J. DRUG EDUCATION, Vol. 40(4) 331-359, 2010
RESILIENCE AND RISK COMPETENCE IN SCHOOLS:
THEORY/KNOWLEDGE AND INTERNATIONAL
APPLICATION IN PROJECT REBOUND
JOEL H. BROWN
Center for Educational Research and Development (CERD)
and San Diego State University, California
University of Oklahoma
Center for Educational Research and Development (CERD), California
Despite a 50-year interdisciplinary and longitudinal research legacy—
showing that nearly 80% of young people considered most “at risk” thrive
by midlife—only recently have practitioners/researchers engaged in the
explicit, prospective facilitation of “resilience” in educational settings. Here,
theory/knowledge distinguishing and extending risk and resilience from its
risk-based social history to resilience’s normative occurrence leads to the
first known international and prospective application of resilience in school-
based drug education, Project REBOUND [resilience-bound]. It will be
implemented as a controlled pilot study, first in Germany, then expand to
the United States, as well as other parts of Europe. With evaluation occurring
throughout, the goal is to enhance the quality of drug decisions among
young people, as well as support their overall competence-based learning and
development throughout school. With limitations and underlying psycho-
logical mechanisms discussed, it is concluded Project REBOUND offers
promising potential for supporting positive drug decisions as well as youth
learning and development.
Ó2010, Baywood Publishing Co., Inc.
Numerous longitudinal studies reveal that approximately 80% of people with
multiple risk factors during youth thrive by midlife (Benard, 2004; Garmezy,
1991; Masten, 2001; Rutter, 1987; Werner, 1986, 1989; Werner & Smith, 2001).
Despite this 50-year research legacy, only recently have practitioners and
researchers engaged in the prospective facilitation of resilience in educational
settings (Brown, D’Emidio-Caston, & Benard, 2001). Such a shift from fighting
pathologies in schools to a solution- and goal-oriented approach has produced
substantial results in the field of psychotherapy (Bergin & Garfield, 1994;
Franzkowiak, 1987, 2002). Therefore, resilience’s prospective application in
Education signifies the potential for substantial school improvement, from overall
school climate to individual learning and development.
The main purpose of this article then, is to describe related theory/knowledge
and perhaps the first school-based application of resilience in drug education
delivered with international cooperation. As such, its main contribution is in
establishing the promise of an evidence-based and prospective facilitation of
resilience in schools, potentially applicable not only in drug education, but also
across a wide youth and educational spectrum.
More specifically, drawn from more than 15 years research and practice experi-
ence, following an overview, the authors address four objectives in this order.
First, we describe foundational theory/knowledge distinguishing and extending
risk and resilience from its risk-based context to resilience’s normative occur-
rence. It is primarily drawn from a comprehensive social-historical “focused-
synthesis” critical analysis of risk and resilience in education and related systems.
Second, researchers describe two foundations of our project. One is referred
to as “resilience education” and the second is called “risk competence.” These,
as well as underlying principles guiding application, are described.
Third, based on supporting theory/knowledge research Project REBOUND
[resilience-bound] is described. Resulting from American and German cooper-
ation, the project is being initiated as a 2-year controlled pilot study, first
in Germany. Then, based on findings, the Project will expand to large scale 6-
to 10-year implementation and evaluation in the United States, as well as other
parts of Europe.
The article closes with a description of the theorized psychological mech-
anisms underlying the project, limitations, as well as its potential educational
Overview of Project REBOUND
Project REBOUND has been chosen by the Mentor Foundation, Germany and
the European Union (EU)—in collaboration with Kiron Institute and Heidelberg
332 / BROWN, JEAN-MARIE AND BECK
University, each in Germany, and the Center for Educational Research and
Development (CERD) in the United States—for model development, implemen-
tation and evaluation, initiated in 2009-2010.
It is a school-based program whereby our team will apply a resilience frame-
work to learning and development across the whole school, while targeting
drug education. This area is selected because from a youth perspective, drug
education is at a crossroads of serious public health issues as well as perceptions
of adult credibility, thus affecting the school’s capacity to effectively educate
(Brown & Brown, 2005).
As noted above, the pilot project will be developed, implemented and evaluated
over a 2-year period in three German schools, with approximately 725 high school
students and 25-30 educators, counselors, and administrators from five to seven
schools. With results warranting, it will then expand to a 6- to 10-year project.
At its most basic conceptualization, Project REBOUND involves experien-
tially driven techniques for skills acquisition in targeting resilience to support
learning and development. This is referred to as “Resilience Education.” It will
be further described later.
The resilience education skills acquisition is complemented by subject-specific
drug education elements from what is referred to as “Risk Competence.” This
will include: (a) scenario-based drug related informational provision including
video clips in support of structured and cooperative youth discourse, and; (b) an
interactive website for trainer coaching support and student self-assessment. This
too, will be further described later.
All instruction will be developmentally and culturally appropriate. This
includes addressing such issues explicitly as they are: (a) interwoven into cur-
riculum through creation of salient teachable moments; and (b) development
and culture being addressed as they emerge in a context of established caring,
connected relationships resulting from curriculum delivery (Cline, Necochea,
& Brown, 1999).
Resilience in Education: A Comprehensive
“Focused Synthesis” Analysis
In this section we share key findings informing the development of REBOUND.
It is important to note that the purpose of sharing these is not to provide a critical
and comprehensive examination of risk and resilience in conjunction with drug
education. Rather, it is to illustrate through evidence, social and historical roots
and distinctions of Resilience Education and Risk Competence leading to this
unique approach to drug education.
