Evidence-based guidance to assist volunteers working with at-risk children in a school context

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One of the activities of the Belgian Red Cross is the ‘Bridging the Gap’ project, in collaboration with local schools. In this project, volunteers join the teaching staff to improve personal development goals in at-risk children with poor performance. The aim of this study was to develop evidence-based guidance for the volunteers to help them choose the right didactical approach for supporting these children.


Systematic literature searches were performed in three bibliographic databases (the Campbell Library, MEDLINE and ERIC) to find the effectiveness of 16 different didactical activities. In addition, during a consensus meeting with relevant stakeholders, we discussed the applicability and meaningfulness of these activities for volunteers in the school context.


We identified 38 relevant studies out of 12 056 references. Evidence of effectiveness was available for the following activities: book reading, road-safety education, number games, puzzle making, singing, block-building activities, reading poetry, computer-assisted instruction, storyboards, role play and a library visit. Based on the discussion with stakeholders, we developed evidence-based guidance with recommendations and suggestions to assist volunteers in their task.


This evidence-based guidance was developed to help volunteers working in a school context to choose which didactical activities to carry out with at-risk children, with the aim of improving the children's personal development. The list of didactical approaches we promote is not exhaustive and will most likely continue to grow, as many activities are currently not (well) described in scientific studies. In addition, contextual factors that may play a role in the success or failure of certain didactical activities are also subject to change.

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