Here's a question: “What I'd like to know is how you assess 'need' and measure progress over time. I have many of the books and have looked through and read parts of all of them, but haven't seen anything that fits my need. Our special ed. director would like to have some data to show that these groups have been successful.”
Here are some thoughts:
In the later chapters of Thinking About You Thinking About Me, 2nd edition this topic is addressed at length, but it is certainly far from perfect! Some have also benefited from reading Why Teach Social Thinking to understand why you won’t find standardized tests to be the solution, but also how to use informal methods to gather some significant information.
Some thoughts on data collection (also refer to how to measure using rubrics article)
The most important part of data collection is having finely tuned IEP or treatment objectives that are specific in nature. I have suggested a number of IEP goal ideas in the curriculum Think Social. They are “ideas” for how to narrow your goals/objectives, but more importantly should be thought of as a guide to encourage you to explore much more succinct goal writing. Avoid writing goals or objectives such as “Joe will converse for 10 min” or “Mina will interact with her peers for 30 min with 2 prompts.” For our higher functioning students we need to teach them about how the social world/social mind works and then how our social understanding of the world around us and the minds of others leads us to adapt our social behaviors so others perceive us the way we want them to perceive us. Goals and objectives should reflect that need. As simple as that statement is, is as complicated as it is.
An equally important part of goal writing is the process of teaching administrators, fellow teachers and parents that you are not simply teaching social skills or how to behave socially. Instead, your treatment will focus on teaching about the social “thinking” process. Again, this is a big leap. Most people have a paradigm related to teaching social skills, which is basically to tell the student what they should do and reinforce it and they will learn it. Social learning is simply too dynamic and synergistic to teach it in that way.
Once you have identified your goals/objectives for the year, begin with data collection using a rubric (we use a 4-part rubric). This is one example of components of a rubric, but individual therapists can create any type of rubric for the goals/objectives they generate.
1= No understanding of the concept or why it is important.
2= Emerging awareness of the concept, but can’t explain it. (e.g., may be able to answer direct questions but can’t generate examples).
3= Is beginning to explain how the concept is important and point out or give examples of the concepts use or misuse on others.
4= Has solid understanding of the concept demonstrated through the student’s explanation and awareness of his own use or misuse of this concept. A student can really only begin to monitor and change his own social behavior around the targeted concept if he is scoring a 4 on the rubric.
For some students you may spend most, if not all year, simply helping students build awareness and monitoring of these concepts. Books like You Are a Social Detective (for elementary aged students) and Socially Curious and Curiously Social (for high level high school teens and young adults) are designed for this purpose. Thinking About You Thinking About Me, Think Social and Thinksheets are all designed to help educators learn how to teach these concepts.
Once a student is ready to work on his behavior change we have a rubric for that as well. Again, this is one example of literally hundreds of rubrics that could be generated by you!
0 = No demonstrated use of concept.
1 = Limited demonstration of use of concept by modifying one’s own behavior with moderate prompts.
2 = Demonstration of use of concept with minimal prompts sustained briefly.
3 = Demonstration of use of concept maintained with relatively few cues or in structured environment.
4 = Demonstration of concept without cues and generalizing beyond core teaching environment.
Narrative Data: An additional and important part of data collection is to have students write or explain what they are learning about Social Thinking and how it's different from Social Skills. We also have them explain how their goals are important and relate to their own ability to function across their environments. This type of data is easily tied to the rubrics above. However, we continue to have students provide some assessment of their own thinking and they progress even when they are working at the level of behavior change. It is interesting to read how students become more aware over time even when working on very high-level goals.
Professional observations: Notes on how a student is relating to the information and comments the student may say or reports from others in the environment about how the student is doing.
Always write notes on what you are going to do next week based on this week’s session. By having bulleted notes about what to do in the next session, you provide a seamless curriculum for the student that is geared to the student’s direct needs.
Data collection is not easy. The social mind is a complicated place and it spills over into our own mental health. It is impossible to teach social skills without impacting how someone feels about the social emotional process of social learning. Some of our students have had years of negative social experiences and have built up walls to protect them from having to delve into learning about their own and others' social minds.
It is important to avoid thinking that a single year of “social skills therapy” or “Social Thinking Lessons” will yield significant results that will be all the student needs. It should simply provide some basic understanding for the student to do more to help himself or herself learn this complex stuff in a way that can make some sense to them.
This is an ongoing process. Remember, Social Thinking and related skills change with age, constantly evolving in nuance and sophistication. Hopefully this information will help you with assessment and data collection. It’s an example of ONE way to tackle this difficult task, but it’s not the only way.