Unplugged - a Comprehensive Social Influence programme for schools: life skills training with correction of normative beliefs

At a glance

Country of origin

  • Italy

Last reviewed:

Age group
11-14 years
Target group
Children aged 12-14 years
Programme setting(s)
School

Level(s) of intervention

  • Universal prevention

Unplugged is a school-based programme that incorporates components focusing on critical thinking, decision making, problem solving, creative thinking, effective communication, interpersonal relationship skills, self-awareness, empathy, coping with emotions and stress, normative beliefs, and knowledge about the harmful health effects of drugs. The curriculum consists of 12 one-hour units taught once a week by class teachers who have previously attended a 2.5-day training course.

Keywords

No data

Contact details

Professor Federica Vigna-Taglianti, PhD
University of Torino
Regione Gonzole, 10 - 10043 Orbassano (TO),
Italy
Email: federica.vignataglianti[a]unito.it

Johan Jongbloet
HOGENT university of applied sciences and arts
Valentin Vaerwyckweg 1, 9000 Gent,
Belgium
Email: Johan.jongbloet[a]hogent.be

Professor Fabrizio Faggiano, PhD
Avogadro University
Via Solaroli 1
Novara, Italy
Email: fabrizio.faggiano[a]uniupo.it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overview of results from the European studies

Evidence rating

  • Beneficial
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Studies overview

The programme has been evaluated in a cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT) involving children aged 12-14 years in several European countries: Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden (Caria et al., 2010; Faggiano et al., 2007, 2008, 2010; Giannotta et al., 2014; Vigna-Taglianti et al., 2009, 2014). A further RCT was conducted in Slovakia (Orosová et al., 2020). There were also two cluster RCT’s in the Czech Republic (Miovsky et al., 2012; Jandáč et al., 2021) involving children with a mean age of respectively 11.8 years and 15 years.

For the cross-country study at post-test, exposure to Unplugged was associated with a statistically significant lower prevalence of self-reported daily use of cigarettes, episodes of drunkenness and cannabis use in the past 30 days in the intervention condition compared with the control condition. Young people receiving the programme were less likely than those in the control condition to move from non-smoking or sporadic smoking to daily smoking. Similar patterns emerged in the use of other substances. An analysis by gender found that delayed progression and enhanced regression were higher in the intervention condition among boys, whereas no, minimal or reverse differences were observed among girls.

At 18-month follow-up (Faggiano et al., 2010; Vigna-Taglianti et al., 2014), the use of tobacco and frequency of drunkenness were lower among students in the intervention condition compared to those in the control condition. Students in the intervention condition showed higher tendencies to remain non-users of tobacco or to regress from occasional to no use. The number of students reporting no drunkenness in the past 30 days was higher among students in the intervention condition compared to those in the control condition. Intervention condition participants also reported fewer alcohol-related behaviour problems compared to controls. Further, participants who reported not drinking at baseline were more likely to retain this status at follow-up after participating in the intervention, and those who reported drinking only occasionally at baseline showed a slower progression towards frequent drinking by follow-up if they participated in the intervention. When considering cannabis use, the proportion of persistent non-users was higher among the intervention condition than the control condition. All of these differences were statistically significant.

The RCT conducted in Slovakia (Orosová et al., 2020) had a sample of 1283 schoolchildren with a mean age of 11.5 years from 63 schools. Assignment to either the control group or the experimental group was conducted randomly at school-level. According to the Cochran Q test, the study showed a statistically significant difference between the experimental group and the control group in an increase of the prevalence rates of alcohol consumption during follow-up (3-month, 12-month and 18-month follow-u However, in this study the quality of the randomisation is low, while the outcome measurement took place shortly after implementation in a target group that is quite young (11)

The first Czech study (Miovsky et al., 2012) found a statistically significant effect favouring the intervention, with intervention participants less likely than those in the control condition to have smoked cigarettes in the last 30 days at 3-, 15- and 24-months post-intervention. At the other two time periods (1 and 12 months), differences between conditions in 30-day cigarette use were not statistically significant. There were no statistically significant differences between intervention and control conditions on lifetime cigarette prevalence rates.

The second Czech study (Jandáč et al., 2021) consisted of 70 schools randomly selected with stratification according to their affiliation with a region and size, assigned to one of three groups (the control group, the intervention group 1 and the intervention group 2 exposed to the Unplugged intervention and n-Prevention. The n-Prevention programme is a follow-up (12 months) programme and consists of four lessons providing a general background addressing social norms, social beliefs, refusal skills, and gender-specific differences, neurological aspects and the effects of substance use.  Children from families where the mother reported using alcohol weekly or less frequently however, reported a decrease in drunkenness in the last 30 days compared to the control group. However, the study found no statistically measurable effect on drinking among children who came from families where the mother uses alcohol more than weekly.  These results were observed at a 24-month follow-up, which implies that the Unplugged programme may not be sufficient for high-risk children. Moreover, it is unclear how randomisation took place, and what the drop-out rate and baseline equivalence was. Additionally, in this study a universal programme was used as a targeted intervention.

