Addressing Challenging Behaviors (Part 1, Elementary): Understanding the Acting-Out Cycle
As you’ve learned, challenging behavior can negatively impact the classroom, causing stress and costing instructional time for teachers and students alike. Understanding the acting-out cycle helps educators to prevent and address challenging behavior. The seven phases of the acting-out cycle are reviewed in the table below.
Student behavior is characterized as goal-directed, compliant, cooperative, and academically engaged. The student is responsive to teacher praise and willing to cooperate with peers.
Student misbehavior occurs in response to an event either within or beyond the school day. When a student encounters a trigger, he may become restless, frustrated, or anxious.
The student can engage in a variety of off-task behaviors. Some students might dart their eyes, tap their fingers, or start and stop their activities. Others might disengage or stare off into space.
The student’s challenging behavior intensifies and is often directed at the teacher. It’s at this stage that a teacher often first recognizes that a problem is occurring.
The student’s behavior is clearly out of control (e.g., yelling at the teacher, hitting others, destroying property) and may create an unsafe classroom environment.
The student is less agitated and may be confused or disoriented. Many students will withdraw, deny responsibility, attempt to blame others, or try to reconcile with those they harmed.
The student is generally subdued and may wish to avoid talking about the Peak incident. The student returns to the Calm Phase.
In this interview, Kathleen Lane offers some final thoughts about the acting-out cycle (time: 2:30).
Kathleen Lynne Lane, PhD, BCBA-D, CF-L1
Professor, Department of Special Education
Associate Vice Chancellor for Research
University of Kansas
Revisiting Initial Thoughts
Think back to your responses to the Initial Thoughts questions at the beginning of this module. After working through the Perspectives & Resources, do you still agree with those responses? If not, what aspects about them would you change?
What should educators understand about challenging behaviors?
How can educators recognize and intervene when student behavior is escalating?
The second module in this two-part series will highlight the seven behavioral strategies listed below. Each strategy is described along with the steps necessary to implement it. Teachers can use these strategies to manage challenging student behaviors and prevent them from escalating to more serious levels.
- Behavior-specific praise
- Active supervision
- High-probability requests
- Opportunities to respond
- Choice making
- Differential reinforcement of alternative behavior
If you are interested in learning more about these behavioral strategies, please view the following IRIS Module:
When you are ready, proceed to the Assessment section.