Poor grades and decreased performance on measures of academic achievement predict youth drug use and other problem behaviors. However, programs that foster academic competence can be an important component in comprehensive and effective drug use prevention efforts. This project will produce an interactive multimedia (IMM) program (Web-based and CD-ROM) designed to teach at-risk sixth through ninth grade students evidence-based learning strategies that promote academic success in these critical years. In addition, an interactive learning tool will be produced that will help students integrate these strategies into their daily routine of homework, studying, and test preparation. The learning strategies will be taught in four interactive tutorial modules. The modules will convey the concepts of: (a) a plasticity-oriented mindset toward learning, (b) retrieval practice as a learning technique, (c) deep processing to promote encoding in long term memory, and (d) temporally distributed study time to enhance retention of knowledge. A DVD program on these four tutorials will also be produced to ensure availability of this content to those students who do not have computer/Internet access. The program further provides a learning tool to enter and study personalized material that integrates these principles. In addition, the comprehensive program will include supplementary program components for teachers and parents. The goal of this project is to enable low performing students to improve academically by adopting efficient study strategies that promote learning and retention of course material. This, in turn, will serve as a protective factor with respect to drug use and other problem behavior. For Phase I of the project, the instructional units of two tutorial modules (retrieval practice and deep processing) and a learning tool with the respective features will be designed, built, and evaluated in a randomized trial with a sample of 80 students in grades 8 and 9, who are at-risk for academic failure.
This project has the potential to support at risk youth by teaching evidence-based learning strategies that promote academic success which is known to be an important protective factor for substance abuse and other problem behavior.