Example of essay on conducting a behavioral assessment


Approaches that incorporate various strategies and techniques in order to identify likely interventions and diagnose the causes meant for the solutions of problem behaviors is what is referred to as a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) (Durand and Crimmins, 1992).
The functional behavioral assessment surpasses demonstrated behavior and instead focuses on discovering environmental, affective, social and biological factors that target, end, sustain or initiate behavior. This approach is paramount as it leads the observer way past the behavior or symptom up to the motivation underneath it. The following steps are highly recommended while implementing and planning an FBA (functional behavior assessment).
– Definition and identification of the behavior problem
Before conducting an FBA, it’s important to point out which behavior is leading to the discipline or learning problems and also define that behavior as clearly as possible to ease communication and the recording and measurement procedures. Vague behavior descriptions such as poor thinking for example are difficult to deal with when assessing the right interventions to use.
One should take into account the expectations that the teacher has of the student’s conduct in the classroom as well as their academic performance in the initial collection of information. It is possible in some cases to the expectations of the teacher of the student to fall below or above the actual performance of the student. Behavior problems in the end may arise from boredom, embarrassment fears or a sense of frustration. In studying the behavior of a student it is vital to take into consideration whether a specific response may link to expectations or cultural differences (Nelson, Robert, Smith, 1998).
For example in some of the cultures competition among peers is not allowed while in other cultures it is considered rude behavior to make eye contact with parents. Always put into account that there are no two families or students who are alike in spite of ethnic, cultural or gender background.
Parents as part of the team can hand in information that is valuable about the behaviors which are valued in their cultures. The personnel of the school should know that variations do exist and they should be able to respect this fact and work together to absorb the perspectives of the families where student behavior is concerned. Qualified experts may be an additional resource to the team where the judgment on expectations and cultural differences is concerned. The experts will be in a better position to investigate the impact cultural differences have on learning. The following questions are relevant for the team to be able to make judgments on the significant behavior that is portrayed by a student.
As Vollmer and Matson (1996, p. 2) state it is necessary to objectively and carefully observe the behavior of the student in various setups depending on the activity. Interviews with the caregivers and the staff in general may be of great help in pointing out behavior characteristics that are specific. The determination of an appropriate FBA will only be determined by a yes answer to any of the questions above. Upon definition of the problem behavior in more solid terms, the team can now go ahead and start an FBA in order to determine the causes of the behavior (Vollmer and Matson, 1996).
For any students with disabilities, it’s important to note down that generally the FBA in this case should be conducted in the framework of a meeting with the IEP. The sections that follow are a guideline that the teams can make use of in selecting effective techniques to assess likely causes of certain behaviors.
– Determine function through the collection of information.
The contribution to behavior and factors that are contextual should be well identified through a properly executed FBA and an assessment plan that is properly developed. The determination of contextual factors that are specific to a behavior is determined through collecting information on the different conditions where a student is least or most likely to show signs of problem behavior. The data that is gathered directly or indirectly pave way for the personnel of the school to foresee the conditions under which he problem behavior is likely or un-likely to occur.
In order to conduct a behavior assessment many methods and sources are needed (Singh et al., 2006). One cannot get accurate information that is sufficient from just a single source, especially in cases where the behavior problem has various functions that are different depending on the circumstance for example a student in class who makes comments that are not appropriate might be doing it to gain attention from his or her peers at one point while in another this behavior may be to ensure the teacher does not reproach him or her for not participating in class.
One thing that should be understood though is that the contextual factors are generally a lot more than the total of behaviors that are observable. In short the antecedent, trigger or words for the behavior are not something that another person can observe directly, and should therefore be identified by making use of indirect measures. An example is if a student gets annoyed for being given an assignment by the teacher, it may not be the homework that is making himher annoyed but the fact that he or she may not be having the skill required to tackle the assignment leading to the student anticipating to perform poorly. This type of information may be handled by going through the gathered information in the process of the FBA or a one on one discussion with the student.
