Monday, April 8, 2013

Project trust: Breaking down barriers between middle school children.

Batiuk, M. E., Wilcox, N. & Boland, J. A. (2002, Fall). Project trust: Breaking down barriers between middle school children. ADOLESCENCE, 39(155), 531-537.

The main focus of this article was about a school that participated in a summer camp known as Project Trust that attempted to break down barriers of social groups in a middle school setting and the results of the study. The experiment made sure that students who were from different cliques (as labeled by themselves during the school year) were mixed with other members from other cliques and participated in training.  The 8 groups were “dorks” “preps” “Jocks”, “hicks”, “dirties” “hoods” , “alternatives” and “cheerleaders”. They would then participate in various activities through out the weeks of the camp.  These were a list of team building activities.  One example, which the article highlighted, was named “toxic waste”, which has students blindfolded dump sludge into another blindfolded teammates cup.  This was designed to build trust among the students and open lines of communication between peers that normally did not interact with each other in school.  The way the students were assessed during the study was on the social distance scale.  For example, if students rarely interacted, this would be, according to the scale, a 7 is the greatest distance between 2 people socially.  If they were best friends, it would be a 0.  This was how often the students interacted with one another.  They measured the relationship before they went to the camp and then after they returned to school in the fall to see the difference in how often peers communicated. 
            The results of the study were very informative. While there was an overall increase in social interaction however, the group of students whose social distance between decreased the most was the preps and the jocks. Yet the authors offer no theory as to why this occurred.  I speculate that the reason is because this was not the primary focus of the article, because they really just wanted to look at the efficiency of the camp and breaking down cliques.  The study concluded that, even though there were small changes, the students learned effective communication skills and empathy towards students who were different from their core group of friends. 

Quotes: “Kramer (2000) has established that patterns of individual exclusion in school settings contribute to violence among students because exclusion separates them from the informal social control networks provided by parents, schools, and communities. This lack of informal social control has been linked to diminishing social and cultural capital” (Batiuk, Wilcox & Boland, 2002)

“The training emphasized a mutual and reflexive process of problem solving and conflict resolution in which involved parties actively frame the understanding of both the problem and its solution. Teachers and students at the middle school overwhelmingly pointed to the ongoing problem of conflicts arising from student cliques.” (Batiuk, Wilcox & Boland, 2002)

Commentary: While I found the results of the study to be relatively surprising, I did not particularly like that the initial experiment was started in 1990. It did run for 10 years, but this still seems relatively out dated, though same patterns, cliques and themes still exist in today’s classroom. This article really got me thinking about the different types of cliques the students would identify in my school.    One bright spot of the article that I did appreciate was the activities that the students participated in because I feel that I could use these in the beginning of the school year to foster a more tolerating and collaborating environment. 

1 comment:

Stacey said...

Beth, this is a nice synthesis of the study and it's main findings. What particular activities stood out to you that you might want to try? Did you glean any ideas from this that might be relevant to your question?

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