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The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of strengths-based prevention training within the context of a youth recreation program and to compare and contrast two evaluation approaches: traditional pretest—posttest and retrospective pretest—posttest. A mixed methods triangulation design with data transformation was utilized. Quantitative methods included a traditional pretest conducted at program intake and a retrospective pretest and posttest survey completed by participants at the end of the program. One-on-one interviews were also conducted with a randomly selected subset of the participants to provide qualitative data for the study.
While discrepancies were noted between the results of each measure, youth generally reported higher levels of knowledge, skills, and potential for positive behavior after participation in Health Rocks!® and recreation program activities than they did before the program. Even for those participants who did not report increases, strengths were likely to have been previously attained elsewhere and participation in program activities may have played a reinforcing role. This study also supports literature that suggests potential contamination of results due to response shift bias when traditional pretest methodology is used. Results indicate that a retrospective pretest—posttest design is useful and might be more appropriate than a traditional pretest—posttest design when examining self-reported changes in participant knowledge, skill, and potential for positive behaviors.
Advisor: Yan Xia