Youth Amplified: enhancing confident expression in young people in public
Research by Professor Stephen Coleman on the disengagement of young people from political democracy has contributed to public debate about citizenship education and the need to build stronger connections between political and popular culture. This research directly informed the creation and development of ‘Youth Amplified’, a suite of resources designed to inspire new ways for education providers to support young people in developing confident and effective speaking and listening skills. Over 200 schools across the UK and a number of leading education providers engaged with the ‘Youth Amplified’ resources, leading to reported improvement of young people’s ability to express themselves in public situations.
Coleman’s research has focused on political engagement and citizenship, and in particular, on problems facing young people (aged between 11 and 18) who are increasingly encouraged to state their views in classrooms, school councils, community settings and virtual environments, but who often lack the skills or confidence to do so.
Highlighting the important role that schools can play in teaching young people to develop and articulate arguments in a confident and effective fashion, Coleman’s research has outlined a series of proposals intended to strengthen the capacity of young people to engage as democratic citizens.
In May 2011 Coleman was awarded a grant from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation supporting further research into understanding the main challenges and barriers to public expression for young people, and subsequently to develop a practical programme designed to help and support them.
Coleman examined and evaluated the extent and quality of programmes and materials designed to enhance public expression (often referred to as ‘speaking and listening skills’), both within and beyond the school curriculum, from October to December 2011. The research identified that while there was a drive to motivate young people to speak about a range of civic-related themes, there was very little material to show young people how to speak about these themes and other issues of concern to them.
The grant also provided Coleman with the opportunity to further investigate young people’s experiences of and frustrations in public speaking, by organising a series of face-to-face interviews, surveys and workshops from January-March 2012 with young people from schools in
Leeds, the Leeds Youth Service and a youth theatre. Coleman worked with an applied drama practitioner to run the workshops. From the findings of the interviews, surveys and workshops, Coleman identified six skills (confidence; projection; persuasion; negotiation; listening and argumentation) which were integral in helping young people overcome difficulties in communicating to wider audiences. Each skill then formed the content of the ‘Youth Amplified’ web-based educational resources, which were specifically designed to support young people in the development of these skills. The online resources offer opportunities for group learning, lesson plans, and video stories for teachers across the curriculum as well as youth workers.
Coleman worked with Bold Creative, a digital agency which engages with hard to reach groups with a view to empowering young people, to launch a new ‘Youth Amplified’ website in May 2012.