Thoughts from ASHA

I got in from ASHA about an hour ago! Wish I could have stayed for the final day . . . what a great conference filled with so many people committed to supporting the health and wellness of students. Conferences are such an amazing opportunity to learn from each other, network and to get reinvigorated about the work we are doing.

Holly and I had the opportunity to facilitate a pre-conference workshop, “All About Those Skills”, on Thursday and to do a brief presentation about skill development today! We know our post is two days late (sorry) but we thought it would be great to share some of the ideas (and hopefully excitement) about SKILLS.

During the two days that we were at the conference, Holly and I kept commenting on how excited and (we admit) pleasantly surprised about the buzz around skills-based health education. There are SO MANY people who are getting onboard and who are enthusiastic and committed to enhancing their current skills-based practice or to make the shift. At our pre-conference workshop we had health educators, but we also had people from community based health programs, from Departments of Education and some school nurses and school staff – it was an amazing group that represented many of the stakeholders involved in educating and support our youth.

There were many awesome ideas discussed and shared, but here are some highlights:

  • At the end of the day, health education aims to help students ACT in order to support or enhance their health. Think of the verbs: avoid, engage, increase, decrease, enhance, maintain, access . . . these are just some of actions we want our students to be able to take. No matter how you look at it, health education is about ACTION – what students can DO!
  • Determining functional information can be difficult but we found that even when looking at different topic areas (avoiding alcohol and e-cigarettes, decreasing stress and increasing physical activity) there were themes that emerged in all of these areas: consequences, effects (short- and long-term, positive and negative), relevance, barriers and resources. Maybe we are on to something . . .
  • There are many data sources that we can use to help inform our decisions about our curriculum. The pictures included here show the groups hard at work and their brainstorm about data sources.
  • Participatory methods requires balancing student engagement with off-task behavior as well as finding methods to support active participation (i.e. how to avoid the crickets we often hear when we try large group discussions). This is not easy! Fostering a positive learning environment is critical for success in a skills-based approach. We included a picture below of some of the ideas the group came up with to support a positive learning environment and participatory teaching/learning.
  • We hope that the “powers that be” will get on board and move toward proficiency based assessment and evaluation for students (yes – as we have been doing in health education). We discussed the challenges of assessment especially in systems that haven’t embraced standards- or proficiency-based assessments.
  • People are ready to take action and make positive changes – whether it was bringing information back to help shape new frameworks or enhancing practice in their classrooms – Holly and I were inspired by the many ways people are planning to affect change.

Attending ASHA reminded me that there are so many of us out there “fighting the fight” and there is no end to what we can accomplish – especially when we support and encourage each other.

THANK YOU for all that you do! And thank you to ASHA for a great conference – looking forward to next year.

Along with the pictures, we are including PDF versions of our PPT presentations. We hope you find these resources useful.

~Sarah and Holly

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