WITS is a skills promotion program that uses free-standing lessons and academic integration to support social and emotional learning and prevent peer victimization. The program includes two separate sets of curricula. WITS Primary is designed for students in kindergarten through third grade, while WITS LEADerS is designed for students in grades four through six.
WITS primary centers around using the WITS language school wide and includes lesson plans based on popular children’s books, which can integrate easily into a variety of subject areas including Language Arts and Social Studies. Many of the books include characters dealing with peer conflict resolution, building healthy relationships, or social emotional learning. For optimal effectiveness, educators are encouraged to use WITS lesson plans with their students at least once a month.
The WITS LEADerS program uses separate children’s books and lesson plans for grades four to six. These lessons teach prosocial leadership skills and includes the following framework for handling conflict: Look and Listen, Explore Points of View, Act, ask “Did it Work?” and Seek help when needed. The goal is to empower upper elementary students to help peers and younger children manage conflict on the playground and in the neighborhood.
A unique feature of the WITS program is the active recruitment of community leaders to participate in the program. For example, community members lead a schoolwide “swearing- in” or “welcoming” ceremony where all students pledge to use their WITS (walk away, ignore, talk it out, seek help) to solve peer conflicts. Another unique feature is the Aboriginal adaptation of the program, based on focus groups WITS conducted with the local aboriginal community. WITS is designated a complementary program because materials are presented in grade bands versus differentiated by grade. WITS is translated into French and Portuguese.
Training and Implementation Support Summary
The recommended model of professional development for the WITS Program is half-day in-person training offered by the program developers and their staff. Additionally, the WITS Program offers a 90-minute online training course for free through their website. The preferred, in-person training is delivered onsite at the school or district. The training starts with a screening and discussion of a short film about the WITS program’s focus on community engagement. Then the WITS trainer guides the trainees through the online training modules and stimulates conversation regarding how systemic implementation of WITS might look at their school or district. After the training, WITS developers contact schools and districts at the end of the school year to check-in on implementation progress.
WITS also offers a 45-minute online training course for community members who plan on volunteering at a school or district that has implemented the program. WITS supports indigenous communities with grant-funded, research-informed resources for adapting the program to serve these communities best.
In addition to on-site and online training options, WITS offers fidelity of implementation measurement tools. There are separate tools for teachers, parents, principals, and students. These tools emphasize tracking if relevant stakeholders are implementing the minimum required activities for purposeful and impactful use of the curriculum.
Evidence of Effectiveness
Results from a quasi-experimental evaluation published in 2011 supported the effectiveness of the WITS Program for elementary school students. In sum, the evaluations included 830 students who were in 1st – 3rd grades from western Canada. Report indicated that the majority (76%) of children lived in two-parent households. The evaluation found that students who participated in the program exhibited a significant reduction in physical and relational peer victimization behaviors compared to students in the control group. Significant outcomes were reported at post-test approximately 10 months after baseline and at follow-up approximately 5 months after post-test (while controlling for outcome pretest).