Behavior Intervention for Students with Externalizing Behavior Problems: Primary-Level Standard Protocol

By Benner, Gregory; Nelson, Ron J. et al. | Exceptional Children, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview

Behavior Intervention for Students with Externalizing Behavior Problems: Primary-Level Standard Protocol


Benner, Gregory, Nelson, Ron J., Sanders, Elizabeth A., Ralston, Nicole C., Exceptional Children


Many U.S. schools are using multitiered or response to intervention (RTI) instructional models to improve the academic outcomes of their students. A recent national survey conducted by the American Association of School Administrators (2009) reveals that school use of such models continues to rise. In April 2009, 71% of schools indicated they were either piloting, in the process of district wide implementation, or had multitiered or RTI instructional models in district use, as compared to 44% in 2007. Schools are increasingly using these RTI models across all grade levels.

Similarly, schoolwide positive behavior intervention and support (SWPBIS) programs also use a continuum of behavior interventions that are consistent with the core principles of RTI. SWPBIS offers a continuum of interventions that are systematically applied to students, based on their demonstrated level of need, and addresses the role of the environment as it applies to the prevention and improvement of behavior difficulties. The continuum of interventions typically includes primary (provided to all students), secondary (supplemental intervention provided to students at some risk of experiencing behavior difficulties: Primary + Secondary), and tertiary (specialized and intensive intervention provided to students at high risk of or experiencing behavior difficulties: Primary + Tertiary). In this context, it is of interest to validate interventions and supports that can be used in SWPBIS models at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels.

The focus of this study is on a primary-level standard-protocol (i.e., well-defined, multicomponent) behavior intervention (Think Time Strategy; Nelson & Carr, 2000). The behavior intervention is a consequence-based classroom management strategy that is used in response to students' initial noncompliant response to teachers' request for them to stop a problem behavior (see description of procedures in "Methods" section). The conceptual framework for the behavior intervention is based on coercion theory (Patterson, 1982). Within coercion theory, the immediate effects of adults' attempts to stop the problem behaviors of children not only make the situation worse (in terms of persistence and escalation) but also play a key role in establishing ongoing coercive adult-child interactions. Research on studentteacher interactions in the classroom suggest that the same coercive interpersonal interactions occur between teachers and students who evince externalizing behavior (e.g., Nelson & Roberts, 2000). As such, the primary-level behavior intervention evaluated in this study is targeted primarily at students who evince externalizing behavior problems.

The standard-protocol behavior intervention was recognized as a promising intervention program by the U.S. Department of Safe and Drug Free Schools in 2001 and is included in a compilation of research-based classroom management strategies (Marzano, Marzano, & Pickering, 2003). The methodology of previous efficacy studies, however, do not meet current standards used by groups such as the Institute of Education Sciences What Works Clearinghouse (What Works Clearinghouse, 2008) and other organizations seeking to identify evidence-based interventions backed by "strong" evidence of effectiveness. The present randomized control trial, conducted in school settings, is designed to provide rigorous evidence regarding the efficacy of the behavior intervention. Randomized control trials that are well designed and implemented are considered the gold standard for evaluating the effectiveness of an intervention (What Works Clearinghouse, 2008).

PREVIOUS EFFICACY STUDIES

The behavior intervention in the present investigation arose out of a line of research assessing the effects of a comprehensive primary-level SWPBIS model on the problem behavior of students who tend to evince problem behavior (Nelson, Martella, & Galand, 1998; Nelson, Martella, & Marchand-Martella, 2002). …

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