Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Determination of Environmental Correlates of Disruptive Classroom Behavior: Integration of Functional Analysis into Public School Assessment Process

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Determination of Environmental Correlates of Disruptive Classroom Behavior: Integration of Functional Analysis into Public School Assessment Process

Article excerpt


This study describes the activities of the Behavioral Assessment and Technology Support Systems (BATSS) group who have been conducting functional analyses of very disruptive behavior in children labelled severely emotionally/behaviorally disordered for 24 months in 2 suburban school districts. Prebaseline, baseline, functional analysis outcomes, and intervention data are presented on 3 male students of average intelligence. Although the functional analysis model reported originated in 1982, BATSS has developed and implemented 2 new conditions and modified 2 of the 4 standard conditions to meet the needs of a normal academic population. In addition to detailing these conditions, recommendations for future research are also included.

Children entering schools apparently unprepared to behave appropriately and seemingly unable to adjust to classroom regimen (e.g., follow instructions, sit quietly for defined time periods, interact appropriately with peers) are providing challenges to school personnel. Dunlap, KernDunlap, Clarke and Robbins (1991) reported that extensive interventions including medications, intensive psychological testing, and more restrictive social adjustment classes have been applied to meet these behavioral challenges. The problems with these approaches, as indicated by Kern, Childs, Dunlap, Clarke, and Falk (1994) was that research did not support the fact that special class placement resulted in improved behavior and the more severe disciplinary procedures were correlated with restricted opportunities to learn more positive classroom and interpersonal behavioral skills.

Exacerbating this situation are dwindling public resources, expanding class size, and repeated calls for accountability. This has led to the increased importance of implementing decisions based on data and outcomes.

The challenge to school professionals has been how to analyze an individual's behavior, because that individual engages in different activities as well as performing the same activity differently under the same or similar environmental conditions. The subject matter of psychological assessments is the person; whereas, the subject matter of behavioral assessments is the behavior and effects of the environment on behavior. Nevertheless, Kratochwill and Martens (1994) noted that, "Reports of behavior analysis research...representing interests of school psychologists have prompted increased attention to behavioral approaches for meeting the needs of children, families, and schools" (p. 4).

According to Vollmer and Northup (1997), features that make a behavior analytic approach to assessment and intervention effective for solving behavior problems in public school classrooms include:. 1) the emphasis on analysis, repeated measures of individual student behavior, observable behavioral and environmental events; 2) the reliance on proven principles of behavior to account for behavioral persistence and change; 3) the interest in why behavior occurs and why interventions are (or are not) effective in changing behavior.

Functional Analyses/Assessments

Prior to the advent of formal procedures for functional analysis (Iwata, Dorsey, Slifer, Bauman, & Richman, 1982) applied behavior analysts, according to Mace, Lalli, Lalli, and Shea (1993), generally developed and then evaluated an intervention's effectiveness without analyzing the variables responsible for and maintaining the targeted aberrant behavior. Although these procedures (e.g., contracting, token economies, differential reinforcement) were effective, the outcomes were only successful if they competed with the contingencies of reinforcement that supported and undergirded the inappropriate behavior. The measure of success of the descriptive analysis was the overlap between the baseline and the intervention conditions. Carr (1977) published a seminal article that focused on motivation for severe problem behavior-i. …

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