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.