V., & Lerner R. M. (2010). Active and engaged citizenship: Multi-group and longitudinal factorial analysis of an integrated construct of civic engagement. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39(7), 736-750.


Additional Resources

Lippman, L. & Rivers, A. (October 2008). Assessing school engagement: A guide for out-of-school time program practitioners. Research-to-Results Brief. Child Trends.