Caring for Life: Measured and with Good Results to Offer!

ACTAsia recognises the importance of evaluation of humane education projects and the need to assess results. Therefore, we collaborate with Dr. William Samuels, an independent scholar in New York, USA, to evaluate the Caring for Life program in a way that adheres to rigorous, scientific standards of content validity, objectivity, and generalizability both to other Chinese schools as well as to primary schools around the world. The following content is a summary of the course evaluation results during the 2013-2014 academic year.

Participants:

Students and teachers from 34 classes across 7 schools participated in this pilot evaluation of ACTAsia’s Caring for Life education program.

Instruments:

All participating students completed the 20-item CLES Caring for Life Education Scale (CLES) an instrument developed by ACTAsia to measure self-reported knowledge and attitudes about five caring-for-life domains. At all schools, all teachers completed the Teacher Observation of Classroom Adaptation–Checklist (TOCA-C). The TOCA-C measures the frequency of developmentally adaptive and maladaptive child behaviours. This instrument asks teachers to rate how often during the previous three weeks a given student has displayed a series of behaviours, including those in the two domains used in the current evaluation:

  1. pro-social behaviour and disruptiveness. Pro-social behaviours (e.g., “is friendly,” “is liked by classmates,” and “shows empathy & compassion for others’ feelings”) are those that demonstrate sociability and social integration.
  2. Disruptive behaviours (e.g., “breaks rules,” “lies,” and “harms property”) include destructive behaviours and demonstrations of externalizing behavioural problems.

Results:

There are three general sets of analyses. The first is the effect of the program on the frequency of students’ pro-social behaviours. The second is the effect on the frequency of students’ disruptive behaviours. The third is the effect on students’ knowledge of caring-for-life issues.

Pro-social Behaviour:

Pro-social behaviours: The teachers in all schools rated students to be significantly more pro-social after they participated in the Caring for Life program compared to prior to their participation (t439 = 24.92, p < .000). Based on the statistics, we can say that the effect of the Caring for Life program had a reliable and moderately large effect on these children’s pro-sociality.

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Disruptive Behaviour:

The scale for the scores is the same for both disruptiveness and pro-sociality except that for disruptiveness, lower scores indicate fewer disruptive behaviours. Even though these Chinese students were initially rather well-behaved and generally on-task, their behaviour still improved to be less disruptive by the end of the ACTAsia program

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Total CLES Score:

Total scores on the CLES range from 20 to 60, with higher scores indicating greater knowledge and more positive attitudes about Caring for Life issues. The pre-program scores were already rather high: 45.19 across indicating that these students already had greater knowledge and attitudes than they were expected to have before the program started. Their knowledge and attitudes nonetheless improved significantly over the course of the program (t307 = -26.61, p < .000, Cohen’s d = 0.83).

Conclusion

These results indicate that the program can produce reliable improvements in children’s pro-social and disruptive behaviours as well as to improve their knowledge and understanding of Caring for Life issues.

Based on the positive evaluation results, more schools are joining and teaching humane education under the mandatory curriculum subject. So far ACTAsia has successfully created this humane education program as one of its kind in the world that has been specifically designed and presented by professional teachers in a comprehensive format. It is a unique, pioneering 2 year course covering 5 subject areas, with each subject area made up of 10 units and is gaining momentum in China, a country of 1.35 billion people.