Mission Pilot Project
Social skills are those specific behaviors necessary for effective interpersonal communication, such as making eye contact or asking and responding to questions during a social exchange. Unsurprisingly, strong social skills developed in childhood are linked to positive developmental outcomes, such as peer acceptance and academic achievement, while underdeveloped social skills are found to have a negative impact on both academic and social development (Rao, Beidel, & Murray, 2008). Color My Conversation (CMC) is a social language program designed to implicitly teach these skills. The CMC program has the flexibility to be implemented in a variety of settings: individually, in small groups, or in classrooms. It has been designed in an easy to follow format to simplify the learning time required for instructors to implement the program. It is applicable for neuro-typical children and adolescents or for individuals of any age who have communication impairments. Color My Conversation incorporates a variety of learning methods including: multi-sensory teaching (i.e. artwork, signing, gestures, color coding, music, movement, modeling, video modeling, etc.), errorless learning, socio-emotional awareness, and the development of curiosity. These components help give CMC a unique facet for improving conversation skills.
STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Face-to-Face conversations are becoming more of a challenge in our social media driven society. Technology allows us to access information from around the world within seconds. We can stay connected to our family and friends anywhere and at any time. The educational opportunities for children are incredible! Parents and educators can hardly keep up with all of the options that are available. If one were to consider only these factors, then technology would look like the greatest gift for the advancement of mankind.
However, society is subtly becoming desensitized to the true value of face-to-face dialogue. It serves a much deeper purpose than to simply share a little “one-on-one” time. Face-to-Face conversations are key to our ability to communicate with each other because they offer more than just the words that we say. They offer a multi-faceted experience, using facial expressions, body gestures, tone of voice, and eye-to-eye interaction.
Technology can only take us so far in our personal endeavors (i.e. building friendships, job interviews). It cannot replace this integral form of communication from one human being to another. So how do we help our children improve their conversation skills?
Modeling and personal experiences occur naturally in our day-to-day living. However, this may not be enough. When formal instruction is required, multi sensory teaching is one strategy that can be considered as it allows us to incorporate our senses into a highly engaging and interactive learning environment. Research has proven that children have a much higher rate of success when they are given the opportunity to learn through a multi sensory approach.
Research indicates that a child’s social emotional development can positively affect their ability to learn. It is a foundational building block for encouraging positive behavior in school (Boyd, Barnett, Bodrova, Leong, & Gomby, 2005). Examples of social emotional skills include staying on task, engaged listening, managing emotions, following directions, working cooperatively and managing conflicts (Jones & Bouffard, 2013). There is a correlation between social emotional development and academic success (Wang & Algozzine, 2011). When children struggle in these areas, situations can arise which cause learning time to be reduced, not only for the child, but also for the rest of the children within the classroom setting. In contrast, when children have well developed social emotional abilities, they are more capable of staying on task and engaging in a positive manner with their peers and teachers (Wentzel, Baker, & Russell, 2009). This then leads to better academic outcomes in that the students receive more praise, less criticism, and have more opportunities to respond or contribute to the learning environment (Zins, Weissbert, Wang, & Walberg, 2004). Not surprisingly, children who receive this positive teacher attention outperform those who receive negative attention (Baker, 2006).
Unfortunately, many children enter the school system with limited social skills (Ryan, Fauth, & Brooks-Gunn, 2006). The classroom setting could be a perfect learning environment for supporting such children, however teachers often have limited time to address this area of instruction because of the pressure to prepare students academically. Adding to this problem, in-service training for teachers on social skills instruction can be limited (Bromfield, 2006).
It is inherent that we provide teachers with the sound principles, techniques, and tools vital to the process of teaching social emotional skills within the classroom setting. One such principle is that teachers should be aware of nurturing their own social emotional growth. In so doing, there is a greater opportunity for their relationships with their students to function optimally (Jones, Bouffard, & Weissbourd, 2013). Not only does this create positive interactions between teacher and students, it fosters a school community where adults and children alike are honing their skills collectively to create a positive and predictable learning environment. In this safe and nurturing atmosphere, curiosity and creativity can thrive.
Teaching social skills is clearly essential. It benefits the child’s ability to achieve academic success and allows for the development of healthy social relationships. In later years, it can delay the onset of harmful behaviors (i.e. drug and alcohol abuse) and can lead to long-term success in life (Eddy, Reid, & Curry, 2002). Taking this information into consideration, the cost-benefit of social language training cannot be overstated.
