In September 2012, we secured the full co-operation of eight Teesside schools to embark upon a multi-layered ‘Social Norms’ research project designed to:
a) Identify the issues that impact on students’ behaviour ;
b) Evaluate the effectiveness of a wide range of interventions.
The success of the project and its huge potential value inspired us to draw on our own experience and feedback from staff and students to develop a Social Norms product that could be adapted for effective delivery in any school or college.
Social Norms – The Concept
The ‘Social Norms’ approach is based on the belief that people’s behavior is strongly influenced by their misconception of how other members of their social group think and act. It tackles these misconceptions by exposing the target group to positive, data based messages that show them how their peers really behave and encourage them to behave normally.
After thoroughly evaluating different approaches to Social Norms, we adopted the Wes Perkins model, mainly because of its proven success rate but also because of its simplicity and adaptability.
Projects are based on a cycle that begins with gathering data, follows up by presenting evidence of their misconceptions to the target group and ends with re testing to measure impact, before sharing the results with the group.
From our experience of working with schools and colleges, we recognised that a ‘young person-centred approach’ was vital to achieve the required quality of communication. We therefore used the Teesside project to assess around 20 different interventions, ranging from D.V.D. presentations documenting the process from the young people’s view point to: a D.V.D. interpretation of Harlem shake; an acrylic garden; graffiti walls; a comic book display; an ‘Angry Birds’ demolition event; food art; banners; and parent meetings. One of the most gratifying outcomes in Teesside was the high proportion of students whom we empowered to make presentations to their peers.
The NWA Social Norms Product
Our Social Norms projects capitalise on our ability to capture and retain the attention of each group of students; with a rich variety of interventions to choose from, each tends to be unique to its targeted group. We have, however, developed two basic packages to provide the framework for our projects:-
Package 1 includes the provision of a highly qualified and experienced teacher for 2 ½ days in-school delivery, plus online and telephone support for the project duration.
For establishments with sufficient teaching resources, Package 2 provides a 2 ½ hr training session to orient staff through the project milestones and resources. Scheme of work and resources are provided.