The Stop Think Do social skills/behavior management program has support from the following formal research studies
Educationalists Jan Beck & David Horne (1992) reported on the effectiveness of the program in a special school catering primarily for secondary school children with mild-moderate intellectual disability and several with emotional-social problems. STOP THINK DO was chosen because it provides a structured program which classroom teachers can implement, a long term incremental approach to training suitable for children with intellectual disability, the simplicity of a traffic light cue, a remedial program for children with poor social skills and a preventative program for all children dealing with anger and frustration, a crucial element in preparing students for wider social acceptance and vocational success.
The study involved the whole school of 85 students who were trained in groups of 8 for 3 sessions per week over a year. Teachers and parents received training in the program prior to and during implementation. Significant gains were reported by teachers, parents and students, particularly in terms of students developing a broader range of social skills including verbalizing feelings, assertiveness, coping with teasing in non-aggressive ways, keeping friends, thinking before they act, controlling anger, resolving conflicts with peers and also with siblings at home. The authors concluded that ‘The STOP THINK DO program has grown in popularity as a preventive program in regular schools, as a remedial program in special classes for the emotionally disturbed and as a program for small groups run by specialist teachers… It has been shown to skill both teachers and students and if parents are involved, to raise their awareness of their child’s social strengths and weaknesses, and to assist in improving such skills. On a practical level, it provides useful sequential lesson plans to develop pro-social motivation and behavior in our students.’ (p165)
Beck, J. and Horne, D. (1992) ‘A whole school implementation of the Stop, Think Do! Social skills training program at Minerva Special School.’ In B. Willis and J. Izard (Eds) Student Behavior Problems: Directions, Perspectives and Expectations. Hawthorn, Victoria; Australian Council for Educational Research.
An educational psychologist, Joan Nimmo (1993) investigated the effectiveness of the program for enhancing the competence of socially inept primary school children in Queensland. The study involved 3 groups of children aged 7-11 years who were experiencing social-behavioral problems; a control group receiving no training in the program, a withdrawal treatment group removed from the class for training in small groups by trained teachers and whose parents received a parent training program, and an in-class treatment group whose classroom peers were also trained in the program by classroom teachers but their parents received no specific training program.
The results indicated that the children in both treatment groups made significant gains in key areas of social competence including making and keeping friends, being accepted by peers, coping with teasing, handling aggression, controlling attention seeking and demanding behavior, and handling shyness. Sociometric data indicated that class peers rated children in the treatment groups as significantly more acceptable and reported more friendships with them. Moreover, equal benefits were derived for both treatment groups, namely for children who were withdrawn for small group training with direct parent training and those who were involved in in-class programs with their class peers. These gains showed further significant improvement at three month review. Evidence for generalization across settings was obtained when parents not directly involved in training reported significant improvements in socially appropriate behavior at home.
Nimmo (personal communication) reported that the teachers generally enjoyed the in-service training and implementing the program, and that their own management skills were enhanced considerably. A whole school in-servicing including ancillary staff is most useful to ensure consistency. The traffic light cue proved powerful as a cue around the school grounds as well as in the classrooms.
Nimmo, J. (1993) ‘Social Competence: A pilot study of a cognitive-behavioral social skills program with comparisons of outcomes for in-class and withdrawal groups.’ Unpublished M. Ed. Thesis, Queensland University.
A clinical psychologist, Lena Andary (1990) evaluated the program in a clinic setting with 25 children aged 7-11 with identified social difficulties. The results showed a significant reduction in social-behavioral problems rated by teachers, parents and children themselves at 3 month follow up. Moreover, there was also a reduction in clinically significant problems on a standardized behavior rating scale. A very high degree of parent and teacher satisfaction with the program was obtained. The author concluded that the STOP THINK DO program ‘is a comprehensive package which addresses most of the major issues which the literature reports as being optimal for the acquisition and maintenance of social skills development in children. These factors include a cognitive-behavioral training model with a didactic and experiential approach, a peer group setting and the inclusion of parents and teachers, with an impetus towards classroom training.’ (p24)
Andary, L. (1990) ‘An evaluation of the Adelaide Children’s Hospital’s cognitive-behavioral social skills program.’ Unpublished M. Psych. Thesis, Flinders University of South Australia.
In an uncontrolled study, Dobbins and Clarke implemented the program with two groups of 10 children aged 5-8 years and 9-12 years in a South Australian primary school over a 10 week training period. These students showed significant improvements in their use of alternative skills for problem solving other than violence, understanding personal and interpersonal feelings, controlling aggression, enhancing group skills and identifying positively with peers. Their conclusion is that ‘STOP THINK DO is exemplary in terms of proactive anger management programs. It has been one of the best programs in the last 15 years for developing children’s personal awareness, emotional muscle and social skills to resolve conflicts in non-aggressive ways’. (Personal communication, 1999)
· In the UK, Day, Murphy and Cooke (1999) describe a pilot study in a large comprehensive school in Sheffield where health and education professionals collaborated to develop an intervention to promote the mental health of young people in this region of high unemployment and associated deprivation, and particularly high incidence of self-harm behaviours in young adolescents. A systematic, evidence-based approach was adopted, based on associated research and needs assessment. Supported by the literature, the specific aim was to teach problem-solving skills to these young people primarily as a preventive strategy to help them deal better with stresses in life, thus enhancing their mental, social and physical well being.
The authors worked in partnership with teachers in the school to train students in three year 8 classes (49 students aged 12-13 years) using the STOP THINK DO problem solving model. The remaining year 8 classes formed the control group. Teachers were also able to reinforce the problem solving skills outside of the actual teaching sessions. In terms of pupil-centred outcomes, the authors concluded that the STOP THINK DO problem solving program is workable with this population, and is beneficial to the participants. There was a significant improvement in positive attitudes to problem solving, particularly around problem ownership. There was also a marked change in students with emotional and behavioural problems who were initially disengaged and disruptive. As the program progressed, they became keener to participate with the program encouraging listening skills and different viewpoints, and they became valued members of the group. Teachers commented positively on the progress these students made and reported that it was a style of teaching they could adopt more often. The request is for the program to be delivered on a permanent basis to all year 8 students.
A formative evaluation approach was also applied to learn from this practical application of the program to adapt it for future use. Particularly successful was the use of a set of traffic lights, manually operated by the students themselves. This was central to the program, helping even those with reading difficulties or from different cultural backgrounds to visualise the problem solving process. The authors proposed that the problem solving model is a framework for health promotion in various areas including sex education, drug and alcohol use and lifestyle issues that involve choice making. It also represents a workable collaborative venture between health and education personnel to promote the mental health of young people. It is becoming established within Sheffield schools. The authors suggest that involving the whole school, including teachers, allied staff and parents would reinforce the approach. The authors won a travel scholarship to Australia to study the STOP THINK DO approach and its various applications with its original authors.
Day, P., Murphy, A. & Cooke, J. (1999) 'Traffic light lessons: problem solving skills with adolescents'. Community practitioner, Vol 72 (Oct), No 10, pp 322-324.