The effects of social skills instruction on the social behaviors and academic engagement of elementary students with challenging behaviors

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Social skills are critical to the success of students in elementary school. Antisocial behaviors interfere with the development and maintenance of positive relationships and with the academic success of students. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of social skills instruction on the social behaviors and academic engagement of elementary school students with challenging behaviors in classroom settings. A multiple probe across participants design was used. Three general education teachers conducted nine lessons from the SSIS Classwide Intervention Program during health class. Direct observations of positive social behaviors, antisocial behaviors, and academic engagement were conducted during baseline, intervention, and maintenance conditions on one target student with challenging behaviors in three general education teachers' classrooms during core instructional classes such as math, language arts. and science.

The SSIS Classwide Intervention Program positively impacted positive social behaviors and academic engagement for all three target students and these improved behavioral outcomes persisted two to eight weeks after the intervention ended. Antisocial behaviors decreased for two of the three students and this improved behavioral outcome persisted four to eight weeks after the intervention ended.  All three students had some difficulty using the skills learned when a substitute conducted their class. General education teacher participants reported satisfaction with program planning, implementation, and the effectiveness of the intervention for target students and their entire class. Two additional teachers providing intercultural education to the same three classes reported behavioral improvements for all three students but only improved behavior for one teacher's class as a whole. Student participant responses to the intervention were mixed. Overall, the SSIS Classwide Intervention Program was an effective and socially valid means of increasing positive social behavior and academic engagement and decreasing antisocial behavior among elementary students with challenging behaviors. 

The results of this study contributed to the research based on the efficacy of classwide social skills instruction. Furthermore, the results of this study provided evidence for teachers and administrators advocating for the financial resources and instructional time to implement social skills instruction in the general education program.