Assessing Children's Social Skills Using Video-Based Microcomputer Technology

Article excerpt

Our efforts in applying technology to improve assessment of social competence among children with disabilities have been motivated by an enduring and challenging fact: we know considerably more about what to measure than about how to measure it. Research on social competence has established a comprehensive knowledge base concerning the behavioral correlates of teacher and peer acceptance (Maag, 1989; Parker & Asher, 1987). Researchers have reported improved methods of information gathering on social competence dimensions (Dodge, McClaskey, & Feldman, 1985; Dodge, Pettit, McClaskey, & Brown, 1986). But, as Maag has concluded, though the success of social skills training is directly related to our ability to identify individual social skills/performance deficits, our assessment methodology has lagged far behind the technology of social skills instruction.

To improve our ability to identify and assess social skills, we have begun development of social competence construct scores (Walker, Irvin, Noell, & Singer, 1992). Such an approach produces a weighted integration of different, commonly used social skills/competence assessments (i.e., direct observations, ratings, sociometric assessments, and self-report analogue assessments such as role plays). It also integrates assessments that measure individual skill/performance deficits and the social impact of social skills training efforts across multiple measures, and indicators of social competence. Finally, it relies on multiple sources of information regarding social competence for the planning of social skills training.

In developing this prototype social competence assessment, we applied interactive, microcomputer-based video technology that aggregates and integrates measurement strategies and procedures (Irvin & Walker, 1993; Irvin et al., 1992). Most important, this technology provides for the direct assessment of students' knowledge and perception of peer relations and teacher interactions in instructional settings: key contextual cues, skills, strategies, performance standards, and consequences associated with competent performance. The technology also represents, in both visual and auditory modes, social contexts, situations, and tasks on which the performance of competent and incompetent children is often highly divergent. The same technology can be used to accomplish peer sociometric assessment and aggregate the results with information from other sources - teacher or parent ratings, peer sociometries, and direct observations. Using this technology, researchers can accumulate and process these multiple assessments in ways that compare individuals to classroom or school norms. The technology can also produce profiles of differential performance by an individual across skills, domains, and social contexts.

In this report, we first briefly review the knowledge base for social competence assessment. Second, we critique current assessments - strengths, problems, and ongoing needs for development. Third, we review the criteria for effective assessments of social competence. Fourth, we describe our research and development of assessments using interactive, microcomputer-based video technology with children with disabilities, including preliminary psychometric data. Finally, we discuss school-based applications and barriers to implementation.

KNOWLEDGE BASE FOR CONTENT OF

SOCIAL COMPETENCE ASSESSMENT

As we have described elsewhere (Irvin et al., 1992; Walker et al., 1992), the behavioral correlates of teacher and peer acceptance have been well established. Researchers have documented the behavioral expectations, standards, and performance requirements of teachers (e.g.; Brophy & Evertson, 1981; Hersh & Walker, 1983; Walker & Rankin, 1983) and behavioral correlates of social competence among peers (e.g., Coie & Dodge, 1988; Dodge, 1983; Dodge et al., 1986). These comprehensive research efforts have defined the content for social competence assessments. …