Definition of Youth Development

Definition of Youth Development

Written November 7, 2016 for YOST 5956 Organizational Approaches to Youth Development at the University of Minnesota, in pursuit of a Master of Education in Youth Development Leadership.

Instilling a process of learning and understanding is a fundamental function of youth development. Joe Flower said, “we cannot really know who we will be when we come out the other side.” He found four phases of change-induced learning (1999):

  1. Unconscious incompetence: you don’t know what you don’t know.
  2. Conscious incompetence: you know what you don’t know.
  3. Conscious competence: you know that you know.
  4. Unconscious competence: you know without knowing.

Now, this isn’t the first time I heard the of stages of competence. An old employer of mine demonstrated this concept with a matrix drawn on a whiteboard. When I first learned this, the order of the last two items was flipped. This was the rationale of competence:

  1. Unconscious incompetence: you don’t know what you don’t know.
  2. Conscious incompetence: you know what you don’t know.
  3. Unconscious competence: you don’t know that you know.
  4. Conscious competence: you know that you know.

This comparison is drastic in the interpretation of the concept. From the first list, you move into a point of automatic auctions. When riding a bike, you don’t need to think about pedaling, steering, and balancing; you just do it. However, would you want to respond automatically when shooting a firearm? No—you’d want to remain at level III: always aware of the shooting skill you are practicing.

In the case of the second list, you come to the realization that you are automatic in your actions, then become more cognizant of your decisions as you transition from level III to level IV.

Youth development, then, is the training of youth to understand and recognize these various levels of competence, and that skills and knowledge are always shifting within the scale. There is something at every level at all times; while you may be at level IV (on either list) with one subject, you may just be learning of a new skill that you weren’t aware of before (level II).

References

Flower, J. (1999, January-February). In the mush. (Next!). Physician Executive, 25(1), 64+. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10387273