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Program Theories and Key Principles

The Friendship Saver is theory based, influenced by a number of educational and psychological theories and principles. These theories help to explain why the program is designed to be presented with a particular style, and why specific social skills are the focus above others. The key theories that make up The Friendship Saver are described below.

The Social Information Processing Model

The Friendship Saver Program conceptualises social skills training in accordance with the Social Information Processing (SIP) model initially developed by Dodge (1986) and re-formulated by Crick and Dodge (1994). The SIP model (See Figure 1) has been used in research to understand the social-cognitive processes that underlie children’s social behaviours. The model proposes that skillful processing of social information results in social competence, whereas deficient or biased processing results in anti-social, unacceptable or inept social behaviours.

The model is described as sequential steps to ease conceptualisation however, the steps are suggested to operate rapidly, with the steps sometimes occurring in parallel. The SIP model suggests that when engaging in a social situation, children will; (1) encode internal and external cues, (2) interpret those cues, (3) clarify their goals, (4) generate or access possible strategies (problem solve), (5) evaluate and select a strategy (often termed ‘response decision’), and (6) enact the behaviour. The steps are influenced by a child’s biology and past experiences. Crick and Dodge suggest that ineffective processing at any one of these SIP steps can result in maladaptive social behaviour. In 2000 Lemerise and Arsenio argued for an extension of the SIP model to include emotion processing and this has been incorporated into this program. The Friendship Saver addresses each of the SIP steps.

Experiential Learning is evident throughout The Friendship Saver. That is, the process of learning through experience (through doing) and reflecting upon that experience. Students are regularly engaged in whole group discussions and group work activities to provide students with genuine socially challenging situations that require direct application of the skills learnt. Whole Group discussions then provide a forum for reflection.

Whole Group Discussions are a core learning component of The Friendship Saver and considered fundamental towards each student’s social development. In addition to providing a forum for reflection, the Whole Group Discussions lead by the Primary Facilitator also set a tone for the cohort, and provide powerful learning as the facilitator models language of respect, care, support and encouragement. For some students, the modelling that they receive outside of their school setting may be coloured by conflict, aggression, hurt and poor communication. Mindful of this, the scripts provided within The Friendship Saver manual for Whole Group Discussions are intended to model respect for others, care, support and encouragement. Throughout the delivery of the program, the Primary Facilitator is encouraged to be particularly conscientious of their use of words, tone, facial expressions and body language when responding and reacting to students’ stories, ideas, answers and role-play attempts. Students will therefore hear the construction and delivery of respectful, caring, supportive and encouraging dialogue (as consistently modelled by the Facilitators over time). This modelling provides students with invaluable experiences and sample templates that can inform and shape their Data Base (as referenced in the S.I.P model). Students can then draw upon their experience to positively influence their personal communication style and understanding of how to respect, care, support and encourage others.

Group Work Activities provide students with authentic peer related challenges. Generally, in order to be successful when working with others, students need to communicate effectively, demonstrate resilience, consideration for others, and strategies to problem solve and make decisions as a group. Consider briefly documenting students’ group work abilities from week to week, to help assess their progress and development in this area.

Discuss with your team whether the cohort would benefit from particular groupings (combining friends, or purposefully separating friends), or whether you will allow the students to determine the groups for themselves. If the cohort has a tendency to be exclusive rather than inclusive of others, consider changing the groups each session, and changing them in a purposeful way.

Inquiry-Based Learning is another key theory underpinning the pedagogy of The Friendship Saver. With the support of this manual and its’ explicit scripts, facilitators are to pose key questions to encourage students to shape the depth of the content. This helps to activate higher order thinking, discussion, discovery, engagement, ownership of the content, and can help students to store and retrieve the newly learnt information. For example, Session 2 (Whole Body Listening) doesn’t tell students how to listen but rather, asks students ‘How do you listen?’ The entire design of The Friendship Saver is based on this philosophy and is inspired by Gestalt’s theory of learning (Kahn & Rourke, 2004).

Socio-drama is a technique that is fundamental to student learning within this program. Socio-drama builds verbal and non-verbal communication skills, problem solving, imagination, the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes (theory of mind), and the ability to consider different ideas and perspectives.

Socio-drama is based on the premise that a group of people come together, decide to act out a common scenario as a group, and explore different ways of dealing with that event. The drama spontaneously evolves as all participants experiment with different, novel communication styles, roles and behaviours. Using socio-drama, individuals experience what it looks and feels like to act and react differently. As a consequence, each student takes away new deeper understandings of the issues involved, how it might feel in someone else’s shoes, and new options available to them. For more information about Socio-drama, refer to the works of Moreno (1934).

Worksheets are only occasionally included in this program. They help to consolidate new learning. Sample worksheets have been included in this manual and are included in PDF format on the F.S.P Digital Resource CD. If the format and style of the worksheets are not ideal for your class, we encourage facilitators to create new worksheets to maximise student engagement. Consider creating your own individualised worksheets when you see this symbol (Cr**).

Poster Paper is often recommended to record whole group ideas and small group activities. Consider displaying the students’ posters around the classroom for a week at a time to consolidate new learning and reinforce new themes.

Building Blocks approach to learning means that The Friendship Saver gradually builds upon students’ social knowledge and skill set. As such, students will learn basic social skills and concepts for several weeks before finally learning concrete conflict resolution strategies. That means that friendships and peer relationships won’t improve straight away. Be patient, the program is purposely designed in this way. It will all come together in the end.

Facilitator Feedback Sheets have been included in this manual, at the end of each session chapter. Completing these sheets help you to reflect on how closely you were able to implement the program relative to the scripts provided. This is known as Fidelity of Implementation. Recording and reflecting upon this data can be useful when evaluating the outcomes of the program in your school.

Example Scenarios are described throughout this manual and help students to relate concepts to everyday situations. The names and situations are purposefully gender neutral so that the facilitator can easily use the examples with any cohort. However, where possible consider devising your own examples that will best engage and relate to your students and their needs.

Session Guides are provided at the end of each session chapter to help facilitators to track the tasks and timing across the session.

Friendship Saver Posters are sequentially introduced to participants as they acquire new concepts. Consider creating a dedicated wall space to display the posters as they are introduced; adding a new poster to the wall as the sessions progress.

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