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Understanding the Socio-Psychological Factors Affecting Active Travel to School


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Yizhao Yang, Associate Professor of Planning, Public Policy & Management; University of Oregon

Published in: Education
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Understanding the Socio-Psychological Factors Affecting Active Travel to School

  1. 1. Understanding the Socio-Psychological Factors Affecting Active Travel to School: Findings from a Quasi-Experimental Study Based on Boltage Encouragement Programs Yizhao Yang Ph.D.1 Bill Harbaugh1 Ph.D.1 Noreen McDonald Ph.D.2 1 University of Oregon; 2 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill NITC Webinar June 23 2015
  2. 2. Presentation Outline Part I. The Research Context Part II. Research Objectives Part III. Project Design, Implementations, and Findings Part IV. The Takeaways
  4. 4. Usual Travel Mode to School for K-8th Grade Students in the US The Trend of Change (1969 – 2009) Source: Cited from “How children get to school: school travel patterns from 1969 to 2009”, a report prepared by the National Center for Safe Routes to School (2011)
  5. 5. Implications of School Travel Behavior Change • Adverse impacts on travel demand and traffic congestion – Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). – Traffic Congestion. • Adverse impacts on the environment – Vehicle emissions from short-distance travel trips (GHG and air pollution). – Non-point source water pollution. • Adverse impacts on children’s physical activity, health and safety. – Traffic safety in school zones. – Rising obesity trend.
  6. 6. What Affects School Travel? Current Knowledge The Built Environment: home-school distance, environment walkability, land use mix, traffic conditions/safety, etc. Social Environment: safety, social support, perceived social norm, etc. School Policies: school choice policy, school bike/pedestrian policy, etc. Family and Child Characteristics: car ownership, parent work schedules, child’s age and gender, parental/child attitudes, etc.
  7. 7. Gaps in the Literature • Research has helped us understand the association between various environment factors and behavioral outcomes. • Lack of an explanation of the mechanism of how those factors work. • Understudied socio-psychological factors – Behavior is affected by people’s own beliefs, preferences, thoughts, as well as by perceived other people’s attitudes and thoughts. – Constructs: Attitudes and Social Norm
  8. 8. An Ecological-Behavioral Model for Studying Active School Commuting (ASC) Attitudes Expectations of outcome, beliefs in the benefits and detriments of the behavior Active School Commuting (ASC) Students walking or biking to or from school Environmental Factors Distance, walkability, weather, traffic conditions, safety, etc.Social Norms Customary rules governing behavior, peer influences, social acceptance Indirect effects Direct effects An expanded conceptual framework informed by the Social Learning Theory (Bandura 1977), the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen 1991), and the Attitude-Behavior- Context (ABC) Model of behavior (Stern, 2000)
  9. 9. Public Campaign to Encourage ASC Efforts and Interventions • Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Programs in the US: – A systematic approach to promoting ASC (5 E’s). – 14,000 participating schools nationwide. – $1.2 billion appropriated. • Walking School Bus • Cycling Programs • Walk to School Day or Walk to School Week • School Travel Advisors • Class Room Programs
  10. 10. Intervention Studies in ASC Research • Mostly focusing on identify the effects – do the interventions work? • Lack of study on the mechanism – how and why do the interventions work (or not)? – Difficulty in coordinating research design and intervention design. – Lack of a theoretical framework to guide the intervention design, data collection, and analyses.
  11. 11. RESEARCH GOALS Part II
  12. 12. Research Objectives • Use intervention study to better understand the mechanism of behavioral change. – To better understand parents’ and children’s decision- making process of school travel. – To investigate the socio-psychological factors that can modify the environment-behavior relationship. • Identify factors and strategies that can be used to enhance intervention programs’ effectiveness.
  13. 13. The Intervention The Boltage Encouragement Program • Nation-wide about 50 schools in 5 states running Boltage Programs • How Boltage device typically works – Sociology + Technology – Using Incentives to reward ASC behavior. – Persistence in tracking students’ behavior. – Cool technology: solar power, RFID reader, internet connection, beep sound, etc.
  14. 14. How Will the Boltage Program Work? The Conceptual Model and Hypotheses Attitudes Outcome expectations, beliefs in the benefits and detriments of the behavior. Active School Commuting (ASC) Social Norms Customary rules governing behavior, peer influences and social acceptance. Environmental Factors Distance, walkability, weather, traffic conditions, safety, etc. The Boltage Program The ZAP device and activities increase attention. School announcements demonstrate encouragement/support. Prizes indicate accomplishments. 1 3 2 2 1 1. The socio-psychological factors will have effects on ASC directly and indirectly. 2. The Boltage program will have impacts on the socio-psychological factors. 3. The Boltage program will also have independent impacts on ASC.
  16. 16. • Study area and population – Schools in two districts in Lane County Oregon. – Students from K to 8th grade and their parents/guardians. • Quasi-experimental, longitudinal research design – Four experimental schools (two elementary schools and two middle schools) ran Boltage Programs for 1-2 years. – Six control schools are schools participating in local Safe Routes to School Program (SRTS). A Quasi-Experimental Study Based on Boltage Encouragement Programs (2011-2014) The Project Design
