The Impact of the Project K Youth Development Program on Self-Efficacy: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Abstract

A key issue for youth development programs is whether the learning they provide is transferred to participants’ daily lives. It is also important that they are effective for the diverse range of participants they attract. This study used a randomized controlled trial design to measure the impact of Project K, a New Zealand-based youth development program, on academic and social self-efficacy. Project K combines a 3-week wilderness adventure, a 10 day community service component, and 1 year of mentoring to promote positive growth in 14–15 year olds with low self-efficacy. At baseline, the evaluation included 600 Project K (46 % female) and 577 Control participants (48 % female) and revealed that Project K was effective in improving both social and academic self-efficacy from pre- to post-program with effects being sustained 1 year later. Parents’ perceptions of changes in the participants’ interpersonal skills supported these findings. Differential program effects were found across participant subgroups, particularly 1 year after program completion. The implications of these differences are discussed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The “European” and “Other” variables were not included as covariates in any analyses that incorporated ethnicity to avoid model multicollinearity.

  2. 2.

    The estimates for all of the simple slope analyses at Time 2 were based on the propensity matched sample because the sample size was similar to the original sample and because it provides a stronger counterfactual analysis of program effects.

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Acknowledgments

This study formed a part of the first author’s PhD thesis that was supported by a New Zealand International Doctoral Research Scholarship from the New Zealand government and a University of Auckland International Doctoral Research Scholarship. We would also like to acknowledge the Foundation for Youth Development (now known as the Graeme Dingle Foundation) and their Community Partners for their part in implementing the evaluation and otherwise supporting the research, as well as the New Zealand Ministry of Social Development for funding eight of the program deliveries included in this evaluation and for auditing the data collection process for these deliveries. We would like to thank Drs Nickola Overall, Chris Sibley and Kane Meissel, Shannon Johnston, Larissa Isted, Jade LeGrice and Diane Osborne for assistance with various aspects of the project. Finally, we would like to thank the editor of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence and the three blind reviewers for their incredibly helpful feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript.

Author Contributions

NH and JM conceived of the study and all authors contributed to aspects of the research design. JM developed the measures under the supervision of NH. MC performed the statistical analysis for the measurement models and wrote the relevant section of the manuscript. KD took primary responsibility for the writing of the manuscript with NH and conducted the remainder of the statistical analyses. All authors reviewed and approved the final manuscript.

Funding

The New Zealand Ministry of Social Development (MSD) funded the Foundation for Youth Development (FYD) for the evaluation for eight program deliveries included in the evaluation presented here. The study was also funded in part from two scholarships to the first author, a New Zealand International Doctoral Research Scholarship from the New Zealand government and a University of Auckland International Doctoral Research Scholarship.

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Correspondence to Kelsey L. Deane.

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Conflict of interest

JM is the Research and Evaluation Manager for the Graeme Dingle Foundation (previously Foundation for Youth Development or FYD), the organization that owns the Project K program. She was involved in the study design, data collection and editing of the method section; however, she had no involvement in the data analysis or reporting of the findings. KD, NH and MC report no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

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

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

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Deane, K.L., Harré, N., Moore, J. et al. The Impact of the Project K Youth Development Program on Self-Efficacy: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Youth Adolescence 46, 516–537 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-016-0463-9

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Keywords

  • Positive youth development
  • Self-efficacy
  • Program evaluation
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Experimental design