Our educational community is very devoted to fostering problem-solving skills. The Profile of the South Carolina Graduate lists problem-solving as a critical need. Our school mission statement is dedicated to producing students who “persevere in seeking solutions.” Our School Counseling Program Mission and Vision statements align with our state, district, and school and their commitments to instill problem-solving strategies and skills within our students. Problem-solving is important to the development of the whole child in terms of their academic, mental, emotional, and social well-being. Students with the ability to solve problems are independent, critical-thinkers who can overcome challenges.
After Christmas break, the school counselors attended a Kindergarten grade level meeting to collaborate on how to continue to serve our kindergarten students and help them prepare for first grade. During this meeting, there was much discussion on the inability of kindergartners to solve their own problems more than any other year in the past. As counselors, we ask clarifying questions to decipher if these were problems with key individuals, small groups of students, or the whole grade level. Unanimously, teachers agreed that their entire class needed help cultivating these skills. The counselors took this feedback and debriefed. We consulted with our ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Kindergarten students, our goals for the year, and our curriculum.
During the month of January, the counselors planned a four-lesson unit to address problem-solving strategies and skills. This aligned well with our second goal, to reduce bus behavior referrals. We decided to deliver core curriculum as a strategy for achieving that goal. The lesson unit for kindergarten included lessons on the Problem-Solving Star method using bus scenarios for the S:stop, T:think, A:act, and R:review steps. We discussed the Circle of Control and examples of what we can and cannot control on the bus. One lesson was devoted to Habit #1: Be Proactive, specifically how to control ourselves, our words, our actions, and our behaviors when we are angry. Finally, we addressed worries and how to cope with our worries appropriately using tools and techniques for problem-solving.
We measured the effectiveness of these lessons in a couple of different ways. At the beginning of each lesson, we used a Know, Want to Know, Learned chart (KWL) to collect perception data and assess what students already know, what they need to know, and what they learned. The KWL charts not only informed counselors of what the students learned during that particular lesson, but also what they retained from the lesson before.
We collected outcome data by using one Kindergarten’s class agendas. Each day, students receive a color in their agenda that corresponds with their behavior for the day. Pink is Exceptional, Purple is Above Average, Green is Good, Yellow is Below Average, Orange is Not Good, Red is a Terrible day, and Blue is an Office Referral. The counselors tracked students’ behavior data during the months of February, March and April to evaluate whether our lessons impacted students’ daily behavior. The behavior data showed that in February 68% of students scored above average (Pink or Purple), the percentage increased in March to 85% above average (Pink or Purple), and in May 91% of students achieved above average (Pink or Purple) ratings. We also closely monitored the bus behavior referrals after this unit. Our data shows that out of 58 total bus referrals for kindergarten students, only 16 referrals (25%) occurred after this problem-solving unit began in February.
Our perception, outcome, and teacher referral data indicated that the problem-solving unit was very successful. In the future, the counselors will present this unit earlier in the year for behavior prevention. It will benefit students to learn these strategies earlier in the year so they can begin applying them as soon as possible. As an additional service, teachers recommended individual students who were still struggling to participate in a Problem-Solving Small group. This is a service that we will continue to provide for those that need more intensive intervention. In the future, the counselors would like to collaborate with the classroom teachers on collecting more individualized perception data rather than a group chart. Collecting individual perception data for a kindergarten class can be developmentally difficult as five year olds' struggle to read or write on their own. This is an area of improvement, but overall the unit, content, and data proved to be very beneficial for our kindergarten students.