bodhi s.r
IJDTSW Vol.5, Issue 1, No.2, pp. 25 to 39, July 2018

Social Work Intervention in Ashramshalas: Challenges for Action Research Practitioners Using Experimental Research Design

Published On: Saturday, August 4, 2018

As part of a Action Research project that aims to intervene in an Ashramshala context with specific focus on self concept of Adivasi children, through the usage of an Experimental Research Design, this article, which constitutes the first part of the research, discusses the intervention strategies and facilitator’s reflections in the said setting, located in a district within the state of Maharashtra. While the results of the study was measured statistically pre and post, this article however focuses only on the intervention framework with concomitant reflections and observations by the social worker embedded in the engagement process. The article concludes with reflections on the issues concerning the intervention strategies within the framework of action research and the dynamics arising out of interventions that has psychology as a fundamental thrust.


Applying an action research model to adivasi children studying in an ashramshala on the theme of self concept, the intervention used a before and after experimental research design with comparison groups. The target group are children (boys and girls aged 10 – 14 years) residing in Ashramshala in X District. This age group was selected keeping in mind the level of schooling, availability of children in the age-group in institutions and developmental milestones. The total sample comprised of approximately 31 boys and girls, studying in the 5th standard in the Y Ashramshala, in X District. This formed the Intervention group for the Action –Research project.

Another 31 children, both boys and girls studying in the 5th standard, from another Ashramshala in the vicinity were treated as the Control Group. Composition of both the groups was similar, with all of them being residential children belonging to three different tribes although it was the intention of the research to select only a common tribe – the Katkari. An equal proportion of both male and female students were also ensured. By studying the Genogram of each student, it was assured that all the members of the Intervention and the Control Group belonged to more or less similar socio-economic background.


A)Introduction to Group Sessions and

B) Intervention Modules for Children

An important part of this Action-Research is the Self-Concept Measuring Instrument (SCQ) developed by Dr. Raj Kumar Saraswat. In this scale, the different parameters along which the Self-Concept measures are comprehensive and cover all the aspects that predominantly contribute to the formation of one’s self-concept. Therefore the intervention strategies conceived for operationalization with the Intervention Group were designed keeping in mind the following 6 aspects: (1) Physical, (2) Social, (3)Temperamental, (4) Educational (5) Moral and (6) Intellectual

Different methods of facilitation were utilized in the activities conducted with the Intervention Group. While designing the activities special attention was given to the fact that concepts and words used during the sessions need to be familiar and easily understandable by the children. The sessions have to be enjoyable and have an optimum ‘fun’ quotient without compromising on the intended messages. Both individual and group activities needed to be included. Non-directional approach was always upheld.

Age of Participants

Out of a total of 31 participants, one of the students was nine years of age, another nine students were ten years of age. Eleven of these students were 11 years old, six of the students were 12 years old, two of the students were 13 years old, and another two of the students were 14 years old.

Tribe/Caste Across Male and Female Participants





Tribe/ Caste









Dogar Koli














The overarching objectives of this intervention are:

  1. Enhance / strengthen the positive self-concept among the tribal children residing in Ashramshalas.

  2. Measure Self-concept using existing standardized tools for measuring the same among children on institutions before and after social group and individual interventions – systematic social group work.

  3. Systematically design and utilize social group work inputs for enhancing self-concept of the children residing in Ashramshalas.

  4. Document indigenously developed social group work method


Using Sarawat.R.K. (1999) tool of Self-concept the intervention model was formulated. While pre and post measurement of each identified variable was carried forth over a four stages of six months each, this paper however brings to light only a part of the project in the form of intervention strategies and its immediate repercussions. Based on the assumption that positive self-concept is the basis on which the perception of self is dependent upon, this study focuses on measuring self-concept of tribal children availing facilities of Ashramshalas around the following dimensions:

  • Physical – Individual’s view of their own body, health, physical appearance and strengths.

  • Social – Individual’s sense of worth in social interactions.

  • Temperamental – Individual’s view of their prevailing emotional state or predominance of a particular kind of emotional reaction.

  • Educational – Individual’s view of themselves in relation to school, teachers and extracurricular activities.

