Beware of the Jeopardy Knowledge Trap

Whether it's in the clinic setting, the general education setting, or the intensive life skills unit, our instructional practices should yield the greatest socially relevant outcomes for our kids.

image of people behind podium answering questions
So what is Jeopardy Knowledge?

Many times in our practices, programming, or instruction we focus so much on the implementation skills or repertoires, that we lose sight of the content we use during those opportunities to practice. Jeopardy knowledge is when we embed content and materials that add no social value to their knowledge base. In other words, it's useless knowledge to them in the real world.

Building a program to help students tact, or identify objects and people is wonderful, but as we increase the number of objects and people are we continuously asking ourselves if those items are socially relevant and meaningful to the student in their world outside of the school/clinic?

In other words, will it ever be valuable for a student to be able to know the difference between a sock and an alligator if they live in a condo in New York?

When we practice those WH questions, do we ask ourselves when our student or client will ever be in a social situation where someone will walk up to them and ask, "what lives in a zoo?"

For some of our students, math on paper will never make sense. It's too abstract; disconnected from their life. But can they count out five plates and forks to set the table for their family? Do they know what a 5$ dollar bill can buy them at Chick Fil A? Do we teach the concept of size by showing them what "a medium drink" means in concrete ways?

The most difficult part for our teachers is balancing the requirements of their state standards (which often seem to be counter-productive to our relevant goals) with more realistic goals that will provide outcomes that prepare them for the day the school bus stops coming.

So I encourage my fellow teachers, behavior analysts, RBTs, and others to take a minute each day before we begin our instruction and ask yourselves, "Is what I am teaching today not only about the skill, but about content that they will consistently encounter in the every day living outside of my my class or clinic.

Love from your school-friendly BCBA,

Mari C.