Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

A Peer Facilitator-Led Intervention with Middle School Problem-Behavior Students

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

A Peer Facilitator-Led Intervention with Middle School Problem-Behavior Students

Article excerpt

The issue of problem behaviors permeates our society and has been a critical item of debate in the public school far years. Problem-behavior students concern administrators, teachers, parents, and members of the commmity. Their actions disturb others and detract from an environment conducive to learning. As more attention focuses on problem behaviors (Alexander & Curtis, 1995); educators have became more concerned and have employed strategies and techniques to reduce their occurrence.

Problem-behavior students usually have poor attendance records, and when present in school they disrupt classes, distract teachers, and create an atmosphere that is not conducive to learning. Solving problem-behaviors continues to be one of the most crucial issues facing educators and parents today (Wolfgang, 1995.) One of the most innovative approaches in working with these students is to draw upon other youth as helpers.

Youth helping youth is a valuable concept. Since the early 1960x, successful peer facilitator training programs have been implemented in high schools and colleges (Myrick & Folk,1991; Tindall, 1995). In the past 15 years, such programs have gained acceptance in elementary and middle schools (Bowman; 1986; Bowman & Myrick, 1987; Myrick, 1997). A renewed interest in peer mediation programs has increased awareness of the need and value of effective training and productive projects (Myrick & Folk, 1991 ).

There are four basic peer facilitator or peer helper rates-teacher/counselor assistant, tutor, special friend, and small group leader (Myrick, 1997). Given these roles, young people can work in various helper projects in and out of school. Some projects focus primarily on academic tasks, while others might highlight developmental guidance issues such as conflict resolution, well ness, interpersonal relationships, and problem solving.

Peer facilitators have helped students increase their reading comprehension (Land, 1987). Campbell and Myrick (1990 asserted that adult society has failed to provide needed support services to a large number of our nation's youth and that organized peer training prc grams are needed to help satisfy many of the basic psychological needs associated with personal, social, and academic development.

Foster-Harrison (1995) suggested that peer facilitator programs could help elementary school students make a transition to middle schools and assist middle school students in the change to high schools. Student decision-making skills, peer relationships, academic skills, and stress management can also be improved through peer projects.

School counselors can also benefit from organized peer helper programs. In most schools, counselor-student ratios are high and it is difficult for counselors to meet with all their students. It is especially difficult to give at-risk students the time and attention they need. There are not enough adult helpers. Peer facilitators provide additional resources and can assist counselors in delivering more guidance and counseling services, including those to troubled students.

Peer relationships and interventions are powerful. However, more research is needed regarding the effectiveness of peer facilitators, especially with disruptive students. This study investigated the following questions: If problem-behavior students participate in an organized peer facilitator intervention will their selfconcepts improve? Will their attitudes toward others and school be improved? Will such participation positively affect their school attendance and grades? Will discipline referrals of these students be reduced?

Method

Participants

Problem-behavior students. This study focused on peer interventions with problem-behavior middle school students. The general population consisted of approximately 2,500 sixth-grade students from eight middle schools in Alachua County, Florida. The schools are racially integrated, with approximately 70% white and 30% African-American and other minority students. …

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