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November 15, 2019

QUESTIONS OF QUALITY with Dr. Tiffany Berry, the Claremont Evaluation Center

Dr. Tiffany Berry received her PhD from Claremont Graduate University in Developmental Psychology & Evaluation, specializing in the development of intrinsic motivation among youth who participate in after-school programs.

Dr. Berry’s research stems from her experience evaluating educational programs that aim to improve developmental and educationally significant outcomes among children and adolescents. She has established multi-year partnerships with several programs, including youth sports and social emotional learning and regularly examines the theoretical foundation in which they are based, the quality of program implementation, and program impact.

Since 2004, Berry and her students have disseminated their evaluations broadly. She has published more than 75 technical evaluation reports, published peer-reviewed articles in leading evaluation journals (American Journal of Evaluation and New Directions for Evaluation) and youth development journals (Journal of Early Adolescence), and presented her findings at scientific and practitioner conferences. In 2014, Berry was invited to serve as a member of the Evaluation and Research Advisory Committee (ERAC) with the After-school Division of the California Department of Education.

Under the leadership of Executive Director Stewart I. Donaldson and Co-Director Michael Scriven, and supported by Associate Directors Tarek Azzam and Tiffany Berry, the Claremont Evaluation Center houses many experts in evaluation and applied research.

The questions below were answered by Dr. Tiffany Berry, PhD, with assistance from her students, Haley Umans and Brittany Hite.

Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative: Based on your research and experience in the youth development sector, what are the top five youth outcomes most important in early childhood and adolescence to increase the likelihood of a healthy, successful life?

Dr. Berry and Team: Building and nurturing positive outcomes in children and adolescents are key to developing flourishing adults. Positive youth development (PYD) argues that outcomes for youth should be focused on promoting the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that develop (1) confidence to succeed, (2) competence to act effectively, (3) connection to family, peers, and community, (4) compassion for others, and (5) character to act respectfully and morally. With the development of these outcomes in a safe and supportive context, children and adolescents are more likely to achieve a healthy and successful life.

Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative: How can we better prepare coaches to build and nurture positive outcomes in children?

Dr. Berry and Team: The role of coaches in sports programs or other afterschool programs is essential. They are the conduit for almost all the experiences students have in a sports program. The challenge is to ensure that coaches are prepared to implement these high-quality experiences well and consistently over time. This does not occur by offering one training to coaches in the beginning of the year and then letting them loose on the field. It involves training coaches on what high-quality experiences mean, how to cultivate these experiences with youth, and helping them know when they are doing it well or what they need to do to improve. This content demands training that is comprehensive, on-going, and includes regular feedback on coaches’ implementation of these high-quality practices. Additionally, creating a culture in the organization that promotes learning and growing helps motivate staff to develop their abilities and in turn enhance their capacity to engage in high-quality practices.

Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative: What organizational practices show the most promise for building and supporting positive outcomes in children?

Dr. Berry and Team: If programs want to promote positive outcomes in youth afterschool, they need to focus on understanding, measuring, and improving program quality. One technique to orient organizations to program quality is to implement an approach called continuous quality improvement (CQI). CQI is an ongoing and embedded approach to continuous learning that engages in three cyclical steps: (1) collect program quality data, (2) set goals and plans for improvement, and (3) implement plans for improvement. CQI provides coaches and staff the proper organizational systems and supports to implement quality programming which has been shown to drive better outcomes in youth.

Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative: How critical is programmatic research and evaluation in achieving positive outcomes for youth?

Dr. Berry and Team: We believe that program evaluators can be a critical partner to help youth programs flourish. If you work in youth programs, you know that developing and sustaining positive youth outcomes is hard. Ensuring youth outcomes emerge requires resources, training, and multiple organizational supports. We collaboratively work with youth programs (varying from local start-ups to mature programs) to measure these vital youth outcomes. More importantly, we measure how well the program is designed and implemented to ensure these youth outcomes emerge. We help programs understand how their activities map onto particular outcomes as well as what resources are needed to ensure strong implementation of activities. In evaluation science, we call this work developing a theory of change; it details what the program needs and how the program is supposed to work to develop these important outcomes in youth. We then measure these elements so that programs can better tell their story – what is achieved as well as what it takes to achieve better outcomes for youth.


If you would like to learn more about Dr. Berry’s research, please visit