Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Training a General Education Teacher to Apply Functional Assessment

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Training a General Education Teacher to Apply Functional Assessment

Article excerpt


Functional assessment is a multi-step process that addresses operant variables to develop interventions that are both effective and socially valid. The purpose of this study was to determine whether a general education teacher could conduct functional assessment and treatment in her classroom after receiving training. We report data for one teacher whose application of functional assessment and treatment lead to a reduction of problem behaviors for two students. The teacher reported favorable responses to the acceptability of using functional assessment in the classroom.


There is a growing body of evidence that special education teachers can be trained to use functional assessment and that they find the process practical in terms of time, effort, and positive outcome (e.g., Cooper, Wacker, Sasso, Reimeres, & Donn, 1990; Northrup et al., 1994; Sasso et al., 1992). The inclusion of students with mild disabilities presents heightened behavioral challenges for general education teachers to develop skills conducting functional assessment so that effective behavioral support plans can be generated (O'Neill et al., 1997). Unfortunately, few studies to date have been conducted with students with mild disabilities in general education classrooms (Reid & Nelson, 2002).

At issue here may not be the ability of general education teachers to learn and implement functional assessments. For example, Iwata et al. (2000) was able to train undergraduate students to accurately implement a functional analysis. Rather, the question is whether teachers can implement functional assessment in their classrooms and still manage the many tasks their profession demands. The preliminary answer to that question is encouraging. For example, Moore et al. (2002) trained three general education teachers to correctly implement functional assessments. However, no data were collected on the students' behaviors, nor were measures of treatment acceptability collected. It may be that some general education teachers, after acquiring skills in functional assessment, may nevertheless find it too time-intensive, complicated, and multi-faceted to be worth their while.

In order to streamline the functional assessment process so that general educators may find it less burdensome, Larson and Maag (1998) developed the Functional Assessment Hypotheses Formulation Protocol (FAHFP). Combining elements of other checklists and interview and observation forms, the FAHFP directs a teacher through the process of operationally defining a behavior, identifying setting events and functions associated with the occurrence of the behavior, and conducting a systematic observation of the behavior. The protocol culminates with a teacher generating hypothesis statements (contextual, curricular, or replacement strategy) and formulating a functional analysis plan. However, the FAHFP has yet to be used in studies teaching general educators to conduct functional assessments.

The purpose of the current study was twofold. First, a functional assessment procedure was developed and taught to a general education teacher so she could test hypotheses (generated from the FAHFP) and implement interventions based on assessment outcomes. Second, the general education teacher's acceptability of the functional assessment procedure was assessed.



An elementary school from a medium-sized midwestern city was targeted from which to select participants for the study. The school was selected because it had the most diverse ethnicity and socioeconomic status in the district: 23.3% minority population and 62.1% of students received free or reduced lunch. Participants were to include teachers who then would nominate students in their classrooms that displayed behavioral challenges.

Three teacher selection criteria were presented to the school's principal: (a) certification in elementary general education only, (b) three or more years of teaching experience without a masters degree, and (c) serving students with mild disabilities (e. …

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