One of the ways that we build and maintain our social relationships is through our use of language. This is often done naturally as we greet others, engage in “chit-chat,” or take the time for a more in-depth conversation. However, direct instruction in an academic setting can also afford children an opportunity to develop stronger social relationships. In social language training, the children have an opportunity to broaden their appreciation for the social function of conversations (i.e. to communicate with others, to develop relationship). They have increased opportunity to expand their knowledge for and ability to use ‘conversational tools’; which will then allow them to more successfully navigate through their social interactions with others. Indirectly, the development of competencies in self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship skills mean that students can not only engage in more positive social behaviors but also have fewer problems with misconduct and emotional distress.
In summary, one should consider the long-term benefits of social language training. The investment of this instruction at a young age can lead to a lifetime of positive social interactions both personally and professionally.
The direct instruction of social skills using the Color My Conversation multi-sensory social language training program will result in a significant increase in positive social behaviors.
This study included students from three public schools – E. S. Richards Elementary, Deroche Elementary and Heritage Park Secondary. Specifically, the study involved: neuro-typical students (n=28) from a grade 4 class at E.S. Richards Elementary, an urban school with a population of 375 students; neuro-typical students (n=21) in a grades 4-5-6 split class from Deroche Elementary, a rural community school east of Mission with a population of 68 students, and students (n=4) with special needs (not neuro-typical) from the Inclusive Support Program at Heritage Park Secondary; which is a 7-12 secondary school with approx. 600 students. (Mission School District, 2014). From both elementary schools, there were n=5 students with learning support profiles. Since this is a blind study we are not identifying them by individual school as to protect their identities.
- 12 Stepping Floor Graphics
- 100 Picture/Emotion Cards
- 50 Game Tokens
- 50 Dry Erasable Wall Display Cards
- 2 Dry Erase Pens
- Cloth Ribbon (approximately 9.5ft)
- Game Board
- CMC Ball
- Classroom Poster
- Instructional Manual
- Music CD’s
- Teacher Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS) assessments
- Student Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS) assessments
- CMC Rubric
- Teacher Observation/Anecdotal Documentation (on program targets)
Rosslyn Delmonico (CMC program author) and the teachers met as a study group for an introduction to the program and to collaborate for program delivery. As a part of this collaborative relationship, Rosslyn provided two 2-hour workshops for the teachers. The first workshop focused on general information about social language development and instruction. The second workshop focused on teaching training for program implementation and assessment procedures. Upon completion of the two workshops, a schedule was created to provide consistency in relation to the timelines for assessment and lesson delivery.
The Color My Conversation program is divided into four separate levels: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert. Over the four levels, twelve separate lessons are provided. The intention was to complete the twelve lessons within the individual classroom settings over a four-month period. However, due to job action within the Province of British Columbia (Spring 2014), the final two lessons (Expert Level) were not completed. The study took place over 16 weeks with one lesson being provided over two classroom periods each week. During this time, the study group scheduled meetings after each level in order to review progress, ask questions and receive feedback on program implementation. A total of three meetings took place over the 16-week period.
Pre and post assessment data was collected for the study using the CMC rubric (section 3) designed by Cyndie Anderson and Rosslyn Delmonico using curriculum performance standards for language arts and conversation skills (BC ministry of education). Pre and post diagnostic data was collected using the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS) Assessment tool (Elliot and Gresham, 2008) for both student and teacher response.
Direct instruction of social skills using the Color My Conversation multi-sensory social language program resulted in a significant increase in positive social behaviors. The following graphs show a breakdown of the pilot results based on data collected from the SSIS tools. In the graphs, the labels indicate the data from which tool is being conveyed: by the teacher- preprogram testing (TSS Pre), post program testing (TSS Post), post program testing overall class average (TSS Average), and post program overall difference between preprogram testing and post program testing (TSS Difference). By the students- preprogram testing (SSS Pre), post program testing (SSS Post), post program testing overall class average (SSS Average), and post program overall difference between preprogram testing and post program testing (SSS Difference).
Observations: In all cases, the posttest indicated growth in skill development.
Observations: Most students improved overall. One student self-rated with no change, four students self-rated as having less skill, and 17 students self-reported an increase in skill.
Observations: post program data indicates that the teacher found the average difference in
growth for the cohort was just under 15 points.
Observations: post program data indicates that the students found the average difference
in growth for the cohort was approximately 6 points.
Observations: One student showed a decline in skill level, four students showed unchanging skill levels and 23 students showed skill level growth.
Observations: One student self-rated with no changes in skill level and 27 students self-rated an increase in skill level.
Observations: post program data indicates that the teacher found the average difference in
growth for the cohort was approximately 3 points.
Observations: post program data indicates that the students found the average difference in growth for the cohort was approximately 6 points.