Blogging A-Z: B is for baseline. I spend a lot of time figuring out a child’s baseline in order to start teaching a skill and to continue moving forward with effective instruction. A baseline is the current measure of where a student is performing. Let’s examine social skills baselines for this topic. We’ll look at some problem behaviors and use baselines to determine where to begin intervention.
Bobby is described as a difficult kid in class. His teacher reports that he is disruptive in group activities, pushes in line, tattles constantly, and always wants things done his way.
Yikes. If you hear that description, you might wonder how on earth you would start to intervene. First, you’ll need to get past the vague terms like “difficult” and “disruptive.” (Drat, I should have saved those for D.) Let’s assume that everyone in this setting really wants the best for Bobby and is not looking for a way to oust him from the room. I have talked to the teacher and after questioning, know that Bobby interrupts others when they are talking, is somewhat clumsy and trips when he moves around the room, and seems oblivious to his peers when they talk. I’d begin with an observation of Bobby, using a checklist like the one below. Each row represents 3 minutes of observation, with a tally for each unique behavior. The class was in a group discussion and then transitioned to lining up for specials.
In reality, this wouldn’t be an adequate baseline because it only represents a narrow range of time, settings, and behavior. However, for the purposes of this post, I now have a way to measure future growth after some social skills intervention (yes, he will leave the classroom for that). I would start with instruction in conversation skills and group interactions. I’d provide some kind of classroom prompts for personal space issues and moving slowly. Bobby might respond well to a system that allows him a designated number of responses. He could have 4 coins or counters and use them strategically to interact in a group discussion. After he has “used” his counters, Bobby would have an opportunity to earn more by listening and looking at others. Once I have a baseline of observable behavior, I can measure growth and identify next steps.