Effect of Intentionally Designed Experiences on Teamwork Skills Among Youth: An Application of Symbolic Interaction Theory


  • Mark F. Roark Utah State University
  • Ann Gillard Hole in the Wall Gang Camp
  • Mary Sara Wells University of Utah
  • Faith Evans PlayFully, Inc
  • Marissa Mikami Blauer Utah State University


youth, teamwork, after-school, developmental outcomes, Symbolic Interaction Theory, recreation experiences, intentional design, situated activity system


Given the level of importance placed on teamwork by employers and others concerned about youth transitions into fully engaged adulthood and the dearth of research on teamwork in youth programs, the effects on the outcome of teamwork skills of three different and independent Symbolic Interaction Theory (SIT)-based after-school program experiences. Using SIT and the Situated Activity System as the theoretical framework, the program was intentionally designed using the technique of embedding questionnaire outcome items in facilitator scripts to elicit teamwork skills, defined as effective and productive behaviors for a youth group member. Youths aged 12–13 participated in three independent 90-minute experiences. The Island experience (n = 29) included a variety of team-focused activities, such as rescuing rafts with one another in a make-believe island setting. The Pirates experience (n = 20) engaged participants in responding to the captain's commands as a crew and playing treasure hunt in small groups. The Superheroes experience (n = 32) engaged participants in making capes and using their combined powers to accomplish superhero group challenges. For the last activity, participants completed a self-report in which the questionnaire items were scored using a retrospective response format indicating level of change for each item. To control for participant perceptions of the activities being fun and to ensure that participants reported on teamwork skills and not another outcome, additional items of "fun," and "affinity for nature" were included. Results showed that the highest teamwork skill score occurred in the Pirates experience (M = 3.88, SD = .62), while the Superheroes experience had the lowest teamwork skill score (M = 3.10, SD = .81). The three experiences yielded a strong percent change in reported teamwork skills. All experiences were reported as fun, and none were significantly more fun than others (F (2,78) = 2.83, p = .07). The percent change of affinity for nature was considerably lower than teamwork skills on all three experiences, indicating the program had little impact on participants' affinity for nature. This result suggests greater confidence in asserting that the program experience affected the target outcome of teamwork skills. This study adds to 83 the literature on intentionally designed programs' effects on youth outcomes. Practitioners are urged to utilize outcome language from questionnaire items in their facilitation. More research and practice focus is needed to connect program processes with participant outcomes, and this study strengthens our understanding of these connections.





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