WestEd researchers evaluated the impact of an innovative school-based violence prevention program — the Tribes Learning Communities Program (Tribes) — in improving the classroom environment, reducing children’s antisocial behavior and risk factors for later violence, and increasing protective factors such as resilience.
Tribes is a universal prevention strategy that emphasizes fostering resiliency in children. The intervention is delivered classwide for the entire academic year, with children organized into smaller learning groups (i.e., “tribes”) and teachers trained to facilitate a nurturing classroom climate.
Funded by the National Institute of Justice, this study was conducted in 1st–4th grade classrooms in 13 elementary schools from Northern California. Within each school, teachers (and their students) were randomly assigned to the experimental condition, with teachers assigned to the intervention condition using Tribes in their classrooms and control teachers delivering usual lessons.
Researchers employed multiple, repeated measures. They used mixed-modeling techniques (HLM) to investigate treatment/control group differences in changes in classroom and student outcomes.
A mixed picture of effects of Tribes emerged. Based on teacher survey measures, there was little evidence that Tribes impacted the classroom environment or instructional practices. However, classroom observations revealed that Tribes classrooms had more opportunities for small group work, student collaboration, and student reflections. In addition, students in Tribes classrooms appeared more engaged and exhibited more sharing behavior.
Impacts on student outcomes were mixed, with beneficial impacts for boys, but detrimental impacts for girls. There was little evidence that Tribes had sustained impacts on student outcomes six months after leaving a Tribes classroom.