The Heritage process model

  • is based on best practices and methodology,
  • is research based, and
  • has been proven effective by credible, scientific data collection obtained from a program which has been implemented successfully.

The following are the theoretical and methodological foundations for program development, training, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, feedback and improvement processes. The theories and topics demonstrate that the Heritage Keepers programs are scientifically designed and evidence-based, rather than a “feel good” approach to sex education.

Heritage requires all staff to go through intense training on each theory and topic below before they can receive copies of the curricula and training in curricula implementation. Heritage offers brief versions of the theory trainings to community members through technical assistance events.

Bloom’s Taxonomies (Benjamin Bloom)

Resource: Taxonomy of Educational Objectives by Benjamin Bloom

This concept organizes learning into cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains. The cognitive domain has six levels ranging from simple to more complex: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. The affective domain addresses interests, attitudes, opinions, appreciations, values, and emotions and consists of receiving, responding, valuing, organization and characterization by value. The psychomotor domain addresses preparation of mental, physical, and emotional dispositions to facilitate the predetermination of the learner’s response to different situations and consists of perception, set, guided response, mechanism, complex overt reaction, adaptation and organization.

How it is used: Bloom’s Taxonomy is highly recognized in the education field and helped Heritage formulate the learning and teaching objectives for the curricula. The cognitive domain is addressed through knowledge building exercises such as definitions, STD facts, condom efficacy, reproductive information and the benefits of marriage. The affective domain is addressed through conflict resolution and integration of values and emotions into behavior. It is also addressed by story telling and having students imagine certain situations in order to engage them emotionally. The psychomotor domain is addressed through role-playing resistance skills.

Levels of Intervention (Stan Weed, PhD)

Dr. Stan Weed’s Levels of Intervention theorizes that in order for there to be a behavioral change, students must be taught much more than knowledge and that the program must be aimed at the core of the person so that there is personal efficacy to achieve that behavior. The levels are awareness, knowledge, understanding, attitude, belief, value, personal efficacy, and commitment. It is Dr. Weed’s assertion that the deeper the level of intervention, the more likely the program is to empower participants to practice the desired behavior.

How it is used: We do not believe that the program will be successful unless a student is moved to a deep level of intervention. Someone can understand why abstinence is important, can value abstinence and believe in abstinence but unless they feel they have the skills needed to be abstinent they may not be able to achieve the desired behavior. The Heritage Keepers curriculum is designed to take adolescents on a journey with lessons that begin with raising awareness and then builds on each other to end with increased personal efficacy and commitment.

Predictors of Sexual Behavior (Stan Weed, PhD)

The Heritage Keepers programs are written around the Predictors of Adolescent Sexual Initiation as identified by Stan Weed, PhD, Institute for Research and Evaluation. These Predictors are described in the article published in Evaluating Abstinence Education Programs: Improving Implementation and Assessing Impact by US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs and the Administration for Children and Families (2005). Heritage training provides specific instruction on how to target these Predictors when implementing the Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education and Life Skills Education curricula. This enables Heritage Educators to focus on the individual needs of an adolescent, going beyond a “Just Say No” program.

How it is used: The Predictors of Sexual Behavior are integrated throughout the Heritage Keepers programs. Success of the program is measured between pre and post test by evaluating the educator’s effectiveness in regards to these predictors. If strong movement is seen among all Predictors, there is a high likelihood that the person will be abstaining from sex a year after the program is complete. Because Heritage bases the programs on internal Predictors rather than external variables, the program creates behavior change across all demographics. Heritage believes that no child should be discriminated against and that all students regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender or previous sexual activity have the right to information that will give them the opportunity for optimal health.

Trans-theoretical Behavior Change Model (JO Prochaska, PhD & CC DiClemente, Phd)

The Trans-theoretical Model of Behavior Change by Prochaska and DiClemente comes out of the smoking cessation model to explain behavior change as a process rather than an event, making the case that people may go in and out of the various stages, repeat stages, and yet still move forward toward maintenance of the desired behavior.

This model has primarily been used in clinical settings, but Heritage has adapted the principles of change in developing its programs for individuals and communities. The stages of change are identified as pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. The Heritage program emphasizes the need to consider how gains for the individual and the community will be maintained over time.

How it is used: The Heritage curricula “build” each lesson, taking the student through a journey towards behavior change. Behavior change to fully embrace abstinence will take a long process rather than be an instant event. Teens need to hear the same message over multiple years rather than assume that a one-time presentation will make a lasting impact.

Typologies of Sexual Activity (Kim Miller, Clark, Wendell, Levin, Gray-Ray, Velez & Webber, 1997)

Researchers have traditionally used two categories to define the adolescents in their samples: sexually active and not sexually active. Recently, Miller and her colleagues proposed a more complex typology using five categories for identifying varying levels of sexual activity, from Delayers who have never had penile-vaginal intercourse to Multiples who report more than one sexual partner.

