Project Description

NIDA New Haven: Building Preventative Group Norms in Urban Middle Schools

This intervention study is developing, conducting and evaluating a new approach to drug and sex-risk prevention in urban middle schools. Working with students and teachers in New Haven, CT, the project compares the standard social development curriculum to one based upon collaborative learning, problem-solving and group consensus.

Additional Information:

Susanne Fest, Ed.D., Ethnographer

Federico Cintron, M.A., Ethnographer

Michele Melley, M.A.,Research Associate

Jean J. Schensul, Ph.D., Principal Investigator

Bonnie K. Nastasi, Ph.D. , Co-Principal Investigator

The purpose of this 4.5-year intervention study is to develop, conduct and evaluate a new, norms-based approach to drug and sex-risk prevention with 6th and 7th grade students in New Haven, CT. Current research demonstrates that drug and sexual risk behaviors in youth are most strongly influenced not by individual choice but by choice in the context of peer and community norms. The Group Norms Prevention Project studies the efficacy of this approach by comparing its group-based curriculum to the standard social development curriculum used in New Haven middle schools. The project uses the principles of group problem-solving, cooperative learning and social construction in the curriculum design and prevention implementation. Research methodology includes participant observation of the classroom and students, in-depth interviews with students, teachers and school support staff, a pre-post measure and a pre-post test (the Social and Health Assessment survey) administered to all students by the district.
After a pilot of the group norms curriculum in five 5th grade classrooms during the project’s first year, the curriculum is now being implemented in 6th and 7th grade classrooms of five district middle schools. The remaining five middle schools in the district are using the standard curriculum, serving as a control group for the study. Participating teachers are trained in the new curriculum at a voluntary summer training, and during after school and in-service days. Project staff provide teachers with on-site support, while conducting participant observation in the classroom. At the end of the school year, staff conduct interviews with approximately 50 students, teachers and school administrative staff to assess the curriculum’s efficacy in terms of content and design. Results from interviews, observations in classrooms and daily contact with teachers are used to redesign the curriculum for the following year. The project team works with the New Haven Social Development Department in its implementation.
Nastasi, B. “Life as a Researcher: The Role of a School Psychologist in a Research Setting.” The School Psychologist, Spring 2001, pp. 58-61