Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Michelle's Blog - Why do We Use The Expected-Unexpected Social Thinking Vocabulary?

By Michelle Garcia Winner from Social Thinking

Question sent to me: I was wondering if you help me with explaining some of the language you support.  I am having some trouble with the teachers I am working with wanting to use the language “expected and unexpected.”  I have utilized many consultation tactics and they still are using the language “appropriate and inappropriate.”  I am trying to think outside the box a little and thought maybe if the explanation came from you, they would understand the terminology better.


In response to the question:
Historically there is a tendency to think we can teach students to learn social behavior by setting behavioral expectations and then simply telling them what we expect from them or telling them when we are disappointed in their behavior. To this end, professionals and parents, upon noticing a student doing an undesired behavior, will tell the student, “That’s inappropriate.” Rarely do you hear teachers telling students their behaviors are “appropriate.”  When we interpret the meaning behind the use of the phrase “That’s inappropriate,” we usually find it is used in a manner that reflects the speaker is disappointed in the student if not upset with him or her. Therefore it is used to scold and redirect rather than to teach.
In Social Thinking we developed Social Thinking Vocabulary terms with the purpose of directing students to think more deeply about the social situation in which they are involved. We believe that students who frequently demonstrate “inappropriate” behavior often have social learning challenges and require more direct teaching in lieu of reprimands for their undesired social behavior and recognition of attempts at desired social behavior. As Ross Greene says, “Students would if they could.” We also believe that social competencies do not result from a set of memorized social skills, but instead are a result of social awareness and the ability to adapt to the social requirements of the situation and the specific people in the situation (Stichter, et al., 2007).
The social thinking concepts “expected” and “unexpected” behaviors have generated a lot of interest from our growing community. While we find many people using these concepts well, we also find many people using these concepts in the same way they use “appropriate/inappropriate” behavior: to scold or redirect behavior. A number of events have happened recently which have made me realize that some people are missing the message provided by the teachings of Social Thinking and taking some of our core information and trying to use it to get students to simply behave. We don’t believe this will lead to any better outcomes than treatment strategy designed to simply extinguish “bad behavior.”
So allow me to share how best to use these concepts as they were designed to teach students more awareness of the social situation and the expectations people have within those situations, which leads to more awareness of one’s own behavior within and across specific situations.
Read more HERE.
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