Evaluating Sensitivity to Behavioral Change Using Direct Behavior Rating Single-Item Scales

By Chafouleas, Sandra M.; Sanetti, Lisa M. H. et al. | Exceptional Children, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Evaluating Sensitivity to Behavioral Change Using Direct Behavior Rating Single-Item Scales


Chafouleas, Sandra M., Sanetti, Lisa M. H., Kilgus, Stephen P., Maggin, Daniel M., Exceptional Children


Student behavior in school settings continues to receive substantial attention within policy, practice, and research arenas. For example, research has clearly documented the important role that school settings can serve in the prevention of behavior challenges (O'Connell, Boat, & Warner, 2009). A central component of prevention and early intervention involves ongoing evaluation of behavioral change in response to implemented supports. This ongoing process requires behavior assessment tools that are both defensible (i.e., technically adequate) for their intended purposes and efficient (i.e., quick and easy to use) for their intended users (Chafouleas, Riley-Tillman, & Sugai, 2007; Chafouleas, Volpe, Gresham, & Cook, 2010). Although options are emerging in the current generation of behavior assessment research, full evaluation has yet to occur, particularly with regard to sensitivity to change. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the capacity for Direct Behavior Rating Single-Item Scales (DBR-SIS) to demonstrate sensitivity to behavior change in response to implementation of an evidence-based intervention.

DIRECT BEHAVIOR RATING

Many reviews are available that summarize the strengths and weaknesses of various behavior assessment methods (see Chafouleas, Volpe, et al., 2010; Chafouleas, Riley-Tillman, & Sugai, 2007; Christ, Riley-Tillman, & Chafouleas, 2009; Pelham, Fabiano, & Massetti, 2005). Such reviews highlight gaps in historically popular methods of behavior assessment (e.g., traditional norm-referenced behavior rating scales, direct observations, office discipline referrals) in which the primary goal is to formatively assess behavior. As previously noted, a central issue is the utility of extant tools--that is, that the measures be both defensible and efficient enough for use by its intended users in applied settings.

Direct Behavior Rating (DBR) is an emerging method of behavior assessment that combines characteristics of behavior rating scales and systematic direct observation (SDO; Chafouleas, Riley-Tillman, & Sugai, 2007; Christ et al., 2009). Although DBR-like tools have a long history of use within the literature related to home-school notes (see Chafouleas, RileyTillman, & McDougal, 2002), recent focus on operational definition of key characteristics has provided a way to systematize research on these tools and to build a solid foundation of empirical evidence about their use for assessment. Although the format of specific DBR tools can be flexibly designed, the defining procedures involve (a) preselection of a limited number of behavior targets to be rated, (b) identification of a specific period for observation, and then (c) rating those targets in close proximity to the end of that observation period. For example, a teacher might use a scale composed of zero to 10 gradients to rate the disruptive behavior displayed by a student during science lab.

DBR as an assessment method was conceptualized to address limitations of extant methods, including its potential to facilitate proactive intervention efforts. Using DBR, school-based personnel can select behavior targets that are precursors to significant problems (e.g., psychopathologies, behavior necessitating placement outside the regular school setting) and can use the tool to monitor response to less intensive behavioral supports. For example, educators might select behavior targets that could serve as appropriate general outcomes (efficient to assess, highly relevant and important for all children) in classrooms; researchers have indicated that these targets should strongly relate to (a) disruption, (b) academic engagement, and (c) respectful behavior (Chafouleas, Jaffery, Riley-Tillman, Sen, & Christ, 2011). Although DBR is flexible in that educators can select any behavior target to meet an assessment need, these three general outcomes are relevant for all students, because low levels of disruption and high levels of engagement and respect are needed to access classroom instruction (Chafouleas et al. …

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