|We can prove the positive outcomes and great benefits for youth who participate...|
|NEW ZEALAND INTERIM REPORT|
Report to Global Rock Board, June 13 2008.
This is an interim report of doctoral research being conducted at the Psychology Department of Auckland University. The aim is to examine the Stage Challenge experience from the students' perspective, and to identify why this event is so attractive to young people.
Although it is early in the research process, clear trends are already emerging.
- Stage Challenge has got the basics "right". According to research, students prefer activities that are youth driven, require an extended and challenging preparation period, and are authentically evaluated.
- Stage Challenge gives the students opportunities to experience "emotional hotspots", both good and bad. Students need to be taught about well-being, and to recognise how it feels, and to observe themselves under pressure. They can do this through their real-life and character roles in this event. For example, they learn how to cope with conflict and disappointment as well as to control their excitement levels and to be gracious in victory.
- The event has a good balance between competition and participation. Students enter to win and are disappointed when they don't. However, they tend to look back on the whole experience rather than just the result. Reaction to result neither impacts on their positive view of their experience nor their intention to repeat it.
- Stage Challenge is a "flow" activity. This is the psychological term for the natural experience people experience when they are engaged in a challenging and totally absorbing activity. It is an addictive feeling which leads people to seek even greater challenges. For young people this often occurs when being with friends, and is enhanced by music and dance.
- Students give consistent reasons for participating. First timers state that they love dance and drama and have heard that Stage Challenge is heaps of fun. Returning students report having so much fun, they can't wait to do it again.
- Sense of integrity is the main predictor of their intention to repeat the experience. This means that the students feel Stage Challenge reflects "who they are" and that they can "be themselves" in this event, both at the practices and the performance, It is something that is considered "cool" within the school community, but it is not so exclusive that only talented students can enter. It is also considered cool by both sexes.
- The clear highlight for students is the social aspect of the event. This includes making friends, getting closer to existing friends, mixing with different age levels, being part of a team, having something regular to do each week. This is ranked twice as highly as anything else. However, the performance day, performing on stage and sense of achievement and pride also rank consistently highly.
The main challenges for the students are boredom, nervousness, work overload and peer conflict. Student leaders face particular challenges and these are being separately evaluated.
Jan Trayes (University of Auckland, New Zealand)
Research and feedback shows that on average something over 40% of team members are those from the school population who would have never before shown any tendency to take part in any other school-based activity. Without Rock Challenge®, it seems that many of these young people would eventually have left school as they began it...not participating.
Though some inevitably start with the attitude that it's 'all about winning', a majority of team members seem to go on to develop the mature attitude that on an Event Day yes, you're certainly there to do your best but (perhaps even more importantly) you're also there to join in all the fun, to support all the other teams and team members there (and even on occasion to step in and help them with their hair or makeup or costuming or sets - yes, it does happen), to meet up with 'old' friends from other schools and colleges again, to work hard and to put on a terrific evening show, and to join in with everyone else in the uniquely substance-abuse-free, warm, supportive and friendly atmosphere.
On average, 90% or more of rehearsals and preparations take place in out-of-timetabled time. Rock Challenge® teams often attract help and assistance from recently-retired teachers and parents too, and a nucleus of committed and supportive adults can sometimes develop.
English teachers carrying out the "Speak on a topic of your choice" part of the GCSE examination used to get heartily fed up of "My time in the Rock Challenge® team" by now, for so many team members choose this as their favourite topic.
University Admissions Tutors up and down the country discover that the interview may suddenly become much more upbeat - and longer - if they ask anything like "And what is this 'Rock Challenge®' thing I see you've been involved in? Can you tell me anything about it ?"
Team members know that they are part of the growing Global Rock Challenge® movement: already well-established in Australia and New Zealand, it has spread to the UK and Eire, Germany, Japan, South Africa and Dubai.
Membership of the Rock Challenge® team becomes a valued section of a student's Record of Achievement, while others incorporate participation into elements of their Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme.
(The Every Child Matters Outcome Framework has been embraced by all the schools and organisations that we work with but remember that the "Every Child Matters" programme may not now be supported further by the new Coalition Government.)
Although much of the preparation for performance in Rock Challenge® happens in out-of-school time, benefits to the school day are tremendous.
