Train the teachers?
A new study has brought up interesting questions for me about the tried and true strategy of prevention education for youth. Prevention education staff at the Sexual Abuse Treatment Center in Hawai’i created a curriculum called Respect, which used materials, content, and language relevant to the schools’ diverse student populations. The curriculum successfully improved student knowledge, attitudes, and self-efficacy to intervene as bystanders. What was really distinctive about this program, though, was that instead of delivering a prevention curriculum directly to students, the prevention education staff trained school staff to teach the curriculum themselves.
According to the study, this approach could help the curriculum to become a standard part of health education classes. This would have the added benefit that, “given the struggles that many communities face in funding prevention efforts, it [is] advantageous to create a curriculum that could be taught by a variety of individuals within existing institutions, not simply by outside experts in the field.” The study also mentions that having teachers and counselors deliver the curricula can leverage the existing relationships between school staff and students to improve students’ acceptance of the ideas in the curriculum.
While the article started to explain why this train-the-trainer approach could be beneficial, they didn’t evaluate whether or how having school staff teach the curriculum affected the success of the program. I think these could really be the key questions about this approach, and I think training the trainer could be important for a lot of reasons. Theoretically, having school staff teach could increase their understanding of and buy-in to prevention messages. In this study, only one teacher was trained to deliver the curriculum. But what if multiple counselors and teachers at every grade level completed a training and delivered the curriculum? Would they be more invested in preventing sexual violence? Would teachers and counselors become more involved as active bystanders themselves? Would they shape the school climate to be less tolerant of or indifferent to sexual harassment and assault? Could they even change the school environment and social norms? For me, the answer is an enthusiastic maybe!
Full Citation: Baker, C. K., Naai, R., Mitchell, J., & Trecker, C. (2014). Utilizing a train-the-trainer model for sexual violence prevention: Findings from a pilot study with high school students of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in Hawai’i. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 5(2), 106-115. doi: 10.1037/a0034670
Full Abstract: Sexual violence is a significant public health problem with potential long-term consequences for victims. Prior research suggests that adolescents are at increased risk for sexual violence, which makes prevention education programs critical for this age group. However, there are few prevention programs that specifically target sexual violence, and even fewer that are culturally appropriate for Hawai‘i’s diverse population. This pilot study addresses these two gaps by implementing and evaluating a culturally grounded school-based sexual violence prevention curriculum. The Respect curriculum was developed by the Sex Abuse Treatment Center (a statewide social service agency with expertise in sexual violence prevention and treatment), in collaboration with the Hawai‘i Department of Education, teachers, counselors, and students across the state. A train-the-trainer model was used for implementation, in which teachers were trained and supported in teaching the curriculum to their students. One high school on Oahu served as the intervention school, with a demographically similar high school serving as the comparison. The sample was comprised of 136 students: 63 in the intervention school and 73 in the comparison school. Results showed that students in the intervention school significantly increased their knowledge of sexual violence, decreased their victim-blaming attitudes, and increased their bystander self-efficacy (i.e., their likelihood of acting on behalf of a potential victim if a situation arose) compared with students in the comparison school. Findings provide preliminary support for the utility of a train-the-trainer model in addressing sensitive health topics.