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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"I learned to ask" : suicide intervention training for school personnel Jeffs, Cheryl Lynne


Considering the abundance of continuing professional education (CPE) there is a paltry amount of research on the application of learning following these programs. Every year programs are developed and implemented with the main purpose to improve, change or update performance or practice in the professions, especially in education. In this study, 21 school personnel from two school districts in British Columbia were interviewed three years after participating in the suicide intervention CPE program, ASK ASSESS ACT. Two research questions guided this study: From the participants' perspectives, 1) what learning did they apply following the ASK ASSESS ACT program in the context of their school setting?; and, 2) what were the factors that facilitated or hindered this application of learning in the context of their school setting? This qualitative study adapted Cervero's (1985) framework which was developed to help understand the complexity of application of learning. Identified in the framework are four factors that are considered to influence application of learning: (1) the program; (2) the proposed behaviour change; (3) the individual learner; (4) and the social system or context in which the individual works. For the purpose of this study, the proposed behaviour change is suicide intervention - this is the evidence of application of learning; the CPE program is ASK ASSESS ACT; the individual characteristics are those of teachers, school counsellors and youth care workers; and the social system is the classroom, school and school district in which the participant works. Participants were interviewed and asked about their experiences following the CPE program. Data were coded and Atlas.ti was used to assist with the analysis. It was evident that the concepts of suicide intervention, in most cases, had been retained and applied several years after the training, especially how to "ask directly about suicide." Application of learning is a complex process. It appears that certain elements of the four factors in Cervero's (1985) framework influence application. Participants reported a desire and need to learn suicide intervention skills, thus, motivation can influence application. The title ASK ASSESS ACT appears to have a mnemonic effect as some participants used it as a suicide risk assessment model. It also appears that the program relevance and realism influence application: all participants reported the program was relevant to their work and that the program was realistic. Certain characteristics of the learner seem to influence application, especially perceived level of confidence, readiness to learn, belief that suicide can be prevented, and a sense of responsibility to prevent suicide. Administrative support, opportunity to apply learning, and changes in the school after the CPE program also seem to facilitate application of learning. The importance of this CPE program cannot be underestimated. Suicide intervention is not intuitive nor are these specialized skills modelled in society. The implications of these findings for future program planning, policy, and practice are discussed.

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