Grades 6-12. This comprehensive, evidence-based program is designed for use in classrooms or small groups in schools and other settings. During the past 10 years, the program has been thoroughly field-tested and successfully used with over 50,000 students in a number of school districts. Lively sessions help students learn coping strategies, cognitive restructuring techniques, and stress and anger management skills through discussion, demonstrations, group and individual activities, and relaxation procedures. The Leader’s Manual contains step-by-step lesson plans and is accompanied by a free copy of a 13-minute Scanning Relaxation Audio CD. The appendix includes an 8-page reproducible pre/posttest. The pre/posttest is also available in convenient packets of 20 – enough for 10 students. The Student Workbook is necessary for each participant and is sold in packets of 10.
“This curriculum for grades six and up offers 10 sessions for classes and other groups, teaching strategies for managing everyday and risky situations. Participants practice the Calm Body Technique with the enclosed ‘Scanning Relaxation’ CD. The Clear Mind Technique controls angry reactions by checking facts and meanings behind the actions of others. The Alternative Actions Technique develops new responses to potentially violent situations. Learning occurs through observation, personal response, surveys of friends and family, and role-playing.”
—Cathi MacRae, Youth Today (the newspaper on youth work)
“This leader’s manual offers a cognitive-behavioral approach young people can use to control emotions, find nonviolent alternatives and change their idea that violence is acceptable. Consultant and former teacher de Anda provides tips on calming techniques and relaxation in 11 sessions that identify causes of violence and triggers, clear the mind, establish beliefs and attitudes, understand the connection between thoughts and actions, evaluate actions, express attitudes publicly, and continue what students have learned.”
—Research Book News
In addition to quantitative assessments of the effectiveness of a program, it is important to give a voice to the program participants. Toward this end, high school students in the second evaluation were provided an opportunity to evaluate the program and its impact on them via a number of open-ended questions at the time they completed the posttest measures.
The comments were overwhelmingly positive, confirming the value of the specific skills they learned, requesting a continuation of the program, and indicating that the experience was enjoyable. The only critical comments were made by a few students who indicated that they did not like written assignments or that they were uncomfortable participating in the role-playing exercises. However, an equal number of students indicated that the role-playing exercises were their favorite part of the program. A sampling of the students’ comments follows:
I learned that I could just walk away and cool off when I get angry.
I learned that you don’t have to fight because someone is mad-dogging or dissing you.
It really taught me how to control my thoughts and feelings and also how to not let little things get to you so easily.
I learned how to calm myself more and to avoid getting into a fight when I feel tense or angry.
I learned that some things may seem to look like something bad but could really mean something else.
I also learned to think before I react to something that can lead to bad consequences.
I learned to talk things out peacefully, and to be sure first the meaning and facts about what a person said or did to me.
Say in your mind stop, relax and let go, let out all of the anger you have inside of you.
I have noticed a change in my attitude. I am more calm and I don’t really worry about what people think.
This cognitive-behavioral prevention program is designed to reduce aggressive and violent behavior by expanding the adolescent’s positive coping repertoire, including related physiological, cognitive, and behavioral responses. Program components include this Leader’s Manual, including the Scanning Relaxation audio CD bound at the back of this book (Charlesworth, 2002), and a Student Workbook. The 10 instructional sessions and final review and culmination session focus on the following:
- Presenting information via current statistics, group activities, and discussion about the extent of the problem of violence in our society and among adolescent populations in particular.
- Teaching arousal reduction techniques based on Scanning Relaxation Training.
- Teaching cognitive restructuring and problem-solving strategies that promote the use of alternative, nonaggressive responses in situations that typically elicit violent reactions. This component constitutes approximately 80 percent of the program, and teaches students to:
- Understand the nature of anger arousal: its physiological, affective, and cognitive components.
- Become aware of the stimuli (events, people, thoughts, situations, etc.) that serve as “triggers” for feelings of anger or other unpleasant emotional responses.
- Discriminate between thoughts and emotions, and understand the relationships among triggers, thoughts, and feelings.
- Recognize that changes in thinking can lead to changes in feelings. Students learn to use the Clear Mind Technique, which involves examining the accuracy of the perceived facts in a given situation; the meaning attributed to events; and related underlying beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions.
