Program Goals/Target Population
The Peacemakers Program was a school-based violence reduction intervention for grades 4 through 8. The program content was based on studies of psychosocial variables associated with individual differences in aggression, and was influenced by social and developmental psychology research (Shapiro, et al. 2002). The Peacemakers Program had two primary objectives: (1) prevent violence; and (2) improve interpersonal behavior among youth.
The Peacemakers Program consisted of a 17-lesson curriculum for teachers and a remediation component for school psychologists and counselors for students referred for aggressive behavior. Each lesson took 45 minutes to conduct and addressed beliefs supporting the acceptability and utility of violent behavior and deficits in conflict-related psychosocial skills. Psychosocial skills taught in the program included anger management, coping with stress, problem solving, perspective-switching, and empathy for other people.
There were a variety of classroom activities including didactic instruction, discussion, use of the Socratic Method, role-plays, and experiential exercises. Emphasis was placed on infusing program content into students’ everyday lives by helping them recognize potentially problematic situations and then recall what they had learned in the program. The goal was to have the principles and strategies of the program become a part of the school’s culture.
The intervention began with several sessions on violence-related attitudes, values, and self-concept issues. Students were taught the Golden Rule (to treat others as you wish to be treated). The purpose of these sessions was to increase the attractiveness of nonviolent behavior and to strengthen student motivation to learn the psychosocial skills taught in the rest of the curriculum. Techniques were taught to reduce impulsivity, strengthen self-regulation of emotions, increase participants’ sensitivity to the effect their behavior had on other people, and to strengthen consequential thinking and flexibility of response to interpersonal problems. Students were instructed on how to avoid conflicts before they begin, how to stand up for themselves without pushing around others, and how to improve their communication skills.
Since the original research, the developer added a 2-session module on bullying prevention, which is integrated into the program as a whole. Other parts of the curriculum were slightly condensed, so the program now includes a total of 18 sessions.
A Teacher’s Manual was available to teachers delivering the curriculum in their classrooms. The manual provided detailed lesson plans, language that teachers could use to explain concepts to students, key words in the margins for use as lecture notes during sessions, and responses to common student objections to the non-violent behaviors taught throughout the program. A Counselor’s Manual was also designed for school psychologists and counselors who worked with individual students referred for aggressive behavior. This manual provided guidance in the assessment of aggression-related process so that work could focus on the students’ greatest needs.
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Aggressive Behavior Checklist (ABC)
Shapiro and colleagues (2002) found significant differences on measures of aggression between the Peacemakers Program group and the control group. The Peacemakers group showed significant decreases in self-reported measures of aggression compared with the control group. Teachers also reported significant decreased scores in students receiving the program compared with students in the control group.
Attitudes toward Guns and Violence
There were no significant differences between the Peacemakers and control groups on self-report measures of attitudes toward guns and violence.
Knowledge of Psychosocial Skills
Students in the program showed a significant increase in knowledge of psychosocial skills compared with control group students.
Based on teacher reports on students, the Peacemakers Program was associated with decreased disciplinary incidents involving aggressive behavior. During the three weeks post-intervention, there were disciplinary incidents involving 29 percent of the Peacemakers group compared with 50 percent of the control group (a significant difference).
The teacher reports showed that students participating in the program were involved in the school conflict mediation services significantly less often than students in the control group. During the three weeks post-intervention, there were conflict mediations involving 4 percent of the program group compared with 11 percent of the control group (a significant difference).
The teacher reports also showed that students in the program received significantly fewer suspensions for violent behavior than did students in the control group. Four percent of the Peacemakers group was suspended for fighting during the three weeks post-intervention compared with 12 percent of the control group (a significant difference).
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