How it is used: This model has influenced program development, training, monitoring and evaluation, in recognition of the need to address the various degrees of sexual activity that may be represented in the target audience, including students who may have been sexually abused. Educators using the Heritage Keepers curriculum are taught that they should be aware that in each classroom setting, there are many levels of sexual activity represented– not just had sex or has not and to teach to all types. Educators make the curriculum relevant to every student, no matter their sexual history.

Social Learning Theory (Albert Bandura)

Resource: A Human Learning, Third Edition by JE Ormrod

Social Learning Theory emphasizes that children learn from what is demonstrated by those around them. According to the website of Albert Bandura, who first put forth this theory, social learning “emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. The component processes underlying observational learning are: (1) Attention, including modeled events…(2) Retention, including symbolic coding, cognitive organization, symbolic rehearsal, motor rehearsal, (3) Motor Reproduction, including physical capabilities, self-observation of reproduction, accuracy of feedback, and (4) Motivation, including external, vicarious and self reinforcement.”

How it is used: Considering the importance of the role models and teachers in the lives of young people, the role of the Heritage Educator, and his/her positive relationship with the students in the classroom is strongly emphasized. The influence of parents and other adults over adolescent behavior is well documented and as such, the importance of a systemic or community-wide approach to establishing the protective standard of abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage is stressed. We also seek to normalize abstaining from sex in a school climate. Teens will observe, imitate, and repeat the behaviors that they see from role models around them, and Heritage strives to provide teens with strong role models that are modeling the abstinent behavior.

Self Efficacy (Albert Bandura)

Resource: Self Efficacy: The Exercise of Control by Albert Bandura

Bandura states that “people’s beliefs in their efficacy influence the courses of action people choose to pursue, how much effort they put forth in given endeavors, how long they will persevere in the face of obstacles and failures, their resilience to adversity, whether their thought patterns are self-hindering or self-aiding, how much stress and depression they experience in coping with taxing environmental demands, and the level of accomplishments they realize.”

People must have confidence in their ABILITIES in order to persevere and accomplish a given task. Bandura states that as long as people continue to believe in their ability to perform a given activity, they act habitually on that belief without having to keep reminding themselves of it. Should they cease to believe in their ability, they would behave differently.

How we use it: Heritage believes that teens need to learn that they CAN influence and control the direction that their life will take rather than passively allowing life to happen to them. Heritage Keepers educators increase students’ feelings of self-efficacy and confidence by teaching the teens how to control risky situations using risk avoidance skills learned through role-play. The program also uses a systemic approach – empowering parents and faith and community leaders in how to support young people who choose to abstain from sex.

Emotional Intelligence (Daniel Goleman)

Resource: Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Author Daniel Goleman effectively argues that “our capacity for self-awareness and reflection lets us better attune to [social] signals, which can be subtle.” Prior to entering the classroom, Heritage Educators are taught about the various ways the brain processes emotions and the importance of affecting emotions in relation to the topic of relationships and sex. As with any subject, the student’s success largely depends on the effectiveness of the teacher and how they feel about what the teacher is saying. At the end of the program, how the students feel about abstaining will largely decide whether they will or will not engage in sexual activity. This theory also explains the importance of developing the ability to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustration, control impulses, delay gratification, regulate moods, keep distress from overwhelming us, empathize with others, and have hope.

How it is used: Stories, illustrations and games are used throughout the Heritage Keepers curriculum to take students on an emotional journey to help them feel/experience the curriculum rather than just hearing it. The Heritage Keepers programs strive to raise the emotional intelligence of students in the program.

Social Intelligence (Daniel Goleman)

Resource: Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Social Intelligence provides a neurological foundation for Social Learning Theory. According to its author, Daniel Goleman, “Neuroscience has discovered that our brain’s very design makes it sociable, inexorably drawn into an intimate brain-to-brain linkup whenever we engage with another person. That neural bridge lets us impact the brain—and so the body—of everyone we interact with, just as they do us.

Even our most routine encounters act as regulators in the brain, priming emotions in us, some desirable, others not. The more strongly connected we are with someone emotionally, the greater the mutual force. The most potent exchanges occur with those people with whom we spend the greatest amount of time day in and day out, year after year—particularly those we care about the most.”

Mirror neurons, which have shown to explain how children can gain mastery simply from watching are emphasized. Spindle cells, which help us make “snap judgments” are also explained. If someone is not primed for an intelligent, well thought out response, the emotional part of our brain will take over as it makes a “snap judgment” of the situation – sometimes leading one into a situation that is later regretted. The more the Prefrontal Cortex is involved in making social decisions, the more intelligent the response.