- Understand that actions generally flow from the Trigger-Thoughts-Feelings sequence and that the sequence can be altered. Students learn to generate alternative actions for various situations, and they practice changing the way they respond to triggers by altering the preceding sequence or by evaluating the potential results (consequences) of their actions.
- Evaluate the potential results of various alternative actions and use this approach as a basis for making better choices.
The program is a pedagogically diverse, fully scripted, interactive educational experience. The learning process incorporates concrete examples throughout that are humorous and/or directly related to the problem situations often faced by middle school and high school students. Students practice integrating all elements of the program as they work through case examples and specific situations that they have selected as relevant to their own experience. Several methods of instruction are employed: lectures by the leader, demonstrations, group discussions, individual and small-group activities, and homework assignments. The program culminates in group presentations in which students demonstrate their skills to the group as a whole.
The 10 instructional sessions build upon one another so that by the end of the program, the major concepts and techniques are incorporated into three main coping techniques:
- The Calm Body Technique, to reduce arousal
- The Clear Mind Technique, to promote cognitive restructuring
- The Alternative Actions Technique, to generate alternative nonviolent responses in potentially violent situations and to choose among alternatives by evaluating both the short- and long-term consequences
The final session reviews the skills presented in the previous sessions and involves students in a group process exercise in which they determine how they can use what they have learned to improve both their school and community environments.
Specific motivational devices are used at the beginning of each session and at various points throughout the program to engage students’ interest and maintain their involvement. For example, Session 1 begins with an ominous-looking “Trouble Box” (an updated, nonsexist variation of Pandora’s Box) that contains examples of violence students have identified in their environment. The last session features a “Perfect World Box,” which contains all of the elements that students have suggested would contribute to an ideal environment.
The 13-minute Scanning Relaxation CD is used twice during the sessions; if possible, copies of the CD should be made available to students to help them practice this technique on their own.
The impact of the program can be evaluated by using the pretest/posttest measures and scoring summary sheet provided in Appendix A. Leaders may photocopy the pretest/posttest materials and scoring summary sheet from Appendix A, or they may order sets of 20 from the publisher. (The pretest/posttest measures are Scantron compatible, allowing leaders to reuse copies with future groups.) Two additional appendixes complete this manual. Appendix B provides reproducible versions of the Scanning Relaxation Rating Scales, introduced in Session 3 and used thereafter. Appendix C includes supplementary activities.
All programs implemented by various school districts were subject to internal evaluation employing the program measures. Although, as requested, the author provided consulting services to agency staff conducting the program in the schools and to some school district personnel, in most cases evaluation data were considered the property of the school district and/or the funding institution and not shared with the author. Verbal communication from those implementing the program and the continued use of the program throughout the years of the funding grant testify to the program’s perceived effectiveness.
Evaluation data were made available for three samples of students from urban public school districts in Southern California. Pretests were administered to the students immediately prior to their participation in the program, and identical posttests were completed shortly after the final session. Due to ethical concerns and the requirements of the school administration, control groups could not be used. Instead, each student was used as his or her own control via paired t-test analyses, in which each participant’s pretest and posttest were matched and compared to determine whether there were significant changes in the scores from pretest to posttest.
In the first evaluation, scheduling constraints required the program to be conducted within a two-week period by offering daily sessions. The sample consisted of 140 adolescents (73 males, 67 females), predominantly (89 percent) ninth graders, ages 14 to 15 (83 percent), with Latino/Hispanic being the largest ethnic group, followed by African American.
Because this was the first time the program had been implemented and was therefore considered a pilot testing of the intervention and the measures, the data were used primarily for formative purposes. Changes in the predicted direction were noted on the three scales administered: the School Climate Measure, the Attitudes Toward Violence Measure, and the Personal Anger Scale. However, none of the differences reached statistical significance. Examination of the data, interviews with the staff who conducted the program, and qualitative evaluations obtained from the students uniformly indicated that the program was perceived as positive and effective. It was concluded that daily sessions over a two-week period did not allow sufficient time to obtain measurable changes in the complex and emotionally invested areas covered in the instruments or for the assimilation and integration of the number of concepts and skills presented in the program. Subsequently, it was recommended that the program be conducted over a longer period of time, ideally with sessions held twice a week. As needed, minor clarifications were made in the materials, and new measures were created to capture the program effects – the Skills and Knowledge Measure and the Monthly Behavior Report.