In 2004(a), Brown published findings from a comprehensive socio-historical
“focused synthesis” analysis of risk and resilience in Education. This analysis
resulted in perhaps the first comprehensive study of the “social world” of
RESILIENCE AND RISK COMPETENCE / 333
this context in Education and related systems, such as human development
(Schutz, Walsh, & Lehnert, 1967).
As additional details can be found in that article, to situate the findings
presented below, its method is summarized. In focused synthesis analyses,
researchers bound their study to literature and “integration of information . . .
relevant to particular research questions” (Majchrzak, 1984, p. 103). Using snow-
ball sampling (Goodman, 1961) in comprehensive database searches including
input from key informants (Gilchrist, 1992), the analysis addresses three issues:
1. how risk and resilience is socially constructed; and
2. applied in policy and program; as well as
3. their youth impact(s) (Berger & Luckmann, 1967; Nakamura & Smallwood,
Data was analyzed using the constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss,
1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Through rigorous categorizations of informa-
tion contained in the documents, combined with the critical outcome analyses,
an in-depth understanding emerged. With newer evidence cited as warranted,
major findings shaping the development of Project REBOUND are summarized
below. As noted in the publication, presented “evidence is considered valid
only after contradictory information, spurious relations, and rival explanations
are considered and subsequently ruled out” (Brown, 2004a, p. 12).
Finding One: The Paradox of Risk-Based Education:
A specific focus on risk factors evolves into a
generalized youth-deficit educational structure
In the early 1980s it was found that the landmark American report “A Nation
At-Risk” codified the language of risk in Education (National Commission on
Excellence in Education, 1983). No less than 10 factors were identified as leading
to a variety of youth failures. In following the application of policies addressing
these and other risk factors, a paradox emerged; an initial specific focus of risk
factors led to a general youth-deficit perspective in schools, one permeating its
social structure today. The term “at-risk” youth has come to serve as more than a
symbol of the social world of Education. It was found to have implications for
policy, programs, and the lives of young people.
How did this happen? Historically for example, to obtain categorical
funding California school districts were required to situate their perceived
“at-risk” students into more than 30 risk factor categories, such as “alienation
and rebelliousness” (California State Department of Education, 1992, p. 3). Such
individual factors were associated with (Hawkins, Lishner, & Catalano, 1985;
Hawkins, Lishner, Jenson, & Catalano, 1987), but not necessarily predictive of
negative long-term outcomes for young people (Newcomb & Bentler, 1988;
Shedler & Block, 1990). Nevertheless, such funding estimated to be in the billions,
334 / BROWN, JEAN-MARIE AND BECK
had the effect of transporting the construct of risk into schools ( Placier, 1993;
Richardson, 1990; U.S. General Accounting Office, 1997)
In several ways, programs and youth outcomes flowing from these funding
procedures contributed to the development of this paradox. First, in categorical
programs centered on this “at-risk” youth deficit approach, such as drug educa-
tion, it was found that many or most programs—teaching variations of learning
how to say no to drugs—were and remain ineffective (Gandhi, Murphy-Graham,
Petrosino, Chrismer, & Weiss, 2007; Gorman, 1994, 1996). Second, modern
versions of such programs have been shown to backfire, actually increasing
the problems they intended to address (Clayton, Catarello, & Johnstone, 1996;
Gandhi et al., 2007; Rosenbaum & Hanson, 1998; Sloboda, Stephens, Stephens,
Grey, Teasdale, Hawthorne, et al., 2009). Third, under such programs, by 5th
grade young people knew that they had been labeled as being “at-risk” by
teachers and school administrators (Brown & D’Emidio-Caston, 1995).
Zero tolerance policies backing up such programs have also raised significant
concerns. These policies remove young people from school for first time offenses
(Heaviside, Rowland, Williams, & Farris, 1998, 2000). At minimum, they have
been found to disproportionately remove minority youth from school (Harvard
Civil Rights Project and the Advancement Project [HCRP and AP], 2000).
It is in combination with one another though, that a final factor contributing
to the paradox of risk-based education emerges. The effects of such categorical
programs and policies spilled over to the school on the whole (Brown, 1997;
Brown & Brown, 2005; Brown, D’Emidio-Caston, & Pollard, 1997). Here’s
how: In a large scale evaluation of such programs, researchers noted a particular
form of cognitive dissonance among young people. The dissonance was found
to occur between the typical messages of “no-use” programs they received in
school verses the varied perspectives of user contexts, types, and levels of use
young people witness and understand outside of school.
Such dissonance was reinforced by witnessing execution of zero tolerance
policies providing for near universal school removal, rather than support. Students
apparently resolved their dissonance by coming to believe that people in the
school on the whole were not credible and did not care about them, thus
compromising the school’s ability to effectively educate.
As substantial, independent research linking elements of policy to program
to youth impact emerged during this critical period (Blue-Swadener & Lubeck,
1995; Fine, 1993; HCRP and AP, 2000; Placier, 1993; Richardson, 1990), the
paradoxical nature of risk-driven education was captured by Baizerman and
In many schools, this process results in the majority of students being
identified as “at-risk.” . . . The whole field of education used the concept
of risk as part of an ideology, thereby joining science, mathematics, and
morality. The major use of this ideology is to construct a socio-educational
population of at-risk students and suggests that they are both the problem and
RESILIENCE AND RISK COMPETENCE / 335
its cause. The school is absolved and can be expected only to “do the best with
limited resources.” Whole schools and even districts are not thought of as
being at-risk; the problem and its sources are the students. (pp. 8-9)
Finding Two: Resilience in Education:
Following a trajectory similar to risk-based education
Two additional findings emerged from the focused synthesis analysis. Each is
instructive for the initial development and application of Project REBOUND.