Click here to see the reference list of studies

Countries where evaluated

  • Austria,
  • Belgium,
  • Czechia,
  • Germany,
  • Italy,
  • Spain,
  • Sweden

Characteristics

Protective factor(s) addressed

  • Individual and peers: Problem solving skills
  • Individual and peers: skills for social interaction

Risk factor(s) addressed

  • No defined risk factors

Outcomes targeted

  • Alcohol use
  • Use of illicit drugs
  • Smoking (tobacco)

Description of programme

Unplugged is a school-based programme that incorporates components focusing on critical thinking, decision making, problem solving, creative thinking, effective communication, interpersonal relationship skills, self-awareness, empathy, coping with emotions and stress, normative beliefs, and knowledge about the harmful health effects of drugs.

Unplugged particularly emphasised correcting pupils' beliefs about the pervasiveness of substance use ('normative beliefs') by contrasting these with data from surveys of pupils of the same age which typically reveal that average use levels are lower.

The curriculum consists of 12 one-hour units taught once a week by class teachers who have previously attended a 2.5-day training course in the lessons and materials, and in how to teach them using methods which encourage interaction between pupils and between pupils and teachers, such as role-play and giving and receiving feedback in small groups.. Based on teacher feedback and barriers identified during the first implementations of Unplugged, the revised programme's lessons are: 1. Opening Unplugged, 2. To be or not to be in a group, 3. Choices – Alcohol, Risk and Protection, 4. Your beliefs, norms and information – do they reflect reality?, 5. Smoking the cigarette drug – Inform yourself, 6. Express yourself, 7. Get up, stand up, 8. Party tiger, 9. Drugs - Get informed, 10. Coping competences, 11. Problem solving and decision making, 12. Goal setting

Materials can be acessed for free here

This basic curriculum is ideally supplemented either by meetings led by pupils selected by their classmates, or by workshops for the pupils' parents. While in the implementations for the first trial, the curriculum was moderately well implemented, peer-led activities were rarely conducted, few parents attended the workshops, and an important element – role-play – was generally omitted by teachers.

Implementation Experiences

Feedback date

Contact details

Maria Kyriadikou
mkyriakidou[a]pyxida.org.gr

Main obstacles

With respect to individual professionals

Unplugged is implemented by teachers after they are trained, but teachers are not familiar with group work and interactive learning methods, and also they are not always motivated to use these methods in class.

With respect to social context

The school often does not provide the time and the space needed in order to implement prevention programmes like Unplugged. It is not a part of the school curriculum and it depends mostly on the willingness of teachers in order to be implemented.

With respect to organisational and economic context

Prevention programmes should be officially a part of the school curriculum in order for them to be sustainable.

How they overcame the obstacles

With respect to individual professionals

By giving them training using interactive methods in order to experience the benefits of these methods and also by providing them support while they were implementing the programme in their class.

With respect to social context

By trying to motivate teachers and school directors in order to allow the programme to be implemented in their school.

With respect to organisational and economic context

By providing the necessary material to teachers and by offering the training for free.

Lessons learnt

With respect to individual professionals

That prevention programmes must take into account that teachers are mostly using "conservative" teaching methods and adjust their curriculum to this fact by providing alternatives to interactive methods.
Or that prevention programmes should be delivered by professionals who are familiar with group work and interactive methods.

With respect to social context

Prevention programmes should be officially a part of the school curriculum in order for them to be sustainable.

With respect organisational and context

Prevention programmes should be embedded in the organisational context of schools in order for them to have the necessary resources.

Strengths

Attractiveness of the material, effectiveness of the prevention programmes, enthusiastic trainers and teachers.

Weaknesses

No context foreseen for the implementation in schools, limited dissemination, training material should be actualised with new information on drug abuse.

Opportunities

Prevention of drug abuse among teenagers, professional and personal development of teachers.

Threats

No maintenance of the implementation.

Recommendations

With respect to individual professionals

Put more effort into recruiting and training.

With respect to social context

Assure alliances.

With respect to organisational and economic context

Secure resources.

Number of implementations

1

Country

Feedback date

Contact details

Juan Carlos Melero
jcmelero[a]edex.es

Main obstacles

With respect to individual professionals

The lack of training of secondary school teachers in content relevant to the development of the programme, group dynamics and psychosocial skills.

With respect to social context

1. The diversity of preventive programmes in Spain at present (more than 100 according to the reports of the National Plan on Drugs).
2. A certain lack of motivation on the part of the teaching staff.
3. Difficulty participating in training sessions over several hours.

