Academic journal article Education

Should Teachers Learn How to Formally Assess Behavior? Three Educators' Perspectives

Academic journal article Education

Should Teachers Learn How to Formally Assess Behavior? Three Educators' Perspectives

Article excerpt


For purposes of this paper, challenging behavior is defined as the behavior teachers may be faced with daily in their classrooms such as chronic talking out, off task, verbal aggression and noncompliance. This does not include behavior that may be deemed harmful to self, others or the immediate environment such as any type of physical aggression. The aforementioned challenging behaviors are the types of behaviors that if not dealt with effectively, tend to interfere with instructional time and create a negative classroom climate for all involved.

Although teachers are taught how to assess academic challenges, teachers are not equipped to systematically assess challenging behavior in their students. Instead they may intervene by reacting to the behavior without knowing the cause or reasons for the behavior (Stoiber & Gettinger, 2011). One method that has been shown to be an effective way to assess behavior is the functional behavior assessment (Gable, Park & Scott, 2014). Functional behavior assessment (FBA) is a method that if used proactively, can help teachers avoid escalating behavior in the classroom and intervene efficiently while behavior is challenging but mild in form (Moreno and Bullock, 2011).

Functional behavior assessment has its roots in applied behavior analysis and consists of a series of methods to analyze the function or causes of challenging behavior in order to create an effective intervention. The premise behind FBA is that all behavior serves some purpose or function related to access to reinforcement. There are two main functions of behavior, these include access to positive reinforcement in the form of an activity, sensory stimulation, a tangible item or attention; and, access to negative reinforcement in the form of escaping or avoiding an activity, attention or sensory stimulation (O'Neill et al, 1997).

Functional behavior assessment may include indirect and direct assessment procedures. For indirect methods the challenging behavior is not observed directly but instead evaluated through the use of behavior rating scales, checklists and interviews with those familiar with the challenging behavior. Direct assessment procedures involve directly observing challenging behavior. A direct assessment may include recording the antecedents, behaviors and consequences of a behavior over time and in a variety of contexts. This method is commonly referred to as the ABC method and allows the assessor to record what happens right before (antecedent) the challenging behavior occurs and what happens right after (consequence) the challenging behavior occurs. The practitioner then can analyze the data and detect patterns in antecedents and consequences and formulate a hypothesis about the function or reason for the behavior, and the events that trigger the behavior. Functional analysis allows the practitioner to test the hypothesis by manipulating various conditions to see if the hypothesis holds true(Cooper, Heron and Heward, 2007; Umbreit, Ferro, Liaupsin and Lane, 2007). Once an FBA is complete the practitioner can develop a function based intervention. A function based intervention, based on the functional behavior assessment will consist of reinforcement for a replacement behavior that serves the same purpose as the challenging behavior but is more socially acceptable. For example hand raising would be reinforced instead of shouting out. The function based intervention may also include changes to the events that typically occur right before the behavior and adjustments to the consequences of the challenging behavior (Umbreit, et al., 2007).

Research on Educators and Functional Behavior Assessment

Research has shown that functional behavior assessment is an effective means to assess challenging behavior and provide information about the behavior to develop function based interventions (Gable et al., 2014, O'Neill, Bundock, Kladis & Hawken, 2015). …

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