Functional Behavioral Assessment: Identifying the Reasons for Problem Behavior and Developing a Behavior Plan
Much of student behavior—appropriate or otherwise—is learned. As the ABC model demonstrates, antecedents occur before, and can trigger, a behavior, while consequences occur after the behavior and influence the likelihood of its reoccurrence. Four key principles influence a student’s behavior:
} increase the likelihood that a behavior will occur
}decrease the likelihood that a behavior will occur
When students display problem behaviors that are unresponsive to typical behavioral interventions, a functional behavioral assessment, or FBA, may be warranted. An FBA can determine the function of the student’s behavior, a critical step in planning an effective intervention.
Click on the movie below for a summary of the steps in the FBA process (time: 2:43).
There are seven steps in the FBA process. In Step 1, the team must identify and define the problem and replacement behaviors. Clearly defining the behaviors ensures that any observer who collects data in the classroom is observing the correct behaviors.
Step 2 is to collect data on the behaviors. The purpose of these data is to provide information on when, where, and how frequently the problem or target behavior currently occurs, or how long it lasts. This can be done using checklists and interviews with the student, teachers, and parents, and by direct observation of the student in the classroom. One type of direct observation—an ABC analysis—is used to identify the antecedents that set the stage for the problem behavior to occur and the consequences that appear to be maintaining it. Baseline data is also collected through direct observation and may include duration, latency, event, or interval recording, depending on the type of behavior being observed.
Once the data have been collected, Step 3 is to identify the function of the behavior. A functional assessment matrix can be helpful in determining whether the function of the behavior serves to either obtain or avoid things such as attention, tangible items or activities, or sensory conditions.
Step 4 is to design a function-based intervention in which the replacement behavior serves the same function as the problem behavior. A good intervention plan will include adjustments to both antecedents and consequences—and in some cases skill instruction—in order to address all conditions associated with the problem behavior.
Step 5 includes planning for social validity, implementation fidelity, and generalization and maintenance.
Step 6 is to implement the intervention, collecting data on both the problem and replacement behaviors.
Step 7 entails evaluating the intervention. In this final step, all of the data, including that collected on the problem and replacement behaviors, social validity, and implementation fidelity are analyzed to determine whether the intervention is effective in changing the student’s behavior. Adjustments are made if the data indicate that the plan has not been effective.
For many teachers and students, behavior problems in the classroom become a serious impediment to learning. However, with patience, planning, and the careful use of function-based assessments and interventions, teachers can manage those distractions and frustrations, leaving a classroom of students who are ready—and now more able—to receive instruction.
Revisiting Initial thoughts
Think back to your initial responses to the following questions. After working through the resources in this module, do you still agree with your Initial Thoughts? If not, what aspects of your answers would you change?
What should Ms. Rollison know about behavior in order to help Joseph?
How can Ms. Rollison determine why Joseph behaves the way he does?
What can Ms. Rollison do to modify Joseph’s behavior?
How will Ms. Rollison know whether the intervention is successful?
When you are ready, proceed to the Assessment section.