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Social skills of students of an elementary school with an adapted education programme

Darja Plavčak (2020) Social skills of students of an elementary school with an adapted education programme. PhD thesis.

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    The topic of the doctoral dissertation are the social skills of students in adapted education programmes with a lower educational standard. Apart from having a mild mental impairment, children who attend these programmes often have difficulties in their social and emotional development, therefore, they need more adjustments, stimuli and help in this area, first on a primary level (within their family) as well as on a secondary level (in kindergarten and school). In addition, families of children with special needs are usually also in need of adequate support. They face similar but at the same time different problems than other families, as educating and supporting a child with special needs requires additional time, a more thorough understanding, patience, knowledge and a sufficient degree of resilience and diligence among parents. These families often fit in a group of vulnerable families or families with multiple stresses, which additionally convolutes the development and upbringing of children with special needs. Although modern kindergartens and schools are inclusive towards various vulnerable groups of students and offer numerous kinds of supports, these families and their children need complete and long-term supports. This work is dedicated to one of such supports, which is directed towards the development and consolidation of social competence of children in schools with a lower educational standard. In adapted education programmes with a lower educational standard the teaching of social skills is carried out throughout the entire educational programme, while it is implemented in a more targeted and structured way through the special pedagogy activity of social learning that is included in the study curriculum from the first to the sixth grade. As the activity is structured, it can be regarded as a social training that includes a series of different approaches: activities with puppets, dance-movement activities, music and art activities, etc. In other forms of social learning these approaches can be implemented as independent activities or they can be combined; in both cases they need to be adapted to the children's special needs. For the empiric part of the doctoral dissertation we conducted an action research with three groups of students (twelve students in total) who attend an adapted education programme with a lower educational standard. The research was carried out during the special pedagogy activity of social learning. Apart from monitoring the social learning classes, the data obtained as part of the action research was collected also through the triangulation of sources (parents, the class teacher, scientific documentation), consultations with students and the personal observations of the researcher. Both the plans, the implementation of the research and the subsequent presentation of the data reflect the observations and the choice of approaches which promote social skills according to the needs of each student who participated in the research. The goals of the research were: d) to deepen the understanding of changes in the behavioural pattern of each student and verify the role and the meaning of cooperation between the school, parents and external institutions through the process of implementation of social learning; e) to find out which feedbacks of students, families and professionals (their interactions, behaviour, information and cooperation) contributed to the improvement of the students' social skills; f) to document the methods and approaches to the implementation of the activity (of the operator and the researcher): observing the development, the choice and the adaptation of the adopted approaches for the implementation of social learning, as well as determining their adequacy and efficiency. The results of the described research process: g) for an efficient promotion of social skills the communication and cooperation with parents has to allow a common definition of the problem and the establishment of unified goals; h) the interpretation of the monitoring of social learning classes has to be compared to the experience, the impressions and the evaluations of all people involved in the promotion of the child's or adolescent's social development; i) the changes in the students' behavioural patterns have to be monitored based on the observations and conclusions of all parties who cooperate in social learning classes; j) the efficiency of promoting social skills does not depend only on the choice of approach and on the method – during the research active children's parents and teachers also played an important role in achieving changes (particularly with their support, assertiveness, positive outlook); k) external institutions were involved in cases where there was a need for additional diagnosis or the child had to be redirected, the cooperation with them depended on the parents and on how and to what extent the school was involved in these activities; l) all the parties who cooperated in the research concluded that nine students improved their social skills at least to a minimal degree; as for the other three participating students we have not noticed any changes in their development – however, they did not regress. The reasons for this can lie in a more complex home environment, a higher level of reluctance to attend school and a more difficult team work of all parties involved, including institutions (the goals are not unified, there are no solutions to the problem or the institutions cannot be included at all). The doctoral dissertation represents a contribution to science as it provides a detailed description of the action research and a qualitative analysis of an efficient approach to the promotion of the social skills of students who are enrolled in an adapted education programme with a lower educational standard. The results of the action research can be transferred also on the field of social learning of children with special needs who attend regular elementary schools. In any case, the promotion of the social development has a positive effect on the overall development of children, which improves their possibilities for a socially more inclusive further development.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
    Keywords: social learning, social skills, social-emotional development, children with special needs, families with children with special needs, vulnerable families
    Number of Pages: 16
    Language of Content: Slovenian
    Mentor / Comentors:
    Mentor / ComentorsIDFunction
    izr. prof. Alenka KoboltMentor
    Link to COBISS: https://plus.si.cobiss.net/opac7/bib/peflj/17181443
    Institution: University of Ljubljana
    Department: Faculty of Education
    Item ID: 6231
    Date Deposited: 28 May 2020 10:40
    Last Modified: 28 May 2020 10:40
    URI: http://pefprints.pef.uni-lj.si/id/eprint/6231

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