With respect to organisational and economic context

As a consequence of the economic crisis that is still felt in Spain, it is very difficult to find sufficient economic support for the development of programmes like Unplugged.

How they overcame the obstacles

With respect to individual professionals

Dynamising very practical training processes in which the teacher has the opportunity to experience the dynamics that Unplugged proposes. To this end, we have created a team of professionals from different Spanish regions who, once a year, meet to reflect on the ongoing training processes trying to find ways to improve them.

With respect to social context

1. Highlighting the available scientific evidence, although it has not been a motivating criterion either.
2. Implementing mechanisms for monitoring presence and online that facilitate the solution of doubts to teachers.
3. Dynamising formative processes of variable duration (between 3 and 10 hours) and looking for dynamics of online training.

With respect to organisational and economic context

Trying to find funding from private companies and, above all, seeking co-financing from the administrations in whose territories the programme is developed.

Lessons learnt

With respect to individual professionals

It may be convenient to devise online training proposals that seek the maximum interaction that enables face-to-face training. We are launching tools of this type in our Ibero-American School of Life Skills: http://escuela.habilidadesparalavida.net/

With respect to social context

The main lesson is the need to look for ways to make programme implementation more flexible. We are aware that a rigorous implementation should follow the technical model as it was evaluated. However, reality suggests exploring ways of maintaining a certain balance between technical rigor and the school's capacity to take on the development of long-term programmes in a field such as drugs, which today does not concern society.

With respect to organisational and economic context

Although it does not seem easy to achieve, it would be advisable to look for ways in which the educational centres themselves could contribute to the financing of the project activities: training, materials, etc., even if it was a symbolic percentage.

Strengths

Scientific evidence, European value, socio-emotional skills.

Weaknesses

Duration, training, competition with other programmes.

Opportunities

Evidence, recognition by public institutions.

Threats

Sustainability in times of crisis.

Recommendations

With respect to individual professionals

Centre teacher training on the development of social-emotional skills that can be related to other topics: sex education, etc.

With respect to social context

Explore formative formats that facilitate the participation of teachers, seeking balance and respect for the diversity of existing motivations.

With respect to organisational and economic context

Look for ways of co-financing that contribute to making the programme sustainable without great expense to anyone.

Number of implementations

1

Country

Feedback date

Contact details

Maria Rosaria Galanti
rosaria.galanti[a]ki.se
 

Main obstacles

With respect to individual professionals

The programme was time consuming and required more school-time than expected.

With respect to social context

None that I am aware of.

With respect to organisational and economic context

Schools in Sweden are autonomous organisations with a good deal of variation in programmes, pedagogy, etc. In order to implement a school programme this variation has to be taken into account.

How they overcame the obstacles

With respect to individual professionals

During the experimental phase support to teachers by means of reinforcement and a help desk. There was no real dissemination phase in Sweden.

With respect to organisational and economic context

In the experimental phase, site visits were very helpful in order to "adjust" the programme to organisational constraints.

Lessons learnt

With respect to individual professionals

Demanding programmes such as Unplugged, if adopted at all, have a high potential for unsurveilled modifications/adaptations that, with time, make the programme quite different from that originally developed.
In addition, the lack of specific contextual effects undermines the programme's diffusion.

With respect to organisational and economic context

A structured and manualised programme is more difficult to implement in highly variable organisational settings than an unstructured programme.

Strengths

The scientific milieu in which the programme was developed and evaluated. The interest (albeit only initial) of the programme's recipients.

Weaknesses

The lack of flexibility of the programme to highly variable organisations.

Opportunities

To learn in the school environment.

Threats

The lack of convincing results on many outcomes; the lack of resources for active diffusion and support to the recipients (schools).

Recommendations

With respect to individual professionals

Care about motivation and preparedness to adopt evidence-based demanding programmes.

With respect to social context

Is the goal of the programme shared by political/professional stakeholders? Is it a priority?

With respect to organisational and economic context

Obtain central approval from school authorities whenever possible.

Number of implementations

1

Country

Feedback date

Contact details

Martina Feric
martina.feric[a]erf.hr
 

Main obstacles

With respect to individual professionals

Professionals in the schools (social pedagogues) were highly motivated for programme implementation. There was less motivation from the teachers (seeing their involvement in programme as extra (and not paid) job).

With respect to social context

Parent participation was relatively low.

With respect to organisational and economic context

There was the problem to find one school hour extra in school day for programme implementation. Also, in original programme, there are too many activities planned for one lesson (time frame of one lesson in Croatia is 45 minutes) and it wasn't possible to do all activities in 45 minutes. The same problem applied to the parent arm.

