SMASHED “showed us ways to deal with peer pressure”

Actors performing Smashed Life Education Trust regularly evaluates its programmes, most recently NZ Council for Educational Research (NZCER) provided a review report on SMASHED: a Theatre in Education programme we run in secondary schools to support alcohol and health education.

SMASHED equips rangatahi to make safe decisions on alcohol. It is a live theatre in education performance, which includes an interactive workshop. SMASHED engages secondary school students in discussions about alcohol and underage drinking, and how it could affect their lives. SMASHED supports students to consider choices and develop strategies to resist peer pressure.

The review commissioned by Life Education Trust took place over approximately 14 months during 2021 and 2022. NZCER is an independent, non-commercial entity, expert in evaluating education programmes.

We’re excited to share some of the findings of the report:

Value SMASHED adds to teachers and schools

  • School staff viewed SMASHED as a key support for the health curriculum, and most integrated it into classroom health learning.
  • Staff valued the way that SMASHED was a visual performance and therefore offered students a different form of learning, that both enhanced and supported school programmes.
  • School staff considered SMASHED was well-aligned with their health education focuses, and that this presentation by an external provider acted to reinforce key information, messages, and social competency strategies covered at school.

"I think that it helps that it’s someone outside of their daily experience giving them the same information. I think sometimes we become like, when your mum and dad tell you something; teachers get categorised like that; and [students think] what do teachers know? But if people from outside, who are quite a lot younger, … are giving them the information around the effects of what alcohol can do to their brain and their bodies … that is important. We can tell them until the cows go home! … Having that outside influence is helpful." (School staff)

"It was real life examples, specific examples, that the students could relate to which made them buy in and listen from the start. The performers were interesting and dynamic and clear and fun, and they responded well even when they got the odd student asking a tricky question. But the kids felt like they could ask the tricky questions. So … that was a really key part of it as well. If you had performers that weren’t as capable at working with the crowd it would impact on the overall outcome." (Teacher)

Value students gained from SMASHED

  • Different groups of students engaged with, and valued, SMASHED, and could relate to different aspects of the characters or scenarios in the show.
  • The evidence collected suggested that students who attended SMASHED gained an increased awareness of how different forms of alcohol-related harm might impact on them and their peers.
  • The workshop aspect of the performance was particularly valuable for students as they were able to suggest alternative social competency strategies and see them tested out by the actors.
  • Students were also able to engage in interactive activities that assisted them to develop social competencies, in particular: addressing peer pressure, and decision making and positive problem solving.
  • Students reported they could see a range of ways they could use these strategies now, or in the future.

“It did show me a lot. Because drinking—I knew it was not good for you but there’s more consequences than just like having a hangover the next morning … before I went to the SMASHED presentation, I hadn’t really thought about the consequences going that extreme. Because at the end her eye got smashed by the glass and got really damaged. That had lifelong consequences on her dreams … Now after I can sort of see how … the massive effects drinking could have if it is not controlled.” (Year 9 student)

“I liked how they told you what to do if you are drinking, like what to avoid, like if you are peer pressured, to get out of it as soon as possible as it could end with worse stuff.” (Year 9 student)

We’re committed to continuous improvement and the NZCER report gave several suggestions for ongoing improvement and evolution we’re excited by the potential to incorporate these into the SMASHED 2023 programme.