Friday, February 8, 2008

Soft Skills Training - Skill Deficit Issues

Symmary of

Behavior Management: Getting to the Bottom of Social Skills Deficits
By: Judith Osgood Smith (1995)

One of the most puzzling and frustrating problems encountered by parents and teachers of students with learning disabilities (LD) is not the student who obviously acts out or engages in overtly antisocial behaviors, but rather the one who simply fails to perform the appropriate behavior for a given circumstance or setting. This problem is frequently labeled a social skill deficit (Gresham & Elliott, 1989).

Students with LD may exhibit social skill deficits that are either skill-based or performance-based.
In other words, either the skill may not be in the student's repertoire or the student may have acquired the skill but it is not performed at an acceptable level.

Effective intervention requires identification and remediation of the specific type of deficit exhibited by the student.

Skill-based deficits

A skill-based deficit exists when a student has not learned how to perform a given behavior.

For example, a student who has not learned to do long division could be said to have a long division skill deficit. Similarly, a student who hasn't mastered the skill of greeting others appropriately may have a skill deficit in that area.

A critical issue is whether the student actually possesses the desired skill. If not, it is unreasonable to demand that it occur or scold the student if it doesn't.

We may determine if a student has a skill deficit by observing whether the desired skill has ever been performed. If not, one may hypothesize that the skill is not in the student's repertoire. This may be tested further by providing strong incentives to perform the desired behavior. If the student fails to perform under these conditions, it is likely that the problem stems from a skill deficiency.

Don't scold or reprimand the student for having a skill based deficit; instead, teach the skill.

Teaching social skills

Generally, a skill-based deficit is due to lack of opportunity to learn or limited models of appropriate behavior (Gresham & Elliott, 1989).

In these instances, direct instruction, or skill training, is necessary.

The same principles apply to teaching social skills as to academic skills: provide ample demonstration/modeling, guided practice with feedback, and independent practice.

Hazel, Schumaker, Sherman, and SheldonWildgen (1981) listed eight fundamental social skills which can be taught through direct instruction:

Giving positive feedback (e.g., thanking and giving compliments),
Giving negative feedback (e.g., giving criticism or correction),
Accepting negative feedback without hostility or inappropriate reactions,
Resisting peer pressure to participate in delinquent behavior,
Solving personal problems,
Negotiating mutually acceptable solutions to problems,
Following instructions, and
Initiating and maintaining a conversation.

They recommended teaching these skills by providing definitions, illustrations with examples, modeling, verbal rehearsal, behavioral rehearsal, and additional practice.

Similarly, Walker, Colvin, and Ramsey (1995) recommended a nine step direct instructional procedure, the ACCEPTS instructional sequence. The steps include:

1. Definition of the skill with guided discussion of examples,
2. Modeling or video presentation of the skill being correctly applied,
3. Modeling or video presentation of incorrect application (non example),
4. Review,
5. Modeling or video presentation of a second example with debriefing,
6. Modeling a range of examples, coupled with hypothetical practice situations,
7. Modeling or video presentation of another positive example if needed,
8. Role playing, and
9. Informal commitment from student to try the skill in a natural setting.

Intervention for skill-based deficits should focus on direct instruction of the skill.

Effective instructional methods include demonstration/modeling with guided practice and feedback.

Performance-based deficits

A performance-based deficit exists when the student possesses a skill but doesn't perform it under the desired circumstances. This may occur if there is a problem with either motivation or with ability to discriminate as to when to exhibit the appropriate behavior.

Motivational deficit
When a motivational deficit exists, the student possesses the appropriate skill, but doesn't desire to perform it. A motivational deficit may be hypothesized if observations reveal that the student has acquired the desired skill, but motivational conditions are not sufficiently strong to elicit it.

In situations such as this, behavioral interventions are effective.

Discrimination deficit

A student with a discrimination deficit has the desired skill in his or her repertoire, is motivated to behave properly, but can't discriminate, (i.e., doesn't know when to exhibit the desired behavior). A discrimination deficit may be confirmed if the student frequently performs the desired behavior, but fails to perform it under specific conditions. This may be due to an inability to glean relevant information from social situations. When a discrimination deficit exists, the student possesses the desired behavior but may not be sure as to when, where, and how much to engage in that behavior.

A deficit in social cognition may be apparent in a student who is oblivious to social cues or who lacks understanding of the social demands of a situation (Bryan, 1994).

According to Smith and Rivera (1993), "educators must help students learn to discriminate among the behavioral options in each school situation and match that situation with the proper behavior pattern".

Some social skill problems occur simply because students do not understand how to read environmental cues that indicate whether or not a behavior is acceptable. In short, when there is a discrimination deficit, we must help the student size up the social situation and determine what to do. If the student cannot discriminate, we must teach what is acceptable in a given circumstance.

Lavoie (1994) introduced a problem solving approach to teaching discrimination called the social autopsy. A social autopsy is the examination or inspection of a social error in order to determine why it occurred and how to prevent it from occurring in the future. When a student makes an academic error, we provide the right answer and use the mistake as an opportunity to learn. I n other words, we teach the student how to "fix" the mistake. Similarly, Lavoie (1994) suggested that instead of punishing the student for making a social mistake, we should analyze it and use it as an opportunity to learn . The process involves asking the student, "What do you think you did wrong? What was your mistake?" By actively involving the student in discussion and analysis of the error, a lesson can be extracted from the situation which enables the student to see the cause effect relationship between his or her behavior and the consequences or reactions of others.

Underlying the social autopsy are the following principles:

Teach all adults who have regular contact with the student to perform social autopsies. This includes family members, custodial staff, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, teachers, secretaries, and administrators. This will foster generalization by ensuring that the student participates in dozens of autopsies daily.
Conduct social autopsies immediately after the error occurs. This will provide a direct and instantaneous opportunity to demonstrate the cause and effect of social behaviors.

Use social autopsies to analyze socially correct behaviors as well as errors. This will provide reinforcement which may assist the student in repeating the appropriate behavior in another setting.

Help students identify and classify their own feelings or emotions.

There are several advantages of this method: (a) It uses the sound learning principles of immediate feedback, drill and practice, and positive reinforcement; (b) It is constructive and supportive rather than negative or punishing; (c) It provides an opportunity for the active involvement of the student, rather than an adult controlled intervention; and (d) It generally involves one-on-one assistance to the student.

To summarize, limited awareness of the conventions of behavior and inability to decode the hidden curriculum and social cues contribute to deficits in discrimination of social skills. Interventions for students with these problems should be geared toward helping the student analyze the components of social situations so that discrimination can occur.

In conclusion, remediation must be directly related to the type of social skill deficit. If the student has a skill-based deficit, the appropriate intervention strategy is to teach the deficient skill. If motivation is a problem, behavioral interventions are appropriate. If the student has difficulty discriminating what is the acceptable behavior for a given circumstance, we must provide the information needed so that discrimination is possible and assist the student in analyzing positive social behaviors as well as social errors. Interfering behaviors must also be considered. Educators and parents can do much to alleviate social skills problems by discerning whether social skills deficits are skill based or performance based and designing interventions accordingly.

This article prepared in the context of learning disabilities has applications in managerial skills training and soft skills training.

1 comment:

Prescilla Priyanka said...

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