How they overcame the obstacles

With respect to individual professionals

We (us as trainers/supervisors and social pedagogues in every school) made special effort to enhance motivation of teachers (e.g. making the education interactive and fun as possible, listening to all of their (anticipated) problems and trying to find solutions, being flexible (as much as we could to keep programme fidelity) in programme delivery); social pedagogues were present in the class for some lessons if the teachers felt that teaching that particular lesson was too challenging for them.

With respect to social context

We tried to motivate parents to participate in the programme by different methods (e.g. information on parent meetings, personal letters, posters at schools).

With respect to organisational and economic context

Most of the school used “class hour” to do the Unplugged.
We worked with the teachers and social pedagogues on shortening activities and, at the same time, keeping the integrity of the programme (e.g. changing the introduction game; in some cases quiz was taken in the class and not in the small groups; discussion instead of role-playing with parents).

Lessons learnt

With respect to individual professionals

There is a need to invest time and effort to “prepare” schools for implementation (e.g. presentation of the programme to all school staff, clear communication of programme implementation organisational needs). The role of the school principal is important – real support to programme implementation, not only in words.

With respect to social context

There is a need for a pilot programme in order to adapt a programme originating elsewhere to this social/cultural context.

With respect to organisational and economic context

The input of participants from programme pilot phase was valuable and had important role in planning organisational aspects of implementation.

Strengths

  1. The advantage of implementing a programme that originated elsewhere is implementing the effective prevention programme with all technical support (training of the people in charge, training of teachers, handbooks, workbooks, protocol for process evaluation etc.). In Croatia there is a lack of model programmes.
  2. The professionals in the schools (social pedagogues) have competencies to deliver the programme and support the teachers in delivery.

Weaknesses

Problem of finding the “space” to deliver a programme in a school day.

Opportunities

  1. Successful implementation of an effective programme from elsewhere with high fidelity is feasible.
  2. Successful implementation of an effective programme can enhance use of quality standards in school-based prevention on national level.  

Threats

The acceptance of tobacco and alcohol use is still high in Croatia and there is a high tolerance towards alcohol use by adults (parents don’t see alcohol and tobacco use as “a big problem”; more like “part of growing up”).

Recommendations

With respect to individual professionals

It is important to assure quality training for programme providers (small groups to ensure maximum interactivity and sharing). If it is possible, supervision should be provided.

With respect to social context

There is a need to invest in preparing schools for programme implementation in the sense of sensitisation and motivation. Having motivated teachers and school counsellors in order to ensure programme fidelity is crucial. Also, it is important to have motivated and supportive school management.

With respect to organisational and economic context

Programme pilot implementation can help to adapt programme delivery to given context and, at the same time, to keep fidelity to the programme.

Note from the authors

Imam stav - Unplugged

Number of implementations

1

Country

Feedback date

Main obstacles

With respect to individual professionals

School-based prevention specialists who are trained get along with the intervention well.
We have little to no information on how the intervention is being implemented by class teachers.

With respect to social context

The intervention is getting old and outdated.

With respect to organisational and economic context

Length of the intervention; 12 lessons to be implemented in one academic school year in all classes in 6th grade (e.g., if one school has 3 classes in a grade this leaves us with 36 lessons to be implemented by how many teachers?)
Cost related to coloured workbook that every child should have.
For some (definitely not for all) costs of + time devoted to the training.

How they overcame the obstacles

With respect to individual professionals

Providing 2-day training for the Unplugged.

With respect to social context

We tried to develop and implement other interventions.

With respect to organisational and economic context

Motivating the implementers.
Explaining why only minor modifications to fidelity (to the content and extent delivered) are possible.

Lessons learnt

With respect to individual professionals

Train, explain, motivate, educate.

With respect to social context

Interventions must be multicomponent, addressing more types of risk behaviours, involving more target groups, systematic.
Working with deliverers.

With respect to organisational and economic context

Fewer lessons.
No coloured workbook, only black and white work sheets.

Strengths

Used and evaluated in Europe widely, High level promotion.

Weaknesses

No successor at hand.

Opportunities

Important lessons learnt from research outcomes.

Threats

Intervention is getting old, Low control of all aspects of fidelity.

Recommendations

With respect to individual professionals

Needs to be revised/updated prior to implementation.

With respect to social context

Needs to be revised/updated prior to implementation.

With respect to organisational and economic context

Needs to be revised/updated prior to implementation.

Number of implementations

1

Country

Feedback date

Contact details

Sanela Talić
sanela[a]institut-utrip.si

 

Main obstacles

With respect to individual professionals

  1. If the teachers voluntarily participated in the training and implementation, the results and their commitment were on a high level.
  2. Another problem was with inclusion of the Unplugged lessons in regular curriculum. Some teachers were claiming that they don't have available lessons for Unplugged although they have flexible curriculum (which means they have many possibilites to incorporate Unplugged lessons in usual lessons). They are afraid to be autonomous so they follow their handbooks because they feel safer that way and don't want to interrupt their routine - there is no cross-curricular integration. Because of the extent of some lessons, those couldn't be implemented in one school hour (45 minutes).
  3. They also think that drug prevention is mostly providing information on drugs and as they don't have knowledge they are not competent to do preventive work.
  4. There are some cases where teachers want to use Unplugged lessons within school camps and do all lessons in a few consecutive days. That approach strongly deviates from the original plan and we don’t recommend it (this is no longer “Unplugged”) – but we don’t have control over it.