  • Moral – Individual’s estimation of their moral worth, right and wrong activities.

  • Intellectual – Individual’s awareness of their intelligence and capacity of problem solving and judgments.

Other concepts that are subsumed in the formulation of each of the above category are

  • Self-Esteem: Opinion of one’s character and abilities.

  • Self-Image: Physical appearance and social competence.

  • Perception of others’ opinion of oneself: Teachers’, peers’ and institutional authorities’ opinion of oneself.

  • Communication: Ability to relate to familiar and unfamiliar people.

  • Skills: Life and livelihood skills.

  • Shelter/ House: Place to live.

  • Self-confidence: Firm belief on one’s character and capabilities.

  • Competence: Having and exercising life skills.


Intervention was identified before the field engagement and spread over a period of thirteen weeks, organize on a particular day every week.

Session One: “Scientific Demonstrations”

The session was conducted by two experts in science education. The social worker reached the Savarsi Ashram School at 10:30am. The resource persons also reached the venue in time. The programme for the day had been planned earlier with the help of the Head Master of the school, Mr. P. Initially, the programme was meant to be organized only for the students of 5th to 9th std; but the primary school teachers requested Mr. X to include the students of 1st to 4th std in the programme. The resource persons readily agreed to do so. On the said date the school hall was engaged in the distribution of food grains as a part of the flood relief measures. Therefore, it was decided that the programme be held in one of the classrooms. The seating arrangement of the classroom was modified accordingly. Mr. P welcomed the honorable resource persons for the day. A few teachers from the school were also present for the programme. Mr. W and Mr. Z demonstrated a variety of experiments and elicited students’ participation in various ways. Some of these were based on the functions of sense organs, function of brain and heart, function of length, pressure of water, etc it was great learning opportunity for the students. They participated in every experiment with zeal and enthusiasm. The programme was concluded with a vote of thanks by the social worker.

During this workshop the social worker observed that the teachers were unable to let go of their control over the students. The presence of the teachers seemed to pressurize the students. Therefore the students were not able to express their opinions freely. The students lack confidence and to add to it the teachers do not give them the required space to voice their views. Therefore the students come across as shy and reserved. However, the students enjoyed the simple and humorous language used by Mr. Z. The teachers too appreciated the programme.

Intervention One: Natural Resources

The objectives of this particular exercise was to (i) To help the students to understand nature and its resources through fun games, (ii) To facilitate a two-way learning process, thereby giving the students an opportunity to share their abundant knowledge. There were thirty one students who participated.


  1. The students were given 5 minutes to get something from out side the class room. No restriction was put on the kind of things that they could pick.

  2. All the materials brought by the students were listed down and later categorized. This was done through students’ participation.

  3. Differences between natural and man made resources were enumerated.


  1. The physical activity of going outside the classroom seemed to energize the children.

  2. The students brought various kinds of things – toffee wrapper, cloth, tin roof piece, stored, leaves, wood etc.

  3. The students could correctly classify them as natural and man made material / resources.

  4. The students were extremely knowledgeable about the names and uses of the above mentioned materials.


The students are in touch with the nature and understand it deeply, like probably the tribals alone can understand and the exercise of categorization seems to enhance the children’s intellectual and conceptual abilities.

Intervention Two: Story Telling

The objectives of this particular exercise were to (i) To stimulate and develop listening and comprehension skills through fun games, (ii) to initiate a discussion on the importance of attitude. There were thirty one students who participated.


  1. The social workers narrated a story to the students. The story highlights the difference in responses to the same stimuli, thereby molding the attitude towards the circumstances themselves.

  2. On the basis of the story, a discussion was initiated among the students.


The students were found to be quite unresponsive during the discussion following the story. The social worker made sure that the children had understood the story but still the students remained passive. A few questions were asked to the students regarding the story in order to encourage them to speak up. However, there was no change.


The social workers encouraged discussion; but when the students did not respond favorably they decided against forcing the children and concluded the session. The reason for the students’ passivity could be that they misinterpreted the narrated story to be restricted to alcoholism &wife beating. Considering it to be a usual, familiar theme, their interest may have diminished.

