Importance of Social Skills in the Elementary Grades

By Meier, Catherine R.; DiPerna, James C. et al. | Education & Treatment of Children, August 2006 | Go to article overview

Importance of Social Skills in the Elementary Grades


Meier, Catherine R., DiPerna, James C., Oster, Maryjo M., Education & Treatment of Children


Abstract

This study explored elementary teachers' perceptions of the importance of social skills, as well as the stability of these perceptions over time. Importance ratings on the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS; Gresham & Elliott, 1990) were obtained from 50 elementary teachers (Grades 1-6) across six elementary schools. Results indicated that cooperation and self-control skills were viewed as being more important than assertion skills. In addition, 11 specific social skills were identified by a majority of teacher respondents as "critical" for success in the classroom. Finally, no significant differences were observed in teachers' importance ratings between the beginning and end of the school year. Implications for prevention and early intervention services in the schools are discussed.

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Students who fail to meet teacher expectations of social behavior are at increased risk for unfavorable school outcomes, such as poor interactions with teachers and peers, poor academic performance, and high rates of disciplinary problems (Coie & Jacobs, 1993; O'Shaughnessy, Lane, Gresham, & Beebe-Frankenberger, 2002; Walker & Severson, 2002). Specifically, teachers have identified competence in the areas of cooperation and self-control to be of critical importance with regard to school success (Lane, Pierson, & Givner, 2003). Although they appear to be important to school success, many social skills rarely are directly taught in schools, and teachers' behavior expectations may not be clear to students. In addition, only a few studies have explored teachers' expectations of social skills, and variables that may impact ratings of expectations have yet to be considered. The purpose of the current study was to further investigate teacher expectations of student social skills across the elementary grades. The study also explored the stability of teachers' expectations of. social skills over time. Understanding teacher expectations of social skills may have implications beyond students' social development. Such knowledge is particularly relevant, considering that researchers have observed a moderate relationship between student social skills and academic outcomes.

Contributions of Social Skills to Academic Success in the Classroom

Wentzel (1993) examined the relationship between measures of academic outcomes (i.e., grades and standardized achievement test scores) and students' social and academic behavior. In this study, teacher ratings of students' prosocial behavior were a significant predictor of standardized achievement test scores. In addition, prosocial, antisocial, and academic behavior were significant independent predictors of students' grade point averages. Prosocial behavior also contributed indirectly to students' grade point average through its relationship with academic behavior.

Malecki and Elliott (2002) extended the work of Wentzel through the use of standardized measures completed by multiple informants (parent, teacher, and student) to explore the relationships between social behaviors and academic outcomes. In addition, they collected data at two points in time to explore the longitudinal relationship between social behaviors at Time 1 and academic outcomes at Time 2. Using regression analyses, Malecki and Elliott found that social skills were a significant predictor of academic competence ([beta] = .61, p < .01). Like Wentzel (1993), Malecki and Elliott concluded that social skills have a significant predictive relationship with academic outcomes.

Teacher Perceptions of the Importance of Social Skills

Gresham, Dolstra, Lambros, McGlaughlin, and Lane (2000) examined differences in teachers' perceptions of the importance of specific social skills across fourth, fifth, and sixth grade. They noted that sixth grade teachers expected their students to possess more adaptive social skills (e.g., follow teacher requests, control anger) than the fourth and fifth grade teachers. …

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