With respect to social context

  1. Opinion of some teachers was that prevention should start in early school years (even before) and that parents should be more cooperative. According to their experiences children do not have basic set of manners and values (when they enter the school). Pupils bring family problems to school and all attention is given to solving those problems. It means there is less time for education and learning or strengthening different life skills. They don't feel competent for problem solving, building authority, productive teaching etc.
  2. Low participation of parents.
  3. Prevention in general is not considered as something we do “before problems occur” and often it is connected with substance use. There is no overview over who does the prevention in schools, how it is done, the only thing that matters is that “prevention activities” in a year plan are ticked.
  4. It is very hard to find motivated teachers who are willing to do additional “prevention work”. Schools are not obliged to do “prevention”; at least, the Ministry of Education doesn’t have any expectations, rules and standards regarding prevention work in schools.
  5. In our opinion, wider implementation of quality standards (and the programme) is also hampered by incorrect relations between Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education (prevention programmes are financed by Ministry of Health without agreement or cooperation with Ministry of Education).

How they overcame the obstacles

With respect to individual professionals

Teachers felt more confident knowing that I'm a teacher by profession and that am aware of situation mentioned above. As I am a teacher and know that there are a lot of possibilities to incorporate other content (like Unplugged), I helped them to make a plan, share ideas and experiences from other schools. After the training they realised that drug prevention is not just talking and giving information about drugs. As most of the teachers usually like to follow the instructions, the workbook with detailed instructions for every lesson helped them to feel more confident.

We decided that all training activities will be led by a teacher who has been implementing Unplugged since the very beginning. So, there is an impression that the programme is used in practice, that it can be implemented and new teachers get much practical advice and recommendations from a person who has implemented it over many years.

With respect to social context

Through all these years we have been promoting prevention science and its principles, we have been organising “Slovenian Prevention Days” and training for Unplugged. Beside “Unplugged training” we also offer some basic information on what, how and why some approaches work/don’t work/have iatrogenic effects.

This year we finally got in contact with stakeholders from the Ministry of Education and started to think how to ensure enough school hours for prevention programmes only. The main idea is to ensure at least one whole hour a week (for every single class) – from the beginning till they finish the school.

Regarding low participation of parents - Parents do not want to immediately expose themselves and participate in activities that are provided by original workshops. There is not enough time to create safe environment where parents would cooperate without any reservations. That is why we decided to implement school based prevention programme EFFEKT for parents and to take advantage of parents’ meetings for its implementation. The rate of parents who are taking part in it is around 85%. We are still in the pilot phase of it. And in the future we plan to do research on effectiveness of each individual programme and a combination of both.

Lessons learnt

With respect to individual professionals

Every year (with lot of advocacy and promotion of the programme) we manage to find at least one/two teachers from each interested school who are willing to implement Unplugged and all of them are very motivated after the training. Each year we organise at least two training sessions with 15-20 teachers involved. Sometimes principals and school counsellors also come to get necessary information about the programme (before they decide to start implementing it). Then further implementation depends on whether those teachers have the needed support from the principals and other teachers – we contact schools to inform them how important the work is that their teachers are willing to do and how they can support them.

It’s important to keep the contact with all teachers who decided to implement the programme. Also to organise meetings for them (in order to share their experiences, to share with them new things and information they want to hear, etc.).

With respect to social context

One very special cultural characteristic in Slovenia, which is holding back the progress in the field of prevention, is that people who are doing prevention have a negative attitude towards programmes originating from elsewhere even though they do not know the content of the programmes. They want to reinvent the wheel again and again and have been doing that for more than two decades. The only interest of key actors in the field of prevention is how to get more money for their "unique", mostly one-off activities and they do not care about the quality of it. Work is not conducted in a professional way. They agree that prevention is long term process but they often forget that "how you do it" also matters. What we learned with implementation of Unplugged is that we need to bring good practices to our schools, kindergartens, families etc., of course with some minor changes.

Teachers who are implementing the programmes report about “side”/”secondary” effects of the programme (teachers feel more comfortable in class, relationships among teachers and students and among students are better, some even reported fewer instances of aggressive behaviour). We decided to measure also these reported effects and hopefully we will scientifically prove them which will help with promotion of the programme (it would no longer be only “drug” prevention programme).