In its early application in education and related systems, resilience follows a
trajectory similar to the development of risk. For example, the goal as Luthar
(1993) noted is to focus on “. . . specificity in defining the construct [of resilience]”
(p. 442). Such a predominant orientation, (a) ignores the distinct historical
trajectory as well as the longitudinal evidence of resilience. In so doing, this
(b) contributes to its ongoing misinterpretation and misapplication as an indi-
vidual diagnostic tool.
Each issue is briefly considered: First, it was found years earlier (Brown
& Horowitz, 1993) that the protective factors reliably predicting resilience
have a unique social history apart from risk factors: “Protective factors are not
merely the opposite of risk factors. Rather, they represent a separate group
of factors, defined independently of risk factors” (Brown & Horowitz, 1993,
pp. 546-547). This was supported by additional research (Benard, 1994), and
the focused synthesis analysis described above.
Equally important—similar to the identification of youth-at-risk—in major
institutions, others are now doing the work of resilience as diagnosis. For example,
this leading organization continues to offer schools and other agencies their
“inventorying” services of more than 30 “protective factors” as a means of diag-
nosing resilience (Benson, 1998; The Search Institute, 2002, 2009).
Under close scrutiny, one finds that the current inventorying of resilience
bears an uncanny resemblance to the earlier risk factor applications. In the
focused synthesis study, a side by side comparison of risk factors with resilience’s
assets or protective factors, found nearly an equal number of each, with a high
correspondence among these, as mere opposites. For example, the lack of parent
involvement is cited as a risk factor, while “parent involvement in schooling”
is seen as a protective factor (Benson, 1998, p. 251; California State Department of
Education, 1992; Opara, 2003). What happens when the application of the assets
inventory reveals a low number of said assets? The diagnosis is still youth or school
at risk, thus effectively providing the same result as inventorying risk factors—
inventorying specific yet often widely applicable factors, resulting in the infusion or
maintenance of a general deficit youth view, and its concomitant negative effects.
In summarizing the first two major findings of the focused synthesis analysis,
often through drug education, the risk factor model has codified a general deficit
view of young people as being at-risk, also lacking as a predictive diagnostic
336 / BROWN, JEAN-MARIE AND BECK
tool. Its programmatic application not only fails and backfires in its primary
educational objectives; it also spills over into the conditions of school achieve-
ment. Finally, the focused synthesis analysis reveals that development of risk-
driven research and application negatively affected the early trajectory of the
same concerning resilience in Education.
Finding Three: Resilience: A normative process
In addition to the paradoxical nature of risk, and the similar early trajectory of
resilience in Education, the focused synthesis analysis supports the conclusion
that resilience is a “normative” process. It is not in need of inventorying assets
as described above. This orientation is described by Masten (2001):
Resilience does not come from rare and special qualities, but from the
everyday magic of ordinary, normative human resources in the minds,
brains, and bodies of children, in their families and relationships, and in
their communities. (p. 238)
She supports the assertion that resilience represents a natural part of being
human. It is not simply part of the “minds, brains, and bodies of children,” but also
includes positive adaptability along each dimension of a social system. This
incorporates the interpersonal domain “families and relationships” as well as the
social-contextual domain, “in their communities.”
What then does resilience mean? In their seminal study spanning nearly 50
years, following people from pre-birth to more than 45 years old, Werner and
Smith (2001) focused on the popular, if not traditional, notion of resilience:
. . . most of the high-risk youths who did develop serious coping problems
in adolescences had staged a recovery by the time they reach midlife. . . . They
were in stable marriages and jobs, were satisfied with their relationships
with their spouses and teenage children, and were responsible citizens in their
community. (p. 167)
Here, resilience is seen as recovery, bouncing back despite adversity.
Across disciplines and over the long term, it was repeatedly found that
approximately 80% of those in the most troubled circumstances not only go
on to survive, but to recover and thrive by midlife (Anthony & Cohler, 1984;
Garmezy, 1991; Hinkle, 1974; Rutter, 1987; Werner, 1986, 1987). Across
these studies, rather than inventorying 30 or more assets or protective factors,
three factors reliably predict such resilience: caring connected relationships,
opportunities for participation and contribution, and high self-expectations
RESILIENCE AND RISK COMPETENCE / 337
Implications of the Focused Synthesis
Study for Resilience in Education
When comprehensively analyzing theory/knowledge one can distinguish
between risk, resilience’s traditional context of risk in education, and the possi-
bility to extend its promise into prospective application. As such, the following
sections reveal exciting opportunities to move beyond traditional definitions and
corresponding applications of risk as deficit and resilience as recovery. In general,
expanding beyond these traditional constructs includes intentional and targeted
acknowledgment of risks as a propellant for self-discovery and the mobilization
of resilience. That is, moving beyond merely surviving to marshal strengths for
learning and development.
To reconsider the conceptualization of risk as well as a transformational defini-
tion of resilience, several implications drawn from the above research are noted.
First, the capacity to acknowledge and appreciate risks in the physical, social,
and cultural environment(s)—and act intentionally based on self-awareness of
competence—can represent a powerful learning/development opportunity. This
is discussed later as “Risk Competence.”
Second, evolving theory/knowledge of resilience suggests the possibility of
a transition from primarily a diagnostic tool, to practical and intentional appli-
cation as a learning and development adjunct. If resilience is “normative,” then
it can be explored not only traditionally as it naturally occurs, but as intentional
practice. Such a consideration offers a testable assertion: It is possible to inten-
tionally target and support resilient learning and development.
