By Rubi Mares
This is the 4th blog in the series about effective Peer Leadership. We’ve covered what it means to be Peer Leaders and why Effective Peer Leadership works, then went into Conducting Meaningful Activities. Now, we’d like to discuss how to find out if your activities are changing knowledge and/or behavior in your community.
You work hard to create and complete activities and messaging, so it’s important to measure what has been accomplished compared to your team’s mission, goals, and objectives. Evaluation is essential to enhance and expand peer programs and help to determine when you make a difference.
Before we get started, keep in mind that changing behavior takes time! If you are a senior, more than likely you will not see any great changes in sustained, overall behavior before you graduate. You may not even if you are a junior. We’ve found that behavior can take three or more years of continued messaging and activity. That may seem like a long time – and it is for your junior high or high school careers – but, in the grand scheme of things, the changes you start today will have lasting effects that can help keep your younger friends, siblings and relatives safe. Even your kids if the TDS program is sustained for years! Now, that’s a legacy worth working for! However, the activity you do today could change the driving behavior of one peer on that day. You never know who you will reach.
Now, the evaluation tools:
Observations – Conducting observations is a way of gathering data by watching behaviors, physical aspects and events/activities in their natural setting. It is good practice to conduct pre- and post observations, so you can determine if you have made a difference. We use these in the TDS Zero Crazy activity (there is one going on NOW! *hint*) and also in many TTI traffic research areas (Have you ever seen a person standing on the edge of a highway or on an overpass counting cars? That’s probably an observer and you just became a statistic!) because they are fast and relatively easy. Take a pre-count, conduct your activity, then take a post-count exactly the same way you conducted the pre-count and compare the numbers.
Tips: Make sure your data is accurate. If you’re unsure, don’t guess to help boost your numbers. Get a good sampling and make sure your outreach gets to those you are observing. Also, work in pairs – one person can observe and the other person can mark the observation form.
Polls – There are many free online resources you can use when evaluating a program. For example, Survey Monkey, Doodle Poll and Kahoot all are resources you can use to help administer surveys and polls, they even help calculate and analyze your results. Surveys and polls can also be paper format or in the form of a questionnaire. You can even do simple tick-marks on a poster. Often times it is easier to give and receive feedback through this format.
Tip: Make an online version and paper format, so that you can reach more of your peers, but make sure they only complete one.
Interviews/Focus Groups – Interviews/Focus groups are useful to obtain detailed information of your peer’s feelings, perceptions and opinions. Invite a group of peers to interview and assign a group facilitator. The facilitator will guide the group discussion on predetermined topics or ideas.
Tips: Data from interviews/focus groups is descriptive and cannot be measured numerically, but you can get an idea of what your peers are thinking and what matters to them.
Survey – We’re so glad you brought this up! TDS School Surveys provide the best information when completed each year and helps measure your school’s progress. It also helps the Teens in the Driver Seat® staff make the program better. Your school’s information tells us how schools are progressing and what we can do to improve this program and make it more successful each year. The best assessment samplings come from a larger group (50% of school population is ideal, or at least 500 records for schools over 1,000 students) which includes students of all ages. The below graph represents the results from the 2016-2017 school surveys. It shows the percentage of students who were able to identify the number of risks and self-reported behaviors of teens that have provisional and are licensed drivers.
Once you have completed and submitted your TDS School Survey, you can contact your TDS Rep to let them know you are interested in receiving your school’s results. Please allow a couple of months for the TDS staff to enter the data. Once you receive your data, you can then determine which risk your peers know the least about and which risks you can focus on to spread the safe driving message at your school.
Rubi Mares is a certified peer program educator, the southeast Texas Teens in the Driver Seat representative, and San Antonio district Pedestrian Safety project manager for the Youth Transportation Safety Program.