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Linking research to the practice of youth development



Stephen Hamilton

A special issue of the journal Applied Developmental Science explores the application of a truly translational research process to "youth development." The issue is edited by Stephen Hamilton, BCTR associate director for youth development.

From the abstract for the issue:

The articles in this special issue address some of the challenges of strengthening the links between research and the practice of youth development and identify some approaches that have worked well. Youth development emerged from practice rather than from theory or research. Research that is most useful in the practice of youth development honors that primacy both by exploring questions that are important in practice and by engaging practitioners as partners, not merely as consumers.


A consistent theme of this issue is that the conventional portrayal of research-practice linkage as uni-directional is both inaccurate and inadequate. Different kinds of research inform different dimensions of practice; practice can and should guide research. Efforts to aid practitioners in accessing, understanding, and using research findings should be accompanied by efforts to aid researchers in posing questions about topics that matter to practitioners, conducting research that comprehends the complexity in which those topics are embedded, honoring practitioner wisdom, and enlarging the circle of those who conduct research.

The issue includes the following articles (BCTR staff in bold):

Stephen F. Hamilton (2015) Linking Research to the Practice of Youth Development, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 57-59, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2015.1030016

Stephen F. Hamilton (2015) Translational Research and Youth Development, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 60-73, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.968279

Reed W. Larson, Kathrin C. Walker, Natalie Rusk & Lisa B. Diaz (2015) Understanding Youth Development from the Practitioner's Point of View: A Call for Research on Effective Practice, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 74-86, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.972558

Mary Agnes Hamilton & Stephen F. Hamilton (2015) Seeking Social Inventions to Improve the Transition to Adulthood, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 87-107, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.975227

Jane Powers, Mary Maley, Amanda Purington, Karen Schantz & Jutta Dotterweich (2015) Implementing Evidence-Based Programs: Lessons Learned From the Field, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 108-116, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2015.1020155

Nicole Yohalem & Vivian Tseng (2015) Commentary: Moving From Practice to Research, and Back, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 117-120, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.983033


Linking research to the practice of youth development - Applied Developmental Science

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Youth research updates on gossip, children of prisoners, and minority participation in STEM


Group discussion at the 2015 YDRU

Group discussion at the 2015 YDRU

The BCTR's annual Youth Development Research Update (YDRU) brings together 4-H educators, Cornell Cooperative Extension county leaders, and others in New York State affiliated with youth programs with Cornell researchers. At this year's YDRU, held in early June,  researchers presented on gossip and aggression, the effects of parental incarceration on children, racial and ethnic minority youth engagement in STEM, and the influence of class on cohabitation choices. Jutta Dotterweich (director of training and technical assistance, ACT for Youth Project) and Stephen Hamilton organized the event.

In a Cornell Chronicle article, Jacqueline Davis-Manigaulte ’72, a Cornell Cooperative Extension-New York City senior extension associate, describes the importance of the YDRU,

This event allows us to hear about the latest Cornell faculty research on youth development. But what I really enjoy is the powerful connections we make with faculty members who see the value in working with us on projects. It gives us a direct line to potential partners.

In addition to talks by researchers, the YDRU features group discussions and unstructured time for participants to talk. Giving these generally institutionally separated groups access to each other allows for discussions leading to stronger, more relevant research and more effective, evidence-based programming for youth.

This year's presentations were:

  • Steven E. Alvarado (Sociology): Racial and Ethnic Minorities in STEM: Challenges and Opportunities for Advancement
  • Anna R. Haskins (Sociology): Paternal Incarceration and Children's Early Educational Outcomes
  • Sharon Sassler (Policy Analysis and Management): Social Class Differences in Relationship Processes and the Entry into Cohabitation
  • Dawn E. Schrader (Communication): Everybody Talks: Forms and Functions of Gossip and Talk in Adolescent Female Social Aggression


Talks connect faculty, youth-focused extension partners - Cornell Chronicle

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ACT for Youth supports sex education and positive youth development at Provider Day


Attendees at Provider Day

Attendees at Provider Day
Photo by Brian Maley

This September, the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence (COE) sponsored Provider Day 2014, a professional development conference for 224 teen pregnancy prevention program staff from communities across New York State. The COE provides technical assistance, training, and evaluation for three pregnancy prevention initiatives funded by the New York State Department of Health. Sex educators and youth service professionals from each initiative came together in Albany to share and gain new insights, strategies, and tools to promote healthy development among youth.