Rock Challenge® directly addresses many of the National Indicators for Local Authorities (2007), in particular NI50, NI57, NI87, NI91, NI106, NI110 and NI115.
Rock Challenge® links to many of the new National Healthy Schools Programme (September 2005) criteria, particularly perhaps Section 4, Emotional Health and Wellbeing, which, in turn, links to the revised OfSTED framework and Every Child Matters.
Traditionally Rock Challenge® has been seen as an enhancement to the drugs, alcohol and tobacco curriculum; it encourages positive peer pressure and attracts young people who would not otherwise participate in extra-curricular activities, and is therefore an effective diversionary tool for young people who may be at risk. Participants talk of the 'natural high' they experience through participation and this can support key messages within the
drug education element of the PSHE programme.
There are obvious links to dance, art and design, drama, physical activity, theatre studies, textiles, and business studies. Some schools use Rock Challenge® as a vehicle for measuring and monitoring pupil fitness, stamina and commitment to healthy eating as part of the process.
Rock Challenge® can also help secondary schools to deliver on the compulsory Citizenship orders. It meets attainment targets at Key Stages 3 and 4 with regard to developing communication and responsibility of team membership; increasing understanding of social issues through research into chosen themes; joining school with the wider community including opportunities for working with community police and other agencies.
Because participants have to finance their own productions, there are also clear links to the revised National Curriculum (2008) for Economic Well-Being and Financial Capability.
Add to these the self-reported rises in self-esteem, pride and respect for others, and improved attendance coupled with reductions in truancy rates and it becomes obvious why so many schools participate year-on-year in Rock Challenge®!
With our successful second year of our 'Youth Division’ event we are also set to see the benefits of participating in the Rock Challenge® reach a far wider community in the many diverse groups now taking part.
Even though it is still a recent innovation in the UK, some OfSTED inspection teams have already discovered its effects in participating schools they have visited. Here are some quotes from participants:
"The famous music and dance extravaganza Rock Challenge® has become part of a Hanson tradition ... Students enjoy these events; participation in the Rock Challenge® is high and many hours are willingly given up for practice."
"The recent Rock Challenge® and Get Real programme were positive initiatives in raising pupils? social awareness and extending their social skills."
"Pupils are keen to participate in such activities as Rock Challenge® and the School Council and show good levels of responsibility in dance and drama ... these positive attitudes to school are not always seen in lessons ..."
"One outstanding example of students working harmoniously together was seen in the 'Rock Challenge®' rehearsal in which around 80 students organised themselves to practice dance routines with the very minimum of supervision."
The school offers a wide range of sporting and cultural activities. Some, such as the "Rock Challenge®", are very popular, but time constraints can inhibit the take-up of others."
"There is a significant commitment by large numbers of pupils to the annual Rock Challenge® competition. These all contribute to raising self-esteem of pupils."
Very good extra-curricular extension is also provided. For instance, the department participates annually in the national Rock Challenge® competition, a drama-dance extravaganza involving 120 pupils. It has won the local heats in the last four years and come second and third nationally."
"Musical and instrumental activities are limited ... but a large number of students take part in the very successful "Rock Challenge®s".
"The pupils enjoy raising money for charity and take part with enthusiasm in a wide range of extra-curricular activities including the Rock Challenge®, a dance/drama extravaganza involving some 120 pupils."
Students greatly appreciated the school's successes in the "Rock Challenge®" competition.
Every year we ask every Liaison Teacher to evaluate what - if any! - differences they have observed that participation in UK Rock Challenge® has brought about in their school or among their team members. Some of the responses we got from them in 2004 are reproduced below.
The 2010 Rock Challenge® involved 367 teams (324 in 2009) from 340 schools; of these, 79 were schools new to the event.
Each team nominated a Liaison Teacher who was asked to complete an evaluation questionnaire and return it prior to being supplied their judges' critiques.
234 liaison teachers (representing 63% of the teams involved) completed and returned an evaluation questionnaire.
- The age spread of participating students from schools which responded to the questionnaire was: Year 5 - 7%; Year 6 - 5%; Year 7 - 8%; Year 8 - 21%; Year 9 - 21%; Year 10 - 28%; Year 11 - 3%; Years 12 and 13 - 6%.
