Evaluating disaster education programs for children : a thesis presented for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Emergency Management at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

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This research aimed to generate new theories on how to evaluate the outcomes and societal impacts of disaster education programs for children. In the last decade, disaster education programs for children have been promoted as an innovative approach to disaster risk reduction, based on several theories about the benefits of these programs. Due to limited research on these programs, widely held assumptions about the relationships between program outcomes and societal improvements in disaster risk reduction remain unchallenged. The thesis uses case studies of evaluations to explore ways to improve the evaluation of disaster education programs for children. To build on previous research, this study began with a methodological review of program evaluations in order to characterize the tradition of evaluation methods. Based on the finding that few evaluations examined program theories, program theory models were developed for two case study evaluations of disaster education programs for children. The first case used quasi-experimental methodology to underpin an impact evaluation of ShakeOut, an earthquake and tsunami drill in two Washington State school districts. The program logic suggested that drills provided children with adequate understanding of protective actions to prevent injuries and deaths during a disaster. The second case used process evaluation to explore the implementation of What’s the Plan, Stan?, a free, voluntary disaster teaching resource distributed to New Zealand primary schools. The process logic suggested that increased promotion of the resource would increase its uptake and use. The case studies revealed that some program theories common to many disaster education programs for children are faulty. The findings of the ShakeOut evaluation suggest school drills, as they are currently practiced, do not teach all children adaptive response skills. The What’s the Plan, Stan? evaluation identified several intervening and deterrent factors influencing the resource’s uptake and use, suggesting increased national promotion of the resource is unlikely to increase its use. In both case studies, the application of theory-based evaluation methods helped to articulate unknown influencing factors and develop meaningful and feasible outcome indicators for both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Ongoing research is needed to refine outcome indicators of programs’ societal impacts.
Emergency drills, Emergency management, Evaluation, Survival, Study and teaching (Elementary), New Zealand, Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES::Social sciences