Can I implement an evidence-based program with a larger group of youth than is recommended?

It's essential that all participants in an evidence-based program (EBP) have the opportunity to contribute to discussions, personalize the material, and actively participate in the various skill-building activities to practice the skills.

The biggest concern with a larger-than-recommended group size is that it may compromise the interactivity and individual skills practice built into a program. This is usually considered a yellow-light (use caution) adaptation, because program developers believe that the smaller group size used in the study allowed a higher level of participation and engagement for the youth, which contributed to the program’s effective results. 

Yellow-light adaptations can be made if they are done thoughtfully and with careful attention to preserving the core components of the program (and with approval from the funder or grant program officer, if that is a consideration.

If your group size is larger than recommended, ETR would suggest that program coordinators and facilitators review the lessons or curriculum modules carefully and formulate a plan to keep the sessions interactive. Consider how you might ensure that all participants engage in critical skills practice and interactive discussion—perhaps by breaking into smaller groups, each led by a trained co-facilitator for discussion, roleplays, condom skills practice, etc.

With a larger group, classroom management may become more challenging. Consider adding a co-facilitator or assistant to help with this as needed. But the biggest concern to address is the level of participation and engagement. It’s important to recognize that the smaller group size used for the original evidence-based study made it possible for lots of interaction and engagement. Take steps to recreate that as much as possible within a larger group structure.

Read more about green-, yellow-, and red-light adaptations here