Design & Development
Using research in suicide intervention training
There are three major types of research methods: basic research (which generates knowledge), developmental research (which transforms generated knowledge into programs and processes), and evaluation research (which measures outcomes and impacts). LivingWorks uses developmental research to build our programs. The social research and development technique developed by Jack Rothman is our knowledge transformation method of choice (Rothman, 1980).
By the 1970s, basic research in suicidology had generated a core body of knowledge. Several reports recommended the need to transform this knowledge into widely disseminated training programs (Maris, 1973; Boldt, 1976). As of the 1980s, no one had undertaken the necessary developmental research until a government initiative in Alberta began to develop a comprehensive, coordinated approach to suicide prevention. Key components of this approach included education and training, information dissemination, community outreach services, and a suicide research center (Ramsay, Cooke, Lang, 1990).
The challenge of transforming knowledge
The education and training component was tasked with developing suicide intervention training for a diverse range of community caregivers likely to be in contact with persons at risk of suicide. Two kinds of caregivers were defined: “designated” (those professionally trained and expected to have skills to help someone at risk of suicide) and “emergent” (those who were accessible and often selected by persons at risk but not specifically expected to be suicide intervention helpers).
Three core questions addressed the challenge of transforming existing knowledge to meet the training needs of individuals in these caregiver groups:
- Could a standardized curriculum be developed to meet the needs of all caregivers?
- Could a standardized curriculum be widely accepted and disseminated?
- Would large numbers of program disseminators adhere to quality control standards?
Rothman's six-stage social research and development method was used to build and disseminate the program.
Research & Retrieval
- Stage 1: Basic research and peripheral knowledge content is retrieved, assessed, and codified.
Conversion & Design
- Stage 2: Consensus findings are gathered and initial design is formulated.
- Stage 3: Design is pilot tested as a "dress rehearsal" to spot limitations and barriers. Evaluation feedback from potential users is essential.
- Stage 4: Pilot test revisions are subjected to rigorous field trials.
- Stage 5: Refined program is finalized. Operational manuals, audiovisual aids, and other materials are professionally packaged in user-ready form. Once the program is widely disseminated, developers must be open to reapplying the development phase (stages 4 and 5).
- Stage 6: Broad practice use in which product advocacy is carried out. Implementation requires sufficient flexibility to be broadly utilized while demanding a high degree of standardization to meet quality control expectations.
The experiment to transform core suicide knowledge into a standardized widely used suicide intervention program (ASIST) succeeded with positive outcomes for each of three developmental research questions. Since 1985, ASIST has been delivered to over one million caregivers in more than 15 countries, and today more than 6,500 registered trainers provide the program on a regular basis. ASIST has also been evaluated by more than 15 independent evaluation studies (e.g. Farrell and Maniprize, 1992; Tierney, 1994; Turley and Tanney, 1998; Eggert et al, 1999, MacDonald, 1999; Guttormsen et al, 2003). LivingWorks also received the 2002 Canadian Policy Research Knowledge Broker Award, designed to celebrate excellence by Canadian individuals, groups or organizations in the policy research field whose work helped facilitate and improve the transfer of knowledge.
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