- Research regarding factors that promote high-quality implementation of school-based prevention programs has increased markedly over the past decade as it has become increasingly recognized that evidence-based programs are often not well implemented. Whole-school interventions may be particularly complex to implement because they are intended to involve all school personnel and students. The manuscripts in this dissertation contribute to this important area of study by addressing three factors thought to be important influences on implementation quality: 1) school organizational climate, 2) technical assistance to teachers, and 3) program adaptations made by teachers. These studies use data from a six-year, Chicago-based trial of Positive Action (PA), a comprehensive whole-school program designed to promote a range of social-emotional, character development, academic, and health promotion outcomes. The PA program includes a curriculum that teaches specific positive actions related to physical, intellectual, social, and emotional aspects of the self. Supplementary program materials (e.g., posters, music) and activities (awarding certificates of recognition) reinforce and expand upon the concepts taught during classroom lessons.
The first manuscript reports a study in which ordinary least squares regression was used to analyze associations between teachers' perceptions of three dimensions of school organizational climate and the dosage and quality of the implementation of PA. It found that a) teacher perceptions of a school's tendency to be innovative were associated with greater implementation dosage and quality and b) teacher perceptions of teacher collegiality within a school were associated with a higher use of supplementary materials and activities.
The study described in the second manuscript used path modeling to examine the potential influence of technical assistance (TA)--a type of support used to augment training--on teachers' implementation of PA during the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years (the last two years of the trial). The analysis found that higher dosages of TA were associated with a higher number of lessons per week in 2008-2009 and greater use of PA materials in both years. Furthermore, there were significant indirect associations between TA dosage and more positive attitudes toward PA in 2008-2009, which, in turn, predicted higher levels of implementation in 2009-2010.
The third manuscript addresses associations between teacher adaptation of PA, student engagement (an intermediate outcome), and four student outcomes--social-emotional and character development, normative beliefs in support of aggression, bullying, and disruptive behavior. Prior studies have indicated that adaptation of prevention programs by teachers is very common, but, to date, research examining relationships between adaptation and student outcomes is scarce. This study found that adaptations for the purpose of making lessons more appropriate for students (as self-reported by teachers) might be beneficial with respect to student engagement and outcomes for middle-school, but not for younger, students.