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Brokering Learning Opportunities Within an Out-of-School Network: A Conceptual Model for Supporting Youth Interest-Driven Learning

Tue, April 12, 8:15 to 9:45am, Convention Center, Floor: Level One, Room 103 A


There is increasing consensus that youth learn best and can better reach valued outcomes when they are supported to learn across consequential contexts that include school, afterschool, home and library settings, as well as through peer culture and the internet (Banks et al., 2007; Barron, 2004, 2006; Ito et al., 2013). However, despite the recognized importance of this goal, developing successful ways to coordinate experiences that account for these realities is a nontrivial challenge.

In this poster session, we describe how a regional community of 80 out-of-school STEM providers called the Hive NYC Learning Network ( collaboratively engaged in an extended analysis of this issue. Operating within a research-practice-partnership model (Coburn, Penuel, & Geil, 2013), the authors facilitated knowledge-sharing and sensemaking activities over a period of several months within the community, resulting in a focus on a key issue of brokering future learning opportunities to youth as a means of increasing their social capital (Lin, 2002) and helping them assemble the material and social resources to engage in robust learning pathways.

The Hive NYC community has developed a definition of ‘brokering’ as well as a working model of the factors involved in brokering in our context (Ching, Santo, Hoadley & Peppler, 2015). We define brokering as a practice in which educators 1) Connect youth to meaningful future learning opportunities including events, programs, internships, individuals and institutions that will support youth in continuing their interest-driven learning; and 2) Enrich youth social networks with adults, peers, and institutions that are connected to/have knowledge of future learning opportunities. Our conceptual model ( describes how brokering plays a key role in supporting youth uptake of learning opportunities and social capital building. Key to this process is the relationship building that occurs between educators and youth in the context of after school programs. Relationship building results in youth trust of educator and educator knowledge of youth—two factors that make it more likely that educators can recommend appropriate opportunities and that youth take up these opportunities.

We also identified potential factors that may pose challenges to effective brokering. First, educators must have adequate knowledge of available learning opportunities that align with a youth’s interest, a non-trivial challenge because of the diversity of youth interests and the fragmented information ecology regarding opportunities. Secondly, youth exhibit a range of differing attitudes and capacities motivating their engagement in relationship building, what social anthropologist Barnes (1972) has discussed as one’s network orientation and Stanton-Salazar (2001) has called help-seeking orientation, a related term that specifically refers to a young person’s comfort with resolving issues through mobilization of relationships in her network.

Our findings include results of pilot studies that have deepened our understanding of ways to successfully support youth in robust and lasting ways. Overall, we hope to encourage more educational researchers and practitioners to understand ‘brokering well’ as a learning design challenge critical to broadening access and achieving equity.