Limited and elemental forays into resilience in schools have produced
some results. For example, with rudimentary aspects of a global focus on creating
a thriving school climate, young people had lower levels of drug use. They
also revealed a fuller sense of school as community, higher achievement,
levels of internal locus of control, concern for others, and conflict resolution
skills (Battistich & Hom, 1997; Battistich, Schaps, Watson, Solomon, & Lewis,
2000). This held during follow-up, even after the students were no longer in
As distinct from the global school climate change-approach that Battistich and
colleagues (2000) research focused on, others such as Richardson and Gray
(1999) focused on a specific approach to resilience. That is, with long-term results
not located, they developed a curriculum emphasizing “strengthening protective
factors and developing a healthy integration of mind, body, and spirit” (p. 31).
A lesson here is that the former focuses primarily on a global approach, while
the latter focuses on a specific one, targeting the three main protective factors
of individuals. As such, and similar to that implied by Masten (2001), there is
an opportunity to balance a global focus on resilience, while also working with
its targeted protective factors. In other words, developing a social system in
support of resilience.
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A third and final implication drawn from the focused synthesis analysis
involves an overall perspective that while seemingly commonplace, is neverthe-
less important in helping to convey resilience’s universality. Based on its norma-
tive occurrence, it is possible to locate aspects of resilience with nearly each and
every person. One of the authors, therefore, asked not “which people are resilient,
but rather what resilience exists within each person?” (Brown, 2004b, p. 84).
Conceptual Development of a Resilience-Based
Model: Balancing a Global Focus with Targeting
Specific Protective Factors
More is said about the above idea of aligning theory/knowledge with a social
system of resilience. Considering the nature of its normative occurrence, resilience
may actually occur at multiple levels. For example, if one compares the three
main protective factors of resilience, their occurrence aligns with the general
dimensions of a social system as Masten (2001) implicitly suggests. This is seen
in Figure 1.
If the protective factors of resilience occur along each dimension of the
human system of experience, then theory/knowledge lending itself to a corre-
sponding approach to professional development and curricular delivery is essen-
tial. Whether one is a leader, educator, or student, in order to balance the global
resilience orientation while targeting its protective factors, requires mechanism(s)
for developing conscious and ongoing self-reflection. This is so that the protective
factors can be consciously mobilized and facilitated at the multiple levels of a
RESILIENCE AND RISK COMPETENCE / 339
Figure 1. Three systems-based predictors of resilience.
relationships High Self-Expectations
social system in which resilient facilitation is possible. Toward this result, two
foundational principles are described.
Double Loop Learning
In the book, Images of Organization, Morgan (1986) examined social psycho-
logical mechanism(s) of organizational quality. Specifically, when assessing these
he notes, “Double loop-learning depends on being able to take a “double look” at
the situation by questioning the relevance of operating norms” (p. 88). This is not
simply learning itself, but development, or in an ongoing way, learning to learn.
Here, Morgan finds that if operating norms are regularly examined, a distinct
and intentional learning context can be formed. Such a global learning context
includes not only content, such as how to solve a math or science problem.
Additionally, it includes ongoing study and development of “participants’
experiences, their relationship, and the rules and patterns of the relationship”
(Brown, 1996, p. 70).
It is asserted that such global “double look” (learning to learn) processes
allow for the creation of a resilient climate. By for example, learning to explicitly
and consciously question operating assumptions regularly (later specified as
“meta-processing” in Table 1, item #6), what better way to enable a focus on the
global aspects of resilience? That is, in a regular and ongoing way, questioning
how we are building a social context in support of providing opportunities for
youth participation and contribution.
The Affective Imperative
In addition to the double loop learning construct, a second principal is at hand.
It makes explicit the need for, and a conscious focus on, affect for learning
and development. While it had been believed in the 1960s and 1970s—for
example, in George Brown’s seminal works (Brown, 1972, 1975)—that affect
was integral in learning and development, only recently has its centrality to
these become understood as a necessity.
Now it is understood that learning and development not only includes the
cognitive and behavioral domains, but literally results from neural connections
made through the affective domain. So, to acquire the skills of learning to learn
as a general orientation, brain research reveals that an affective connection or
what is referred to as an “affective imperative,” is necessary (Bredekamp, 1986;
Caine & Caine, 1997; D’Arcangelo, 1998; Levine, 2003; Morowitz & Singer,
1995; Parasuraman, 1998; Sylwester, 1995; Vincent, 1990). This is seen as the
necessity for intentional location and targeting of positive affect in the service of
learning and development.
If the global perspective for resilience aligns well with a systems and learning
to learn approach, then the affective imperative aligns with specific protective
factors. In the case of resilience education, the affective imperative can be
340 / BROWN, JEAN-MARIE AND BECK
intentionally addressed during teachable moments around these factors. These
are seen as situations in which positive emotions are interpreted by the facilitator
as being available to identify and/or support a protective factor of resilience.
For example, it is theorized that the protective factor of caring, connected
relationships centrally situates the positive affect of caring among individuals
(Resnick, Bearman, Blum, Bauman, Harris, Jones, et al., 1997). Despite the fact
the connection occurs between people, the individually perceived sense of caring
can serve as the emotional glue to becoming learned and thus, supports long-
An explicit positive communicative statement by the facilitator during a
moment of emotional arousal may serve to solidify such a connection. The
statement may take the form of providing advocacy, emotional support, concept
solidification, or parroting back to an individual information so that they can
hear development of their own self-supporting capacities. Such work is not
unusual in therapy or school counseling. What is distinct is the intentional use
of affect in the facilitation of resilience targeting learning and development.
The key points here are that affect is necessary and the statement is inten-
tionally timed to the teachable moment. This is contextualized by a global process
intentionally creating and identifying such opportunities. By modeling the
creation of such opportunities in for example, professional development work-
shops, resilience can be supported. So, too, can a dynamic skill set suitable for
self-learning, development, and modeling resilience for educating young people.
