Teacher-led Relaxation Response Curriculum in an Urban High School: Impact on Student Behavioral Health and Classroom Environment.

Author: Wilson HK, Scult M, Wilcher M, Chudnofsky R, Malloy L, Drewel E, Riklin E, Saul S, Fricchione GL, Benson H, Denninger JW.
Conference/Journal: Adv Mind Body Med.
Date published: 2015 Spring
Other: Volume ID: 29 , Issue ID: 2 , Pages: 6-14 , Word Count: 380

Context • Recent data suggest that severe stress during the adolescent period is becoming a problem of epidemic proportions. Elicitation of the relaxation response (RR) has been shown to be effective in treating anxiety, reducing stress, and increasing positive health behaviors. Objective • The research team's objective was to assess the impact of an RR-based curriculum, led by teachers, on the psychological status and health management behaviors of high-school students and to determine whether a train-the-trainer model would be feasible in a high-school setting. Design • The research team designed a pilot study. Setting • The setting was a Horace Mann charter school within Boston's public school system. Participants • Participants were teachers and students at the charter school. Intervention • The team taught teachers a curriculum that included (1) relaxation strategies, such as breathing and imagery; (2) psychoeducation regarding mind-body pathways; and (3) positive psychology. Teachers implemented this curriculum with students. Outcome Measures • The research team assessed changes in student outcomes (eg, stress, anxiety, and stress management behaviors) using preintervention/postintervention surveys, including the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory-Form Y (STAI-Y), the stress management subscale of the Health-promoting Lifestyle Profile II (HPLP-II), the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES), the Locus of Control (LOC) questionnaire, and the Life Orientation Test-Revised (LOTR). Classroom observations using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS)-Secondary were also completed to assess changes in classroom environment. Results • Using a Bonferroni correction (P < .007), the study found that students experienced a significant reduction (P < .001) in measures of state-level anxiety on the STAI from pre- to postintervention. The study also found an increase in the use of stress management behaviors at that point. Using a Bonferroni correction (P < .007), the study found that students had significantly less perceived stress (P < .001), less state anxiety (P < .001) and trait anxiety (P < . 001), and increased use of positive stress management behaviors (P < .004) at the follow-up assessment in the fall of the following year. Using a Bonferroni correction (P < .002), the study found a significant increase in overall classroom productivity (eg, increased time spent on activities and instruction from pre- to postintervention). Conclusions • This study showed that teachers can lead an RR curriculum with fidelity and suggests that such a curriculum has positive benefits on student emotional and behavioral health and on classroom functioning.
PMID: 25831429