Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Special Education


Socially competent preschool children effectively use a variety of social skills, including initiating and maintaining interactions, using others as resources, expressing affection and hostility appropriately, and competing with, leading, and following peers. Children lacking these behaviors are at greater risk of interpersonal difficulties, delayed cognitive development, poor academic performance, school maladjustment, and mental health problems. Handicapped children are deficient in a variety of social skills. Before special education can provide effective intervention in requisite social skills it must establish accurate and reliable assessment techniques.

One such technique, behavioral assessment of social skills, uses several methods. Of these, observation in the natural setting is the most functional and socially valid. This technique enables teachers to act as participant observers, provides assessment information free of reactive change in student behavior, and is directly applicable to intervention and repeated measurement.

This investigation measured the degree of accuracy and consistency with which teachers of handicapped preschoolers could apply observational techniques in assessing social skills in the school setting. This was accomplished by: (a) identifying and describing preschool social competence in observable terms, (b) developing a videotape displaying examples of the skills inherent in this competence, (c) organizing a response protocol to record these skills, and (d) permitting teachers to view examples and record their observations. Proportions of agreement were calculated measuring the rate of accuracy, interobserver agreement, and the consistency with which individual teachers recorded social skills across repeated observations.

Results indicated the ability of teachers of handicapped preschoolers to consistently and accurately record observed social skill behavior in the preschool setting. Agreement proportions exceeding 80 percent were attained on all measures. The results support continued efforts to validate the observational technique used in this study, preparatory to linking assessment with a specifically designed intervention program. Additionally, the results imply a potential contribution to understanding the handicapped preschooler's social skill needs in relation to particular handicapping conditions and developmental levels.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access