MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK IN YOUR CLASSROOM: OBSERVATIONAL LEARNING

One area that is often unaddressed in an IEP is the concept of observational learning. Sure, there's the A, B, Cs, and the 1, 2, 3s, yet perhaps there's more to teaching than providing individual instruction, to each and every individual child, for each and every individual skill. What's observational learning you ask? It's essentially the ability to effectively learn from ones' peers. When I was a teacher, I know that many of my students could readily learn the alphabet or other rote skills, but learning from their peers in a social context was much more complex. Fast forward to today, and we still focus on observational learning. It's why we have social groups at Patterns and other opportunities for peers to get together and sharpen one another.  

I once had a consultant coach me through this exact situation. She said, "you could teach this all day, every day, one letter at a time" (she was referring teaching an individual child the alphabet). "OR you could teach observational learning, and not have to teach a single letter, because they're learning from one another." It's certainly a balance between direct instruction and providing ample opportunities for to learn from peers. I love watching kiddos learn from their peers. To be honest, it's one of the most rewarding parts of the job. 

This is not a call for us to simply put children with other children and expect an outcome that's desirable. We have to clearly teach these concepts, especially when observational learning does not come naturally to many of the students that we are serving. We also need to ensure that there are appropriate peer models to access. A healthy blend of typical peers is certainly helpful. Keep in mind that this is not a process that just naturally happens. However, with effort and thoughtful planning, it is certainly possible.