Intervention Three: Trust Game

The objectives of this particular exercise was to (i) To develop a feeling of trust among students, (ii) To sensitize the students towards problems faced by the visually challenged, (iii) To initiate a discussion regarding students’ response to the activity and eliciting a feedback. There were thirty one students who participated and the material required was 14 dupattas.


  1. The students were divided into two types groups – boys and girls

  2. The social workers then gave instructions for the activity.

  3. Pairs consisting of one boy and one girl each were formed. Initially, the girls were blindfolded by the male counterparts, with the duppattas. They were instructed to lead the blind folded partner outside the classroom by holding hands and then return after 5 minutes.

  4. Later, this process was repeated with the boys being blindfolded by their female counterparts and being led outside the classroom in a similar fashion.


After the activity was completed the social worker encouraged the students to share their individual experiences. The responses of the participants varied; some felt that their partners didn’t care for them, some felt scared because of the inability to see, and others shared that they were now able to understand the challenges that visually-impaired persons experience everyday!


Initially most students felt that the activity was just for fun. But the discussion that followed the activity made them realize its significance. There was a feeling of awkwardness among students regarding holding hands of their counterpart belonging to the opposite sex. It was only after the social workers insisted that the younger boys and girls were ready to do so. Students preferred to team with their close friends and avoided pairing with those who were not too close to them. There is also a distinct sense of gender-based groupism among the students – both boys and girls. They are extremely conscious of these differences and these are overtly manifested in their behavior. Once the activity was over the students were forthcoming with their responses.

Intervention Four: Dos and Dont’s

The objectives of this particular exercise was to (i) To develop conceptual clarity in students regarding the common values sanctioned and accepted by the society, (ii) To provide an informal platform to the students to portray the discrepancies between values and behavior. There were thirty one students who participated.


  1. A general orientation about the theme of the activity was given to the students by the social worker.

  2. The social worker then asked the students to share their views of what they thought were the ‘ideal values’.

  3. The students’ responses were enlisted by the social worker on the blackboard. These responses were categorized under two heads – Dos and Dont’s.


The students’ responses (a copy of which is attached) were found to be predictable – the Dos included cleanliness, hard work, etc; while the Dont’s included not bunking school, not lying, etc. The students contributed their opinions openly, with enthusiasm. The discrepancies between what is thought to be right and what is practiced in reality were pointed out by the students. The broken windows of the classroom, the bad condition of books, pencil boxes and other personal belonging of the students, unhygienic habits while using the toilet, etc. were cited as examples. The students were aware of these discrepancies


The exercise explicitly brought out the discrepancies between the “actual self and the ideal self”. Through such stimulating activities the gap between the two can be acknowledged and also minimized. The students were also sensitized to the discrepancies that exist between what they “think, say and act”. The need to establish congruency between one’s words and action was emphasized by the social worker.

  1. Intervention Five: A Review of Activities Conducted in Lieu of the Research

The objectives of this particular exercise was to (i) To find out how well the students were able to recall the activities conducted till date, (ii) To take a feedback from the students regarding their expectations from the activities to be conducted in the future. There were thirty one students who participated.


  1. This informal process began with the social worker asking the student to recall the activities they had carried out in the previous sessions.

  2. The students were given time to think after which they named or described the activities that they could recollect. They were as follows;

  • Theme based group presentation ( sun , water , air ,soil and tree)

  • Mapping

  • Trust Game

  • Natural resources

  • right and wrong

  • Like and dislike

  • Do and Dont’s

  • What they can do for their school

  • To go over the bottle, blindfolded. ( superstition )

  • Joining the 9 different points, non-stop

  1. The students were asked the reasons for continuing such sessions on the future, topics about which interested them.


The students were able to recall all the activities that were conducted in the previous sessions. The question about the students’ expectations from the future sessions had to be rephrased in several ways; but no response was received. The social worker then had to initiate a discussion by mentioning things like post office, bank, airplanes, railways, sea, garden, museum, theater etc. After an initial hesitance, the students started sharing their views spontaneously. They were unfamiliar with these places and expressed an urge to know about them. Some of their misconceptions about these (e.g. the cost of a theater ticket) were cleared.


