|Abstract or Summary
- Although perceived-risk curriculum, that is, where the learner experiences
effects of eustress (positive stress), has been used in Arts or outdoor activities, it has
not been used in school classrooms. Milkman’s 1996 studies of after-school Project
Self Discovery demonstrated that at-risk students lessened their adverse risky
behaviors, such as substance abuse and increased their pro-social behaviors, such as
turning to the arts instead of drug abuse. Therefore, a study of perceived-risk
curriculum in the secondary classroom was carried out.
In this mixed-method study, the researcher sought to determine if at-risk
students who were instructed using "perceived-risk" methods (such as student
showcases and galleries) performed better in school (better being defined in this study
to include increased pro-social behaviors, higher GPA, more Carnegie Units, and
improved scores in unit pre and post-tests). To understand the phenomenon of
perceived-risk curriculum, the researcher further asked students and teachers about
their experiences with the at-risk curriculum through activity surveys, interviews,
researcher field notes and a senior project.
The study was conducted at a district-sponsored charter school for at-risk
adolescents. Throughout the term of intervention in spring 2009, teachers employed
perceived-risk methods. Results were compared to control activities. Quantitative
results were mixed: students made gains on unit pre and post-tests, slight gains in the
credits earned and a decrease in GPA. Students made modest gains in pro-social
behavior and stronger gains in their resistance to deviant-risk behavior after the term
of curricular intervention. Students reported enjoying the perceived-risk curriculum
and being engaged at rates significantly higher than control activities, though most
students did not report that the perceived-risk curriculum evoked feelings of risk.
Researcher field notes suggested that students experienced a higher level of risk than
they admitted to. It may be that assessing a perception of risk should be done
immediately prior to the risky activity.
This study was handicapped by the paucity of academic information relevant to
at-risk curriculum and by the small size of the studied population. Further research
over a more extended period of time, with a larger population, and with a more
perceived-risk weighted curriculum is encouraged.