Thus, we move beyond the traditional definition of resilience. It incorporates
the balance between the global and specific orientations, and an ongoing learning
to learn and affective orientation. In this more expansive view then, resilience
is seen as:
A global orientation toward each individual’s capacity for lifelong learning
and development that is facilitated individually or interactively by cogni-
tively, affectively, or behaviorally locating and/or supporting the protective
factors of person-to-person connectedness, opportunities for participation and
contribution, and high self expectations. (Brown, 2004b, p. 85)
Concept to Experiential Pedagogy:
In transitioning from concept to practice, two foundations forming Project
REBOUND, Resilience Education and Risk Competence, are described. With
respect to Resilience Education, initial professional development primarily
occurs with workshop participants serving as educators, counselors, and school
administrators. They experience the workshop, then interpret, adapt, and apply
the model when working with young people. More specifically:
In workshops, coaches model a process of supporting and building resilience:
In a non-didactic yet directed way, Resilience Education (Res-Ed) facilitators
RESILIENCE AND RISK COMPETENCE / 341
develop the “hows” of building a community of support, for identifying and
working with people’s strengths and interests, in order to promote learning
and development. This is achieved by strategically working with indi-
viduals, dyads, triads, small groups, and large groups. Such strategic inter-
and intra-personal processes make visible to the facilitator and model
opportunities for specific protective factor development and/or support.
(Brown, 2004a, p. 83)
Through a series of increasingly sophisticated communication exercises both
discussing and designed to first locate and work with one’s own resilience as a
springboard for youth work, participants learn how to support resilient learning
and development. For example, while focusing on their own resilience, educators
learn to intentionally reconfigure groupings between individual and interactive
experiences—to allow each participant to identify their competencies as part
of different interactive configurations (individual, small, and large group). It is
worthwhile here to reiterate that the professional development process is sup-
ported because it aligns with the theory/knowledge of resilience itself.
A comprehensive resilience educational professional development model was
published by Corwin Press (Brown et al., 2001). An overview of concrete specific
and exemplar processes in a 1.5 day training is reproduced in Table 1.
Equally important, given the universality of resilience as a normative occur-
rence, it can be applied in virtually any learning environment across any subject
area. In earlier workshops, for example, resilience itself is at the fore. It is the
subject-specific content. As resilience education becomes a learned skill set,
it becomes an engrained part of one’s life and work.
With encouraging early evaluation results, such as participant internalization
of the model as predictive of learning and development (Brown, 2004b), the
resilience education model is being applied in training hundreds of American
school personnel to shift their practices from a youth deficit or risk-based
approach to one of resilience, as has been conceived of herein.
Risk Competence and Drug Information
Now we shift from the overall process of Resilience Education, to salient
aspects of professional development focusing on drug decisions—Risk Com-
petence. As opposed to a focus on risk as a youth “fixing” approach, risk
competence supports a key aspect of resilience (Brewer, Weinstein, Cuite, &
Herrington, 2004; Franzkowiak, 1987, 2002; Jungaberle, 2006).
The goal of teaching risk competence is to enhance decision-making skills
through the development of both adequate personal risk information about drugs,
and the adequate perception of one’s competence in response to these risks
(Jungaberle, 2006; Renn, 2000). More specifically, it has been found that rather
than sophisticated variations on understanding that drugs are dangerous—as has
been shown to represent a traditional approach to drug education for more than
342 / BROWN, JEAN-MARIE AND BECK
100 years (Beck, 1998)—a more effective approach to learning and development
aligns risk competence with resilience. What evidently matters most is the indi-
vidual’s competencies or capacities to make a personal evaluation of risks, along
with an affective connection to honest information about substances themselves.
For example, in a current longitudinal study of a sample of 320 German young
people, when asked how dangerous they consider the use of alcohol, tobacco,
and cannabis for people in general, this was found not to predict the actual
behavior of youths when faced with drug decisions (Ullrich-Kleinmanns,
Jungaberle, Weinhold, & Verres, 2008). Also, those experienced in substance
use did not consider them to be dangerous.
Their primary informational source was not educators, but rather, their peers.
This impression drawn from peer group learning and personal experience may
be a realistic appraisal or a result of “unrealistic optimism” about personal risks
(Weinstein, 1987, 1989; Weinstein & Klein, 1995). In fact, when it comes to
substance use, drug misuse, the uninformed use of substances, appears to represent
one of the most significant threats to young people (Beck, 1998; Zickler, 2001).
Additionally, research seems to suggest that even when a person developed
appropriate or “realistic” risk perception, the situational feelings, the moods and
emotions in a very concrete social setting may easily dominate and overwrite
this risk perception (Loewenstein, Weber, Hsee, & Welch, 2001). Across this
research then, what seems to matter most is (a) the quality of information
and (b) the affective imperative, for example, how personally experienced and
thus affected a person is by substance use issues rather than how many “risk”
messages about drugs the individual has memorized.
Based on this, what if, without condoning substance use, honest, accurate, and
complete information could be delivered in a true peer learning and cooperative
situation? Thus, without using substances, yet in an affectively connected learning
situation, a skill set of risk competence could be developed.
In fact, there is substantial support for asserting the promise of such promotion
of risk competence. Across classic human development research for example, it
is found that if provided proper information, young people are able to judge risk
and make decisions nearly equal to those of adults (Fischhoff, 1975; Quandrel,
Fischhoff, & Davis, 1993). The capabilities of youth to make informed decisions
“. . . challenges longstanding beliefs that adolescents are not competent to make
good decisions about a variety of choices facing them” (Takanishi, 1993 p. 86).
