A small but growing number of studies are extending the functional analytic literature, highlighting the application of antecedentbased manipulations to better understand conditions associated with escape-maintained behaviors (Conroy & Stichter, 2003; Sasso, Peck & Garrison-Harrell, 1998; Stichter & Conroy, 2005; Stichter, Sasso, & Jolivette, 2004). This approach has been referred to as structural analysis, defined as the use of "single-subject design methodology to systematically manipulate antecedent events, which may evoke or set the occasion for behavior to occur" (Conroy & Stichter, p. 24). Structural analysis assumes an ecological perspective i n exam i n i ng the antecedent events and conditions variously referred to as the discriminative stimuli (Skinner, 1953); setting factors (Bijou, 1995; Kantor, 1959); establishing operations (Michael, 2000); ecological variables (Greenwood, Carta, & Atwater, 1991; Greenwood, Carta, Kamps, Terry, & Delquadri, 1994); or contextual variables (Bulgren & Carta, 1992) that influence problem behavior and academic responding (Conroy & Stichter). Moreover, the term provides a conceptual framework for previous antecedent-based research (e.g., Dunlap, Kern-Dunlap, Clarke, & Robbins, 1991; Kern, Childs, Dunlap, Clarke, & Faulk, 1994). A common thread among these studies is their analysis of events immediately preceding problematic academic and social behavior as the foundation for intervention. As Kern and Clemens recently explained, once the environmental events that occasion problem behavior are examined, modifications "can then be introduced so that events occurring before problems are either eliminated or changed in some way such that they no longer trigger the prior problems" (2007, p. 65).
Academic variables function as aversive stimuli for many students with or at risk of emotional or behavioral disorders (EBD; Burke, Hagan-Burke, & Sugai, 2003; Gunter & Jack, 1993; Heckaman, Conroy, Fox, & Chait, 2000; Kern, Choutka, & Sokol, 2002; Kern & Dunlap, 1998). As Gunter, Hummel, and Conroy explain, "For many, aversive situations may be the techniques teachers use in their academic instruction and/or the materials chosen" (1998, p. 56).
The existing literature contains a number of studies utilizing a functional analytic approach to examine the instructional or curricular conditions in which the problem behaviors of students with or at risk of EBD occurred. These studies provide a range of individualized interventions targeting the antecedents to problem behaviors exhibited during academic instruction/tasks.
The difficulty level of academic demands has been associated with problem behavior for many learners at school (Moore & Edwards, 2003). DePaepe, Shores, Jack, and Denny (1996) conducted antecedent analyses of easy versus difficult math tasks with 2 students with severe behavior disorders. They observed consistently higher levels of disruptive behavior and lower levels of on-task behavior during the hard math task condition for both students. Lee, Sugai, and Horner (1999) also examined the presentation of easy versus difficult math tasks with students with EBD, and their results concurred with those of DePaepe et al. Alternately Umbreit, Lane, and Dejud (2004) observed that more challenging task conditions (as compared to typical task conditions) increased the on-task behavior of their fourth-grade participant.
Duration is another dimension of task difficulty identified as antecedent to problem behavior. An analysis of academic data, functional behavior assessment (FBA) interviews, and observational data prompted Moore, Anderson, and Kumar (2005) to alter task duration (rather than the instructional level of content). After shortening the duration of assigned math tasks they observed decreases in off-task behaviors.
Several studies within the functional analytic literature used multicomponent interventions incorporating antecedent-based manipulations. …