  17. 17. Summary of Schools included in the Study
  18. 18. The Boltage Incentive Program (2011-2014) Boltage Program Poster A solar-powered RFID device for recording students’ ASC trips A tag attached to a student’s backpack
  19. 19. Parent Surveys – Standard and modified Safe Routes To School survey forms – 11,000 surveys sent out, 4555 valid returns. Boltage RFID Data – Obtained online for individuals and schools and for different periods. Focus Groups with students – More than 25 focus groups with about 150 students. – Students from various grades (1st, 5th, 6th, and 8th ). Interviews with school principals, supporters and parents – About 25 people interviewed. Data Collection
  20. 20. Boltage Program Performance Adams Elementary School Cal Young Middle School
  21. 21. • Boltage participation rates remained more or less the same over the years. • The average ASC travel distance decreased over the years. • The average number of ASC trips per student increased. Boltage Program Performance • Younger students appeared more excited about the program than the older students. • Boltage program appeared to have greater impacts on the elementary school students.
  22. 22. ASC Rates Change based on Parent Surveys 2011-12 (year 0) 2012-13 (year 1) 2013-14 (year 2) Total N active travel rate N active travel rate N active travel rate survey returns Adams Elementary 233 25% 108 30% 184 24% 525 Edison ES 161 42% 83 33%* 82 30%** 476 Camas Ridge ES 168 31% - - 138 29%* 367 Cal Young Middle School 353 25% 401 26% 271 31% ** 1025 Roosevelt MS 196 53% 149 40%** 199 36%** 1313 Monroe MS 133 42% - - 197 35% 738 Clear Lake Elementary - - 154 10% 90 16% 244 Malabon ES 123 29% 60 18% 73 21% 509 Cascade Middle School - - 199 38% 188 42% 387 Meadow View ES 318 36% 71 32% 223 45%* 1175 Total 1685 1225 1249 6759 Using 2011 active travel rate as reference group. *.p<0.1, **.p<0.05,***.p<0.01
  23. 23. ASC Rates Change Reported by Parent Surveys • The Boltage experiment schools exhibited some increase in ASC rates. • The control schools had higher ASC rates but some showed significant declines in the ASC rates. • By the end of the project study period, the gap in ASC rates between the experiment and the control groups has reduced.
  24. 24. Changes in Socio-Psychological Factors Measure of social norm/support Control Schools Experiment Schools Perceived school encouragement of ASC Unchanged Increased Perceived family/friend approval of ASC Unchanged Unchanged Perceived number of families use ASC Declined Unchanged
  25. 25. Changes in Socio-Psychological Factors Measure of Attitudes Control Schools Experiment Schools Perceived ASC risky for kids Increased Increased Perceived ASC fun for kids Declined Increased Perceived ASC good social interaction opportunity Unchanged Increased Perceived ASC good for physical activities Declined Increased Perceived ASC desirable Declined Increased
  26. 26. Boltage Program’s Impacts on ASC Probability When controlling for a student’s characteristics, travel distance, neighborhood walkability, and parent education levels: 1. A student in a Boltage school was 8 times more likely to use ASC. 2. Parents who perceived family/friend ASC approval were 6 times more likely to to let their child use ASC. 3. Parents who considered ASC desirable were 2 times more likely to let their child use ASC. 4. One mile increase in travel distance reduced the likelihood of ASC by 3 times. 5. The presence of a Boltage program appeared to reduced the impacts of a student’s age and gender on ASC.
  27. 27. Boltage Program’s Impacts on ASC Probability
  28. 28. What Have We Learned from the Study • The Boltage Program displayed positive impacts on ASC. • The Boltage Program affected some (not all) aspects of the socio-psychological factors effectively: – The attitude factor: impacts on perceived social interaction benefits and ASC desirability. – The social norm factor: impacts on school encouragement, no clear impacts on social approval.
  29. 29. Limitation of the Study • The small geographic scope limits generalizability of the finings. • Imperfect match between experiment and control pairs. • Limitation in measuring the socio- psychological factors.
  30. 30. THE TAKEAWAYS Part IV
  31. 31. Factors Affecting Boltage Program Performance • The suitability of the built environments and the neighborhood contexts. • Positive attitudes of students toward walking or biking to school and their interest in participation. • The support and resources that a school can devote to program implementation.
  32. 32. Factors Affecting Boltage Program Effects School Selection • Targeting schools with a small catchment area (i.e., students living close to school, shorter than 1.5 miles). • Targeting students of younger age. • Targeting parents already exhibiting positive attitudes toward ASC and perceiving a stronger social norm of ASC.
  33. 33. Factors Affecting Boltage Program Effects Implementation Strategies • Highlighting the social interaction benefits and creating socializing opportunities in the program. • Helping children and parents identify suitable approaches to ASC. • Coordinating with other strategies to increase participation (e.g., walking school bus, SRTS programs). • Working with parents and the community together.
  34. 34. Acknowledgement We’d like to thank the NITC for funding this project. This project also received funding from the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC). Special thanks to the coordinators of two Safe Route to Schools Programs, Shane MacRhodes and Nichole Zwink, and to the principals, staff member and teachers at the four schools that participated in our project. These people at the University of Oregon, Kim Morley, Lauren King, Angela San Filippo, Rebecca Harbage, Paul Hicks, Maddie Phillips, Jeff Kernen, Nestor Guevara, Ross Peizer and Bethany Stein provided valuable assistance to this project.
  35. 35. QUESTIONS? Thank You!