Evaluating the effectiveness of risk education for early adolescents
Haley, Jessica Deloris
This thesis is the result of an investigation of the effectiveness of incorporating risk education into the curriculum of early adolescents, notably students enrolled in fifth grade. As these students explore different aspects of environmental and human health risks that affect their everyday lives, it is important that they learn how to access objective information and utilize it in acting more responsibly. Studies have shown that people are unlikely to engage in healthy behaviors if they perceive the associated risk to be unsafe. Rather than have fear be the motivator of risk perception, if the appropriate education is provided to these students, knowledge will instead guide risk perception. This will allow the student to make more rational decisions involving risky behaviors. The study began by reviewing existing risk-related curriculums, so as to identify those educational techniques that have proven to be successful, as well as to determine where educational material was lacking in its treatment of risk-related subject matter. A modified risk education curriculum was subsequently developed, building on the best practices observed in reviewing previous initiatives. This risk education module was subsequently offered to five fifth grade classes affiliated with two different public school systems in northern Alabama. The effectiveness of the risk education module was evaluated by administering a “risk” exam to the students. One-half of the students in each class was randomly chosen and given this exam prior to the introduction of the risk education module (control group). The remaining students were given the same exam after receiving the risk education module. Based on the exam results, it was found that the group receiving the risk education module scored at statistically significantly higher levels than the control group, an improvement of more than 20%. Based on these results, it can be concluded that introducing risk education curriculum to early adolescents can be an effective means to providing students with an improved knowledge base and thought process upon which to exhibit more responsible risk behavior.