Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Maintaining the Integrity of FBA-Based Interventions in Schools

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Maintaining the Integrity of FBA-Based Interventions in Schools

Article excerpt


The best interventions and best laid plans are brought into jeopardy when they are implemented inappropriately or of insufficient duration. Six factors that affect fidelity of treatment in relationship to functional behavioral assessment (FBA) are discussed: a) understanding the function of and the contextual valuables that support target behavior, b) adult knowledge of effective interventions, c) adult acceptance of the intervention, d) selection of suitable replacement behavior, e) selection of the standard to judge behavior change, and f) utilization of procedures to enhance integrity of implementation. Examples and suggestions for improving treatment fidelity in schools are offered.

Schools have long viewed discipline and instruction as two separate and distinct issues. Traditionally, classroom teachers and administrators have responded to student discipline problems by imposing negative sanctions (e.g., time out, office referrals, in-school or out-of school suspensions) (Colvin, Kameenui, & Sugai, 1993; Gable & Van Acker, 1999). When a learning problem exists, teachers usually respond more positively -- by attempting to re-teach the content, to modify the assignment, and so on (Nelson, 2000). With the 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), education personnel now are required not only to acknowledge the relationship between learning and behavior, but to act upon it as well (Yell & Shiner, 1997). The language of the IDEA is clear. The IEP team must explore the need for strategies and supports to address any behavior that may impede the learning of the child with a disability or the learning of his/her peers. And, school personnel must work cooperatively to develop, impl ement, and evaluate a plan to address behavior that impedes the teaching/learning process.

The language of the 1997 IDEA signals a fundamental shift in ownership of student behavior problems. Ownership of the problem or "impeding" behavior no longer rests solely with the student. Now, it is a shared responsibility among those working with the student. Moreover, the so-called problem behavior is no longer viewed as residing within the student, but as a response to environmental conditions. Largely because of the recency of this mandate, few education personnel have been adequately prepared to respond effectively to overlapping problems in student learning and behavior (e.g., Conroy, Clark, Gable, & Fox, 1999).

There is a growing recognition that a major reason for negative student behavior is academic failure (Nelson, Scott, & Polsgrove, 1999). Increasing evidence demonstrates that students often "act-up" in class to escape ineffective instruction (Gunter, Denny, Jack, Shores, & Nelson, 1993), and classroom behavior and learning problems increase the likelihood of peer rejection and accelerate the rate of anti-social behavior (Gunter et al., 1993; Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995). Federal legislation, supported by experimental research, directs schools to respond proactively and positively to both academic and behavior problems (Bullock & Gable, 2000). For schools to be successful, the longstanding division between teacher responses to academic and behavior problems must be closed so that both are seen as problems of learning.

The challenge to increase the capacity of school personnel to address students' academic and behavior problems is immense. No less daunting is the challenge of ensuring the faithful implementation of intervention plans. The so- called "fidelity" with which an intervention is applied, is of particular concern. How can effectiveness of an intervention be judged if it is not implemented correctly? Without faithful delivery of planned interventions, their value and effectiveness simply cannot be determined. Moreover, if IEP team members (or others) fail to fully and consistently implement an intervention, the target behavior will persist and likely become more resistant to extinction. …

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