Learning and Changing Behaviors

Experts have long suggested that school and community programs can bring down the smoking rates, so they set up a textbook example. The Hutchison Smoking Prevention Project ran from September 1984 through August 1999 in several Washington state school districts. The researchers used the most up-to-date methods to try to persuade kids, starting at age 9, not to smoke. They helped them practice saying no to cigarettes, bombarded them with information about how dangerous and addictive smoking is and even had high-school students reenact tobacco lawsuit trials.

Still, about a quarter of the teens who completed the program smoked by the time they were 18 -- the same percentage as anywhere else in the country (24.7 percent of girls and 26.7 percent of boys said they smoked daily in 12th grade).

The project's lead investigator, Arthur V. Peterson Jr., Ph.D., said, "The teachers did their darndest, and the educational materials were top-notch. The inability of the program to affect change in smoking behavior comes down, in our judgment, to one thing: the failure of the social-influences strategy of the last 25 years. It simply didn't work."

Part of the reason for the failure may be that the learners had no say in the design of the program. Changing affective behaviors is more complicated than bringing about changes in skills or knowledge. However, by using two techniques 1) Rewarding their good behaviors, and 2) involving them in the design of the program; you will have a solid foundation to bring about the desired changes.

For more information on how to bring about change, see The Zen of Performance Management.

Next Steps

Further readings on the Affective domain:

Learning Essays: