Harris, M.B. & Franklin, C. (2009). Helping adolescent mothers to achieve in school: An evaluation of the taking charge group intervention. Children & Schools, 31. 27-34.
The article, Helping Adolescent Mothers to Achieve in School: An evaluation of the Taking Charge Group Intervention (Franklin & Harris, 2009) is a quantitative study. It uses a quasi-experimental design with a pre and post test for both the comparison group and treatment group, which is a quantitative design. Participants were all pregnant or parenting adolescent females. For ethical reasons, adolescents were not denied access to the initiative, rather, adolescents self-selected their involvement in the initiative. Those who chose to participate populated the treatment group and those who chose not to participate populated the comparison group.
The intervention at the Taking Charge Initiative is heavily based in theory. Social Learning Theory is the overarching theory that dictates the actions and workings of the intervention. Social Learning Theory operates under the assumption that individuals learn in social settings, from one another. The initiative organizes adolescents in a group setting, allowing them to interact and learn through observing others in similar situations. Transactional coping theory and problem solving theory also play a part in dictating the skills learned on a daily basis.
4. This research is informed by a social practice theory in that it evaluates the intervention while taking into account the development of adolescents and their needs at this time in their life. For example, the intervention focuses on group centered approaches and task-centered approaches as similar interventions are often successful for adolescents when using these types of approaches. Taking Charge focuses on rewards for small changes in behavior. This is accomplished by a point-based system that rewards participants for incremental accomplishments such as attending school, doing homework or attending the group session. The intervention also takes into account the institution that is housing the initiative. For example, the initiative exists in a school and therefore the number of sessions is limited.
5. The purpose of this research is that of summative evaluation. That is, the goal of the research is to evaluate the effectiveness of a specific intervention, the Taking Charge Initiative, on a specific population, pregnant or parenting mothers. This research goes further to focus on the Hispanic or Mexican population of pregnant or parenting females.
6. This evaluation is examining the outcome of the initiative through a cross-sectional study. That is, the research is not concerned with the affects of this initiative over the course of the participants' lives, and therefore has not followed the participants through the course of their life to determine the effects. Rather, the researchers have provided a snap shot of the participants' lives at the time of the intervention and immediately after. Specifically, the study is concerned with identifying changes in attendance and grade average.
7. The review of literature focuses on current information. The review begins with a brief overview of the state of the problem with adolescents and teen pregnancies. Recent findings are reported. For example, the teen pregnancy rate is reported as of 2005 and the Hispanic adolescent rate was taken from a study published in 2006. Moving forward, the literature review examines the relevance of the initiative which was developed and implemented in the early part of the century. Review of the relevant theories that informed the development of the initiative are taken from current sources, that is, they are taken from sources published after any significant change in the way that experts view the theory. For example, transactional coping theory has evolved over time, but this article uses Lazarus and Folkman's ( (1984)) version of the theory, generally accepted as the version of the theory used in the field.
8. The study seeks to determine the effectiveness of the initiative. It does so by asking a research question. The research question is; can the Taking Charge Initiative be applied to pregnant or parenting adolescent females? The research question is not explicitly stated, however, it is apparent by examining the literature review, the variables used and the results analyzed.
9. There are two major hypotheses in this research article. The hypothesis first is; pregnant and parenting adolescent females who participate in the Taking Charge Initiative will show an increase in school attendance when compared to adolescent pregnant and parenting mothers who do not participate in the initiative. The second hypothesis states; pregnant or parenting adolescents females who participate in the Take Charge Initiative will demonstrate an increase in grade point average when compared to those pregnant or parenting adolescents who do not participate in the Taking Charge Initiative. Like the research question, the hypotheses were not explicitly identified but apparent by reviewing the methods and results section of the study.
10. The variable of "group" consisted of a treatment group and a comparison group. Therefore, two categories existed: treatment or comparison. Operationally, the group was self-selected. All pregnant or parenting mothers enrolled in the high school were invited to take part in the initiative. Those who chose to participate were placed into the treatment group. Those who declined participation were placed in the comparison group. This was nominal data as the two descriptions are categorical with no natural order occurring.
The variable of "school attendance" was nominally defined by the percentage of days a student missed out of the total number of days the student attended the school. Therefore, attendance was actually the amount of time the student was absent, calculated as a percent. Operationally, an absent day was considered a day the student attended school for less than half a day and a present day was defined as a day the student attended school more than half of the day. This is ratio data as an absolute zero exists.
The variable of "grade average" was nominally defined as the average grade. Operationally, the average of these grades that were reported by the school's grade report system for a six-week time period were used. This is ratio data as the scale of grades has an absolute zero.
The measure of group was possibly not culturally sensitive. Some cultures might avoid structured support coming from a school system in favor of relying on one's family. This also might affect privacy issues where some cultures are less likely to publicly discuss problems and therefore less likely to participate in an initiative focused on group efforts.
11. Evidence exists that measurements in this study were both reliable and valid. Reliability was measured through internal consistency by the reporting of Cronbach's alpha. It was reported that the ?=.80 for the pre-test attendance for both the treatment and control group. For the post-test attendance, ?=.88 and ?=.78 for the treatment and comparison group respectively.
Threats to validity were greatly reduced by including two groups, a treatment group and a comparison group. Comparing these two groups reduces the likelihood of history, maturation or testing negatively affecting validity. Therefore, likely the results of the post-test were a result of the initiation. This initiation can be applied at other school with similar demographics.
12. The population of interest in this study is adolescent females who are pregnant or mothering and who currently attend school. Although not all of the participants identified as Mexican or Hispanic, a majority of the population did. This was purposeful and therefore the Hispanic and Mexican culture was also of interest to the researcher.
13. The authors used non-probability sampling for this study. The authors chose to use this type of sampling because of ethical reasons as they did not want to turn anyone away from a program that could potentially help the females improve their grades or attendance. However, this leads to some issues with the results. If students self-selected to participate, they may be more motivated to make a change. This also reduces the generalizability of the results as these results can only be applied to those willing to participate in an intervention. The researchers did take this into account to some extent by comparing the groups using a pre-test. However, the pre-test measured limited variables such as age, grade level, attendance and grade average. The benefits of this sampling is that it allowed all students to participate if willing.
14. One limitation of the study was that of the group sizes being unequal. Four participants dropped out of the comparison group. This is compared to no members who dropped out of the treatment group. The researchers did attempt to adjust for the drop out and the unequal number of participants by using a Bonferroni adjustment with alpha at .01. This should not have negatively affected the results as first, only two outcome variables existed and second, a significant difference was found between the comparison and treatment groups even given the small sample size. Likely, with a larger sample size, a significant result would also exist.
15. This research used the quasi-experimental design. A quasi-experimental design is a mid level design that falls between pre-experiment and below a true experiment. It is better than…