Research, Evaluation, + Evidence


UTC was developed and informed through: 1) game-based learning (GBL), and 2) the social cognitive theory (SCT).

Game-Based Learning (GBL)

Games have the potential to be both engaging and educational.  While traditional games aim to entertain the user, GBL aims to educate the user through game play. GBL is an effective teaching strategy that is highly attractive and motivating for participants. When designed appropriately, the user of GBL is motivated, focused, and engaged to the point of repeated playing or returning to the game over time. Research shows GBL cultivates critical thinking, motivates youth to apply knowledge and skills, and increases confidence levels. Ultimately, GBL is an effective strategy enabling students to develop, apply, and practice critical thinking skills more efficiently than traditional teaching methods.

Social Cognitive Theory (SCT)

The SCT states that changing a behavior is a function of: increasing a person’s knowledge and skills related to a behavior (behavioral capability), adjusting what a person thinks will happen if s/he makes the behavior change and if that expected outcome is positive (expectations and expectancies), increasing the person’s confidence to perform the behavior (self-efficacy), and increasing a person’s perceived control over making the behavior change (self-control). These theoretical constructs (mechanisms of change) have been consistently identified in empirical studies as salient factors in preventing teen pregnancy.

Evidence Summary

Feasibility testing revealed the following:


Youth liked learning about sexual health through the games and would play again with more people.


UTC provided a flexible structure and a user-friendly facilitator manual, and because of different structures, time requirements varied by game. To implement, organizations need to provide a supportive environment, need to recruit enough youth, and have facilitators (that don’t need formal training but are ideally relatable to youth).


UTC was a fun way for youth to learn and easy for facilitators to lead because their role was to guide (and enhance as able); it required minimal input from the organizations aside from prep work to adapt the content to the community, which can be eased through strong community ties

Rigorous Testing

UTC is currently going through rigorous evaluation (a randomized control trial (RCT)) funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) - Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) through the Personal Responsibility Education Innovative Strategies (PREIS) program.

Publications About UTC

Development of UTC

Esquivel, C. H., Wilson, K. L., Garney, W. R., Smith, C. E., McNeill, E. B., & McMaughan, D. J. (2022). Using Human-Centered Design to Develop an Innovative Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program: Lessons Learned from a Case Study. Creative Education, 13, 1439-1457. 

Feasibility: Youth Acceptability

Esquivel, C., Wilson, K., Garney, W., McNeill, E. B., McMaughan, D. J., Brown, S., & Graves-Boswell, T. (2021). A Case Study Evaluating Youth Acceptability of Using the Connect – A Sexuality Education Game-Based Learning Program. American Journal of Sexuality Education, 17(1), 57–83.