Academic journal article The International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy

Early Career Teachers Accuracy in Predicting Behavioral Functioning: A Pilot Study of Teacher Skills

Academic journal article The International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy

Early Career Teachers Accuracy in Predicting Behavioral Functioning: A Pilot Study of Teacher Skills

Article excerpt

To date, an extensive body of research on behavioral consultation and its efficacy exists (Hagermoser-Sanetti & Kratochwill, 2008; Noell, 2007; Sheridan, Welch & Orme,1996). Student outcomes, treatment acceptability, and treatment integrity are often the focus of the consultation literature, yet an equally important aspect is process integrity. Specifically, are the data presented during consultation a result of systematic and valid problem solving? This question is paramount to successful consultation as our efforts, and ultimately student outcomes, are enhanced or impeded by the data collected. Effective behavioral consultation models (e.g., behavioral consultation, conjoint behavioral consultation, instructional consultation) are predicated on the assumption that teachers will serve in the roll of data collector as well as collaborative problem-solver (Bartels & Mortenson, 2005; Jones & Lungaro, 2000; Rosenfield 2002). In many instances assumptions are made that teachers possess the necessary data collection skills to serve in a collaborative capacity and are interested in performing these tasks (Ehrhardt, Barnett, Lentz, Stollar & Reifin, 1996; Jones & Lungaro, 2000). Numerous authors have cited the need for clarity in data collection procedures within the consultative model (Hagermoser-Sanetti & Kratochwill, 2008; Noell, 2007; Packenham, Shute & Reid, 2004). Consequently, behavioral consultants must attend to the validity of the data collected during collaboration with teachers to ensure data used to address student behavior is of value (Bartels & Mortenson, 2005). Thus, the immediate empirical question is, do teachers have the skills to accurately and reliably identify the function of the student's behavior? Without knowing the answer to this question, classroom based observations may yield data which are at best misaligned in terms of behavioral function, and at worst, contrary to the reinforcing contingencies present in the environment resulting in a strengthening of the undesired student response (Packenham, Shute & Reid, 2004; Roberts, Marshall, Nelson & Albers, 2001; Swinson & Knight, 2007; Symons, McDonald & Wehby, 1998). In addition, if there is little to no confidence in the process of developing the hypothesis upon which a treatment is based, then we run the same risks, lauded by numerous authors; specifically, the validity of the treatment-outcome heuristic is suspect (Gresham, Watson & Skinner, 2001; Sugai, Lewis-Palmer & HaganBurke, 1999; Wood, Umbreit, Liaupsin & Gresham, 2007).

The Need for Skill Development

In a political and educational climate of accountability and inclusion, general-education teachers are working in closer proximity with students who present with exceptional needs. Reportedly, almost half of students who have an IEP were educated for the majority of the school day within the general educational setting (Cook, Cameron & Tankersley, 2007). Paradoxically, general education teachers have self-endorsed lower skills in educating students with disabilities (Hagermoser & Kratochwill, 2008; Scott, & Nelson, 1999; Shellady & Stichter, 1999). As Rosenfield (2002) noted, data analyses based on classroom based events fail to be part of the "usual professional culture for teachers" (p. 610). Kratochwill and others noted that pre-service programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels offer a limited scope of evidence-based practices which are sustainable in classroom applications (Kratchowill & Steele-Shernoff, 2004; Schaughency & Ervin, 2006; Walker, 2004). Consequences of teacher negative self appraisal and fewer pre-service training experiences may engender errors in problem solving delaying necessary intervention or increasing a loss of instructional time.

Van Acker, Boreson & Gable (2005) conducted a study to determine the degree to which school-based teams identified critical variables in the development of a functional behavior assessment and subsequent behavior intervention plan (FBA/BIP). …

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