Friday, 6 September 2013

Teaching Social Competencies

Professional Learning
Today I attended a professional learning opportunity entitled ' Teaching Social Competencies' delivered by Dr Helen McGrath ( Helen is a researcher in bullying, student attendance, Cybersafety , brushfire recovery and student well-being. I have previously attended professional learning sessions she has run on using Blooms Taxonomy) at the Australian Institute of Management in Melbourne.Glen Park was closed for the day while I used a curriculum day or 'pupil free day' to attend this session.
Helen discussed new research in teaching social competencies and gave us many thought provoking ideas for teaching it in the classroom. One of our school aims is 'empathy' and I thought that this 'EDPD' learning opportunity would provide me with opportunities to integrate the school value of empathy into our daily practices as well as explicitly teaching it.
Helen presented a number of texts that might support a social competencies program at our schools.Educational games are excellent for teaching Social Competencies. ( Refer books such as 'Creating Social Leaders' Pam Mathieson - 'Inyahead' Press and 'Socially ADDept by Janet Geir)
Helen also recommended 'Hits and Hots' by John Hattie.( She regards this text as essential)

Relationship culture-
Research shows developing these skills has a flow on effect to student learning.
Random groupings help with co-operative work.When kids are put together it is best to mix children with social skills in place with those who don't.

Factors contributing to enhancing peer relationships include:
Modelling positive behaviour
Using mentors from within and external to the school
Changing group dynamics
Giving students ownership of program's and initiatives
Encouraging children to talk about their feelings
Building trust between students and teacher and student
Co-operative Games

Some ideas to consider at Glen Park:
Changing table groups periodically
Trying to change group dynamics at school
Explicit problem solving and social competencies teaching - once per month ( Games Factory and Safe Schools Hub are valuable resources)
Encourage student leadership around school values. Rewards for students displaying school values to be awarded by grade 6 students.
Intervene with student bossiness and boasting and encourage children to also 'make a stand'.
Continue to provide placements for University of Ballarat Human Movement students to interact as positive role models for the girls at the school and to run with the students the social competency program's that they learn at Uni

Social Behaviour
To effectively socialise we use social cognition and memory, intention detection, empathy, recognise social cues, predict possible positive/ negative outcomes when socialising.
Children often don't have some or all of these skills.
We need to explicitly teach these skills. Social skills help you to feel good about yourself and how you feel socially, It is about acceptance, co-operation and company. It is based upon a genuine desire to further your relationship with people and is about respecting the rights and feelings of other people.
Social skills should be taught because it helps with friendship and moral development, helps learning and they are a core part of resilience and self-respect. Ultimately it helps with employability, developing adult relationships and parenting.
All social skills have these in common: voice tone, eyes, facial expressions, posture and use of space, gestures and words.
Social Competencies are skills for: friendship purposes, acceptance and getting along, socio- moral skills ( skills used for doing the right thing like standing up for someone) learning other related skills and social skills to enable children to mix with adults.

Teaching Social Competencies - Avoidance of: put downs, leave people's processions alone, avoid boasting and narcissism, ( avoid over promotion of self-esteem )

Pro social and relationship culture:
refer to the 'don'ts' above

Explicit teaching of Social Skills:
Practice active listening
Respectful disagreement in discussion- use a Respectful Disagreement X Chart ( refer 'Hits and Hots')
being assertive
Co-operation and sharing ( sharing the workload)
Highlight things that are going well. positive feedback. finding something good to comment on.
Suggestions and persuading instead of making unilateral decisions
Handling disagreements - not to overrule, exclude, mock, yell. sometimes assertiveness without aggression is required, mediation and apologising, compromise, negotiation should be used a lot for handling disagreements.
Unresolved conflict becomes resentment.
Including others is important
expressing opinions in a friendly and moderate ( non polarising) way.
Avoid being bossy.(arrogance)
teacher modelling and feedback is essential.
Showing self-control.

Helen ran us through some interesting games that supported social skill development.
There are many ideas to come from this session that I will try out at Glen Park next term and in 2014 to help some students to develop social skills strategies that will enable them to interact with their peers effectively and improve their learning.

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