Simple Interactions: A Method for Enhancing Relational Skill and Improving the Quality of Adult-Youth Relationships

Worksite Location
CCE Ontario County; 4-H Camp Bristol Hills
Faculty Sponsor
Deborah Sellers, Senior Research Associate, Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research
Other Campus-Based Mentors/Supervisors
Charles Izzo, Research Associate, Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research
Field Mentors/Supervisors
Jim Hooper, Summer Camp Resource Educator, CCE Ontario County
Stipend Amount
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

In this internship, a student will work with researchers at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research to pilot and adapt Simple Interactions (SI;, an evidence-based staff development program, for counselors and other staff working in a 4-H summer camp program. Summer 2016 is the initial phase of a 3-year collaborative project with 4-H leaders to adapt and facilitate the dissemination and implementation of SI as a tool to improve the quality of interactions between adults and youth in 4-H programs in order to maximize the developmental benefits of those interactions for youth.

SI is a video feedback method that helps youth workers (YW) improve the quality of their interactions with program participants by watching clips of themselves interacting with youth. Learning occurs through a series of workshops in which a facilitator draws their attention to specific types of social interactions known to strengthen relationships and promote social development. Building this awareness is expected to help them become more mindful about maximizing these interactions in their daily work with youth. The SI program’s original design focuses on four types of interactions (connection, reciprocity, progression and participation) that were studied in child-care settings and after-school programs, but the current project will include collaborative efforts with camp staff to identify additional dimensions that may be salient in the camp setting.

The primary objectives for summer 2016 are to pilot SI in a summer camp setting, learn from leaders and staff how to adapt it for the camp setting, and conduct qualitative assessments of the program’s value as a quality improvement tool, as well as whether and how the program benefitted camp staff’s capacity to interact with youth in ways that meet youth’s needs and strengthen relationships.

Roles and Responsibilities

The student intern will spend seven weeks in residence (room and board provided) at Camp Bristol Hills and 2-3 weeks on campus. The campus time will include 1-2 weeks prior to camp for preparation and 1-2 weeks after camp for summarizing the work and findings. The campus time will include preparation for the qualitative research under the guidance of Drs. Debbie Sellers and Charles Izzo as well as working closely with Dr. Izzo to implement SI with camp staff.

The intern will:

• Read and discuss (with mentors) selected literature on human social development, adult education and behavior change, and organizational development.
• Assist with developing protocols for qualitative research;
• Establish and maintain relationships with camp staff;
• Learn and use a protocol for observing and coding social interactions in a naturalistic setting;
• Collect video clips of staff interactions with campers;
• Edit video footage to create clips that have maximal learning value;
• Help facilitate (with mentors) workshops to promote learning and reflective practice among camp staff.
• Conduct qualitative interviews with camp staff;
• Participate in discussions and decisions about adaptation of SI for the camp context.

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

Must be a full-time CHE freshman, sophomore or junior. Graduating seniors are not eligible.

Other qualifications include:

• Interpersonal skills necessary to establish and maintain collaborative relationships with camp staff and mentors;
• Interest, and preferably coursework, in child and/ or adolescent development;
• Interest in advancing evidence-based practices in human service settings;
• Introductory coursework in research methods.

Benefits and Skills

Learning outcomes include:

• Increased knowledge of positive youth development, particularly the components of adult-child interactions known to have relational and developmental significance (to be obtained through suggested readings, independent literature search and discussion with mentors);
• Increased knowledge about the use of systematic observational protocols and their application in direct-practice settings (to be obtained through observation of and mentoring from Dr. Izzo).
• Increased translational research skills, particularly how to establish and conduct collaborative projects with community practitioners and partners (to be obtained through observation of and mentoring from Dr. Izzo as well as direct participation in the collaboration with the Director and other staff at Camp Bristol Hills);
• Increased skills in facilitating workshops, particularly those focused on establishing and sustaining reflective practice (to be obtained through observation of and mentored practice in co-facilitating the workshops);
• Increased qualitative research skills (to be obtained through participation in all phases – developing interview guide, conducting interviews, analyzing interview data and summarizing findings - of the qualitative interview study of the acceptability, feasibility and utility of the SI method as well as barriers to its implementation and the need for adaptation for the camp context).
• Increased skills with summarizing and presenting research results (to be obtained through development of poster, presentation and/or manuscript).