Program Goals/Target Population
The main goal of the Leadership Program’s Violence Prevention Project (VPP) is to prevent violence by enhancing the conflict-resolution skills of both male and female middle and high school students aged 12 to 16. This is accomplished primarily by working on student communication and relationship-building skills. VPP’s other goals are to address the social setting in which violence occurs and to improve academic performance. Students’ tolerance for aggression and violence is lowered by targeting the classroom environment and teaching students about group dynamics. Academic performance is improved by building students’ self-concept and working on goal setting.
Program Activities/Program Theory
The VPP curricula (middle and high school) include 12 interactive lessons. One lesson is administered each week in students’ regular classrooms by well-trained program staff. Each lesson—which lasts approximately 45 minutes—features an aim or goal, brief warm-up, main exercise, and a closing discussion. Lessons use experiential active learning to increase retention rates, get students involved, and further practice communication and relationship skills.
VPP addresses poor communication, the classroom environment, and academic self-concept. Skill building and improving students’ conflict-related attitudes and behavior occurs across multiple domains. Communication skills are essential, and most of the classroom lessons revolve around enhancing them in students. The communication skills that are stressed in the VPP curriculum include active listening, the use of “I” statements, and perspective taking. Having students see situations from another perspective and making them feel like the other person in an argument helps diffuse tension and aggression. Students’ normative beliefs about the use and acceptableness of aggressive behavior are challenged, and by teaching them better ways to communicate, aggression is seen as an unacceptable way to resolve a dispute. VPP targets academic self-concept and performance by incorporating goal setting into their lessons.
The curricula are theme based, allowing for adaptation to meet specific student and school needs. In middle school populations, the core components are typically leadership, self-affirmation, cooperation, vision and imagination, and conflict management. High school students cover those same core components and add lessons on self-concept, group dynamics, and social responsibility.
During lessons and exercises, facilitators help students explore multiple options for resolving conflicts. This gives students more choices to resolve disputes without using violence.
12 to 16
The focus of The Leadership Program’s Violence Prevention Project (VPP) was to enhance students’ conflict-resolution skills. Thompkins and Chauveron (2010) measured conflict-resolution skills in many ways, ranging from negative to positive behavior: the use of antisocial strategies, verbal and physical aggression, immature avoidance, asking parents for help, walking away from conflicts, and the use of pro-social verbal skills to resolve conflicts.
At baseline, the treatment group displayed more verbal and physical aggressive behavior and antisocial strategies of conflict resolution than the comparison group. At follow-up, the rate of growth for verbal and physical aggressive behavior and antisocial strategies was smaller for the treatment group. In fact, the treatment groups’ verbal and physical aggressive behavior and antisocial strategies were relatively stable from baseline to follow-up, while the comparison groups’ verbal and physical aggression increased over the same time period.
Students not receiving the VPP curriculum increased their verbal aggression and antisocial strategies in resolving conflicts over time, while program participants did not. Comparison group students’ level of physical aggression remained relatively stable from baseline to follow-up, while the treatment group students used physical aggression less after going through VPP.
There was no significant difference for immature avoidance strategies. Both treatment and comparison students avoided peers they had an ongoing conflict or dispute with more between baseline and follow-up.
Meanwhile, the treatment group tended to walk away from conflicts, rather than escalate them or seek help, more than the comparison group over time.
A significant inverse relationship was shown for using pro-social verbal skills. Program participants at baseline used fewer pro-social verbal skills than the comparison group. At follow-up, these rates had stabilized, meaning program participants were using more pro-social verbal skills.
Normative Beliefs of Aggression
At baseline, the treatment group displayed more tolerance of aggression and aggressive behavior than the comparison group. Treatment group students’ tolerance for aggression was relatively stable from baseline to follow-up, while the comparison group student’s tolerance for aggression increased over the same time period. Students not receiving the VPP curriculum grew more accepting of aggression over time, while program participants maintained the level of tolerance for aggression.
Students participating in VPP initially showed lower levels of peer support at baseline than those students in the comparison group. While comparison group students showed higher levels of peer support at baseline, this tended to decline over time in contrast to the treatment groups students. The treatment students started out with low levels of peer support but showed a more positive growth rate at follow-up.
12 14 15 21 37 41 44 45 47 58 60 74 80 81
5 61 62 69 70 274 291 310 311 314 455 460 473 474