Evaluation of the Passport: Skills for Life programme, under the direction of Professor Brian Mishara in the Department of Psychology, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and Professor Sarah Dufour in the Department of Psychoeducation, Université de Montréal (UdeM), was funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada. From 2011 to 2014, 2,131 children and 131 teachers participated in the scientific evaluation of the implementation and outcomes of the first and second versions of the programme, including a longitudinal evaluation of the outcomes, one year after implementation. The sample was taken from 14 school boards in Québec and Ontario and included:
- Urban, rural, privileged, underprivileged, indigenous, Francophone and Anglophone schools
- Students from Grade 3 to Grade 6
Based on a randomized experimental research design with a control group, implementation was evaluated based on assessment sheets completed by teachers and students, classroom observations and focus groups. The evaluation of outcomes was conducted based on questionnaires and recognized scientific tools validated in psychology and psychoeducation (in particular, Kidcope, Draw and Write, Social Skills Rating System). Excluding the children in the control group, over 1,305 students participated in the programme during the evaluation of the final version. The results of implementation were very positive and the evaluation of outcomes shows that the programme increases children’s repertory of coping strategies, increases emotional competency and improves behaviours associated with academic performance, and that these gains were generally maintained one year later.
Theoretical founding principles
The programme is based on the concept of coping and, specifically, on the very influential model proposed by Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman . For these researchers, the coping process involves reciprocal actions between an individual and his or her environment, permitting the use of coping strategies to deal with difficult or challenging situations. Coping strategies are different methods or solutions used by children, adolescents and adults to help them feel better or improve a situation. Two types of coping strategies can be used:
- Those focused on action, to improve a situation that a person wants to change
- Those focused on emotions, to make the person feel better, particularly when he or she cannot change the situation
Studies show that acquiring a greater inventory of coping strategies can limit the negative impacts often associated with difficult situations and promote a greater level of emotional well-being. People with a broader inventory of coping strategies have more resources to deal with stresses, which allows them to reduce the negative effects of problems that arise. As a result, they experience less short- and long-term psychological distress and are better able to overcome life’s challenges. Studies show that children who develop a broad inventory of coping strategies early in life are better able to overcome difficulties. Passport: Skills for Life, just like the Zippy’s Friends programme, seeks to develop children’s coping strategies early in life in order to help them deal with new and difficult situations, so that they are also better equipped to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood.
Passport: Skills for Life also develops children’s social skills, including how to identify, express and regulate emotions, resolve conflict and manage stress. Experts have identified four key factors (Sequenced, Active, Focused, Explicit)  that should be included to ensure that a programme has significant outcomes for the children. Passport: Skills for Life respects all of these recommendations. The programme’s activities (group discussions, role-playing, situational activities) encourage the children’s participation, and feedback between the children and the teacher. The programme also devotes several sessions to each of the themes and learning is divided into 17 sessions, 55 minutes each, which promotes repetition and learning retention. Moreover, the activities in the home make it possible to integrate the child’s home with the school programme. Lastly, the programme has a specific target: to expand children’s inventory and use of coping strategies.