To follow up on yesterday’s post, the purpose of effective data collection is to provide a starting point for instruction, specifically, developing IEP goals.
Where do I begin? Like the old adage, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Those behaviors which are most interfering with a child’s ability to function socially provide a starting point. However, those “squeaky wheel” issues do not always belong entirely to a student. They may be related to teacher behavior. For instance, a teacher may not provide adequate warning for schedule changes or transitions from favorite activities. They may misinterpret a student’s response as challenging their authority. Teasing/bullying classmates can create extra “squeak” for kids who struggle with social interactions. The classroom may be overloaded with visual and auditory distractions. I remember one classroom with a constant musical soundtrack in the background. (It drove me nuts.) Parents may be uninvolved or have unreasonable expectations about the school environment, such as the amount of time a student may spend on his special interests. Regardless of ownership, though, students must learn to cope with social and behavioral hazards. I may be able to ward off some bullying and help a teacher better understand the way the student talks, but overall, that student must manage himself under stress. (I have posted on this dilemma before.)
I ask myself two questions: What specific behaviors are interfering with my student’s learning? What behaviors can I teach my student to promote improved relationships and coping strategies?
I must write measurable objectives that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of my students. All that data I collected forms a present level of performance and guides this step. I also need parent involvement, information, and feedback in order to write effective goals.
Here are some examples of goals. I may want my students to:
- work effectively with classmates in completing a small group project
- interact with classmates at lunch through conversation
- interact with classmates at recess by joining in adult-organized activities
- transition from one activity to another at a rate commensurate with peers
- respond to teasing and/or bullying by moving away and reporting to an adult
- participate in group classroom discussions
- ask for time to chill or take a break when feeling overwhelmed
- refer to plans for dealing with unexpected schedule change
- monitor rate of completed classroom assignments
For each of these, I must add sufficient information so everyone knows when that goal has been mastered. For how many recesses must a student join in adult-organized activities? With what prompts? Each annual goal must be realistic and requires both classroom and special education support. In my experience, the kids who make the most progress are those whose parents are also closely involved in the process.