Active in Boston, Mass., public schools since 1992, UI uses theater improvisation to develop decision-making, impulse-control, and conflict-resolution skills. The program is based on the idea that providing students with interactive opportunities to rehearse conflict scenarios will enhance their ability to solve problems in a nonviolent manner. UI lasts 27 weeks and is organized into three 9-week intervals, including age-appropriate content for three categories: elementary, middle, and high school. The fourth-grade curriculum, for example, incorporates the following themes: friendship, self-esteem, imagination, peer pressure, fairness, violence/conflict resolution, sharing, and family.
The weekly sessions are 75 minutes long during school hours in a local theater space; students are accompanied by their teacher. Program instructors include a director and four actors who have been trained in youth education, expressive arts, and improvisational theater. Each session begins with a song about one of the included themes, followed by a prearranged scene that relates to the theme of the day. The students are allowed to make important decisions when the director freezes the scene and a student replaces one of the actors. The outcome of the scene is then changed by which decision the student makes. The students are then divided into groups to act out the previous scene. The session ends with a group discussion of the students' choices and the subsequent consequences. This allows for further explanation of values and provides a forum for students' personal experiences.
Intervention students were compared with comparison group students on aggressive and prosocial behaviors, scholastic engagement, and attention. Surveys were administered at baseline and immediately following program completion. Students were measured using the Social Skills Rating System (Elementary Level), including the student and teacher report versions; the Youth Coping Inventory self-report; and the Normative Beliefs about Aggression self-report. Data collection took place during school times in intact classrooms.
Study 2 (Zucker et al. 2010) used a matched control group design with four groups:
Results of Study 2 indicated that the comprehensive UI program appeared to demonstrate an additive effect on two of the three domains of behaviors assessed, although the results are somewhat inconsistent and based on teacher and student reports. Aggression and conduct programs remained generally stable across time in all four groups.
Zucker, Marla, Joseph Spinazzola, Amie Alley Pollack, Lauren Pepe, and Stephanie Barry. 2010. “Getting Teachers in on the Act: Evaluation of a Theatre- and Classroom-Based Youth Violence Prevention Program.” Journal of School Violence 9:117–35.
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