Children, in such institutions, often do not get the exposure that other children elsewhere are able to. Such experience might prove helpful to them in their struggle to acquire skills required for earning a daily living in the adult world of work. Approximately ten students (out of 60) still find it difficult to share their views and opinions with the social worker; majority of them being girls. This might be the result of their inhibitions pertaining to interaction with any member of the opposite sex.

Intervention Six: Memory Game

The objectives of this particular exercise was to to gauge one’s own memory strength through fun games. There were thirty one students who participated. The material required were Pencil for each student, paper chits for each student, articles to be remembered – pen, soap, coin, watch, comb, chalk, handkerchief, dusting cloth, bottle cap, marker, register, scale, match box, cello tape, tap, stapler, a pair of scissors, pencil , stamp-pad, sketch pen, stamp, compass and a cloth to cover the articles.


  1. The social worker introduced the activity and gave the relevant instructions to the students.

  2. The articles were arranged in a manner such that each student could see them clearly.

  3. The articles were then hidden with a cloth.

  4. The students were given 5 minutes to write down the names of the articles that they could remember seeing.

  5. These paper chits were then collected and tallied with the actual articles displayed.

  6. A reward of one rupee was given to the students who could recall all the articles accurately.


The students seemed to treat the game like an exam, especially the promised reward of one rupee created a competitive atmosphere. Around 50% of the students could recall 15-20 articles; but only one boy and one girl were able to recall all articles, accurately.


The activity could have been enriched by incorporating various techniques of strengthening memory. Such inputs, along with a discussion about the importance of memory, would have made the exercise more meaningful.

Intervention Seven: Theme based group presentation

The objectives of this particular exercise was to (i) To facilitate team work among the students, (ii) To provide an opportunity to students to demonstrate and initiate leadership qualities, (iii) To provide a platform to the students to portray their creative abilities. There were thirty one students who participated.


  1. The students were divided into 4 groups, 2 groups comprising of 2 girls and 4 boys each, and the other 2 groups comprising of 3 girls and 4 boys each.

  2. Each group was given a particular theme – ‘Sun’, ‘Water’, ‘Tree’ & ‘Soil’.

  3. Each group was asked to prepare a presentation on the given theme; participation of each member was emphasized upon. They were given 20 minutes for the preparation.


Initially on being given the theme, the students just looked at each other and giggled. No serious attempts were made to even begin with the process of preparing for the presentations. The social worker gave the students a few clues, so as t o encourage the groups to initiate action. After the said 20 minutes were over, the social worker came back with the headmaster to see the presentations. It was observed that all the groups, invariably, presented the examples that were cited by the social worker. None of the groups came with an original idea


The reason for the passive participation on part of the students might be their first time exposure to such an activity, especially in front of their headmaster. An alternate explanation could be that the students have internalized that persons in position of authority (for them, mostly teachers) appreciate only what they offer (teach) and do not respect the ideas and opinions voiced by the students.

Intervention Eight:

The objectives of this particular exercise was to (i) To find the ideas and concept that the students nurture about their school, (ii) To find out what the students can do for bringing about a positive change in their school. There were thirty one students who participated.

The social worker handed out blank sheets of paper to each student and instructed them to write on that paper ‘whatever they would do to bring about a positive change in the school’. They were given 20 minutes to complete this activity.

Intervention Nine: Likes and Dislikes

The objective of this particular exercise was to give an opportunity to the students to share their likes and dislikes, freely. There were total thirty one students who participated.


The social worker helped to initiate a discussion on likes and dislikes of the students.

Intervention Ten: Village Mapping

The objectives of this particular exercise was to (i) make the subject of Geography relevant and interesting for the students, thereby strengthening their educational self-concept, (ii) To facilitate team work among the students. There were total thirty one students who participated.


  1. The students were divided into groups, according to their villages. Accordingly 7 groups were formed. (Shene, Ranshet, Asani, Bhogeshwar, Gauravwadi, Savarsai, Gavthan). The groups had a mix of both male and female students.

  2. Each group was asked to draw a map of their own village on the floor of the classroom, with the help of the chalks provided.

