Research 360: A Full-Circle and Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation

September 6, 2016
Laurie Browne, PhD
Research 360 Logo

Greetings once again from the ACA Research Team!  Two weeks ago I compared research and evaluation in the first of a series of Research 360 blog posts.  In that post I described ACA’s new strategic aim focused on research and evaluation, an initiative we are now calling Research 360. This is an exciting time for camp research and evaluation, and to build on that excitement we will write about Research 360 bi-monthly in the hopes that you too will get excited about telling your camp story through research and evaluation.

Research 360 is a broad yet focused effort to use research and evaluation to improve camp experiences for youth and to advocate for the value of camp to our many audiences. Wait:  broad and focused?  Contradictory, yes, but also true if you think about two features of 360 degrees.  First, 360 degrees represents a circle, something that starts and ends in the same spot.  But a circle also has a center, a point around which everything else moves.  The circle, in this sense, represents research (big R), a process that starts with questions about campers and how they benefit from camp programs, then examines those questions following research procedures, then translates research findings into information camps can use to change how they design and implement camp programs.

For Research 360, the circle begins with ACA’s 5-year research project.  This project will explore the outcomes of the camp experience for campers and staff and how camp programs achieve those outcomes.  Currently under the direction of an all-volunteer Research Advisory Committee, the project will be conducted by a third-party research team who will report their findings to the ACA community each year for the duration of the project.  A call for research proposals was distributed among various research networks in Spring 2016, and the teams will be selected in early Fall 2016. Data collection is set to begin in Summer 2017.  Ultimately, the project will provide evidence of the value of camp as well as a research-based understanding of camp practices that create beneficial camper outcomes.

At the center of the Research 360 circle are the evaluation efforts (little r) occurring at camps throughout the ACA community.  These efforts, which focus on understanding campers and their experiences at the local level, ensure that every camp is offering a high quality experience for youth.  Building on ACA’s existing evaluation tools and training resources, Research 360 will expand opportunities for camp evaluation by continuing to build and improve YOB 2.0, the new online outcomes tool, as well as increasing our library of quick, easy to read and watch research and evaluation blogs, infographics, and videos. Through these efforts, Research 360 will keep at its center the individual camp and the campers, parents, staff, and communities they serve.

Next up: More details on the 5-year research project, including introductions of the Research Advisory Committee and the Research Team.  In the meantime, check out this fun short cartoon video that explains Research 360 and what it means for YOU! 

 

Laurie Browne, Ph.D., recently joined the Research Team at ACA. She specializes in ACA's Youth Outcomes Battery and supporting camps in their research and evaluation efforts. Prior to joining ACA, Laurie was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Recreation, Hospitality, and Parks Management at California State University-Chico.  Laurie received her Ph.D. from the University of Utah, where she studied youth development and research methods.