It is important to test the behavior from as many angles as possible since problem behavior comes from a variety of causes. It is critical to use multiple means in the gathering of information on behavior depending of course on the behavior of concern and its nature. This may include an assessment of the student’s products academically such as assignments, examinations or tests and a review of the records of the students that is medical and educational. The team in addition to that will need to use different procedures for observation such as, interviews with school personnel, teachers and parents, interviews with other ground staff as the drivers, or kitchen personnel, use of questionnaires, interviewing of the students and anything that the team feels will give them a better understanding of the behavior problems.
– Form a hypothesis: Categorize the behavior
Finding the most effective way to deal with the troubling problematic behavior is the sole purpose of conducting an FBA (O’Neill et al., 1997, p. 12). As soon as the team is able to define the behavior and the data collected of how, where and when it is demonstrated, it is only then that they will be able to determine why the behavior is happening. For example, identifying why James cheats during examinations does not mean that he is not clever or does not value education, rather it could be due to a phobia of failure or lack of self esteem on his part believing he will fail. An important part of the FBA therefore is for the team to hypothesize and ascertain the occurrence of the behavior. The occurrence of a behavior can be categorized in three basic ways:
– Function-why the student is showing this kind of behavior is it to seek or get a desired thing or is it to avoid or escape an undesired or painful thing. Examples of this can be to control something, escape of a certain environment, to run from the requests or demands of a person or activity, to attain a desired activity, to woo a desired response and to gain stimulation or attention.
– Skill deficit-an academic or behavioral skill which the student does not know how to perform. For example; a case scenario where a student beats up a fellow student as they are not aware of any other forms of resolving conflicts. In skill deficit cases the BIP should describe how the skill is taught and the support the student requires in the process of learning.
– Performance deficit-lack of performance in an academic or behavioral skill that a student is aware of. For example; a student who never finishes the assignments of teachers he or she does not like on time. Performance deficit cases strategies to have a better rapport between teachers and students should be included in the BIP.
Caution is needed in the assessment of behavior assuming certain behaviors portrayed by the students are out of choice (Nelson, Robert and Smith, 1998) that is the student even while knowing better decides to do it either way. For example a student who decides to whistle while a class is going on, may not or may be aware of more appropriate ways of seeking attention. In the analysis of the behavior of the student put into consideration that the student might be behaving that way because they do not know any other better way to behave, or knows the right way to behave but just doesn’t feel like it. The performance deficit here is denoted in ‘ doesn’t’ while the skill deficit is denoted in ‘ do not’.
As much as categorizing behavior by function is important for an FBA, realizing that problems can relate to performance deficits or either skills or both can also contribute to the development of a sound BIP. Finally it is crucial to remember that the behavior a student engages in may impact other behaviors in one way or another.
The assessment team is responsible for the consideration of all or any information that is relevant and for the formation of hypotheses on the behavior that will be utilized for the development of a BIP. The statement that describes the conclusions of the team on the deficit or the cause of the manifestation of the student’s behavior is what we are terming to be the hypothesis.
Another way of coming up with a conclusion can be by making use of a graphic tool which helps in the analysis of information that is compiled. This tool that is referred to as a data tri-angle or a data triangulation gives the team a framework on which they can compare gathered information visually from various sources such as interviews, charts and graphs (Singh et al., 2006, p. p. 741). Team members from here should try and come up with possible behavior patterns and conditions that target or trigger behavior, the functions that continue or maintain behavior that is they avoid, control or get something and then finally, the gaps of the deficits that the problem behaviors fill for the students.
– Hypothesis testing
Testing of the hypothesis to ensure it is correct is an important step for the FBA. To test the hypothesis for an example of a given student James who has the habit of cheating on tests; the teacher could juggle between general class lectures to after class tuition for some several weeks in order to identify the cause of the behavior. In any case the teacher would also be required to change what goes on in the examination rooms. James in this case would be asked to do individual tests he has done before and still participate in general class tests. If the result of this change increases the interfering behavior simply because James is not able to cheat in the tests then the hypothesis would be deemed to be correct, but if he still finds a way to cheat during exams then the team would be required to test the hypothesis again.
The practitioners or teachers test the hypothesis by changing the activity or setting in order to add to the probability that the behavior will occur.

