Abstract: WITHDRAWN: Woww: Shifting Classroom Climate to Promote Equity in Educational and Mental Health Outcomes (Society for Prevention Research 24th Annual Meeting)

259 WITHDRAWN: Woww: Shifting Classroom Climate to Promote Equity in Educational and Mental Health Outcomes

Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Pacific D/L (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Amber Vennum, PhD, Assistant Professor, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Introduction: Schools are a natural entry point for addressing adolescent mental health needs, but demand for services routinely outweighs available resources. Insoo Kim Berg, founder of Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SBFT) and leader in the field of marriage and family therapy (MFT), developed Working on What Works (WoWW) in collaboration with Lee Shilts in 2003 by applying systemic principles of SFBT to middle school classrooms. Rather than removing “problem” students from class, WoWW intervenes at the classroom level, targeting all students and taking little teaching time. WoWW highlights student strengths, helps students collaboratively set and work towards classroom goals, and coaches students to find exceptions to the negative labels they have been given and that they give others. WoWW has not previously involved parents or been implemented with adolescents. In addition to heightening adolescent academic success, adolescent connectedness to peers, teachers, and parents has been found to protect against suicidality, violence, substance use, and emotional distress. Accordingly, quantitatively evaluating WoWW adapted to the high school context and involving parents is a vital next step.

Methods: Thirteen teachers (4-20 students per class in grades 9-12) at a Midwestern United States high school volunteered to participate in an effectiveness pilot of an adapted version of WoWW. WoWW coaches were graduate students in MFT. WoWW was implemented over 8-10 weeks with 2 coaching visits (taking 5-10 minutes of classroom time) per week plus teacher consultations. Teachers provided parents with positive feedback on their students’ strengths and class progress towards goals. Surveys were administered pre and post WoWW intervention and qualitative feedback was sought from teachers, students, and parents post intervention.

Preliminary Results: Students reported feeling greater connection to their peers (d = .34) and teachers (d = .80), greater emotional engagement (d = .55) and fewer externalizing behaviors (d = .21). Students also reported less boredom (d = 1.06) and frustration (d= .28), although they did not report lower anxiety. Parents’ qualitative comments suggested an increased positive perception of the teacher and their child. Teachers reported fewer behavior problems, greater efficacy in classroom management, and increased connection to their students.

Conclusions: These results suggest controlled, longitudinal studies assessing WoWW's long term impact on adolescent academic and health outcomes across diverse school districts is warranted. These results also highlight the positive impact strengths-based universal approaches can have on adolescent behavioral and mental health outcomes.