- The percentage of school time and out of school time taken to prepare for the Rock Challenge® was: School time - 10%; Out-of-school time - 90%.
- The time schools spent preparing their entries ranged from 2 weeks to 11 months. The average time spent was 4 months.
- Of the schools who responded, 59% reported that average attendance within the team had been improved. On average 11 students per school had improved attendance.
- The percentage of the students involved in the Rock Challenge® who would not have otherwise taken part in school extra-curricular or sporting activities was 26%.
- 99% of the schools that responded to the questionnaire reported that self-esteem was either improved or greatly improved in their students.
- 97% of the schools that responded said that their students' understanding of the importance of teamwork had either improved or greatly improved.
- Aside from the day of the event, 38% of the schools were able to use the Rock Challenge® to promote a healthy lifestyle.
- Out of all the schools that responded, 96% reported that their students’ participation in the Rock Challenge® had helped them realise a "natural high".
- Of all the schools that responded, 24% said that the participants’ consumption of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs decreased or greatly decreased.
- Anti-social behaviour has decreased in 69% of responding schools.
Each participant in the 2010 Be Your Best Rock Challenge® events was asked to complete a questionnaire. These were anonymous and 12,356 questionnaires were returned. (We received 10,683 in 2009.)
- 74% of respondents said that they spent 3 or more months rehearsing, with 56% of schools spending 1-3 hours per week on their production outside of curriculum time.
- 12% of the respondents smoked before becoming involved with the Rock Challenge®. Of those 56% have stopped or reduced the amount they smoke due to their involvement.
- Of the respondents, 20% reported they drank alcohol at least once a week before becoming involved in the event. Of those 63% have stopped or reduced their alcohol intake since becoming involved in the Rock Challenge®.
- Of the respondents, 4% reported they used drugs before becoming involved in the Rock Challenge®. 60% have now stopped or reduced their drug usage.
- Of the respondents, 92% felt their self-esteem had improved, with teamwork skills improving in 86% of respondents since they became involved in Rock Challenge®.
- Of the respondents, 22% said they had played truant from school before. Of those, 55% have stopped playing truant due to their involvement in the Rock Challenge®, which equates to 1,495 participants who have stopped playing truant.
- 92% of respondents reported they enjoy school more since becoming involved in the event.
- 92% reported that they have better relationships with their teachers following their involvement.
- Of the respondents, 79% reported that they have made new friends through the Rock Challenge®.
- 99% of respondents described the initiative as excellent or good when given the choice of excellent, good, average or poor.
|PRIMARY SCHOOL FEEDBACK|
Each participant in the 2010 Junior Rock Challenge® events was asked to complete a questionnaire. These were anonymous and were completed during the day of the event. 2063 (1993 in 2009) questionnaires were returned.
- Of respondents, 61% said that they spent 3 or more months rehearsing their production outside of curriculum time.
- 94% of respondents reported they enjoy school more since becoming involved in the event.
- 91% of respondents reported they have better relationships with their teachers following involvement in the event.
- Of the respondents, 83% reported they have made new friends at their own school through the Rock Challenge®.
- Of the respondents, 48% reported they have made new friends at other Rock Challenge® schools through the Rock Challenge®.
- 99.5% of respondents described the initiative as excellent when given the choice of excellent, good, average or poor.
Early research (in Portsmouth in 1996/97) showed not only a much-improved awareness and behaviour among Rock Challenge® participants regarding substance abuse when compared to those in a nearby matched non-participating school over a period of a year, but also positive changes regarding their attitudes to teachers, behaviour, teamwork and a growing commitment to such things as the importance of homework, working hard, regular attendance at school, doing well in exams and planning further education and future careers.
Independent research has also been carried out by two departments of the Leeds Metropolitan University, who looked at the Dance Action Zone Leeds (DAZL) involvement with the Rock Challenge® team at the 11-to-16 Merlyn Rees School from November 2000 through to Summer 2001. The full report by Sheila Scraton (Professor of Leisure and Feminist Studies), Fiona Stoddart (Research Officer) and Nicki Latham (Senior Lecturer in Physical Activity, Exercise and Health) is available on the internet at www.leedsmet.ac.uk/ces/lss_old/DAZL/index.htm but the Summary Findings from three of the report's sections are given below:-
PHYSICAL HEALTH BENEFITS
1. It was perceived by the DAZL Rock Challenge® participants and coordinators that taking part increased access to exercise;
2. increased fitness;
3. increased flexibility;
4. supported weight loss;
5. promoted awareness about the ill effects of smoking;
6. provided a supportive culture for those students who chose not to smoke;
7. provided the opportunity to discuss a range of different health related topics with the students;
8. provided opportunities for physical skill development.
MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS
The data indicated that the students involved in DAZL Rock Challenge® perceived that they had grown in self-confidence and had an increased sense of well-being because of their involvement. This confidence and sense of well-being appeared to manifest itself in a number of different ways for the young people. They spoke about:
Furthermore, DAZL Rock Challenge® appeared to:
- overcoming shyness;
- feeling better about their bodies;
- feeling more confident when they meet new people;
- the buzz factor from doing well;
- confidence to risk trying new things;
- a culture of mutual support within the group;
- a sense of shared identity;
- group solidarity;
- a sense of responsibility to the group.
- instil a sense of pride in the students involved;
- give them a credible identity within school;
- give the school an improved self image;
- develop a commitment to doing a good performance;
- support the development of a "DAZL Rock Challenge® Attitude";
- allow creativity;
- in some cases help individuals reflect on changes in their own behaviour.
The DAZL Rock challenge project provided:
The project also enabled:
- strong dance role models;
- career aspirations;
- certification of involvement in a dance project;
- opportunities to link into existing community dance opportunities;
- opportunities to raise the profile of Merlyn Rees School.
- friendships to develop;
- instances of team-building among student groups;
- career development opportunities.
In December 2001 Australian researcher Rose Grunstein reported on an analysis of students in a range of high schools around New South Wales. Students were allotted to one of three groups (Rock Challenge® participants, Rock Challenge® schools' non-participant students, and students at non-Rock Challenge® schools) and an attempt was made to highlight the factors that support "Resiliency", described as "an interaction between an individual's personality and his/her response to the environment" and as "the individual's ability to cope with adversity." (Some of the factors measured related to Identity, Belonging, Sense of Purpose, Problem-Solving Skills, Social Competence, and Attitude.)
Grunstein reported that "For both the whole sample and the group of girls from Year 9 and above, Rock Challenge® school students had a significantly higher overall resiliency during the rehearsal period than students from control schools. Within RC schools, participants scored higher for overall resiliency than non-participants. At no point in time do control-school students reach the same level of resiliency as participants."
Grunstein also reported that there were highly significant correlations between behaviour and participation in Rock Challenge®, Students from Rock Challenge® schools had a positive association with non-smoking behaviour and binge-drinking and participants themselves had a positive association with recent non-smoking behaviour and future intention.
Rock Challenge® participants scored significantly higher in feeling close to friends and having a strong attachment to their school, having a sense of future purpose, their positive attitude to peers and to family, and their negative attitude to substance abuse.
Grunstein concluded (paraphrased) "Both students and teachers involved in the Rock Eisteddfod Challenge invariably express how much fun they had being involved in it. To use something that is fun as a prevention tool is ideal. Furthermore, since the young people actually participate in an event rather than passively absorb information, the REC is an effective prevention tool. The individual in fact discovers for her/himself that it is possible to have fun without the aid of alcohol or drugs. It has been shown that the most successful prevention programs are the ones that involve indirect approaches and skill building, and this is exactly what the REC does."
Health Choices: 100% Drug, Smoking and Alcohol Free|
The Rock Challenge® attitude to any team members who break their commitments regarding substance abuse on any Rock Challenge® Event Day is that they are removed from further participation immediately.
They must be taken away from the event by their school or college and while their remaining team members can perform in that evening's show, they cannot place higher than third no matter now many points they score. Nor can they proceed to any further Event that year. This is widely supported by the vast majority of team members.
Many teams adopt similar "One Strike And You're Out" rules for their own team members through the rest of the Rock Challenge® 'season' at their school or college.
Such is the attraction of Rock Challenge that many schools now also apply strict rules regarding school attendance, work, attitude and homework: in such schools, team members improve in all these areas and drive up the school's results.