Indirect assessment

Rather than first hand assessment environmental events, indirect assessment involves getting data from other sources (Sugai, Lewis and Hagan, 1998). The assessments include interviews with the people who work directly with the students. The description of types of indirect assessments is as follows.
Interviews: the most widely used forms of FBAs are interviewing assessments. The task of interview assessments is to find out the reinforcement source for a behavior by asking people who are in the life of the student about what they think is the function of the challenging behavior and its likelihood (Iwata and Deleon, 1995, p. 45). The information gathered from assessment interviews can be put into five different categories, that is; interventions, consequences, antecedents, sitting events and behaviors (O’Neill et al., 1997, p. 112).
Checklists: they can be utilized in indirect assessments as well. In checklists teachers, caregivers and parents check off likely consequences or antecedents that might be exposed to the students when particular behaviors occur. There are several checklists that are normally available and some of them are designed to be used by mediators or parents to determine the causes of behaviors of their children in schools.
The checklists should have as many consequences and antecedents as required. Antecedents may involve whether requests or demands were made at some point of the students and whether during this time the students were interacting with their parents, or talking with friends, or on the phone, or doing homework. Consequences may include reprimand of the student, curfew while out with friends, ignoring the students, giving students’ attention or removing the student from a class.
Rating Scales: checklists are similar to rating scales only that the parents or the teachers can predict at some point that a consequence or an antecedent would likely take place previously or after the target behavior. Several rating scales are provided in the rating scales. One of the famous rating scales by Durand and Crimmins is the Motivation Assessment Scale (1987, p. 10). It is a 16-item rating scale that needs particular descriptions of the behavior in question that is challenging and a full description of the occurrence settings. The questions are divided into four different categories: tangible, attention, escape and sensory.
Examples of the questions in every category would be as follows: if the person is left alone say for a few hours, would the behavior occur over and over again? This is sensory; if any request is made by this person does the behavior come up? This is an escape; if you stop attending to this person does the behavior come up? This is attention; and if you give this person what they want for example food, activity or a present does the behavior stop occurring later on? This is tangible. Occurrences of these situations and their likelihood are rated on the Likert-type scale from o-6 that is from never-always. Calculation of the average rating per category and the relevant ranking is analyzed based on each average score.

Descriptive analyses

The observation of the student in an environment that is natural and where it is likely for the challenging behavior to occur is what the descriptive analysis is. Descriptive analysis has several forms namely; scatter plots, forms of observation and A-B-C analyses. The biggest advantage of descriptive analysis unlike indirect assessments is that they are more objective as they take into consideration observation and direct assessment of the accepted and unaccepted behaviors (Singh et al., 2006, p. 744).
A-B-C analysis: this involves the observer for example the school cook, the school nurse, the parent, the teacher and the student who is paying attention to the student during his or her daily activities. When the behavior is most likely to happen like during school hours is when the observation should take place. The time and length of these observations depend on various factors like, how many resources the school needs to conduct the observations and the target behavior frequency. To get the ideal picture of the behavior the student is portraying the observations should take place in three or at the least two occasions.
The teacher should write a narrative of the occurring events just before that is antecedent and after that is consequence the targeted behaviors while conducting the observation. Observation of a qualitative research study is the same as an A-B-C analysis. Their main intention is to assist in developing statements of hypothesis on the available functions of the unwanted behavior. The narrative should contain accepted behavior as well as the unexpected behavior essentially all student interactions should be documented. For the narrative the person observing should come up with a system of the summaries and abbreviations to keep up with the behavioral events.
Observation forms: for the purposes of conducting descriptive analysis there is a variety of available observational forms. The observation forms sharp the observations into a checklist like format alongside definitions that are operational of each and every of the target behaviors the same as the narrative method of recording (Singh et al., 2006, p. 746). In order for the person conducting the observation to be aware of what he or she is examining there should be a definition that is operational for each behavior. Provided are the predictors in addition to data on setting events and various antecedents like the people the student associates with and those whom the student is working with can be added in the columns. Thereafter the assumed functions of the behavior are given. Two major categories are provided here; negative reinforcement like to avoid or escape and positive reinforcement like to obtain or get.
Scatter Plots: devised by Touchette, Langer and MacDonald are another form of assessment. The biggest problem with this method is that the environmental conditions related to behaviors on a basis that is time-cyclical cannot be determined (O’Neill et al., P. 77). Scatter plots lead to the teacher being able to reduce possibilities of unacceptable behavior and when they are likely to occur so that a better analysis can be done by other methods like the A-B-C analysis. This method can be used as an alternative to checklists and interviews.

In summary

For the development of behavior support plans FBAs form an aspect that is critical. FBAs have their own theoretical beginnings of understanding why we do what we do with behavior. Our behavior arises due to the immediate environment, our culture, our psychological makeup and our context. The FBA mainly concentrates on how these contexts touch on the behavior of students. FBAS look at the consequences, antecedents and event settings that keep behavior. Event settings are the broader contexts that force a person to act in a certain way.
The immediate events that often trigger or bring about challenging behavior are the antecedents. Consequences take what place in the environment due to the occurrence of a certain behavior that increases the probability of it will come up again in the future. All of the contextual elements should be addressed by an FBA. The different types of FBAs include functional analyses, observations, checklists and interviews. When implementing an FBA it is normal to conduct a number of these assessments.


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