Master of Arts (MA)
Faculty of Science
After the 2001 murder of a locai Black youth at the hands of more than 50 White youth, community organizations in the Kitchener-Waterloo area came together to develop the Working against Youth Violence Everywhere (WAYVE) program—a program created by and for local youth that would work towards eliminating bullying and violence in area high schools. WAYVE combines interactive workshops and presentations with a whole-school approach and peer-led principles. In-school teams work at maintaining an anti-bullying message within their school over the course of the year, while Regional team members develop a presentation which acts as a booster to the In-school team, revitalizing the program mid-way through the school year.
In this thesis I begin with an examination of the current state of bullying in high schools and then describe a comprehensive evaluation of the WAYVE program, including recommendations for the program. Major research questions that were formulated for the evaluation include: 1) what impact does the WAYVE program have on its targeted population of Grade 9 students? 2) what impact does being part of the WAYVE program implementation team have on its members? and 3) what are some of the practical issues involved in running a peer-led initiative?
Both quantitative and qualitative methods were employed to answer these questions. Quantitative data were gathered in order to assess the impact of the program on two groups of youth: Grade 9 students and WAYVE team members. A total of 142 Grade 9 students from four different schools participated in the study. Sixty-six students were from two intervention schools while the remaining 76 participants attended two schools selected as comparison sites. A total of 68 youth, ranging in age from 13 to 19, participated in the portion of the study designed to look at the impact of the program on the WAYVE team members. Thirty-four youth were members of the WAYVE team while the remaining 34 served as a comparison group. Surveys for both groups were administered twice throughout the school year with the pre-test occurring in October 2009 and the post-test in May 2010.
Quantitative results indicate that Grade 9 students who were exposed to the program experienced changes that were not evident in the comparison groups including significant increases in levels of empathy in relation to bullying, a lower likelihood of using negative interventions when encountering a bullying situation, and enhanced school norms against bullying and violence. WAYVE team members also saw significant gains that were not found in their comparison group such as increases in community involvement, communication skills, awareness of community resources, and knowledge of issues with which youth deal.
The evaluation also included a qualitative component designed to gain a thorough understanding of some of the practical implications of running a peer-led program, from the points of view of both the adult mentors and the WAYVE team members. In order to gain this information, three interviews and three focus groups were conducted throughout February and March, 2010. Findings indicate that youth on the WAYVE team experienced increased awareness on several dimensions including impact of language on others, a variety of behavioural changes, skill enhancement, personal growth and development, and an increased sense of community. Data garnered from this section of the evaluation helped to gain an in-depth understanding of the running of the WAYVE program, including the challenges and benefits of using a peer-led approach to bullying prevention.
In the discussion section of this thesis I describe the results of the study as they relate to previous research, specifically in terms of empathy, school norms, youth engagement, generativity and sense of community. I also offer suggestions for improving the effectiveness of the program and overcoming some of the barriers identified in the focus groups and interviews. Finally, I discuss some of limitations to the current study and its design.
Pister, Rebecca L., "Working Against Youth Violence Everywhere: Evaluating a Peer-Led Approach to Bullying Prevention" (2010). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 974.