It is important to note that our construction of risk competence is different from
“life skills” programs, purporting to teach young people about decision making
concerning drugs (Botvin, Baker, Dusenbury, Botvin, & Diaz, 1995). First, we
accept the findings presented in the paragraphs above. Second, such programs
have not only been shown to be methodologically fraught with negative effects for
substantial portions of those receiving the program (Brown, 2001; Gorman, 1998).
Overtly or covertly they have been found to be associated with the cognitive
dissonance described above, ultimately attempting to scare young people into
RESILIENCE AND RISK COMPETENCE / 343
Table 1. General Resilience Education 1.5-Day Workshop Description (Brown, 2004b, pp. 88-89)
Exercise and Group Configuration Exercise and Resilience Goal
Day 1: Community Building and Introduction to Resilience Education
1. Dyads and then whole group: Partner Introductions
Each person interacts with another to first learn a bit
about who the partner is, then later in the whole group,
introduces the partner
2. Whole group: Develop norms/ground rules for
Facilitator acts as prompter and note taker to develop
participatory ground rules
3. Individual: Brief guided imagery regarding individual that
participant experiences as fostering an interpersonal life
Followed by “quick write” to make immediate
4. Whole group: Relationships, messages, opportunities
Based on quick write above: Share relationships,
opportunities, and messages that you experienced in
Experience is subsequently integrated with brief
•Begin authentic present focus and building caring, connected
• Continue the above
• Helps build resilience-oriented community by adding
dimension of personal ownership and empowerment for the
• Develops group participatory norms
• Continue building authentic preset focus through low-risk
•Helps make visible potential strengths for the protective factor of
•Link affective experience, relationships, and messages with
cognitive information regarding resilience
•Concept attainment: Foster general understanding of research
support for Resilience Education (Res-Ed)
344 / BROWN ET AL.
5. Individual and then dyads: Individual quick write to
connect information above with learning about resilience
in present moment
Share noted learning with colleague
6. Whole group: Closure to first morning: Introduction
Large group discussion of two dimensions to be made
explicit: (a) content processing, e.g., what is being learned
about resilience education; and (b) meta processing; what
is being learned about how the participant learns, e.g.,
strength and interest identification.
7. Dyads: Be here no exercise
Identify participant focus in each moment as it occurs;
partners face one another. One partner begins by stating
“now I” and then the other partner responds with “now I.”
Continues back and forth for 2 or 3 minutes.
8. Dyads or triads: See, imagine, feel exercise:
Two people sit facing one another
If third is preset, s/he observes the two. The first partici-
pant makes an “I see” statement, followed by an “I imagine”
statement, concluded by an “I feel” statement. The partner
responds with similar statements. They continue back and
forth for approximately 3 minutes and then discuss their
experience. If observer is present, s/he provides and sep-
arates observational from reflective feedback. Observer then
participates with a partner and new observer until each of the
triad members have had an opportunity to participate and
•Initiate reflective practice using present-focus and continue
process of interpersonal strength location
•Moving into dyads, using affective personal stories to begin tying
personal experience into research-based dimensions of resilience
•Further deepening of interpersonal connectedness
•Same as above
•Deepen reflective practice
•Make explicit types of learning strengths, individually noted
optimal learning context(s)
• Explore desired opportunities for participation and contribution
available to participants
• Make explicit authentic present focus
• Continue deepening interpersonal connections
• Support development of protective factor of high self-expectations
through skills building exercise
• Learn how to explicitly distinguish between observation and
•Learn how to give descriptive and non-evaluative feedback
•Continue deepening interpersonal connections; Supporting
high self-expectations through skills building exercises
RESILIENCE AND RISK COMPETENCE / 345
Table 1. (Cont’d.)
Exercise and Group Configuration Exercise and Resilience Goal
9. Whole group: Mini-lecture: Explicit introduction to
PORT approach and use of shuttling to facilitate resilient
10. Whole group: Meta processing and end to day one
“PORT” [Participation, Observation, Reflection, Transformation]
concept attainment derived from above exercises and multiple
Same as similar exercise described above
Day 2: PORT in Closer Detail and Application in Your Professional Setting
11. Small groups: View brief video; describe or note
observations without evaluation
12. Small groups: Content and meta-reflection in present
13. Triads: Transformation: Present and future applications:
One case/situation in your professional environment where
application of PORT may be possible
• Reinforcing importance of separating observation and
• Make explicit identification of intrapersonal observational
• Deepen connectedness through small group configuration
• Reinforcing role of interpretation and distinction between content
•Make explicit location of reflective strengths
•Deepen connectedness through small group configuration
•Concept attainment: Noting application in specific work
•Further develop high self-expectations, by identifying realistic
opportunities for change in work environment
•Preparation for application of strengths based focus outside
346 / BROWN ET AL.
14. Whole group: Closure; content and meta-processing •Make explicit final concept attainment: Learning about the
process of Res-Ed, intrapersonal strengths, and optimal learning
configurations, and how through such exercises in multiple
configurations, a resilience-oriented caring connected
community has been developed
•Offer closing opportunities for deepening connectedness using
participatory and contributory options, and how these can be
continued outside this workshop.
RESILIENCE AND RISK COMPETENCE / 347
abstinence (Brown et al., 1997). In their most modern conception, they do so by
telling young people that they are teaching them about making healthy decisions,
with only one right decision to be made, not to engage in any substance use.
Risk competence is also distinct from harm reduction approaches imple-
mented in schools (Poulin, 2005). It is so because while acknowledging the
realities, contexts, and likelihood that negative outcomes can result from risk-
taking behaviors, the focus in risk competence is not only or primarily on
minimization of problems. Rather, acknowledgment and information of risks are
used to mobilize strengths to improve decision making in the immediate context.