The evening before Provider Day, the BCTR hosted a reception that set a warm and collegial tone. Jane Powers and John Eckenrode opened the day’s events, and BCTR staff offered workshops on a range of topics, including Self-Care and Youth Work (Heather Wynkoop Beach and Michele Luc), Youth with Mental Health Concerns (Jutta Dotterweich), Using Evaluation Data (Mary Maley and Amanda Purington), and Life Purpose and Teens (Janis Whitlock), among others.

One participant wrote,

I found the day valuable and validating. I believe we need all the validation we can get when working in this field. It's not easy, and when we can recharge and gain new knowledge and tools, I know that I come back to the office looking for ways to use the information I have gotten. Thank you!

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ACT teams with communities to better support young parents

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Erin Graupman, District Coordinator of Student Health Services,  Rochester City School District

Erin Graupman, District Coordinator of Student Health Services, Rochester City School District

This July Pathways to Success community teams from Buffalo, the Bronx, and Rochester met for the first time on campus. They reviewed the results from needs and resources assessments of services and support available for young parents in their respective cities. Funded by the New York State Department of Health, and administered through the BCTR's ACT for Youth Center of Excellence, the Pathways to Success Initiative pairs one public school district with one community college (in Buffalo, the Bronx, and Rochester). The aim of this initiative is to create community infrastructure that will help expectant and parenting teens and young adults improve their health, education, and self-sufficiency, as well as strengthen their families.

Jane Powers, director of ACT for Youth, explains the importance of this initiative,

This project tries to improve outcomes for this population, who are prone to fall through the cracks of our service delivery systems. Often they don’t finish school and don’t get prenatal care, which can compromise their future health, occupational and economic outcomes.

To inform the initiative, ACT for Youth developed a process that engaged each community in the assessments. The community partners gathered data through a series of key informant interviews with local agencies. Then ACT for Youth staff consulted expectant and parenting youth by conducting focus groups in each community. Data from the interviews and focus groups were coded here at Cornell. ACT for Youth staff then travelled to each community to discuss findings in “data dialogue” sessions that allowed for rich and locally-based reflection and planning.

Reginald L. Cox

Reginald L. Cox

As the final step in this process, staff from each community project came together in Ithaca on July 14-15, 2014. The first day was dedicated to connecting across the communities, followed by workshops given by Jutta Dotterweich (ACT for Youth director of training and technical assistance) on collaboration, systems-level change, and sustainability. On the second day, groups focused on finding common themes, defining and prioritizing actionable steps, and a hearing a closing talk on engaging fathers from a regionally known expert, Reginald L. Cox, director of the Fatherhood Connection.


 New York communities join to help teen parents - Cornell Chronicle

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Experts offer new findings on youth at research update

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Jutta Dotterweich talking to a group during a roundtable discussion

Each year the BCTR sponsors the Youth Development Research Update to present and discuss the latest research in youth development. This June 3-4 Cornell researchers gathered with Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) county leaders, 4-H educators, and community partners for the fourth annual research update.

In a Cornell Chronicle article about the event, Stephen Hamilton, BCTR Associate Director for Youth Development, describes the event's purpose:

The research update informs practitioners about research-based knowledge they can draw on in their work... It fosters dialogue that enables researchers to understand what is most important and most useful to practitioners and ultimately for both to find common ground for collaboration.

