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Positive Psychology in Practice: Promoting Human Flourishing in Work, Health, Education, and Everyday Life, 2nd Edition by Stephen Joseph

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Chapter 19Cultivating Adolescents' Motivation

REED W. LARSON AND NICKKI PEARCE DAWES

Authors' Note. We would like to thank the many youth and leaders who contributed to this research, as well as the William T. Grant Foundation for its support of the work. Additional funding was provided by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch project ILLU-793-314, awarded to R. Larson.

Organized youth programs—including arts, civic, technology, and leadership programs—occupy a unique place in the lives of American adolescents. They provide a valuable alternative to the educational model in schools, an alternative that is more consistent with positive psychology. In most U.S. secondary schools, learning is controlled by adults, students are positioned as recipients of knowledge, and grades given to individuals provide a principal incentive for motivating learning. In contrast, many youth programs are based on a philosophy of youth-driven learning. Participation is voluntary, youth often work together, and program staff encourage youth to exercise active control over learning activities. The learning objectives often go beyond youth's acquisition of content knowledge and include development of more holistic competencies emphasized by positive psychology, such as character and life skills (Roth & Brooks Gunn, 2003). Central to this philosophy is the belief that youth's learning can be enjoyable, engaging, and self-motivating.

This idea that learning—and human development—can ...

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