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close this bookPrevention of Drug Abuse through Education and Information: An Interdiscplinary Responsibility Within the Context of Human Development (EC - UNESCO, 1994, 26 p.)
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View the documentAffective education

Affective education

All teaching and learning processes are situated somewhere between the two poles of the affective and the cognitive. Knowing that the two aspects are difficult to separate, however, the teacher might be more oriented towards one or the other pole. The affective deals with feelings or emotional aspects of life and learning. How children perceive what they would like to learn and how they experience it during the learning process falls within the province of the affective. Cognition, on the other hand, concerns mental activity during the acquisition of skills or knowledge in respect of a given phenomenon. Affective education has long been a concern in pedagogy. For Rousseau, Pestalozzi and Frl, affective development was the major objective of education. However, even if the affective aspect of education is mentioned in most school philosophy, there can be little argument that education in school falls essentially within the framework of Cartesian logic. The task of the school is, first and foremost, to inculcate in children the abilities required by other sectors of society (economy, administration, etc.), and the school thus places more emphasis on education to generate autonomous individuals. Schoolchildren are evaluated primarily on their performance; the way in which performance is endorsed determines, on the one hand, the social esteem in which the children will be held in school and, on the other, acts as a passport into the working world (cf Brusten and Hurrelmann)

Affective education aims at exerting a positive influence on emotional development and, in this way, to promote one of the main dimensions of human development: affectivity. This means promoting self-esteem, personal capacities and the ability to relate to others. Transmission of cognitive content also takes place in an affective context. The feelings which animate someone necessarily influence his or her faculty of reasoning; even so, this is not generally consciously taken into account in the teaching-learning process. Affective education is based on the hypothesis that aptitudes falling within the affective domain are likely to be taught and learned through conscious or unconscious means.

Recent models of affective education are mainly based on the work of Piaget, Kohlbert and Erikson, but also on that of the representatives of the " humanistic psychology " (Rogers, Maslow, Perls). The Anglo-Saxon community, in particular, has developed an operational model of affective education, with an approach based on the notion that an awareness of values and personal needs, and of their role in the decision-making process fosters responsible behaviour. Particular attention is paid to behaviour linked to the consumption of psychoactive substances (clarification of values).

Few evaluations have been made of the effectiveness of the clarification of values method and transmission of other elements in decision-making. Gerbasi observes that schoolchildren having followed such a programme take less drugs than their peers in a control group. Goodstadt and Sheppard at a later date compare the effects of three programmes, the first acting essentially at the cognitive level and the two others at the affective level. A thorough evaluation of these three programmes has shown that only the cognitive programme improved the knowledge of the test group in relation to those in the control group. This was true not only for the verification test taken immediately after the programme, but also for the one given six months later. None of these programmes had any verifiable effect on attitudes towards alcohol and six months later, it turned out that the group participating in the clarification of values programme consumed more alcohol than the two other experimental groups. It is also interesting to observe that the pupils in the test group preferred the cognitive information programme comprising very few affective elements which had been proposed to the two other groups. This can probably be explained by the fact that both the form and the content of the traditional programme corresponded best to the expectations of pupils. For this reason, it is important to phase in new educational methods, in order to progressively modify pupils' expectations and give them time to adapt to new pedagogical methods.

The above reservations about the validity of evaluations relate to both cognitive and affective education programmes. Some studies have evaluated such programmes, but the empirical data they contain on the effectiveness of affective education in respect of alcohol and drugs is not very optimistic. A basic study made by Goodstadt reviews many methodological problems posed in evaluating such programmes, concluding that a strictly scientific evaluation allows no room for an assessment of the effectiveness of this type of prevention of drug abuse. In their general study, Kinder et al, draw the conclusion that, if the present or future abuse of drugs is applied as an evaluation criterion, programmes for the prevention of drug abuse, whatever they are, all appear to be wholly ineffective. Similarly, Berberian et al and Blum are pessimistic about the possibility of effectively preventing drug addiction through education. This does not seem to have been contradicted since and similar conclusions are also to be found in subsequent studies by Hansen, M Grant and Goodstadt.

Notwithstanding, it is worthwhile mentioning two studies made by Schaps and his colleagues whose conclusions differ somewhat. In the first study, the authors analyze 35 drug prevention programmes and measure their effects on drug taking. Of these programmes, 14 transmit information about drugs; the others form part of the " new generation ", that is, they stress the affective approach, peer education, or a multidimensional approach. The evaluation shows quite clearly that the new methods of prevention produce more positive effects - and above all less negative effects - than traditional programmes. Which does not, however, prevent the authors from issuing a warning against drawing hasty conclusions. They indicate, in effect, that the methods of evaluation applied in several of these studies do not correspond to rigorous scientific criteria. The authors, nonetheless, consider that results indicate that some of these new methods of prevention of drug abuse might have desired, positive effects which traditional methods have never achieved. They add that this potential should be further tested in depth.

In a second study, Schaps et al, review 127 evaluations of drug abuse prevention programmes, 7 of which present negative results. Of these 127 evaluations, few are without important methodological gaps, and only 8 are considered exemplary by Schaps and his colleagues, both from the standpoint of the method of evaluation, and from that of the intensity of the programme. These 8 studies globally bring to light rather positive results, i.e. a satisfactory correlation between desired effects and actual effects.

The final objective of preventive education is to ensure that selective choices are made for each particular circumstance. Measures which will be adapted to each context have to be chosen from a range of levels of intervention, a variety of theoretical approaches and between different techniques. In so doing, education for the prevention of drug abuse is an effective contribution to human development by including more qualitative variables in its construction