The U.S. Census reports what most recognize just by looking around: the country is becoming increasingly diverse and this diversity is reflected in student populations.
While exposure to multiple cultures makes for a rich learning environment for our children, it also presents challenges. Schools set expectations and establish their norms, but social mores and their meanings vary among cultures. For example, maintaining eye contact may be perfectly acceptable in some cultures while considered inappropriate in others.
Strong social skills are critical for positive attitudes, ethical behaviors, and academic achievement. Social interaction is an essential part of learning, as students must communicate and collaborate with their teachers and peers to master concepts and skills. To successfully navigate the social realm, students must understand behavioral expectations, their emotions, and the effect their behavior has on others.
Educators and school counselors know many students arrive at school lacking necessary social and emotional skills. The good news is that research shows that programs teaching these skills are useful. Tools like Social Behavior Mapping and technology to support the teaching of social skills can go a long way towards improving school climate and bolstering the wellbeing of students.
The Role of a School Counselor
The school counselor plays a critical role in identifying students that need social and emotional learning support. All students, regardless of socio-economic background, have psychological needs that must be met for them to function adequately in society.
Ryan and Deci, in their classic study, identify these needs as:
- A sense of connectedness to the community or organization and
- A sense of autonomy
Individuals must feel they have some control over their lives if they are to control their behavior. School counselors are uniquely positioned to identify students that need additional support, and counselors are often best able to recommend appropriate interventions.
Their knowledge of a student is not narrowed to behaviors during a single class period, and counselors, with a caseload of several hundred students, are better able to assess a school’s overall social environment.
To successfully implement social learning programs, it is essential that a school have an integrated communications system so that teachers, staff, administrators, counselors, and parents can easily share information in real-time.
With input from everyone that interacts with students, a complete picture of behavior deficits can form. Technology can facilitate this aspect of developing a social and emotional learning program.
Social Behavior Mapping as a Tool for Teaching Social Skills
Social Behavior Mapping is a treatment framework developed by Michelle Garcia Winner as part of her Social Thinking methodology. This technique for explicitly teaching social skills has been successful in helping children and adults, particularly those on the spectrum, understand behavioral expectations and how their behavior appears to others.
A Social Behavior Map is a graphic representation of expected behaviors — such as completing classwork during class time and unexpected behaviors, like refusing to work — which are followed by the natural consequences of acting in expected and unexpected ways.
The map charts the feelings a student and others will have when the student acts appropriately or inappropriately. This visual method of teaching social skills makes social concepts concrete and easy to understand.
A student’s sense of wellbeing stems from their beliefs about themselves, and most of the information they use to develop a self-image comes from their teachers, school staff, families, and peers.
A negative self-image may stem from misperceptions identified in a behavior map. Students with social cognitive deficits may experience a “eureka” moment when their behavior is visually described. Students who have new insights into their behavior often respond with improved attitudes and school-wide adoption of social learning programs can significantly improve a school’s climate.
5 Ways Social Behavior Mapping can Build Social Competencies
1. Learn to identify desired behaviors
Students come to school with varying competencies, and we can’t afford to assume they know which behaviors are appropriate in the school setting. A behavior map clearly defines expected and unexpected behaviors.
2. Understand how behavior and natural consequences are linked
By identifying natural consequences, students may understand the reasoning behind the rules and integrate them into their social scripts.
3. Develop self-awareness
Asking students to think about their feelings enhances metacognition, which is essential to self-regulation.
4. Develop the ability to self–regulate in predictable and unpredictable environments
By contrasting consequences and feelings created with expected and unexpected behaviors, students are allowed to consider how they should handle different and uncomfortable social situations.
5. Recognize and accept the feelings of others
Pre-school and primary grade students are still developing their ability to empathize. Children that have suffered trauma may lack this ability into adulthood. Behavior mapping helps students understand that others experience feelings, just as they do, and it is vital to consider the effects of one’s behavior.
Technology to Support Social Learning
Automated Behavior Management Systems
Traditional behavior management systems often rely on hand-written notes and carbon-backed, three-part forms. Referrals are inconsistent and records are often incomplete, making it difficult to implement effective interventions.
An automated system allows school personnel to quickly enter positive and negative behavior notes so that reporting is consistent and data complete. Administrators, educators, and counselors have access to real-time data, and comprehensive reporting functions that quickly identify problematic behavioral patterns.
Automated Attendance Systems
The RFID technology now available makes it possible for students to take control of their attendance reporting by swiping or tapping an ID badge at a card-reader kiosk.
This simple security upgrade does more than increase school safety; it empowers students by giving them responsibility, and signals to the students that the school believes they have the competency to take on this responsibility. With automated attendance, teachers may attend to their students and lesson plans at the start of class, rather than diverting from their primary function to call roll.
Social Behavior Mapping illustrates abstract concepts so that students are better able to understand social interactions. Combined with the latest in learning and administrative technology, this technique can unite students, educators, and others in the school community with a shared vision of how their school should function.
Limited resources require that schools integrate technology for efficiency. As legacy programs are retired, updated systems must serve multiple functions — improved security, enhanced behavior management, accurate attendance reporting, and streamlined data management. These same systems will also facilitate social learning.
ScholarChip offers a solution called Alternative Behavior Educator (ABE). This innovative program enables counselors to identify, monitor, and improve student behavior throughout a student’s career, while giving administrators and teachers powerful data-driven reports that quickly flag at-risk students, help monitor and chronicle progress, and support decision-making tasks.
The ScholarChip system incorporates the complete spectrum of behavior and integrates student rewards, interventions, and tracking with PowerSchool®, Infinite Campus, and other popular SIS platforms.
To learn how ScholarChip can help keep your schools safer or the many solutions ScholarChip provides, feel free to contact a ScholarChip representative today!