Strengths

  1. This programme can successfully be adapted to other contexts (wider community/society, across multiple locations) without compromising effectiveness.
  2. If a programme from elsewhere meets the needs of a certain community then it's reasonable to implement it (with adequate minor changes or adaptations). It takes a lot of effort and time to design and to test a new programme.
  3. Programme with instruction manual that can be easily used.

Weaknesses

  1. “Drug use” prevention programme – the reason why schools are not interested in it (“They don’t have problems with drugs”)
  2. Too long (12 lessons).

Opportunities

Prevention programmes are based on theories which can explain the risk factors for drug use. For example: according to the theory of social learning, individuals learn and develop their personality by observing the behaviour and actions of other people and the consequences of their actions. If for example particular American programme is based on social learning theory, this means that for example focus of the programme (among other focuses) is also in correcting misconceptions. This social influence theory is not characteristic only for people living in U.S. but for all people (we are talking about the human psychology in general). Especially in today's age of globalisation, we (in Europe) are subject to almost the same influences, regardless of where we live. Cultural differences (especially among young people) are now no longer so large and consideration is needed on whether to pay so much attention to cultural adaptation or in other words we shouldn't be so sceptical towards those programmes.

Recommendations

With respect to individual professionals

In every school there are some individuals who are willing to implement quality programmes. It takes time to find them, but once you “have them on board” it is more likely that programme will “live”. It is also important to take into account some other factors that influence the quality of implementation (teachers should have support whenever they need it; it is also important to organise special meetings for teachers who are implementing the programme in schools; etc.)

With respect to social context

Promotion of the programme as something that would help teachers in their teaching, something that would improve the classroom climate and relationships etc., rather than “drug prevention” programme.
Regular advocacy for quality prevention in order to “open the door” to a programme.
Contacting schools over and over again about Unplugged training.

With respect to organisational and economic context

  1. This programme should be supported by responsible authorities and professionals.
  2. It's important that implementers (e.g. teachers) are motivated, commited to their work and that they have professional support by National EU-Dap centre.
  3. It's necessary that all lessons are planned from the very beginning of school year, and to take into account that one lesson can be implemented in two school hours (one after another).
  4. Programme itself is relatively cheap for implementation. You only need funding for regular material printing (more you print less you pay), organisation of training, including fee for the trainer, and some coordination costs (e.g. coordinating staff, travel costs…). Comparing to some other “prevention” activities (e.g. one-off lectures or workshops) the cost for each school is much cheaper and they get structured and manualised programme for many years with no additional costs. In the case of national funding (like in our case) the cost for school is zero (free of any charge). At least on the basis of Slovenian experience with Unplugged the programme could be promoted as very cost effective intervention. And there is also no licence fee or regular (e.g. annual) licensing costs to developers etc. like in the case of some other evidence-based programmes.

Note from the authors

“Izštekani” - Unplugged

Number of implementations

1

Country

Feedback date

Contact details

Kelly Cathelijn
Kelly.cathelijn[a]fracarita.org
 

Main obstacles

With respect to individual professionals

Schools find it difficult to find the time to implement the 12 lessons.
It is not a part of their normal curriculum.

With respect to social context

In the past we have seen that the previous programme wasn't tailored to target groups.
In vocational schools we see that the pupils are more vulnerable to addiction.
Our programme was too theoretical, so we were inclined to redraft it.

With respect to organisational and economic context

We have seen that, while schools are interested in working with ‘Unplugged’, the cost of the programme is an obstacle.

How they overcame the obstacles

With respect to individual professionals

We suggest:
1. Six lessons in the first year and six lessons in the second year.
2. Dividing the lessons among several teachers so that each teacher gives one or two lessons in their course.
3. An extracurricular day in which the lessons are implemented.

With respect to social context

We added more collaborative exercises tailored to target groups.

With respect to organisational and economic context

We sought out local community and service clubs (e.g. Rotarians) to support the schools.

Lessons learnt

With respect to individual professionals

During the training we offer various implementation methods.

With respect to social context

In drug prevention there is a need to follow a differentiated strategy in order to reach several target groups.

With respect to organisational and economic context

Networking is a crucial element if you want to engage several partners in drug prevention.

Strengths

  1. We provide a lot of exercises, so that teachers can choose which exercise is most appropriate for their class.
  2. The quality of the training is appreciated by 90 % of the teachers.
  3. The brand ‘Unplugged’ is well known in Flanders.

Weaknesses

  1. The cost of the programme.
  2. Schools can’t always find the time to implement the programme in an already full curriculum.
  3. Not all teachers are allowed to attend training sessions because of practical issues in schools.

Opportunities

  1. In some regions of Flanders we haven’t reached all schools.
  2. A lot of schools struggle with digital addiction (gaming, smartphones, tablets, etc.).
  3. Local communities feel the need for an effective drug prevention programme.

Threats

  1. School budgets are continuously under pressure.
  2. Schools are expected to deal with a lot of social problems (bullying, health, etc.). However, schools can’t solve all these problems.

Recommendations

With respect to individual professionals

Make sure there are several partners working on drug prevention.

With respect to social context

Make sure the programme is implemented following a differentiated strategy to reach different target groups.

With respect to organisational and economic context

Work together with the local networks and schools.

Number of implementations

1

Country

Feedback date

Main obstacles

With respect individual professionals

The main obstacle was adjusting the content of the information to the specific needs of the country. Another obstacle was adapting the role-play exercises so that all the targets for each lesson could be reached within one hour.

With respect to social context

Some people are reluctant to see drug prevention programmes implemented in schools.

With respect to organisational and economic context

The costs of the materials were quite high, and since our target was to implement the programme in as many schools as possible (at least two in each of the six districts of Bucharest and in each of the 41 counties of Romania), finding resources for these materials is quite a challenge.

How they overcame the obstacles

With respect to individual professionals

All the materials were adapted based on our national drug use surveys.

With respect to social context

Since Unplugged is a programme that develops life skills in order to prevent young people starting to use drugs, it was easy to change that mentality through parents’ meetings, media activities and focus groups in schools.

With respect to organisational and economic context

We managed to secure governmental resources in order to apply our national drug prevention policies. The Romanian Government considers the fight against illicit drug trafficking and abuse a priority and as a result we were able to reach our target in implementing Unplugged.

Strengths

The content and materials are wide-ranging, organised, adapted and useful.

Weaknesses

The costs of printing and the challenges of selecting and developing a network of trained teachers that can implement Unplugged.

Opportunities

Selecting and developing a network of trained teachers that can implement Unplugged.

Threats

The quality of implementation of the programme may decrease as increasing numbers of classes wish to implement Unplugged.

Recommendations

With respect to individual professionals

Carefully select the professionals who will implement the programme.

With respect to social context

Adapt the materials to the level of knowledge of the beneficiaries.

With respect to organisational and economic context

Unplugged should be implemented with no compromises on the aspects of quality printing and materials.

Number of implementations

1

Country

Feedback date

Contact details

Main obstacles

With respect individual professionals

  • Selection of teachers to be trained and to implement the programme.
  • Involvement of only one teacher per school.
  • Teachers are generally used to working alone, and their team-working attitude can be low.
  • Skill-based units are easily skipped, or implemented with limited interactivity.
  • The programme is ten years old. There are no media activities.
  • Motivation of teachers decreasing year by year.

With respect to social context

  • Schools and teachers with a low socio-economic context can be more difficult to involve.
  • Schools can have difficulties in printing Unplugged materials.
  • Schools can have difficulties paying for the teacher training and for the travel of the teachers to the training location.

With respect to organisational and economic context

  • Organisation of calendar for implementation of the 12 units.
  • Time-consuming programme.

How they overcame the obstacles

With respect individual professionals

  • Criteria for choosing teachers to be trained were shared, discussed and recommended with/to the school principals.
  • When organising the teachers’ training, the participation of at least two teachers per school was encouraged.
  • Unplugged trainers promoted a team-working attitude during the teacher training.
  • During teacher training, the importance of the implementation of skill-based units was underlined.
  • All skill-based units were implemented during teacher training.
  • An update of the original Unplugged material was organised, involving the most active teachers and trainers. Content on drug information and media activities were added, some role play stories and other specific situations were revised. New energisers were created.
  • Booster sessions for teachers were organised each year.
  • The very motivated and enthusiastic teachers were involved in teacher training and booster sessions as "testimonials".
  • Unplugged trainers were proactive in supporting and constantly supervising teachers during the school year, and engaging in a relationship based on reciprocal confidence.

With respect to social context

  • Presentations of the programme to schools with a low socio-economic context and meetings with principals and health educators were organised.
  • Unplugged materials were printed by the regional authority or by the local health office and distributed free of charge to schools.
  • Teacher training was free of charge.
  • Teacher training was organised in the city of the schools involved.

With respect to organisational and economic context

  • Calendar for implementation was carefully decided at the beginning of the school year and re-evaluated at regular intervals, possibly every month.
  • Calendar was decided together with school manager and non-Unplugged teachers of the class.
  • Process monitoring tools are useful to monitor the implementation: these tools were presented and distributed to the teachers during teacher training.
  • Splitting the 12 units across two school years: 6 implemented in the first year and 6 implemented in the second year.
  • Sharing/separating the implementation of the 12 units with another Unplugged teacher.

