Psychology Students Go Digital to Assist Parents and Teachers with Distance Learning

During a normal semester in Central’s Board Certified Behavior Analyst psychology certification program, graduate students would travel to various elementary schools in the Oklahoma City metro community throughout the week to provide behavioral consultations and evaluations for special education students. But, spring 2020 was anything but normal for everyone.

Dr. Singleton shares a behavioral consultation video on the Behavior Central YouTube page.

The program is under the direction of Scott Singleton, DPSY, associate professor of psychology, and is funded each year by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. The goal is to assist special education teachers by providing behavioral intervention training and assessments for children with severe behavioral issues in the classroom, such as physical-aggression or self-injury.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced state school shutdowns and all UCO courses to transition online for the remainder of the semester, Singleton and his students were left wondering how they could continue to provide this special assistance to students and parents.

“When COVID came, obviously that changed everything because we can’t be in person, and those kids were now trying to receive education through some sort of distance learning format,” Singleton said.

“So we were trying to figure out how we could still help.”

The solution came in the form of a YouTube channel created by the students with educational videos for both teachers and parents on how to handle and prevent behavioral issues with distance learning. Video topics ranged from how to use positive reinforcement, correct behavioral issues and teach children to wear masks and understand social distancing, to tips on proper mental health and well-being for teachers. Over 25 videos have been created and shared so far – many averaging well over one hundred views.

“We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback through the state Department of Education, through teachers and teachers’ groups but also from parents. And that’s one thing we’re proud of is we get a lot of positive comments from both teachers groups and some of the parent advocacy groups,” he explained.

A screenshot of a student sharing a video.

A UCO BCBA student shares a video on how to assist children with distance learning.

While providing a much-needed service to parents and teachers during the pandemic, the videos also proved to be a valuable learning experience for students in the program as well. Providing a behavioral analysis instruction in a short video sometimes was difficult, but Singleton says it allowed students to gain a deeper knowledge for the material and a better appreciation for how to put that knowledge into practice.

“One of the difficult things about these videos is that we’re trying to convey some very technical types of interventions and principles, but the students had to be able to use everyday language that people could understand but also try to condense the videos down to five minutes. It gave them a chance to really learn more about the concepts that we’re targeting.”

Overall, the students were glad to be able to continue to make a difference in the lives of special education children and their parents, especially during a time that often was faced with stress and uncertainty. Some videos have even been featured on psychology podcasts and used by school districts as professional development opportunities for teachers. And, since the program has already received funding for a second year, Singleton already plans to continue the YouTube channel in the future.

The Behavior Central YouTube channel is public and currently available for any parents or teachers to utilize.

Rachel is the Communications and Public Relations Coordinator for the UCO College of Education and Professional Studies.