HIP Member Spotlight: Portugal

HIP members all across the globe are taking action to train everyday heroes in their communities. During March and April of this year, a HIP member at the Catholic University of Porto in Portugal conducted its first pilot implementation of HIP lessons.  In order to test the effectiveness of the lessons, the Portugal team lead a pilot course with over 200 students in attendance. An experimental group and a control group answered two questionnaires before and after the study. The results showed that the students in the experimental group (those who participated in the HIP lessons) scored higher on positive outcomes, demonstrating a measurable positive impact of the HIP lessons on these students!

Alberto Sampaio high school, located in Braga, a city north of Portugal, gave the team an opportunity to conduct lessons during English and Physical Education classes. The material was divided into five sessions, each one and a half hours.

First, in groups, the students were asked to draw what they thought was relevant to the concept of a hero, responding to prompts such as "what makes a hero?" and "who do you consider a hero?"

The second session focused on explaining the HIP project in detail and familiarizing the students with Dr. Philip Zimbardo and the Stanford Prison Experiment.

The students then explored the concept of a bystander, including the issue of the bystander effect. During the third session, the students continued to discuss the bystander effect, with a focus on conformity. Students watched videos of social experiments where people failed to help and complied with the “passive” or bystander norm of the group.  In addition, the famous experiment on conformity by Soloman Asch was presented to further emphasize the issue of the bystander and conformity effects to the students.

The fourth session focused on discrimination and how easy it is to engage in unjust and biased behavior toward others. The students watched a short movie called “The Wave”, which recounted a real life story of a high school teacher who, when asked by a student how the German people could follow the Nazi regime, chose to simulate a social movement with the students to demonstrate the power of a group identity. 

In the last session, students performed short theatrical presentations based on bystander and heroic scenarios, to check their retention of the lesson content.  They were also asked for their opinions, feedback, and suggestions for HIP in the future.

Most of the participants in this pilot implementation seemed excited and interested in the topics of bystander behavior and heroism, with almost half of them expressing interest in continuing the program through a “Hero Club” initiative! Many of them also participated in qualitative data collection through a focus group, where the following testimonial was given:

Now that it’s over, what do you think you learned from the HIP program?

"That all of us can be heroes in our daily life and no one needs to accomplish great things. The simple things are enough and by helping someone out, we can already be seen as a hero to that person."

Upon analyzing the results of both questionnaires, differences between the experimental group and control group were found, with the experimental group scoring higher in altruistic factors for both scales. Quantitative data analysis of the questionnaires, (which is currently in Portuguese but will be available in English soon) in addition to feedback from the focus group, shows the impact the lessons had on the students. The Heroic Imagination Project had a real impact on the way in which these students viewed themselves in relation to being an everyday hero!

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