It’s official, the Standards for the American Gap Association are finished! Currently they’re being formatted for ease of application, but they’re done! The project of creating standards for a vastly different group of organizations – all sharing a similar pedagogy and focus, but each unique in their approach – was a challenging one. I had to search out some of the best in standards makers, focusing largely on the Association for Experiential Education, the Year Out Group (the UK equivalent of the AGA), the Forum on Education Abroad (the official Standard-holders for “study abroad”), and an obscure Irish group that has pioneered some methodologies about responsible volunteering, Comhlamh … don’t ask because I’m still not positive how to pronounce it
Finding standards that focus on the important work of responsible operation of an organization that’s in charge of students was the key. For many years I’ve struggled internally about whether standards are more help than harm because too often over the years I’ve found them to be limiting and often arbitrary in their delineations. But, well-crafted standards that focus on empowering staff to draw out their own particular genius, but still holding them accountable about the big issues is key. From an organizational perspective, it’s important to put the majority of your efforts towards the majority of the need. But it’s those events that happen exceedingly rarely but take great efforts to plan for that often end up being placed last in the priority lists.
So, the first steps lay with two forward-thinking and professional organizations: Thinking Beyond Borders and Carpe Diem Education, both great organizations that have volunteered to trial the Standards. Once they’ve given feedback we’ll be opening them for other organizations to apply. However, what Thinking Beyond Borders and Carpe Diem Education use to apply will be published for as much feedback as possible, and then opened for all Gap Year organizations to apply.
A gap year is a structured period of time when students take a break from formal education to increase self-awareness, learn from different cultures, and experiment with possible careers. Typically these are achieved by a combination of traveling, volunteering, interning, or working. A gap year experience can last from two months up to two years and is taken between high school graduation and the Junior year of their higher degree.
Stay tuned for more!