The Role of Social Interaction In the Development of Thinking Skills

Adriana L. Schuler, Linda Perez
1987 Focus on exceptional children  
The last two decades undoubtedly will go into history as the heyday of teaching technology. Through task analysis, special educators and educators at large have become increasingly capable of devising ingenious lesson plans, reducing complex tasks to carefully sequenced series of operationally defined subskills. This focus on observable behavior has lent itself to remarkably precise measurement, and thereby program fine-tuning through ongoing evaluation of teaching efforts, assuring high rates
more » ... f correct responding and, ultimately, ta~k mastery. The premise of this evolving technology has been precise operational description and measurement of small segments of observable behavior-a premise that may prove to be its ultimate limitation. Within the context of a nationwide growing dissatisfaction with the quality of education, dissatisfaction with the long-term outcome of special education efforts has been increasingly voiced. Concerns tend to revolve around limited generalization, lack of functional use of skills taught in school, and limited problem-solving skills. Frustration often is expressed as to whether many of these students will ever learn to think independently. Teaching special education students introduces extra challenges. Limitations in teaching outcome are not necessarily a reflection of poor teaching, because many special education students are handicapped by sensory and physical conditions that may seriously thwart their cognitive development. Moreover, the bulk of invisible handicaps, such as learning handicaps, perceptual handicaps, behavior disorders, emotional disturbances, and so on, are viewed increasingly as cognitive handicaps revolving around poor planning, organization, self-checking, and problem-solving skills. These limitations in self-regulatory behaviors often are associated with limitations in social-cognitive knowledge, as evidenced by a lack of understanding of others' perspectives and of cause/effect relationships that pertain to their own as well as other people's behavior. Dr. Schuler is Professor of Special Education, San Francisco State University, where Linda Perez is a Doctoral Candidate. FOCUS ON EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN MARCH 1987 This article examines current views on cognitive development and learning pertinent to the needs of special education students. Emphasis is given to the role of language in the form of "self-talk" in planning, behavior organization, and problem solving, and on the importance of social interaction. To put it differently, the self-regulatory functions of language are examined, highlighting the intricate interrelations between language and thinking. To further clarify this relationship, the discussion of selfregulatory skills is preceded by a brief overview of the interactions of early communicative and cognitive development. In this context the notion of mediation is introduced and then elaborated upon in later sections. Second, a closely related matter-the role of social interaction in developing thinking skills-is discussed. Because social interaction is viewed as a critical mediating force in communicative development and development in general, its impact on the development of self-regulation FOCUS On
doi:10.17161/fec.v19i7.7496 fatcat:2iiktbnlkvhopmj53afqgxjjji