Bridging Disciplinary Boundaries (January 11 - 14, 2007)
Participatory action research (PAR) was utilized to design and refined the intervention at the two diverse, Midwestern high schools where it was implemented. A total of 135 11th graders participated in the semester-long weekly intervention over a two year period (Year 1, n=68; Year 2, n=67). Policies were determined by a committee consisting of school and university personnel as well as students. Meetings were facilitated by trained MSW interns and teachers at the schools. The curriculum consisted of a series of dialogues in which participants explore identities, discuss the nature of intergroup relations, conflict, power, and privilege, learn skills for intergroup communication and negotiation, and understand how to be an agent of change in their school. A pre-post test survey was completed by all participants. Survey data was analyzed through paired t-tests and OLS regression models controlling for baseline responses to the dependent variable.
Sixty percent of the student participants were female. Racial and ethnic background of students were approximately 40% African American, 28% Caucasian, 6% Latino, 8% Asian American, 9% Multiracial, 3% Arab American, and 4.5% Other. Religious affiliations of students were about 63% Christian, 15% No Religion/Atheist, 6.5% Jewish, 7.5% Muslim, and 8% other religion. Only one student identified as bisexual and three student identified as having a disability. At the post-test, students of color were more likely to think about identities related to sexual orientation and language, were more concerned about the mistreatment of their own identity group, and were less likely to believe that conflict must end with one side winning and one side losing. Caucasian students were more likely to challenge others' derogatory comments about other groups. More than 69% of students reported becoming more aware of intergroup problems within their school and about 73% becoming more aware of societal problems.
Implications for Social Work Research and Practice
Findings provide evidence for the interventions' engagement of high school students in dialogue around social identities and associated conflict. The intervention provides an example of how social work research and practice can effectively develop and evaluate preventive interventions that promote positive youth development and social justice among adolescents.