Health and Science  

Preventing Drug Use Through Better Stories

A good story can captivate an audience and communicate important ideas.

In-school drug prevention programs that have adopted narrative storytelling strategies are effective at increasing student attention and engagement.

However, teachers often struggle to craft compelling stories when teaching these programs, potentially limiting their impact, according to new research out of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communication.

These results come from a study conducted by Janice L. Krieger, advertising professor and her colleagues and was published in the December 2015 issue of the Journal of Language and Social Psychology.

The study analyzed recorded lessons from teachers in middle schools in Ohio and Pennsylvania as they implemented the keepin’ it REAL (kiR) drug prevention programs. kiR relies heavily on personal narratives and encourages teachers to share “personal and locally-based stories of drugs and drug use” to help illustrate drug avoidance techniques.  

The researchers analyzed each lesson for the teacher’s use of narratives, the quality of the narratives used and for student involvement – whether the students were attentive to and actively participating in the program.

The researchers found a tentative relationship between narrative quality and student engagement in the program. Overall, when teachers used stronger narratives – narratives that featured developed characters and were interesting to listen to – students were more attentive to the lesson.  

However, the researchers note that the teachers’ narratives were “generally not well-developed and missing clearly defined characters or settings,” and most involved fictionalized stories where teachers “asked students to ‘imagine you are…’  and then placed students into a scene where they would need to imagine characters and actions.”   

“[T]he ability to tell stories to achieve a specific outcome is a learned skill, teachers typically do not receive training in narrative pedagogy in their formal education,”  said the researchers, “[W]e propose that teachers who are being called upon to deliver these kinds of curricula be provided with explicit training.”

Journal of Language and Social Psychology 


Posted: August 18, 2016