Process Evaluation of the Project P.A.T.H.S. (Secondary 2 Program): Findings Based on the Co-Walker Scheme

Article excerpt

The acronym "P.A.T.H.S." denotes Positive Adolescent Training through Holistic Social Programs. It is a positive youth developmental program financially supported by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust in order to promote holistic development among early adolescents in Hong Kong (Shek, 2006a; Shek & Ma, 2006). The Trust invited academics of five universities in Hong Kong to forma research team with The Chinese University of Hong Kong as the lead institution initially (and The Hong Kong Polytechnic University as the lead institution in the subsequent phase), to develop a multiyear universal positive youth development program for Secondary 1 to 3 students, provide training for teachers and social workers who implement the program, and carry out longitudinal evaluation of the project.

A total of 15 adolescent developmental constructs based on research findings from the framework of Catalano, Berglund, Ryan, Lonczak, and Hawkins (2002) were adopted in this project to promote positive youth development. There are two tiers of programs in the project. While the Tier 1 Program is a universal positive youth development program for Secondary 1 to 3 students, the Tier 2 Program is selective, designed for students who have greater psychological needs at each grade. A series of evaluation studies have been carried out and the findings have consistently demonstrated the effectiveness of the program of the Project P.A.T.H.S. (Shek, 2006b; Shek, 2007; Shek & Lee, 2008; Shek, Lee, Siu, & Lam, 2006; Shek, Lee, & Sun, 2008; Shek & Ma, 2007; Shek & Ma, 2008; Shek, Ma, Lui, & Lung, 2006; Shek, Ma, & Sun, 2008; Shek, Ma, Sun, & Lung, 2008; Shek, Siu, & Lee, 2007; Shek, Siu, Lee, Cheung, & Chung, 2008; Shek & Sun, 2006; Shek & Sun, 2007a; Shek & Sun, 2007b; Shek & Sun, 2008a; Shek & Sun, 2008b; Shek, Sun, & Chan, 2008; Shek, Sun, Lato, Lung, & Lo, 2008; Shek, Sun & Lung, 2008; Shek, Sun, & Siu, 2008).

To provide support to the teachers and social workers who implemented the Tier 1 Program and to understand their experiences in the implementation process, a support program entitled "Co-Walkers Scheme" was launched in December 2006. The objective of this scheme is to provide ongoing support and guidance to the participating schools and their implementers. It also aims to enhance communication between the workers and the research team. The co-walkers keep close contact with the workers as well as conduct school visits and classroom observation. The purpose of the visit and classroom observation is to show support and concern to workers; no monitoring function is involved. Through classroom observations, the co-walkers can have a better understanding of the difficulties encountered by the frontline workers in the implementation phases.

Programs are carried out differently based on their content, duration, and implementation quality (Melde, Esbensen, & Tusinski, 2006). Process evaluation of program implementation is an important way to determine if the program has met its goals. The key to program effectiveness is the quality of program implementation (Dusenbury, Brannigan, Hansen, Walsh, & Falco, 2005). Process evaluation involves collecting data to assess the quality of program delivery (Domitrovich & Greenberg, 2000), which also provides an opportunity for program improvement and development, especially in programs conducted with multi-phases.

Classroom observation can be one of the ways to implement process evaluation. Previous research findings have shown that systematic classroom observations could provide an accurate description of selected features of activities and interactions in the classroom (Shek, Sun, & Chan, 2008). Through classroom observation, teaching effectiveness can be measured and teaching approaches can be monitored. It can also avoid the potentially biased self-assessment data reported by program implementers (Hansen & McNeal, 1999). …