WhyTry has changed the lives of 6-year-olds and 18-year-olds, rural and inner-city youth, males and females, and children from a variety of races, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds. Read on to explore these case studies.
WhyTry: An Evidence-Based Program
WhyTry is an evidence-based social and emotional learning (SEL) program. We use the CASEL definition of social and emotional learning:
“…the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions.”
-The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)
Researchers have independently verified that WhyTry effectively accomplishes all the objectives of social and emotional learning as outlined by CASEL. Students who participate in a full-fidelity implementation of the WhyTry Program demonstrate improved:
- Locus of control
- Ability to set and achieve goals
- Relationships with teachers and fellow students
- Classroom engagement
- Attendance records
- Academic performance
- Behavioral and Emotional Screening System (BASC) scores
Defining the WhyTry Evidence
The National Center on Response to Intervention (NCRI) outlines the following standards for research-based interventions:
“…(an) evidence-based intervention (is) as an intervention for which data from scientific, rigorous research designs have demonstrated (or empirically validated) the efficacy of the intervention. That is, within the context of a group or single-subject experiment or a quasi-experimental study, the intervention is shown to improve the results for students who receive the intervention.”
WhyTry has been empirically validated in pre/post and controlled group studies. We have been included in the CASEL list of promising programs, and we are in the process of actively expanding our research basis.
The WhyTry Curriculum is Research-Informed
The WhyTry program also delivers a research-informed curriculum, defined by NCRI as:
“…incorporat(ing) design features that have been researched generally…”
Educators implement WhyTry using the ten visual metaphors that form the cornerstone of the program. These ten metaphors teach life skills critical to the future success of every student or adult. We developed these visual metaphors using a variety of strengths-based therapeutic approaches. These include:
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy
- Reality Therapy
- Client-centered Therapy
- Solution-focused Brief Therapy
While these are well-established therapeutic practices, educators don’t need to be trained in these modalities to use the program. A full-fidelity implementation of WhyTry includes three distinct elements:
Teachers or counselors who implement the WhyTry program establish a strong relationship of mutual respect and trust with students. Establishing a relationship is foundational to a full fidelity implementation of the program, and WhyTry improves the relationship students have with educators. For example, in a pre/post evaluation, Wilhite and Lubbock (2012) found that students at an alternative school were more likely to have lower negative attitudes toward teachers and school after WhyTry was implemented.
WhyTry motivates students to take a greater interest in their academic success and long-term personal development. Students understand the relevance of actively participating in school and are motivated to make long-term goals and apply themselves. For example, Baker (2008) found that students who participated in the WhyTry program had improved self-efficacy as measured by the Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment (ASEBA) when compared to the control group.
The WhyTry program also uses a variety of research-informed techniques to capture students’ attention and help them engage with the material. Our multi sensory approach engages learners of all age groups. We accomplish this by using relevant videos, music, and images— and by engaging students in physical activities. A multi sensory approach is well-documented in the academic literature to improve comprehension, retention, and overall engagement. WhyTry uses a variety of multi sensory tools to make lessons more relevant to the learner.
WhyTry helps students to develop greater resilience. When students are more resilient, they are better prepared for all the challenges life brings… at home, at school, and with friends. A number of studies establish the value of resilience. Resilient students are more likely to get better grades, attend classes, and find success in life. Researchers have demonstrated that WhyTry improves resilience according to a variety of measurement instruments. These include:
- Behavior Assessment System for Children
- Children’s Hope Scale
- Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment
- WhyTry Measure R Assessment Tool
The WhyTry Measure R instrument is independently validated against the Nowicki-Strickland Locus of Control Scale (N-SLOC). This instrument allows educators to measure pre/post results and ensure program implementation is improving key SEL metrics.
WhyTry teaches students the social and emotional skills they need to succeed in school and in life. WhyTry is validated by independent research and uses a variety of research-informed tactics. We are continuously measuring the effectiveness of our program and working to improve its efficacy.
Assessment tools are often used to determine what and how well a student is learning. The information yielded by assessments helps build accountability, shapes funding decisions, and measures the effectiveness of specific interventions and programs. WhyTry has developed a free assessment tool (WhyTry Measurement-R) to help you assess the WhyTry Program in your school or setting. We also recommend the use of third party assessment tools, such as the Nowicki-Strickland assessment (below), and any other assessment tools you deem appropriate for your specific setting.
When distributing assessment surveys to students, you may consider reading each item out loud for students who have difficulty reading. If a student needs help with writing, complete the assessment one-on-one. Make sure students know that their answers are completely private and that there are no right or wrong answers. When students have completed the survey, have them turn their papers upside down, collect the surveys, and return them to the key person in a sealed envelope by the end of the day.
The WhyTry Measure R is a pre/post-test designed to measure youth’s knowledge of the WhyTry curriculum, decision-making skills, locus of control, resistance to peer pressure, positive self-concept, self-control, and access to support systems. The desired outcomes of the WhyTry Program are to improve academic performance and behavior. Research has consistently linked increased internal locus of control with greater academic success and positive behavior. Improvement in the WhyTry Measure R has paralleled improvement on a well-respected measure, indicated via excellent concurrent validity with the Nowicki-Strickland locus of control.
The Nowicki-Strickland is considered an excellent assessment of locus of control for adults and youth. Research has shown those with a high internal locus of control have better control of their behavior than those with a high external locus of control. Research has suggested locus of control is a predictor of grades and a decrease in disciplinary infractions. Those with a high internal locus of control are more likely to assume that their efforts will be successful. They are more active in seeking information and knowledge concerning their situation.*
*Note: Errors were found in the Nowicki-Strickland scoring instructions. As of December 17, 2013, these errors have been corrected, per the original Nowicki-Strickland instrument (Nowicki, S. & Strickland, B. (1973). “A locus of control scale for children”, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 40(1), 148-154). We apologize for any errors in the data collection this may have caused.
Implementation fidelity is the extent to which an intervention is consistent with the designed method of delivery. In other words, is the implementation tool (in this case, the WhyTry Program) being used the way it was designed to be used? Fidelity is also important when evaluating program effectiveness. A fidelity instrument has been developed and used to assess overall program fidelity and compares across sites. Program fidelity will be measured in four primary characteristics: 1) dose/exposure; 2) adherence to the program; 3) participant responsiveness; and 4) quality of program delivery.
WhyTry encourages the use of a data-driven program to help our youth achieve academically, socially, and emotionally. Response to Intervention and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support is recommended frameworks for implementing WhyTry as an intervention tool. WhyTry can be used for all three intervention tier levels. Some sites utilize the WhyTry Program with a combination of tiered interventions. Each site is advised to assess the needs of their population, discipline practices, assets, and resources.