Topic 1 Introduction

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) calls all countries to make full use of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and its guidelines, to protect young people, women, socially disadvantaged groups, and people who do not smoke but are exposed to smoking environments; a lot of targeted efforts on tobacco prevention and control may be needed to achieve the global and regional target of 30% reduction of tobacco use (WHO, 2019).
  • Education, communication, and training are considered the three means that can raise awareness and achieve social change on the topic and prevent young people from starting (WHO FCTC, 2013).
  • The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCCDA) defines life skills as the “skills that enable people to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life through teaching adaptive and positive behaviour.
  • The following life skills are often targeted in prevention interventions: decision-making; problem-solving; creative thinking; critical thinking; effective communication; interpersonal-relationship skills; self-awareness; empathy; coping with emotions; coping with stress; and resilience.
  • Furthermore, some techniques to be developed among students refer to stress release, anger or sadness management, self-esteem development, goals successful implementation, social skills development, such as resistance to peers, stating needs, asserting, finding alternative activities, and accepting responsibility in front of one’s actions.
  1. influencing their knowledge and attitudes about substances (consequences, physiological effects of tobacco use, etc.), and teaches skills for resisting media, advertising and peer influences/social pressures to use substances
  2. developing personal self-management skills, such as decision-making and problem-solving, resistance to media influences, coping with anxiety, anger, and frustration and self-improving/personal behaviour change, and
  3. helping students develop and improve their social skills, like communication skills, skills related to male-female relationships, conversation skills, etc. (J. B., Gilbert & W. K., Lori, 2000).

This is a very useful training manual that can give an insight into the Life Skills Training approach.

  • Such school-based prevention programmes are much more likely to show positive results on the students if the program is facilitated by teachers as compared to somewhat older peers. Teachers know the students well and have teaching experience as well as classroom management skills; this kind of training comes naturally.
  • Older peers are much more accepted by young adolescents as program facilitators than are adult leaders; trained older peers could be involved in the facilitation of developing a skill, and thus they could assist teachers and serve as positive role models.
  • However, this training can be also done by health professionals successfully were adequate.
  • Be well prepared.
  • Know the activities very well.
  • Be ready to support the students in the whole procedure.
  • Make sure that students feel comfortable expressing themselves and fully engaging in the activities.
  • Think about the methods that will be used for training. For this kind of material, it was shown that facilitating group discussion and focusing on practising those skills in class, were the most effective, in comparison with lecturing and other traditional forms of teaching.
  • Become a trainer or a coach at the implementation phase; for instance, in the case of teachers, they are called to somehow forget their role as the instructors that know everything (we will check this during Unit 3 – Topic 3).

The main teaching techniques that could be used practically in class to teach life skills to the students are:

The teacher explains to the students how and when to use the skill and then shows students how to perform the skill.

In this phase, students practise the skill using role-playing either at the front of the classroom or in small groups. Role-playing scenarios should be clearly described and should not take long (ideally around one minute) to allow as many students as possible to participate.

The teacher comments on the strengths and weaknesses of each student’s skills “performance”. It is important to focus on the skill and not on the learner. The teacher has to provide feedback in a gentle and supportive manner so that students understand which aspects they performed well, which need improvement, and how to improve.

The teacher underlines each student’s positive elements of his or her skills performance. Focusing on one to two elements should be adequate. It is important to have in mind that the self-efficacy of each student should be improved, and therefore each participant’s improvement is assessed individually.

The final step in the skills training process is an extended practice in which students receive behavioural “homework” assignments.

  • For example, when practising coping with stress, this practice could be to practice at home a technique for coping with anxiety once per day. Or when practising resistance to peers, the activity could be to say no to a friend when the student does not want to accept any kind of suggestion or respond assertively in three different situations.

This part comes to facilitate the use of learned skills in situations outside the classroom, promote application   to different situations, and encourage students to use the skills as part of their everyday lives. Teachers can   further facilitate the process by discussing further with the students how they are evolving or what they could   improve or change.

  • In addition, it is understood that the development of life-skills should not be a one-hour session, but rather a package of material implemented in a longer period (for example, once per week for 15 weeks, or several times a week for approximately 5 weeks) or even better, an approach adopted cross-curricula.
  • In a similar vein, “Unplugged” is a school-based programme that incorporates components focusing on critical thinking, decision-making, problem-solving, creative thinking, effective communication, interpersonal relationship skills, self-awareness, empathy, coping with emotions and stress, normative beliefs, and knowledge about the harmful health effects of substances.
  • The curriculum consists of 12 one-hour units taught once a week by class teachers who previously attended a 2.5-day training course. The Xchange registry of the EMCDDA rates Unplugged as ‘beneficial’, meaning that it is likely to be effective across different contexts (European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, 2019). You can read here an academic article about it (pp. 93-107).