How it is used: Heritage Educators receive instruction in the physiology of how social interactions are processed in the neural system. Heritage’s systemic approach to abstinence education – which provides programs for those adults most influential in the students’ lives – is integrated into this important aspect of the Heritage program to help normalize abstinence because we recognize that being perceived as “different” hurts. We also build risk avoidance skills, teaching the young person’s Pre Frontal Cortex automatic responses to override emotional responses, through role-play activities. The Heritage Keepers programs strive to raise the social intelligence of students in the program.

An Authoritative Approach to Abstinence Education

Resource: Hardwired to Connect by the Institution for American Values

Hard Wired to Connect, a monograph by mental health experts, calls on communities to provide an authoritative environment, providing clear direction and well-defined boundaries for youngsters. A case is made that leaving children on “autopilot” regarding the important things in life just won’t work.

How it is used: Heritage Educators are taught that humans are clearly wired by their interactions with others. These interactions don’t just “influence” children; they actually form their neural network, making them who they are. Therefore, Heritage’s position is that adults have a responsibility to provide protective standards and subsequent direction to children and adolescents regarding sexual activity. The consequences regarding their mental and physical health, as well as the implications for the families they potentially form, are far too significant for them and our culture to put the topic of sex on “auto pilot.” Teens need adults to provide them with standards and boundaries for behaviors rather than allowing the teens to determine and define these boundaries on their own without guidance.

The Biological Impact of “Love” (Helen Fisher)

Resource: Why We Love by Helen Fisher

There are emotional and physiological characteristics of being “in love” which cause intense reactions in people. What many people have come to characterize as “love” is actually often emotions and behaviors associated with the intense, but often short-lived, period of infatuation. During this time period strong hormones and chemicals are secreted in the body changing the person’s behavior and feelings. Sexual intimacy intensifies this by releasing bonding hormones. Attachment, or a long term love, looks completely different in the brain and body then the infatuation stage.

How it is used: The Heritage Keepers program teaches young people that “being in love” is not a good enough reason to have sex. Confusing hormones and chemicals are being secreted which could make someone believe they have found “the one” only to find out after the infatuation period wears off that this is not the case at all. Having sex only intensifies the situation. Young people are taught to identify the differences between love, lust and infatuation and are also taught why having sex within a lifelong, committed relationship such as marriage is the safest.

Vital Lies, Simple Truths (Daniel Goleman)

Resource: Vital Lies, Simple Truths by Daniel Goleman

The brain has a goal of minimizing pain, whether that pain is mental or physical. In order to protect the body from too much stress, the brain will purposely ignore certain information that does not fit with the story one tells themselves about oneself. This leads to denial. Denial can become a social phenomenon as more and more people choose to ignore a certain set of information.

How it is used: Heritage believes that when it comes to sexual activity outside of marriage and the repercussions it has on individuals, families, communities and societies, information is being repressed. If individuals or society live in denial of real hurts that they may have experienced from sexual activity outside of marriage (whether mental, emotional, or physical pain), they will continue to make decisions for themselves that put them at risk for further pain. Our goal is to bring back into people’s awareness the reality of the physical, emotional and life long implications that sexual activity outside of marriage can sometimes bring about. When people are informed about the realities of sexual activity outside of marriage, they are better equipped to make healthier decisions for their future.

Adolescent Brain Research

Resource: Why Do They Act That Way: A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen by Dr. David Walsh

Heritage Educators receive training in recent findings relevant to the adolescent brain. This training explains how the human brain develops and makes clear the differences between the adolescent and the adult brain decision making capacity. Educators are also taught that the Prefrontal Cortex, the decision making part of the brain, is still developing, and therefore young people often make decisions based on the emotional part of their brain.

How it is used: Heritage recognizes that the brain undergoes major transitions during the teenage years and is therefore very malleable. We make people aware of the fact that teenagers’ brains are still undergoing major changes and therefore, they need guidance during this vulnerable process. Teens need adults to act as their surrogate Prefrontal Cortex, and they need adults to provide clear direction and well-defined boundaries so that teens can be equipped to use their Prefrontal Cortex rather than the emotional part of their brain.

The Importance of Role Play (“Wiring and firing”)

Resources: Why Do They Act That Way: A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen by David Walsh, MD; Hardwired to Connect by the Institution for American Values

Heritage Educators are taught the importance of curricula role-play activities, as related to “brain-based” training. The way human brains interact socially, and how they become “soft wired” through “wiring and firing” is emphasized.

How it is used: Heritage uses role-play activities to help teenagers build the neurological pathways that are necessary for abstaining. Before role-play with these students, it is likely that these neural connections did not exist. Through role play, they are creating new neural pathways that will enable them to resist risky behavior when a sexual situation arises.