Comprehensive crisis training for school-based professionals: The development, implementation, and evaluation of a crisis preparation and response curriculum

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Schools and school systems are increasingly expected and legally obligated to be prepared for and respond to crises impacting school communities. However, there have been few systematic efforts to develop research-based training programs designed to increase the crisis preparation and response abilities of school-based professionals. The purpose of this study was to develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive crisis preparation and response curriculum for school system staff.

The curriculum in this study was developed following a thorough review of the school-based crisis intervention literature and the research on key principles of adult learning. Members of the district's crisis response leadership team and other school-based staff helped pilot and fine-tune aspects of the curriculum prior to implementation. The curriculum was subsequently implemented with twelve school-based professionals who enrolled in the 15-hour course.

The evaluation of the curriculum focused on identifying changes in the participants' learning and behaviors throughout the course, documenting the effectiveness of crisis simulations as a training tool, and looking for themes and patterns across the various data collection tools that could assist in improving the scope and sequence of the curriculum for future trainings. The findings for each of these evaluation goals were very positive. The course participants' ability to effectively apply crisis preparation and response skills during extended simulations improved substantially throughout the course based on group performances on a crisis simulation rubric. The participants also consistently reported that they felt more comfortable and confident applying these skills, with many planning to take leadership roles on their school-based crisis teams. The crisis simulation activities were found to be excellent tools for learning and practicing crisis intervention skills in a safe setting, and the course participants agreed that these simulation activities were realistic, valuable teaching techniques. The themes and patterns related to the scope and sequence of the curriculum were extremely positive, with few changes suggested. The participants reported that the content and teaching strategies utilized were effective and fostered learning. Implications for future research and practice were discussed.