  3. The social worker gave his feedback and inputs to each of the groups.


Mostly representation of houses dominated the maps that were drawn by the students; they failed to mention landmarks such as public toilets, wells, flour mills, etc. Both male and female students were equally participative in the process. The social worker supplemented the discussion with information about concepts like direction, key, symbols, etc.


The fact that the students in each group belonged to the same village facilitated the process of discussion. The students could relate well to the tasks assigned to them. The physical nature of the activity also boosted participation of the students.

Intervention Eleven: Magic Trick – Titanic

The objectives of this particular exercise was to (i) To understand problem and find solution through group work, (ii) To encourage the notion of finding multiple solutions to a given problem. Total participant was fifty five students. The material required was the Titanic Magic Box.


  1. The students were divided in 3 groups, comprising of both boys and girls, and they were given proper instructions.

  2. One Magic Titanic Box was given to each group and the members were asked to put both the iron balls in opposite corners of the box at the same time.

  3. Each member of the group tried to put the iron ball in the cannon box, but none of them could succeed.

  4. Finally, the Social Worker demonstrated the way in which the activity could be successfully completed.


The students were completely engrossed in the activity and tried hard to place the ball in the canon box. When all their efforts failed, some members of group tried to manipulate; but could not succeed. When none of the groups were able to complete the task, every participant was eager to know about the right way of completing the given task. During the activity, boys dominated the scene and gave lesser chance to their female counterparts to handle the Magic Titanic Box.

Intervention Twelve: Magic Stick

The objectives of this particular exercise was to (i) To help students to reduce depression, (ii) To help students to overcome negative feelings (iii) To help students to develop a positive approach. Total participants were fifty five and material needed was a Magic Stick.


  1. The students were requested to be seated in a semi-circle.

  2. The facilitator initiated a discussion among to students to elicit their opinions about the problems they encounter in the Ashramshala during the process of education.

  3. After hearing their responses, the facilitator tried to convince the students that the problems they mentioned were temporary in nature and could be overcome.

  4. The facilitator encouraged the students to have faith in themselves and get well educated.

  5. The facilitator tried to strengthen the students’ positive approach towards the education in their Ashramshala.


The students honestly expressed their opinions while understanding and discussing problems they face in the Ashramshala. Some students got emotional during the discussion about their Ashramshala. However, after the discussion was over the students seemed to be content and relaxed.

Some Concluding Remarks

The difficulty in identifying experiment and control group from a single ashramshala and having to innovate by choosing another ashramshala which is in the vicinity to identify control group was a challenge. While the idea of experimental research is indeed an enticing one, the tribal context in India does not open itself up for such a research design.

Mix group for intervention and control as there was difficulty to get participants of only one single tribal community: There are exceptions in India where one finds a single homogeneous tribal group in schools. However in the state of Maharashtra within the universe of research it was extremely difficult to get a homogeneous group. There were multiple tribal groups within the school and the question of exclusion arose when ever there was a thought of selecting specific sample to minimize variation. This was a major challenge in the light of practicing exclusion among children while the intention of conducting the same was noble.

The absent of measurement scale that is adivasi centric or that which is developed keeping adivasi reality-especially socio-cultural in mind and the discrepancies arising out of usage of measurement scale that are sourced from non-adivasi societies is a major issue. Scales have limitations, especially those grounded fundamentally on testing psychological determinants. The tribal community and its psychological make up does not lend itself to very urban centric scaling and measurement. This is against the rule of relativism and thus fall trap to an absolutist approach to people’s psyche.

The specific focus on individuals in a society that fundamentally remains and shows socio cultural traits of homogeneity is another major challenge. Most psychological scales are framed as to measure individual temperaments and personalities. For tribal community, the individual while present is not a atomistic identity. They work much more on trust and consensus and their notion of rationality is embedded within this framework. There is a rationality in tribal worldview, but this rationality is in most occasions tempered by consensus.

The paradox of science education posed on societies with alternative science models is another challenging but engaging process. When one enters the tribal context one begins to experience science as a absolute framework but a relative framework. Every act is in the context. Science itself is within society and not outside of it standing objective and external to people’s realities.

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