Meeting the behaviour challenge : effective groupwork for schools
Youth disaffection is a widely used term that is used to denote a broad range of at-risk behaviours that affect large numbers of young people and have widely varying social and physiological causes. This intervention study examines the effectiveness of groupwork in meeting the challenges of scale and complexity of reducing the impact of disaffection in the school and home environments. Using a sample of 130 children from primary, middle and secondary schools in North Tyneside, two group interventions were run with randomised samples and data collected up to one-year post intervention. This study presents the findings from data gathered at four time points comparing a curriculum support intervention with a reflective therapeutic intervention. Both interventions were conducted with small groups of children withdrawn from class and measures were taken to control extraneous variables in a quasi-experimental design. Assessments were made at four time points through questionnaires administered to the children, their parents and their teachers. Questionnaire data were complemented with a direct observation protocol for measuring behaviours in the classroom. School attendance was also monitored. The effectiveness of groupwork was measured over time, and the interventions compared to each other using measures of statistical significance and effect size. The study found agreement between the children and their teachers that both forms of groupwork produced a reduction in problem behaviours and an increase in self-concept over the intervention period. This improvement was still detectable one-year post-intervention. The teachers and parents, but not the pupils, favourably compared the intervention with a three-month waiting list period where data were gathered in the absence of intervention. The teachers and parents distinguished between the intervention conditions over the intervention period, attributing marginally greater gains to the therapeutic intervention than to the curriculum intervention. At one year post-intervention, the teachers again distinguished between the conditions, attributing marginally greater gains to the therapeutic intervention than to the curriculum intervention. These findings were considered to support the use of groupwork in schools. In an age dominated by evidence-based approaches that look for specific interventions for categorised symptom-clusters, this study provides evidence from a rigorous methodology that clustering children according to teacher concern cutting across diagnostic categories can be the starting point for context-friendly interventions useful to those seeking community-based solutions to the complex social issue of disaffection.