In the second evaluation, the program was conducted during a five-week period, and sessions were held twice a week. The sample consisted of 157 students (82 males, 75 females), 88 percent of whom were ninth graders, primarily 14 to 15 years of age (86 percent). Sixty-one percent of the sample identified themselves as Latino/Hispanic, and 35 percent identified themselves as African American. Two new measures were added to the pretests and posttests, resulting in a total of five measures: the School Climate Measure, the Attitudes Toward Violence Measure, the Personal Anger Scale, the Skills and Knowledge Measure, and the Monthly Behavior Report. Statistically significant improvements from pretest to posttest were evident in four of the five measures. The scores on the School Climate Measure indicated a statistically significant (t – 2.62, df = 127, p < .01). increase in students' overall sense of safety in the school environment-specifically, that students "often" felt safe. In particular, the scores showed an increase in the degree to which students felt the school staff were able to deal with problematic situations (t - 3.27, df = 150, p < .001) and in relation to safety in their interactions with peers (t - 2.23, df = 139, p < .05).
Students also reported significant attitude changes (t – 3.08, df = 125, p < .01) — that is, a decrease in the acceptance of violent or aggressive behavior and an increase in a preference for nonviolent approaches to dealing with potentially threatening situations. In particular, a decrease was noted in the belief that a person has the right to engage in violence, given various provocations (t - 3.66, df = 150, p < .001), and in the need to respond with violence to redress affronts to one's reputation or signs of disrespect ("dissing") (t - 3.38, df = 143, p < .001).
The slight increase in average scores at posttest on the Personal Anger Control Scale did not reach statistical significance; however, the posttest scores indicate that the students felt they “often” exerted control over their anger. It is possible that it was difficult to obtain measurable changes because the scale consisted of only five items. Consequently, the scale was expanded to 10 items.
The increase in scores on the Skills and Knowledge Measure demonstrated a noteworthy and statistically significant (t – 6.50, df = 112, p < .001) increase in the students' knowledge of the concepts and skills taught in the program.
Finally, changes in behavior were evident in scores on the Monthly Behavior Report, which indicated a statistically significant decrease in the occurrence of violent behaviors (t – 14.22, df = 132, p < .001) and an increase in the use of nonviolent methods to resolve conflicts or problematic situations (t - 2,32, df = 138, p < .05).
In the third evaluation, the program was conducted consecutively during the same academic year in seventh-grade English classes in four different schools, until all seventh-grade students had participated. Measures were obtained for 1604 students, 751 males and 849 females with a median age of 12 (75 percent). The students were culturally diverse, identifying primarily as African American, Latino/Hispanic, White, Asian/Pacific Islander, a specific White ethnic group, and multiethnic. Because of time constraints due to curriculum requirements, the recommended two-sessions-per-week format could not be employed. Instead, concentrated sessions were provided once a week for seven weeks. All of the content was covered, but some of the group activities and motivational devices were limited and a less extensive review of concepts from previous sessions was conducted at the beginning of each session. Nevertheless, paired t-test analyses established the effectiveness of the program, with statistically significant differences from pretest to posttest found on all the measures employed: the School Climate Measure (t – 2.828, df = 1384, p < .01), the 10-item Personal Anger Control Scale (t - 6,636, df = 1506, p < .001), the Attitudes Toward Violence Measure (t - 8.666, df = 1346, p < .001), and the Skills and Knowledge Measure (t - 3.696, df = 1567, p < .001). (The school district chose not to use the Monthly Behavior Report, primarily to conserve instructional time.)
Paired t-test analyses compared each participant’s pretest scores with the same student’s posttest scores to determine if a change had occurred during the intervention time frame, with program effectiveness demonstrated by a gain in the score from pretest to posttest. In effect, the participant was used as his or her own control. A number of procedures were also included to address the potential limitations of this research design with regard to internal validity. First, the potential confound of history was eliminated, because the intervention was conducted multiple times with cohort groups across the academic year. Because the intervention occurred at various times, an extraneous occurrence or event that may have coincided with the intervention was not likely to account for the changes from pretest to posttest. Selection bias was eliminated by using the entire seventh grade class and by random ordering. Finally, maturation was also not a confound because the intervention was conducted and the pretest and the posttest administered to cohorts in consecutive weeks across the school year. Moreover, the pretest and posttest comparisons were made across a relatively short period of time (seven weeks) for each cohort.