Academic Youth Development

Academic Youth Development (AYD), developed by the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas and Agile Mind, is a program based on new knowledge emerging from the psychological and other learning sciences, that reshapes students’ academic identities, enhances their engagement in learning, and transforms their achievement.

The programs in the AYD family share common foundations in the latest research on student motivation, engagement, and learning, and each program is designed to increase the number and diversity of students who succeed in STEM courses and in high school. The AYD programs stimulate interest in learning through interactive animations of key concepts, rich instructional materials, and problem-solving scenarios that create novel opportunities to apply new learning. With these common foundations and outcomes, the resources, structures, and design of each form of the program is tailored to meet the specific needs of its intended audience.

Summer-Start AYD, for students and teachers who are preparing for Algebra I in the fall, prepares students to excel in high school, constructing a positive learning environment for themselves and their peers. Beginning in a relaxed rather than high-stakes setting, Summer-Start AYD introduces key ideas and strategies from the psychology of learning that students can use to explore and practice problem- solving activities and engage in challenging work known to be associated with success in Algebra and higher-level mathematics. Program activities directly align with the standards for college readiness, and the knowledge and skills students gain in the summer session are reinforced, strengthened, and shared with peers during the academic year.

School-Year AYD, for students in grades 8-10 and their teachers, is taught during advisory, homeroom, and after-school programs. With rich facilitative protocols for teachers to use, the curriculum, enriched with interactive simulations and problems, teaches students strategies to manage their learning and to persist in the face of challenging schoolwork. Students are guided through problem-solving activities and small-group discussions that teach them key concepts from the psychology of learning and help them build trust, teamwork, and collective responsibility for learning. As a result, students become more knowledgeable, effective, and reflective about their learning.

An Educator’s Course in Academic Youth Development, for faculty teams in schools and districts interested in learning about the powerful emerging research and strategies, includes a 1-day face-to-face seminar focused on what key research reveals about how adults can shape student learning and achievement, and independent study of the research coupled with participation in a facilitated online learning community.

AYD is for teachers and leaders who want to update and enhance their school improvement efforts. Research demonstrates that, to be effective, efforts to improve academic outcomes must address both students and the overall culture of the learning environment. Research also demonstrates that relatively modest interventions aimed at shaping the culture of classrooms can have powerful effects on student success.

AYD, then, can ultimately serve whole schools and districts. Participating students develop knowledge and skills to share with and to model for their peers, thus becoming change agents in improving the learning culture and outcomes. Teachers and administrators are equipped with powerful research, insights, and strategies to shape their practice with all of the students they serve.

For more information about this program, contact Agile Mind at

AYD has had a major impact in my teaching practice because I focus and look at curriculum in a different way. I look for ways to help more people learn the same thing.
-AYD Teacher, TX
Now, I don't give up when I can't find out the answers...I try another way to do it.
-AYD Student, CA