Lessons learnt

With respect individual professionals

  • It is very important that the teacher is interested in the programme; teachers not well motivated won't implement the programme.
  • Creation of an Unplugged teachers group within the school improves implementation and motivation.
  • During teacher training, working in groups is needed.
  • The importance of implementation of skill-based units must be underlined in teacher training.
  • Booster sessions help to maintain interest. Booster sessions should include the presentation of new scientific results (learning) and sessions dedicated to exchange of experiences between teachers (exchange).
  • Trainers must be proactive in contacts with the teachers.
  • Trainers and teachers must be involved in the revision of the material.

With respect to social context

  • Individual meetings with schools are needed.
  • Specific funding for printing Unplugged materials is needed. Better organisation of teacher training is needed.
  • Location of teacher training must take into account availability of teachers to travel.

With respect to organisational and economic context

  • The results of process evaluation – including implementation of the units and satisfaction of teachers and students about the programme – must be reported and given back to teachers in order for them to change organisation of implementation where needed and increase quality of implementation year by year.
  • A certain level of adaptation of the main standardised model of implementation and some flexibility in allowed changes are needed to ensure the highest implementation rate.

Strengths

Effective programme (evaluated). Standardised teacher handbook. Group of people dedicated to the dissemination (coordination centre). Network of trainers and teachers. Booster sessions for trainers and teachers. Collaboration of regional and local authority. Occasions for teachers to improve teaching. Materials and training at no cost for schools and teachers. Nice materials for pupils.

Weaknesses

Time consuming programme (12 units). Programme is ten years old. Media activities and related contents need to be updated. Dissemination is dependent on continuous funding. Lack of collaboration of local authorities. Competition with other similar programmes.

Opportunities

Networking. Group working. Involvement of teachers in the process. Interest of students. Universal programme. Wide autonomy of schools in choosing programmes. Occasion to promote evidence-based approach.

Threats

Decrease of motivation. Lack of funding. Conflicts among trainers. Slow production of scientific results.  Programme is ten years old. Wide autonomy of schools in choosing programmes: competition with other (non-evaluated) programmes.

Recommendations

With respect individual professionals

  • Special care must be applied in selecting teachers for training and implementation of the programme.
  • Booster sessions should be organised.
  • Create a network for teachers to exchange experiences and be part of the programme.
  • Be proactive in the involvement and supervision of schools and teachers.
  • Constantly promote the alliance of school and health sectors.

With respect to social context

  • Special care must be applied with low socio-economic context schools.
  • Funding for materials and training must be obtained.

With respect to organisational and economic context

  • Process monitoring tools must be provided, collected, analysed and reported.
  • Some flexibility in allowing changes in the model of implementation is needed.

Number of implementations

1

Country

Feedback date

Contact details

Kathrin Schütte
Landkreis Emsland
Kathrin.schuette[a]emsland.de

Rainer Lüker
Albert-Trautmann-Schule Werlte
rainer.lueker[a]ats-werlte.de

Main obstacles

With respect individual professionals

The different occupational groups approach the topic differently; here a common path had to be found.

With respect to social context

The different schools (special school, high school, etc.) had very different levels of performance

With respect to organisational and economic context

  • From a purely organisational point of view, it has sometimes been difficult to encourage exchanges and motivate professionals. All the professionals have implemented UNPLUGGED as part of their normal job and were not hired specifically for it.
  • There were no financial barriers for the time being, as UNPLUGGED was introduced under Communities That Care and it was considered useful and necessary by the political representatives.

How they overcame the obstacles

With respect individual professionals

Joint training of different professionals and constant exchange of information.

With respect to social context

In cooperation with the specialists, the programme was adapted to the performance level of the different schools.

With respect to organisational and economic context

As a "coordinator" always be approachable and try to motivate the professionals.

Lessons learnt

With respect individual professionals

For the success of the programme "UNPLUGGED" a constant exchange of information and networking are very important.

With respect to social context

Exchanges with professionals, on such topics as understanding and patience, were particularly important, especially for the weaker students.

With respect to organisational and economic context

Provide transparency to professionals, financial donors and decision-makers.

Strengths

  • Many professionals as multipliers who work together profitably through their different approaches.
  • Secure financing.
  • A versatile programme that fully informs students, not only on addictive substances but also on the topics "strengthening your personality" and "self-esteem".

Weaknesses

  • Many professionals who need to be motivated and who work very differently.
  • Partly complicated substance or expressed in a complicated way.

Opportunities

  • Different approach and different perspectives.
  • Very versatile and extensive programme.

Threats

  • Loss of motivation of the various skilled workers, since success cannot be measured immediately with this programme

Recommendations

With respect individual professionals

Different professional groups often work together profitably. The exchange must then be promoted and demanded from the outside.

With respect to social context

Exchange between and motivation of the specialists should be in the foreground. It is only through them that the programme can be implemented effectively.

With respect to organisational and economic context

  • The financing should be secure for a longer period of time (several years).
  • Regular exchange meetings must be carried out.

Number of implementations

1

Country

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