Bringing Culture to Implementation: The Tribal REDI Pilot Study

Posted August 22, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog bringingculturetoimplementation 2017

When researchers from Penn­syl­va­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty and South Dako­ta State Uni­ver­si­ty approached trib­al com­mu­ni­ties in South Dako­ta about a research project to sup­port youth, their first idea focused on sup­port­ing resilience in young teens and their fam­i­lies. Instead, trib­al lead­ers replied that what they real­ly need­ed was an ear­ly child­hood inter­ven­tion with a proven track record.

With the sup­port of the Foundation’s Evi­dence-Based Prac­tice Group, researchers lis­tened and pro­posed a pilot study: the REDI (Research-based, Devel­op­men­tal­ly Informed) pro­gram, a robust­ly test­ed Head Start pro­gram that tack­les both lan­guage devel­op­ment and social-emo­tion­al devel­op­ment of preschool children.

The Trib­al REDI pilot is unique not only in intro­duc­ing a strong evi­dence-based pro­gram to Native Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties in South Dako­ta, but also in its devel­op­ment of a process that allows the com­mu­ni­ties’ teach­ers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives to iden­ti­fy cul­tur­al adap­ta­tions that can bol­ster the program’s effort to increase lan­guage, lit­er­a­cy and social-emo­tion­al skills for trib­al chil­dren. Cul­tur­al con­sid­er­a­tions often are over­looked in the imple­men­ta­tion of evi­dence-based pro­grams, but they can be key fac­tors in a program’s suc­cess or failure.

The capac­i­ty of the com­mu­ni­ty to har­ness its own life ways and cul­ture to make a pro­gram spe­cif­ic to their pop­u­la­tion has an amaz­ing poten­tial to real­ly improve not just the lives of fam­i­lies but of the entire com­mu­ni­ty — and to do it in a way that pre­serves the very cul­ture and lan­guage of the com­mu­ni­ty,” says Cyn­thia Weaver, a senior asso­ciate with Casey’s Evi­dence-Based Prac­tice Group.

Native Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties are used to researchers com­ing in want­i­ng to do research but not tru­ly offer­ing a part­ner­ship or col­lab­o­ra­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties,” says Ann Michelle Daniels, asso­ciate pro­fes­sor and fam­i­ly life spe­cial­ist at South Dako­ta State Uni­ver­si­ty. What we’ve said is, You have some­thing to offer to us.’ We rec­og­nize they have exper­tise! They know the cul­ture and needs and we know imple­men­ta­tion sci­ence. It is a true part­ner­ship of com­mu­ni­ty-based par­tic­i­pa­to­ry research with shared expertise.”

This part­ner­ship approach is espe­cial­ly impor­tant to com­mu­ni­ties that have suf­fered the kind of his­tor­i­cal trau­ma that Amer­i­can Indi­ans have expe­ri­enced, Daniels adds. The process of adap­ta­tion led by the com­mu­ni­ties is as impor­tant as the learn­ing readi­ness and social-emo­tion­al devel­op­ment out­comes for the children.

One of the things that is impor­tant to think about when you talk about the Native Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty is that there is no such thing as THE Native Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty,” says Janet Welsh, senior research asso­ciate and research asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at Penn State.

The adap­ta­tions that might be made by one tribe may be com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent than what a dif­fer­ent trib­al com­mu­ni­ty will make elsewhere.”

The study, slat­ed to begin at the start of the 201718 school year, will imple­ment and eval­u­ate a cul­tur­al­ly adapt­ed ver­sion of the REDI pro­gram in three exist­ing Head Start pro­grams in two communities.

The pro­gram will be con­duct­ed among 3- and 4‑year-old chil­dren, but the study will focus on gath­er­ing data for about 30 par­tic­i­pants who are 4 years old. Researchers will also work with aca­d­e­m­ic staff at the local trib­al col­lege, who will sup­port adap­ta­tion of the pro­gram in the Dako­ta lan­guage and serve as liai­son between trib­al lead­er­ship and researchers.

Dur­ing imple­men­ta­tion, a REDI coach and clin­i­cal super­vi­sor will be on hand to sup­port teach­ers. In addi­tion to train­ing teach­ers, the study will build com­mu­ni­ty capac­i­ty to sus­tain the pro­gram by train­ing local instruc­tors to coach and train oth­er teach­ers on the REDI pro­gram, accord­ing to Welsh.

Read a report on con­sid­er­ing cul­ture in evi­dence-based programs

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