Marsha Bowers, Helen Baker-Henningham, Yakeisha Scott
Introduction: Corporal punishment is a widely used behaviour management strategy in Jamaican schools and exposure to corporal punishment at school is associated with poor child mental health, poor social skills, increased aggression, low levels of school achievement and increased school drop-out. This study aimed to reduce teachers’ use of violence against children and improve the emotional quality of grade one classrooms.
Methods: Fourteen primary schools in urban areas of Kingston, Jamaica were randomly assigned to an intervention (7 schools, 27 teachers) or control (7 schools, 27 teachers) group. The intervention involved training all Grade 1 teachers in intervention schools in classroom behaviour management strategies and in how to promote children’s social and emotional competence using the Irie Classrooms Toolbox. The Irie Classrooms Toolbox is a teacher-training intervention, developed in Jamaica, for use in low and middle-income countries. The programme was evaluated for its effect on teachers’ use of violence against children, the quality of the emotional environment of the classroom and children’s class-wide aggression and prosocial behaviour by independent observation. We also measured teachers’ well-being (depression, burn-out and self-efficacy) and teachers’ reports of child mental health through standardized questionnaires. Child academic achievement was also measured through direct testing. All measurements were conducted at post-test only by researchers blind to the study design, hypothesis and group allocation.
Results: Using hierarchical multiple regression analyses to control for the clustering of teachers in schools, significant benefits of intervention were found for observed teachers’ use of violence (Effect size (ES) = -0.79; 95% Confidence Intervals (95% CI) = -1.27, -0.29) and the quality of the emotional environment of the classroom (ES = 0.99, 95% CI = 0.48, 1.49). Significant benefits were also found for and children’s verbal reasoning skills (ES = 0.30, 95% CI = 0.02, 0.59). No significant benefits were found for observations of class wide prosocial skills (ES = 0.17; 95% CI = -0.36, 0.70), class-wide aggression (ES= -0.20, 95% CI = -0.72, 0.33), teachers’ well-being (ES = -0.11; 95% CI = -0.66, 0.45) or teachers’ reports of child mental health (ES = 0.10, 95% CI = -0.51, 0.30).
Conclusion: The Irie Classrooms Toolbox is a promising intervention for reducing teachers’ use of violence against children and improving the emotional environment of the classroom in early childhood classrooms in Jamaica.
This abstract was submitted to the 2017 Society for Prevention Research Annual Meeting.