In addition to an update on pilot trainings by Jutta Dotterweich, the following talks presented new research:

  • Robert Sternberg, Human Development: Beyond IQ: Assessing students for creative, analytical, practical, wisdom-based, and ethical skills
  • Nancy Wells, Design and Environmental Analysis: Findings from a research - extension partnership: The effects of school gardens on children’s diet and physical activity
  • Natalie Bazarova, Communications: Self-disclosure of personal information in social media
  • Travis Gosa, Africana Studies: Does hip-hop really belong in schools? Reframing hip-hop as critical pedagogy
  • Lorraine Maxwell, Design and Environmental Analysis: The role of the physical environment in child and adolescent self-efficacy


Experts offer new findings on youth at research update - Cornell Chronicle

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ACT for Youth at HHS Conference

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Jane Powers, Jutta Dotterweich, and Amanda Purington

Jane Powers, Jutta Dotterweich, and Amanda Purington of the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence were presenters at the 2014 U.S. Health and Human Services Teen Pregnancy Prevention Grantee Conference in Washington, DC this June. The conference brought together federally funded prevention programs to enhance understanding of best practices, programs, and strategies, particularly on the theme of “Bridging the Gaps: Eliminating Disparities in Teen Pregnancy and Sexual Health.”

Conference participants offer evidence-based programs in their communities in order to support youth in improving sexual health (e.g., delaying sexual activity and using condoms and effective contraception when they do become sexually active). These programs are not new, but to ensure positive results funders are now strongly emphasizing fidelity to program design as well as implementation quality. Recognizing that many participants struggle to collect and use data effectively, Powers and Purington offered tools to track attendance, monitor fidelity, and assess quality, as well as strategies to help facilitators use data to improve program implementation. They also shared lessons learned in New York State’s efforts to scale up evidence-based programs.

Dotterweich and Powers focused on building organizational capacity for evidence-based programming. They introduced participants to resources intended to enhance facilitator competencies, as well as an online training on implementing evidence-based programs in adolescent sexual health that was recently developed by ACT for Youth.

Jane Powers is project director for the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence, where Jutta Dotterweich is director of Training and Technical Assistance and Amanda Purington is director of Evaluation and Research. The Center of Excellence supports the New York State Department of Health in its efforts to promote adolescent sexual health.

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Annual NY 4-H conference features cross-center connections

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The Annual New York State Association of Cornell Cooperative Extension 4-H Educators Conference was held October 15-17, 2013 in Lake Placid, NY. This year's theme was Go for the Gold: Make the Best Better at Work, Home and Play. Over 73 individuals who work in the area of 4-H youth development in New York state attended.

Janis Whitlock

Janis Whitlock

New York State 4-H Youth Development is housed in the BCTR and this event brought together researchers from projects across the center, including:

  • The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Program on Self-Injury and Recovery. Her talk, Adolescent Wellbeing: Setting the Stage for a Well-lived Life, emphasized the importance of resilience, gratitude, empathy, openness, and integrity as keys to a joyful life. Whitlock tied these concepts in with working with adolescents, encouraging those who work with youth to be invested and engaged in order to effect positive changes in the lives of young people.
  • Stephen Hamilton, BCTR Associate Director for Youth Development, and P.I. of Cornell Youth in Society, and Angela Northern gave a workshop on Supporting 4-H Volunteer Leaders
  • Jutta Dotterweich of ACT for Youth gave a workshop, A New Youth Development Curriculum

New York State 4-H staff presented the following workshops:

  • 4-H Common Measures: What, Why and How - Nigel Gannon, State Healthy Living Program Specialist
  • 4-H Connects Kids to Nature - Nancy Schaff, State STEM Program Specialist
  • Linking Healthy Living Programs and Careers in Health Professions - Nigel Gannon
  • Citizen Science in 4-H - Nancy Schaff
  • National 4-H Science e-Academy - Nancy Schaff

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BCTR at the Global Implementation Conference

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The Global Implementation Conference (GIC) was held in Washington DC on August 19-21, 2013. Several BCTR staff attended the conference and were on the program. The GIC provided a unique forum to share the latest information about implementation science, practice, and policy that supports organizational change, system transformation, and implementation in human services and other real-world settings. Participants from diverse backgrounds and settings gathered to share ideas and research. The 2013 GIC theme was Putting Implementation into Practice: Tools for Quality and Sustainability.



