Personal responsibility : the creation, implementation and evaluation of a school-based program

Mergler, Amanda G. (2007) Personal responsibility : the creation, implementation and evaluation of a school-based program. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


We live in a society where the individual is prioritised over the collective. Newspaper articles abound lamenting adolescents' lack of personal responsibility and social commentators are increasingly highlighting the need to recapture and interweave an agenda of personal responsibility into the social fabric. Personal responsibility has been defined as being accountable to oneself and the needs and well-being of others (Ruyter, 2002). Doherty (1998) has argued that there is an increasing trend in society to refuse accountability and to blame others for one's situation. Despite these assertions, there is little empirical research that has attempted to define and examine personal responsibility. This dissertation is about the role of personal responsibility in the lives of adolescents. The research program was divided into three studies utilising quantitative and qualitative research methods to answer four research questions. Study 1: How do adolescents and teachers understand 'personal responsibility?' Study 2: Can a quantitative questionnaire define and measure an adolescent's level of personal responsibility? Study 3: Can a program aimed at enhancing the personal responsibility level of adolescents be taught in a high school and demonstrate measurable effect? Is there a relationship between personal responsibility, emotional intelligence and self-esteem? Study 1 used focus groups to address research question 1. Four focus groups with a total of 20 Year 11 students, and two focus groups with a total of 10 teachers were conducted. The results revealed that key components of the personal responsibility variable were choices and consequences, behavioural control, thoughts and feelings, and consideration for others. This finding complemented the definition derived from the literature review. Additionally, the focus group data served to inform Study 2, the development of the Personal Responsibility Questionnaire and Study 3, the creation, implementation and evaluation of the Personal Responsibility Program. Study 2 involved examining appropriate literature, focus group data from Study 1, and related measures to create a quantitative measure assessing personal responsibility in adolescents. A 100-item measure was created and tested on more than 500 adolescents. Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) and Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) were used to determine a final 30-item Personal Responsibility Questionnaire with two factors (factor 1 - 'self control of emotion and thoughts' and factor 2 - 'self control of behaviour'). This measure was to serve in the evaluation of the Personal Responsibility Program. A fundamental aim of the study was to determine whether a Personal Responsibility Program could be implemented in a high school and demonstrate measurable effect. Study 3 involved the creation of the Personal Responsibility Program through examining other values-based education programs and the focus group data obtained in Study 1. Once created, the five-lesson program was implemented twice in one high school, with approximately half of the Year 11 students undertaking the first implementation (the experimental group), and the remaining Year 11 students completing the program during its second implementation (the control group). To assess whether the program had generated any changes in the adolescents' levels of personal responsibility, the Personal Responsibility Questionnaire developed in Study 2 was administered pre- and post-intervention to both the experimental and control groups. Additionally, the well-established constructs of emotional intelligence and self-esteem were assessed using the Emotional Intelligence Scale (Schutte et al., 1998) and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965) to determine potential relationships between these variables and to provide additional construct validity for the measure. The results from Study 3 revealed no significant findings on any variable at any time (pre- or post-intervention). Despite this finding, certain data trends were apparent between males and females across the experimental and control groups. Overall, females demonstrated slightly higher mean scores on emotional intelligence and personal responsibility than males, while males had slightly higher mean scores than females on self-esteem. In order to gather additional feedback about the program and the students' learning, qualitative data were gathered from the students and the teachers by completion of a feedback sheet at the end of each lesson and a teacher focus group interview after the first implementation of the Personal Responsibility Program. In relation to student learning, the qualitative data offered by the students showed that learning in the key areas targeted had occurred, with students reflecting on their growth and changing understandings about personal responsibility. With reference to the program, the students commented that the program was fun, interesting, relevant, valuable, and enabled them to learn new things about themselves. Feedback from the teachers highlighted that the students appeared to engage with the program, and that teaching it was rewarding. This research program has contributed to the literature by providing a theoretically and empirically derived definition of personal responsibility. The focus group process highlighted that personal responsibility could be understood and considered by adolescents due to the cognitive and moral sophistication that develops early in this developmental timeframe. Study 2 generated a Personal Responsibility Questionnaire that can be used to assess personal responsibility in adolescents, and Study 3 contributed a Personal Responsibility Program which has been developed from conceptual and empirical literature. The program was designed to be "teacher friendly' and allowed the schools to gather qualitative and quantitative feedback on the success of the program's implementation. As school administrators and teachers often lament the lack of personal responsibility in their students (Lickona, 1992), this program could be used to address this concern and put the issue of personal responsibility firmly on the agenda in high schools.

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ID Code: 16382
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Patton, Wendy, Spencer, Fiona, & Spooner-Lane, Rebecca
Keywords: personal responsibility, social responsibility, values, morals, character, cognition, constructivism, education, pedagogy, intervention, schools, adolescents, students, teachers, qualitative research, questionnaire development, mixed-method design, emotional intelligence, self-esteem
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Amanda Gay Mergler
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 04:02
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:47

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