Tuesday, April 24, 2012

IEPs _ Individual education plans - CPS/RDI and the autistic spectrum

The pedagogy of poverty discriminates not only against poor children and their families but also against kids who receive ' special ed' ,  or are behaviorally challenged. The IEPs – the individual education plans   that are supposed to remediate their problems  often fail them because they do not  address kids' needs for autonomy , competence and relatedness.

'In 1991, Martin Haberman, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, coined the phrase “pedagogy of poverty.” Based on his observations in thousands of urban classrooms, Haberman described a tightly controlled routine in which teachers dispense, and then test students on, factual information; assign seatwork; and punish noncompliance.  It is a regimen, he said, “in which learners can ‘succeed’ without becoming either involved or thoughtful” -- and it is noticeably different from the questioning, discovering, arguing, and collaborating that is more common (though by no means universal) among students in suburban and private schools.'  - Alfie Kohn

The same approach – a top-down drill and skill approach   is used for special ed kids or kids whose  cognitive skills are lagging behind.  The truth is that these kids need a   constructivist   approach more than regular kids. All kids need a constructivist approach to help them develop a love of learning and to become creative and critical learners. The challenging kids need the approach to also help them overcome developmental   delays and promote cognitive skills that they can use in dynamic environments.  Teaching kids skills like a pet dog in a static way does not promote dynamic skills. Teaching that focuses on kids' thinking and how they make meaning of what they learn will promote skills.

Teachers need to undergo a paradigm shift and focus more on ' guiding ' and less on 'getting' certain responses and certain things from their child. Deborah Meier, the esteemed educationalist said that teaching is more about listening and learning is more about talking. Here is an article by Libby Majewski  , a RDI relationship development intervention consultant – http://www.rdiconnect.com/tips-on-creating-an-iep/  Tips on creating an IEP

She recommends a teaching and communication style that uses a lot of non-verbal communication, the use of indirect prompts and hints rather than telling them or direct prompts.  We should give them more time to process language by waiting longer for responses, share  experiences, and use  'declarative ' language to introduce open-ended questions. Expressive language which is driven by the kid's thinking and autonomy is far more important than answering questions or quizzes.

These   tips however are only a part of the plan. They focus on teaching skills ' in the moment ' , as part of one's  general interaction with kids. The IEP also needs to include the collaborative problem solving of the kid's pile of specific   unsolved problems which are predictably occurring on a regular basis.
IEPs should be replaced with the CPS Plan ( collaborative problem solving Plan ) – CPS Individual education plan  and include the RDI – relationship development intervention plan

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rewards -a Collaborative problem solving and SDT approach

In a Sunday times article Professor Richard Ryan , the co-author of the Self determination motivational theory ,  Should we reward kids for A grades ?  warns parents not to reward children for A grades.

 His arguments for grades are similar to the CPS – collaborative problem solving approach discouraging rewards for good behavior.

1 Kids are naturally motivated to be curious and learn, do well and behave in an adaptive and appropriate way. Rewards undermine intrinsic motivation as kids see themselves learning and behaving only when there is a reward. Kids do well if they can and not if they want to. If they are struggling we need to ask what is getting in their way and how we can help them. When it comes to motivation we can try create an environment which is conducive to kids motivating themselves.

2 Rewards put the responsibility for learning and behaving on the parent.' Now the parent is the one who has to monitor the child, instead of the child assimilating and really internalizing the value of learning and hard work, (pro-social behavior ),which is really what we want to develop. The locus of control shifts from the child to the parent. Instead of asking what type of person do I want to be – a caring person who is curious and loves learning, kids learn to ask what will I get or what will be done to me ?

3 Rewards reward outcomes and often negative behaviors and values such as cheating, non-cooperation, not taking risks,  that help kids get good grades. They ignore the process of learning, the activity itself , valued behavior   and the feelings of the whole child.

4 Rewards actually cause the very problems – poor grades and maladaptive behavior – they are supposed to remedy. Rewards increase stress and anxiety which in itself can compromise performance.

5 They way to go is to avoid rewards and instead express appreciation and encouragement. We can be supportive and love a child unconditionally no matter how well he does in school or how he behaves. We can take steps to foster the child's competence, and his perception of being autonomous, self –directed and help him enjoy whatever he does. This will lead to a happier and self –motivated child.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I.E.Ps vs CPS - collaborative problem solving plan

Many teachers and parents of challenging kids need to participate in writing up an I.E.P – an individualized educational plan for the kid. The question asked and addressed in the CPS book for schools             Lost at School

 Is ' How do we incorporate collaborative problem solving into an I.E.P'?

' In the real world, problems, persons and settings continually change. And , attempts to solve problems actually modify the problem itself. Events or activities are inherently dynamic, rather than consisting of static conditions. Change and development, rather than static characteristics, is assumed to be basic..

A problem solving approach places primary emphasis on people's attempts to negotiate the stream of life, to work around or transform problems that emerge on the route to attaining the diverse goals of life '   - Barbara Rogoff

I think the way to go is to understand where traditional IEP and CPS differ.

The IEP may contain useful information such as lagging skills and academic problems that would impact on behavior.  

 IEPs and behaviorism focus on behaviors =static intelligence which makes IEPs static documents. CPS focuses on problem solving =dynamic intelligence which leads to a dynamic CPS plan.

 The goals and benchmarks in an IEP focus on the symptoms of the lagging skills -  behaviors that make the kid look bad – and teaching replacement behaviors for eg using words instead of hitting, stepping back to chill out, and asking for help etc. The focus on behavior is in part due to the way progress is measured and ' data ' collected.  Behaviorism looks at the ' behavior ', because it is easy to measure but ignores the child's feelings, concerns and the role of others in the problem, in other words the specific conditions giving rise to the problem. So IEP goals call for the display of appropriate replacement behaviors when the kid is challenged ignoring the problem

Treating the symptoms of an underlying problem with replacement behaviors or procedures does not deal with the underlying problem and the concerns of the kid. So the crucial components of an IEP and the goals and benchmarks should the pile of unsolved problems and lagging skills that need remediation. Once we have identified the unsolved problems and lagging skills we can use a CPS plan to prioritize problems and lagging skills.  The low priority problems will be put on the back burner - Plan C , and the high priority problems and lagging skills will be addressed by named teachers who will do plan B with the kid.

We can then show how Plan B – the mutually satisfying solution
 1 addresses the both kid's and teacher's solves problems in a realistic and durable way
2. and at the same time how the Plan B process teaches   indirectly the various lagging skills.

When we assess how the Plan B solution is addressing the problem, we are not only evaluating the lagging skills but whether the solution is the appropriate one to address the problem. We also need to reflect on the actual discussions themselves. These discussions are not only revealing about the kids concerns but also give information about how the kid is using his cognitive skills  for e.g– the ability to identify and express his concerns, planning, hindsight and foresight, perspective taking , being  flexible in his thinking.

Behaviorism and IEPs that focus on measuring behaviors gathering  ' static ' information . This leads to ' static' documents. CPS gathers ' dynamic ' information which is more helpful in dealing with the kid's issues.

Ross Greene concludes that since IEPs tend to be static documents, CPS is likely to be more effective at prioritizing and revising goals, tracking a kid's progress, deciding what skills have been satisfactorily trained and problems resolved, and helping kids appreciate the progress that is being made. IEPs become outdated rather quickly – the CPS plan is a living, breathing plan of action.