In turn, youth safety and competencies are explicitly noted and prioritized.
For all these reasons, risk competence represents advancement in conceptual-
ization from the ability to learn harmful facts or minimize harm concerning drugs.
It includes developing the competencies to acquire particular information about
substances, assess and understand, and one’s individual risks relative to oneself.
Beyond this, the provision of such information as connected with a sense of
meaning and community membership paves the way for enacted knowledge
as part of lifelong learning and development. Technically, such competence
appears to represent a mediating skill between a more specific risk or drug-
related information processing, and the awareness for overlapping and situational
motives of a person.
The implication of findings from risk competence research is that drug edu-
cation has to be individualized; concentrate more on actual situations in which
its use might occur; present honest, accurate, and complete information—each in
a resilience targeting climate. These, in total, in order to stimulate or benefit from
affective connections, so that learning and development about substances as
well as overall achievement can occur.
Hybrid: A Resilience and Risk Competency
Driven Model of Drug Education
Based on the consideration of supporting findings as well as theory/knowledge
development, a new evidence-based course is charted. A Resilience Education
process combined with Risk Competence informational orientation—each
supported by the findings of the focused synthesis findings—produces the
REBOUND drug education model.
Applied to both professional development and curricular delivery, when
working with school personnel and young people, this model is derived by
shifting and integrating background/foreground of the topic from Resilience
Education to Risk Competence.
As Figure 2 depicts, initially, the focus will be on resilience education itself,
concretely applying many of the processes as described in Table 1. This
includes supporting the “learning to learn” and “affective imperative” principles
and corresponding skills to help apply them. Examples of risk competence will be
348 / BROWN, JEAN-MARIE AND BECK
subsequently infused into the resilience education unit lessons. For instance,
rather than resilience itself being the topic of examples, these will shift to drug
issues. Then risk competence and its foreground focus on drug issues will
become the focus, with resilience education always present, yet taking a back-
ground position, thus synthesizing the two theory/knowledge and skills areas
into one process.
Processes for professional development and curricular delivery are described.
While pilot work will lead to adjustment of the initial professional development
model, at its most basic construction, given the Project REBOUND description
provided at the outset of this article, the team will work in the following way.
Educators, counselors and administrators from German schools will initially
participate in six intensive 1.5 day workshops over a 3-week period. Between
each workshop there will be a 1- or 2-day weekend period for concept solidifi-
cation through personal reflection.
The goal of the workshops is to both familiarize participants with the general
attitude and more practical and concrete Resilience Education and Risk Com-
petence curricular lessons and skills, while also allowing them to experience and
then integrate these same lessons into their own skill set. The particular curricular
lesson topics are described in the next section.
RESILIENCE AND RISK COMPETENCE / 349
Figure 2. REBOUND—Integrating resilience education
and risk competence.
Following the workshops, the participants will reinterpret, adapt, and dis-
seminate with young people in schools. Ongoing coaching will be provided for
logistical support and for modeling the process of concept solidification of skills
building—this, through intentionally supporting learning to learn and affective
imperative developed during workshops.
Following administrator, educator, and/or counselor professional development
training, Project REBOUND shifts its focus to a flexible curriculum delivered
to students. It will serve as a universal primary and secondary education program
among high school youth. In advance of its description, two points are made.
First, administrators, while not delivering the curricula, will have experienced
the professional development process. During this process ways program
deliverers and students can be supported in creating a supportive resilient school
climate will be made explicit.
Second, given the developmentally/culturally appropriate curriculum (noted
at the outset of this article), the work with students reflects the professional
development training. This provides for consistency of implementation of
REBOUND principles. In total then, while appreciating the legitimate power
and authority of school personnel, this school and curricular orientation is also
theorized to affectively align rather than disconnect young people with adults.
With respect to curricular delivery, in salient courses such as health education,
dissemination occurs through structured lessons containing flexible subject-
specific drug education content, used when reacting to teachable moments, and/or
special group needs. The REBOUND curriculum consists of two unit packages
containing ten 90 minute lessons in each that include a primary focus on resilience
education (unit 1) and learning of and integration with a primary focus on risk
competence (unit 2).
The 90 minute lessons delivered weekly for 16 weeks will follow this format:
1. Introduction to Resilience Education and Risk Competence for
2. Focus on Participation: The necessity of an authentic present focus and
learning to learn—Making change in real time
3. Protective Factor 1—Focus on Connection: Intentionally building caring,
4. Protective Factor 2—Opportunities for Participation and Contribution:
Choices concerning how you participate
5. Protective Factor 3—High Self-Expectations: Choices concerning ele-
vating self-expectations as mobilized by strengths
6. Initial infusion of Risk Competence with Resilience Education:
Placement of resilience and risk in a life context: Life orientation toward
self and drug decisions
350 / BROWN, JEAN-MARIE AND BECK
7. Present self-orientation toward drug decisions
8. Role-Modeling: What are my current strengths relative to drug issues?
9. What do I want my strengths to be regarding drug decisions?
10. Summary of Resilience Education—The intentional self for conscious
life and drug decisions.
Risk competence-based sessions:
1. Making risk explicit: What’s my style when I make drug decisions?
2. Dealing with negative emotions and stress: Coping with adversities in
3. Drug Information Session 1 (overall perspective): How they work, what
they do, what you do
4. Drug Information Session 2: Alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis
5. Drug Information Session 3: Prescription and hallucinogens
6. Introversion and Extroversion: Which drug supports what?
7. Reintegration of resilience: Self-Awareness: What’s going on right now
in how I make drug decisions?
