The Clubhouse Learning Approach Is Designed To Empower Youth From All Backgrounds To Become More Capable, Creative, And Confident Learners

The Clubhouse NetworkThe Clubhouse Network provides a safe, creative out-of-school learning community where young people from underserved communities work with adult mentors to explore their own interests, develop skills, and build self-confidence through technology. Founded in 1993 in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab, The Clubhouse Network (TCN) now reaches 5,000 youth (ages 10-17) annually in 62 community centers, youth agencies, and social service organizations in 21 states across the USA and the District of Columbia (and 39 sites in 18 other countries). TCN staff provide ongoing support, helping each Clubhouse meets its full potential, and serve as a catalyst to share best practices, and provide evaluation, communication, and youth development resources.

Mentoring Model

The Clubhouse NetworkAt over 100 Clubhouses worldwide, youth members participate in site-based group mentoring (with both paid staff and volunteer mentors). Through OJJDP funding, 10 of those Clubhouses across the U.S. participate in a Professional Learning Community convened by The Clubhouse Network’s Mentor Program Manager. The Professional Learning Community meets (virtually) twice a month, to develop best practices and resources focused on five goals: 1) Strategies to recruit diverse mentors, especially Men of Color, 2) Increasing rates of mentor participation in training, 3) Increasing mentor retention and positive closure 4) Developing opportunities for youth leadership and voice, and 5) Engaging parents/guardians.

The Clubhouse Learning Model is designed to empower youth to be capable, creative, and confident learners (Resnick et al). The approach is grounded in research from education, developmental and social psychology, cognitive science, and youth development. It builds on research on the role of affect and motivation in learning, and the importance of social context and interplay between individuals and communities. It leverages new technologies to support learning experiences and engages young people from underserved communities, many of whom have been alienated by traditional education approaches.

The Professional Learning Community is a diverse group of mentoring practitioners:

  • Two-thirds of the participants are People of Color.
  • While they all currently work at Clubhouses, their educational and professional backgrounds include formal K-12 teaching, social work, case management, informal education, and youth work.
  • Each Clubhouse is situated within a host organization, and the 10 participating in the Professional Learning Community range from small community centers to larger government agencies.

A 2017 study by Inverness Research, an independent, non-profit evaluation firm, found that youth at the Professional Learning Community Sites rated their experiences more favorably (it is important to note that not all of the differences are statistically significant).

Connections to Evidence-Based Practice

TCN’s Handbook for Mentor Coordinators aligns with the Elements of Effective Practice.

Additionally, linked below are the results of a 2017 study conducted by Inverness Research as well as an article from Clubhouse co-founders Mitchel Resnick and Natalie Rusk, of the MIT Media Lab, about the Clubhouse Network Learning model, which is grounded in research from education, developmental and social psychology, cognitive science, and youth development.

Next Steps

  • The Professional Learning Community has sought to share the best practices and resources they have developed with the rest of The Clubhouse Network. Most recently, at The Clubhouse Network’s 2019 Annual Conference, two members of the Professional Learning Community led a session entitled How to Recruit and Retain Motivated Mentors.
  • The Professional Learning Community plans to launch and moderate an online community for mentors from TCN’s 100 sites worldwide to connect, share ideas, and access the Professional Learning Communities’ trainings and other resources for mentors.
  • A follow-up to Inverness Research’s 2017 study was completed in 2019. Its findings, which have not yet been published, should shed new light on The Clubhouse Networks’ Professional Learning Community and its effects on young people.

Related Resources

The results of an external study conducted in 2017 by Inverness Research (an independent, non-profit evaluation firm) can be found here:


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