Charles Izzo and Frank Kuhn from The Residential Child Care Project presented Examining the Flow of Implementation Events to Help Interpret Evaluation Results and Inform Programming at the Measures & Tools practice group.





Dotterweich and Powers

Dotterweich and Powers

Marilyn Ray, Jutta Dotterweich, and Jane Powers from ACT for Youth presented Using Quality Implementation Framework to Inform Evaluation and Quality Improvement at the Implementation Science Synthesis practice group.

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Talks at Twelve: Jutta Dotterweich & Lisa Dundon, Thursday, October 10, 2013

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Creating an Online Training Program to Build Capacity for Frontline Adolescent Sexual Health Educators
Jutta Dotterweich, BCTR and Lisa Dundon, Ithaca Content Architecture and Design

Thursday, October 10, 2013
Beebe Hall, 2nd floor conference room

This talk is open to all. Lunch will be served. Metered parking is available in the Plantations lot across the road from Beebe Hall.

This presentation will showcase a new online training created by the BCTR's ACT for Youth Center of Excellence in conjunction with Ithaca Content Architecture and Design (ICAD), a local instructional media development firm. ACT for Youth works with 58 agencies across New York State and in New York City, building their capacity to deliver evidence-based programs in adolescent sexual health with fidelity and quality. Turnover of front line staff has emerged as a major challenge. Since on-site training was not a sustainable strategy, ACT for Youth teamed up with ICAD to develop an interactive, online training course for front line educators. ACT for Youth supplied content while ICAD contributed their expertise in distance learning and multi-media development. The training was piloted this summer with great success. In this presentation, Jutta and Lisa will provide a short guided tour and discuss the benefits of online training as part of a comprehensive technical assistance and training program.

Jutta Dotterweich has been an Extension Associate at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research since 1999 and is currently the Training Coordinator for the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence. At the BCTR, her work has centered on training and curriculum development in interagency collaboration, community youth development, youth engagement and adolescent sexual health. Prior to her work at Cornell University, she worked for many years as a mental health professional and youth services provider in New Jersey and New York State. She received her MA in Psychology from the Westfalische Wilhelms University in Muenster, Germany in 1979.

Lisa Dundon has over ten years of experience designing and building online educational media. Her career in online teaching and training began with the development of online help systems and multimedia tutorials for a software company and continued at eCornell and Cornell University with the development of web-based courses. Lisa has degrees in cognitive psychology, physics, and mathematics. She formed Ithaca Content Architecture and Design in 2005.


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Gannon delivers training, “Risk and Thriving in Adolescence”

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On February 12, 2013, Nigel Gannon (4-H NY State Healthy Living Program Specialist) presented a training to 60 social workers, school counselors, and teachers who work with youth in Oneida, Herkimer, and Madison counties. His presentation, Risk and Thriving in Adolescence: Understanding and Supporting Youth Decision-Making, was part of Cornell Cooperative Extension's annual training event, "Connecting with Kids."

In his talk, Gannon addressed why adolescents take risks and what communities can do to help keep them safe. The interactive presentation highlighted current research about adolescent risk-taking and ways to support youth approaching or passing through this stage of development. Gannon also reviewed a training tool recently created by NY State 4-H educators to develop a safety net that offers services, opportunities, and support to developing youth. In addition, the presentation addressed the social-emotional needs of youth and adolescents with suggestions for promoting wellness in this area.

Risk and Thriving in Adolescence: Understanding and Supporting Youth Decision-Making was based on the work of the Risk and Thriving in Adolescence Program Work Team (PWT), a group of Cornell Cooperative Extension and 4-H educators, campus faculty, and external stakeholders who meet to assess and direct programming. This PWT is co-chaired by ACT for Youth's Jutta Dotterweich. The Cornell Research Program on Self-Injurious Behavior's Janis Whitlock serves as its faculty advisor.

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