Child & Youth Care Forum

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 285–305 | Cite as

Simple Interactions: Piloting a Strengths-Based and Interaction-Based Professional Development Intervention for Out-of-School Time Programs

  • Thomas AkivaEmail author
  • Junlei Li
  • Kelly M. Martin
  • Christy Galletta Horner
  • Anne R. McNamara
Original Paper



Adult–child relational interactions constitute an essential component of out-of-school-time programs, and training staff to effectively interact with children is key to improving program quality. Efficient staff training, that meets the limited time availability of out-of-school time staff, is particularly needed.


This pilot study introduces Simple Interactions (SI), an innovative, strengths-based, and interaction-based professional development approach. Rather than attempting to teach generic competencies or targeting weakness areas for improvement, SI is designed to help program staff build from their strengths.


In two cohorts over the course of 10 months, ten afterschool programs (N = 70 staff) participated in a pilot of SI. Program staff watched short video clips of themselves working with children and used the intuitive, 1-page SI Tool to guide discussion of adult–child interactions; specifically, connection (affective intune-ness), reciprocity (balanced roles of engagement), participation (involving all children), and progression (incremental challenge).


Results suggest that participants valued the professional development process, the strengths-based approach, and the use of self-video despite initial apprehension, and reported perceived improvements in their professional learning communities. Pre-post videos of Cohort 2 staff (n = 20), coded blind to time point (pre or post), indicate significant and substantive improvements in staff–child connection, reciprocity, and participation.


These results support the use of this simple, practical, and potentially effective model of supporting quality improvement for and by local staff.


Out-of-school time programs Afterschool Professional development Intervention Mixed-methods 



This research was supported by grants from The Grable Foundation (132R10) and The Heinz Endowments (E1386).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Saint Vincent CollegeLatrobeUSA

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