By Janet Becker, Brevard Center Social Thinking Instructor
This semester at the Brevard Center, thanks to the very supportive CIP staff and several professors at the Florida Institute of Technology, I am incorporating my thesis work into the social mentoring curriculum. Based on the research of Dr. Scott Bellini, Dr. Charlop-Christy and several others in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis, I am using video self-modeling to help our students improve several critical social skills.
We are focusing on conversation initiation which is an area that many of our students struggle with everyday. This also includes improving eye contact, staying on topic and asking more questions as a means to maintain conversation. Individual students have their own edited video made up of clips that demonstrate both what they are doing correctly and what they are doing incorrectly.
This video is shown immediately before students are introduced to a new peer and they are then encouraged to initiate and maintain a conversation. Working on starting a conversation with someone new each time will ideally help the students to generalize these skills across other peers and in other settings. It has been very exciting to see the improvements being made. The students are becoming better able to independently point out their own mistakes right away and, as a result, appropriately correct their behavior during conversation.
Research has shown that when the students are able to view themselves engaging in conversations, it also increases both their self awareness and self-efficacy regarding their own behavior. From what I have seen, watching themselves on video has also improved their attention to the social skills instruction. Video self-modeling is also a common technique used in public speaking courses because it is shown to decrease anxiety. In using this technique I am hoping to increase their confidence and, in turn, increase the number of social initiations made by each student especially in an off campus setting and with new peers.
I look forward to continuing and improving on this throughout the year because I have already witnessed how beneficial it’s been to the students. Feel free to contact me with any questions or to see the data I’ve collected so far.