Pursuing interests and getting involved: Exploring the conditions of sponsorship in youth learning

Carrie D. Allen, Daniella DiGiacomo, Katie Van Horne, William R. Penuel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The phenomenon of "brokering"-or connecting youth to present or future opportunities-is now well known in the field of learning and youth development as an integral part of how and why youth pursue and remain in particular interest-related learning opportunities. More recently, the related term sponsorship refers to the multiple ways in which youth experience brokering-like moments related to their interests. This article aims to better understand how sponsorship functions in the everyday conduct of youths' lives, as well as if and how sponsorship mediates young people's sustained participation and planned future in relation to their interest(s). We leverage a longitudinal data set collected over three years of youth participation in interest-related activities to retrospectively understand sponsorship within the existing conditions of young people's lives, including youth interest and access to program resources. Findings suggest that interest was often not the initial driver for youth entering an activity, but that youth joined activities based on other perceived benefits. Once involved, however, they found themselves developing skills, making friends, and seeing a possible future in the activity. We conclude with design principles intended to support young people in joining an activity, sustaining their participation, and seeing new possibilities for their futures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-129
Number of pages10
JournalDigital Education Review
Issue number33
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study described in this article comes from a larger, longitudinal study supported by the Connected Learning Research Network (Penuel et al., 2016). This study investigated the trajectory of youth’s interests over time, including how and where those interests formed, for youth participating in connected learning programs across the United States. These programs, most of which remained in operation at the time of the writing of this article, were typically out-of-school spaces intended to provide high quality learning opportunities that leveraged and extended youth’s interests. In the case of the programs we interacted with, their content area emphases varied widely, ranging from video gaming and digital journalism to museum-based science and environmental research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Research Group Education and Virtual Learning (GREAV). All rights reserved.


  • Interest-related learning
  • Planned futures
  • Social connections
  • Sponsorship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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