Effects of positive emotion interventions on Chinese adolescents

In recent years, interventions that apply positive psychology principles have become increasingly popular, providing an alternative approach to promoting pupils’ well-being. A recent research study published in Frontiers in Psychology examined a positive education programme in China focusing on positive emotion for middle school pupils.

Participants were drawn from a public middle school in the city of Chengdu, China. A total of 173 eighth graders (Year 9) from six classes participated in the study, of which three classes (84 pupils) were randomly allocated to the intervention group, and three classes (89 pupils) were assigned to the control group. Pupils in the intervention group received a 10-session positive education programme delivered by their teachers who received training in positive psychology from the researchers. The programme consisted of three main modules, namely understanding emotions, fostering positive emotions, and managing negative emotions. Each session lasted 45 minutes. Pupils in the control group spent the same time taking a moral education class that covered moral character, school discipline and class culture building.

Pupils completed online assessments (a Chinese version of the PROMIS paediatric scale) measuring depressive symptoms before and after the intervention. The study found that:

  • The level of depressive symptoms for pupils in both groups increased as measured by the post-test.
  • However, compared to the pupils in the control group, the increase in the level of depressive symptoms of pupils in the intervention group was significantly less.

The authors suggest that compared to correcting pupils’ behaviours, positive interventions which keep pupils intrinsically motivated could also help pupils improve their life in an effective way.

Source: Positive education interventions prevent depression in Chinese adolescents (June 2019), Frontiers in Psychology, volume 10

Does Girls Active lead to active girls?

A study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity looks at the results of an intervention aimed at improving the activity levels of adolescent girls.

The randomised controlled trial by Deirdre Harrington and colleagues took place in 20 secondary schools in Leicester. Ten schools received Girls Active and ten schools continued with usual practice. Developed by the Youth Sport Trust, Girls Active is focused on providing a support framework to schools to review their physical activity, sport, and PE teaching to ensure they are relevant and attractive to all adolescent girls, but with a particular focus on 11–14 year olds. The programme includes a range of resources for schools, including self-evaluation, training, mentoring, and funding for developing school capacity.

In total, 1,752 girls aged 11-14 participated. The primary outcome measure (at baseline, 7 months, and 14 months) was moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA), as recorded on wrist-worn accelerometers. Secondary outcomes included overall physical activity, light physical activity, sedentary time, body composition, and psychosocial outcomes. The results showed small improvements in MVPA in comparison with control schools after 7 months, but none after 14 months. Subgroup analysis showed that the intervention was effective at 14 months in larger schools, but caused an MVPA decrease in smaller schools. There was no pattern in the secondary outcomes, and any differences were slight.

Source: Effectiveness of the ‘Girls Active’ school-based physical activity programme: A cluster randomised controlled trial (April 2018) International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity

No impact for sleep education pilot

An evaluation of a pilot of Teensleep, a sleep education programme that aims to improve outcomes for pupils by improving the quality of their sleep, found no evidence that the programme led to improvements in pupils’ sleep.

The Teensleep programme trains teachers to promote good ‘sleep hygiene’ as part of pupils’ Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) lessons. Teachers deliver a series of 10 half-hour lessons highlighting the importance of sleep for effective learning, as well as providing practical advice for better sleep, such as avoiding caffeine in the evening.

Ten UK secondary schools took part in the pilot funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Wellcome Trust. All Year 10 pupils received the intervention as delivered by their teachers and completed a sleep quiz and sleep survey pre- and post-intervention. Parents and pupils were informed about the pilot study and parents could opt out of schools sharing pupils’ data with the research team, but not out of pupil participation in the intervention.

Overall, the evaluation found there was no evidence that Teensleep improved pupils’ sleep as measured using a wrist-worn activity monitor before and after the intervention. However, the evaluation did find some evidence of improvements to sleep-related behaviour as reported by pupils, such as napping less during the daytime.

Source: Teensleep: Pilot report and executive summary (February 2019) Education Endowment Foundation

Effects of youth mentoring programmes

Mentoring programmes that pair young people with non-parental adults are a popular strategy for early intervention with at-risk youth. To examine the extent to which these types of interventions improve outcomes for young people, Elizabeth B Raposa and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of outcome studies of one-to-one youth mentoring programmes written in English between 1975 and 2017.

Their analysis included 70 studies with a sample size of 25,286 children and young people (average age = 12 years), and considered five broad outcome categories: school, social, health, cognitive and psychological outcomes.

The findings from their meta-analysis suggest no significant difference in effect sizes across these five types of outcomes. Overall, they found an average effect size of +0.21 across all studies and outcomes, which is consistent with past meta-analyses that have shown overall effect sizes ranging from +0.18 to +0.21.

Programmes that had a larger proportion of young males who were being mentored in the sample, a greater percentage of male mentors, or mentors who worked within the helping profession showed larger effect sizes, as did evaluations that relied on questionnaires and youth self-report.

Source: The effects of youth mentoring programs: A meta-analysis of outcome studies (January 2019), Journal of Youth and Adolescence

An evaluation of PACE Center for Girls

Megan Millenky and colleagues from MDRC have released a new reporton an evaluation of PACE Center for Girls. PACE, a Florida-based organisation, provides academic and social services to at-risk middle and high school girls. According to the report, PACE operates daily, year-round; on a typical day, girls attend academic classes and receive additional support such as individual counselling, academic advice, and referrals to other services.

The research team used a random assignment design to evaluate the impact of PACE. From August 2013 to November 2015, a sample of 1,125 girls were enrolled in the study (673 in the programme group, and 452 in the control group). Data sources included administrative records, a survey, and interviews.

Key findings from the study were as follows:

  • The programme group received more academic and social services — and received them more often from a professional source — than the control group.
  • Over a one-year period, PACE increased school enrolment and attendance for the girls it served, compared with the control group. Girls in the programme group were also more likely to be “on track” academically than those in the control group.
  • Girls in both the programme and control groups appeared goal-orientated and hopeful about their futures and reported relatively low levels of risky behaviour one year after study enrolment.
  • The cost of PACE’s holistic package of services is, on average, $10,400 per pupil more than the cost of the services received by control group members through academic and social services provided in the community. The additional cost is largely driven by PACE’s extensive social services; the cost of academic services is similar to those of Florida public schools.

The authors note that further follow-up research would be necessary to see whether PACE affects longer-term academic and delinquency outcomes and to complete a full benefit-cost analysis.

Source: Focusing on girls’ futures: Results from the evaluation of PACE Center for Girls (January 2019), MDRC