Using Structural Analysis and Academic-Based Intervention for a Student at Risk of EBD

Article excerpt


This single-case experiment used structural analysis to confirm the instructional conditions in which a third-grade student's problem behaviors occurred. At the time of the study, the student was under consideration for special education referral for an emotional or behavioral disorder. Interviews and preliminary direct observation data suggested that the problem behaviors were triggered by writing assignments. An experimental structural analysis confirmed strong relations between the student's problem behaviors and written expression tasks. Results from the analysis facilitated a classwide academic intervention designed to increase the target student's on-task behaviors during written expression tasks. A single-subject alternating treatments design revealed compelling improvements in the amount of time the student engaged in written expression tasks that were preceded by strategy instruction.

A small but growing number of studies are extending the functional analytic literature, highlighting the application of antecedentbased manipulations to better understand conditions associated with escape-maintained behaviors (Conroy & Stichter, 2003; Sasso, Peck & Garrison-Harrell, 1998; Stichter & Conroy, 2005; Stichter, Sasso, & Jolivette, 2004). This approach has been referred to as structural analysis, defined as the use of "single-subject design methodology to systematically manipulate antecedent events, which may evoke or set the occasion for behavior to occur" (Conroy & Stichter, p. 24). Structural analysis assumes an ecological perspective i n exam i n i ng the antecedent events and conditions variously referred to as the discriminative stimuli (Skinner, 1953); setting factors (Bijou, 1995; Kantor, 1959); establishing operations (Michael, 2000); ecological variables (Greenwood, Carta, & Atwater, 1991; Greenwood, Carta, Kamps, Terry, & Delquadri, 1994); or contextual variables (Bulgren & Carta, 1992) that influence problem behavior and academic responding (Conroy & Stichter). Moreover, the term provides a conceptual framework for previous antecedent-based research (e.g., Dunlap, Kern-Dunlap, Clarke, & Robbins, 1991; Kern, Childs, Dunlap, Clarke, & Faulk, 1994). A common thread among these studies is their analysis of events immediately preceding problematic academic and social behavior as the foundation for intervention. As Kern and Clemens recently explained, once the environmental events that occasion problem behavior are examined, modifications "can then be introduced so that events occurring before problems are either eliminated or changed in some way such that they no longer trigger the prior problems" (2007, p. 65).

Literature Review

Academic variables function as aversive stimuli for many students with or at risk of emotional or behavioral disorders (EBD; Burke, Hagan-Burke, & Sugai, 2003; Gunter & Jack, 1993; Heckaman, Conroy, Fox, & Chait, 2000; Kern, Choutka, & Sokol, 2002; Kern & Dunlap, 1998). As Gunter, Hummel, and Conroy explain, "For many, aversive situations may be the techniques teachers use in their academic instruction and/or the materials chosen" (1998, p. 56).

The existing literature contains a number of studies utilizing a functional analytic approach to examine the instructional or curricular conditions in which the problem behaviors of students with or at risk of EBD occurred. These studies provide a range of individualized interventions targeting the antecedents to problem behaviors exhibited during academic instruction/tasks.

The difficulty level of academic demands has been associated with problem behavior for many learners at school (Moore & Edwards, 2003). DePaepe, Shores, Jack, and Denny (1996) conducted antecedent analyses of easy versus difficult math tasks with 2 students with severe behavior disorders. They observed consistently higher levels of disruptive behavior and lower levels of on-task behavior during the hard math task condition for both students. …