Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Strategies for Maintaining Positive Behavior Change Stemming from Functional Behavioral Assessment in Schools

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Strategies for Maintaining Positive Behavior Change Stemming from Functional Behavioral Assessment in Schools

Article excerpt

Abstract

Nationwide, schools are struggling to prepare IEP teams and other school personnel to conduct functional behavioral assessment and develop positive behavioral intervention plans and supports. While there is a growing evidence that functional behavioral assessment is effective in identifying the reason(s) behind student misbehavior, less is known about producing positive, long-term changes that are both functionally and socially relevant. Drawing upon the available research, we explore an emerging technology for promoting maintenance and generalization of behavior change. We discuss various strategies and procedures and offer recommendations to IEP teams regarding maintaining positive changes in student behavior that stem from functional behavioral assessment in schools.

The 1997 Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) contains a number of provisions that relate to both the academic performance and classroom conduct of students with disabilities. These provisions represent a significant shift in emphasis from assuring classroom accessibility to demanding educational accountability for students with disabilities (Gable & Hendrickson, 2000). Accordingly, both general and special educators now are responsible for instructing a burgeoning number of youngsters who evidence significant academic and/ or behavior problems. The 1997 IDEA further stipulates that schools must address any problem behavior that impedes the learning of a student with a disability (or his or her peers), may require disciplinary action, or results in a change in placement (e.g., Yell & Shiner, 1997). That same legislation specifies that school-based teams gain knowledge of major factors that impinge on student behavior that negatively influences classroom learning by means of a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) (Gable, Hendrickson, & Smith, 1999).

A growing body of literature testifies to the fact that success in dealing with classroom misconduct depends on identifying the social, academic, and/or other environmental conditions under which problem behavior is most versus least likely to occur (e.g., Dunlap et al., 1993). With that knowledge, IEP teams can develop hypotheses and intervention plans designed to promote replacement behavior-behavior that serves the same function for the student as the problem behavior but which is more socially acceptable or appropriate. Research and experience have shown that students are likely to cease misbehaving when a different response more effectively and efficiently satisfies the same need. For that reason, identifying the motivation for a behavior--what a student gets, avoids, or communicates through the behavior, is essential to effectively address behavior that disrupts the learning environment and interferes with academic instruction (Gable, Quinn, Rutherford, Howell, & Hoffman, 2000). Authorities assert that the FBA process is not complete until school personnel produce positive changes in student behavior (Dunlap & Hieneman, 1999), changes that maintain across time in the absence of external control (Gable et al., 2000). Accordingly, the measure of an IEF team's success rests on the extent to which positive changes in student behavior improve his or her life chances in school and beyond.

According to the literature, the major focus of functional behavioral assessment is on variables that are highly situation-specific--variables that lend themselves to micro-analysis. Ordinarily, that analysis focuses on relevant antecedent and consequent stimuli that can be identified and manipulated within a particular social/environmental context. This assessment approach has proven useful in identifying the likely motivation behind a targeted student behavior, but less so in predicting long-term changes that are both functionally and socially relevant. To increase the usefulness of FBA, we must enlarge the scope of the functional assessment process so that we not only are able to improve specific student skills, but also facilitate long-term benefit for the student. …

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