8. Critical thinking: What’s true, who’s right?
9. Trust: With your strengths, who do you believe, who do you trust?
10. Security: At the limits of control? Summary and personal reflection
At their discretion, each educator or counselor selects and delivers at least
8 of 10 lesson plans within each unit. It is worthwhile to note the purpose of
allowing educators or counselors to select lessons; to provide comprehensive
curricula along with valuing educator or counselor professional discretion for
burnout prevention. In total then, over the course of a semester, at least 16
selected lessons are delivered to each young person.
In addition to the resilience education exercises presented in Table 1, con-
cretely, what might a lesson look like? Please consider an exemplar lesson in
the risk competence unit: Critical thinking: What’s true, who’s right? As distinct
from the resilience education unit—where the focus is explicitly on building
the skills of resilience—risk competence has as its primary objective working
with young people to focus on engaging in further identity work regarding the
relationship between substance, one’s mind set, and the settings in which drug
decisions are made. Here, the structured youth examination of video clips in
educator facilitated group discussion can provide the group and individual with
a contextualization of drug information in youth relevant behaviors, for example,
partying, taking drugs as a reaction to stress, risk taking as test of courage
(Wahlberg & Sjöberg, 2000). The reasons and conditions for failure or success
are worked out in a cooperative, participatory style. This is meant to contribute
to a normative group process, raising the ability to self-evaluate one’s current
skills. In so doing, young people incorporate information and self-determine
“what is true” and who in the scenario is “right,” forming an intrapersonal
RESILIENCE AND RISK COMPETENCE / 351
foundation for decision making. Thus, the risk competence approach supports
a resilience approach by developing a resource-oriented attitude toward drug
information and related decisions; this, as well as the emergent potential for
the protective factor of caring, connected relationships.
The specific program goals are for primary education:
1. delay the onset of drug use;
2. minimize frequency of drug use;
3. provide a safe environment for adolescents to work on identifying relevant
aspects of drug use, and expand relevant drug information beyond risk
4. enhance risk competence on the personal and group levels.
For secondary education:
5. lowering the threshold for utilizing the health system due to abuse or
6. allowing for the intentional internalization of resilience; and
7. improving school climate and achievement.
Rigorous evaluation of these, as well as mediating factors such as level of
resilience protective factor work relative to these drug outcomes and school
achievement, may be described in another article.
Theorized Psychological Mechanisms
Using the above processes of integrating Resilience Education with Risk Com-
petence to create Project REBOUND, and with these program goals in mind,
the underlying theoretical psychological mechanisms are discussed. Through
the balance between a global focus on resilience, its protective factors and
risk competence, opportunities for authentic assessment and honest, accurate,
and complete drug information are to be offered, with sensitivity for teachable
moments. Based on this, authentic youth/youth and youth/adult contact is made.
Norms of competency and contact are created. Such contact, in turn, supports and
develops additional interactive competencies for the intentional use of interests
and strengths as a springboard of learning and development. As this occurs, high
self-expectations form the basis for mobilizing self-assessed and intentionally
selected caring connected relationships. The dialectic of ongoing assessment
between self and other as mediated by such protective factors in the global context
of resilience, each continues to further generate itself, as well as promotes the
long-term mobilization of individual resilience.
Through this systemic effort the role of leading/teaching/learning is theorized
to result in a generative social system of learning and development. First, at the
352 / BROWN, JEAN-MARIE AND BECK
social contextual level, the school climate evolves. The role of the school leader
and educator does not exclude didactic approaches, but even in consideration of
direct information provided during the teachable moment, shifts it to that of the
facilitator, with responsibility for learning and development occurring among
all, not only or even primarily policy and knowledge imparters. Second, at
the interpersonal level the interactive focus is on helping youth develop real,
age-appropriate decision-making skills and self-awareness of how they think,
feel, and act in the drug educational context, which then can be transferred
to other settings. Finally at the intrapersonal level, the individual, cognitive,
affective, and behavioral awareness and responsibility are engaged to foster trust
and care while subsequently generating a sense of school membership and thus,
The proposed promising implementation and evaluation of Project REBOUND
is undertaken with all due care and caution, as while evidence supporting its
development and delivery is promising, we take a novel approach in youth work.
As such, this initial phase is bounded by the controlled yet exploratory nature
of this pilot research. With all human subjects’ requirements followed, special
care will be taken in minimizing risks and providing appropriate emotional
support among all, but particularly with youth. Additionally, findings will be
shared with participants, seeking feedback as to how the program can be improved
in its subsequent expansion, as warranted.
Implementation of Project REBOUND may make several contributions in
education, drug education, and human development. First, the project moves away
from “at risk” labeling of youth toward capacity-building. Second, it capitalizes on
the “learning to learn” principle as well as the role of affect in providing an
experiential learning and development orientation. This aligns leaders and school
personnel with students. Third, because its focus is on mediating between self
and other to assess what is most salient at a given moment, it is developmentally
and culturally appropriate. Fourth, while we focus on drug education, the foun-
dation of focusing on resilience for learning and development can be integrated
into any learning situation. Finally, the intentional lesson and unit flexibility
provides delivery options that support the professional discretion of the program
deliverer. This is theorized to allow the program deliverer to summon their
resilience, thus helping to prevent “burnout.”
RESILIENCE AND RISK COMPETENCE / 353
It is for these reasons that the hybrid professional development model Project
REBOUND suitable for international implementation, shows promise. The
researchers are gratified that the Mentor Foundation and the European Union
have committed substantial support in what is believed to be this first inter-
national effort with a special purpose: to balance a global focus on resilience,
while targeting its protective factors to create risk competence concerning drug
education processes and informational content, together with whole school
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