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While the social skills curriculum guides what to teach, the Teaching Interactions guides how to teach through specialized approaches similar to the direct instructional techniques advocated by Stephens (1978) and the structured role-play activities of Goldstein (1980). The greatest opportunity for skill generalization comes about through the instruction of skills in naturalistic settings including classrooms, hallways, offices, etc. (Gresham, 1983). Teaching Interactions promote this generalization.
Teaching Interactions differ from other social skills approaches by using a brief interactive instructional sequence to confront the student when the behavior occurs. This technique uniquely combines efforts to manage student when the behavior occurs. This technique uniquely combines efforts to manage student behavior with the care and concern of teaching an alternative appropriate social behavior. Capitalizing on the teachable moment when the learner is active and the learning is relevant in the context of a Teaching Interaction allows the teacher to deal with behavior problems in an efficient, effective and humane fashion (Downs, Kutsick, and Black, 1985; Philips, Philips, Fixsen and Wolf, 1974).
Teaching Interactions include an objective and detailed description of an inappropriate behavior needing correction as well as a description of the alternative appropriate behavior that should be learned. Rationales are provided and the proper behavior must be demonstrated. Both positive and negative consequences are delivered to motivate behavior change. This brief interaction exemplifies the best of instructional strategies while incorporating important adult behaviors preferred by youth (Willner, Braukmann, Kirigin, Fixsen, Phillips, and Wolf, 1977), thereby increasing student receptivity to learning. Varied formats of Teaching Interactions are calmly and positively employed to effectively confront and teach as well as to reinforce and strengthen desired behavior.
The following is an example of a Teaching Interaction used to correct inappropriate behavior. It begins when the teacher gives Larry feedback about errors on his math assignment. Larry has responded by slamming his book down and by muttering and scowling. The teacher has asked in a pleasant voice that Larry stop muttering and look at her.
Expression of affection (empathy)
Description of inappropriate behavior
Description of appropriate behavior
Request for acknowledgement
An example of how these steps would be used in a specific problem situation can be found in Figure 2.
Most educators find a smooth flow within the Teaching Interaction sequence. It can be used with any number of social behavior problems and can be applied in regular or special education settings.
Teaching interactions are concrete and provide positive instruction. Anyone who works with students (counselors, teachers, psychologists, administrators) can use the Teaching Interaction technique. The only stipulation is that educators view the inappropriate behavior of students as vital learning/teaching opportunities and not as personal insults or challenges of authority.
Expression of affection
Description of Inappropriate Behavior
Description of Appropriate Behavior
Request for Acknowledgement
If a student is seated, the affection teacher sits, stoops, or bends over so that she is at a similar height. She then calls the student by name. "Larry..."
"...Thank you for stopping your mumbling and for looking at me."
"However, just now when I said there were errors on your assignment and you would have to redo them, you slammed your book shut, looked away from me and began mumbling."
"When I told you about your math, Larry, you should have accepted my criticism. It requires three steps. The first step is to maintain good eye contact with the person criticizing you, just like you are doing now. The second step is to say 'OK' or 'Yes.' Let the person know you understand what is being said. The third is not to argue or mumble."
"Criticism is usually meant to help us improve. If you can accept criticism here in school, you will know how to let people help you. That is going to help you learn more, do better in class, and avoid mistakes in the future."
"Do you understand, Larry, why it is important to learn how to accept criticism?" (The student acknowledges.)
"Let's practice this. Let's say I have just come over to your desk with your math paper. I am going to point out some mistakes just like I did before. This time, however, I would like you to show me how you would accept the criticism. I want you to use good eye contact, to say 'OK' or 'Yes,' and to accept my help without arguing or mumbling. Are you ready?" (The teacher and student role-play the scene.)
"Larry, that was excellent! You looked right at me the whole time; you said 'OK' when I finished talking, and you didn't argue or mumble. Great Job!"
"You have done a very good job of accepting criticism and following my instructions. I appreciate that. Because you have done so well and because this is the first time I have had to talk with you about accepting criticism, it won't be necessary for you to see me after school."
"You can get back to work now. Thanks."