Functional Behavior

A very important aspect in any classroom and to teachers is behavioral management. A teacher may have a student that displays a pattern of episodes of challenging behavior that are typically frequent and on a regular basis. Before a teacher can create a positive behavior support plan for the child, they will first need to determine the function of the behavior.

Teachers first need to make an informal observation of the child’s behavior to figure out how often the behavior is taking place. According to Kaiser & Sklar Rasminsky (2012) observations of the child’s most serious behavior should be recorded on a simple chart marked with days of the week running across the top and times of the school day down along the side (Chap. 10). This chart will help a teacher identify if a certain behavior happens only at a specific time of day or only during a specific activity or lesson. By the end of the day a teacher will know how many times a day the behavior happens and after a week or two a bar graph can be made to give a visual to the behavior that is actually taking place as well as its frequency.

After reviewing results from the graph and the graph illustrates that there is indeed challenging behavior, functional assessment should be done at this time. A team should be created of individuals who are familiar with the child such as the child’s other teachers, parents, school administrators, bus driver and social workers. Conducting interviews with members of the team can add important information about the child’s background and environment. The team will need to meet to discuss patterns and identify the problem behavior as well as the function of the behavior. Performing a functional behavior assessment involves looking at the assessment in A-B-C analysis. With the A-B-C analysis the antecedents, behavior and consequences will be distinguished and identified. Both the A-B-C analysis and the pattern of events will lead a teacher in pinpointing the function of behavior. Hartwig, Heathfield, and Jenson (2004) noted that a functional behavior assessment makes it possible to generate a hypothesis for a student with challenging behavior which allows teachers to modify environmental events to prevent such behavior (Pg. 3).

It is important to collect and analyze information prior to implementing specific interventions to address challenging behavior. The reason for the importance is to develop a plan that both teaches and supports replacement behaviors that serves the same function as the challenging behavior. Prevention is a big aspect of such plan in which the environment can be changed so a child does not need the challenging behavior. Without having collected and analyzed such information an appropriate plan may not be possible without knowing the precise function of behavior.

An example of a common behavior a teacher may encounter is a child having a kicking and screaming tantrum when the child cannot have a toy because it is not time for free play. The target behavior is the kicking and screaming tantrums being illustrated by the child. I would have to believe that the function of this targeted behavior is obtaining an object. The child seems to want the toy and believes if they display a kicking and screaming tantrum they may obtain the desired toy.

Another example of a common behavior a teacher may encounter is a child who when called upon in class to answer a question the child replies with smart aleck answers which results in the whole class laughing. The target behavior is the smart aleck replies the child is giving the teacher. The potential function of behavior is perhaps obtaining social attention. It appears that the child is trying to get social attention or a reaction from their peers by displaying this behavior.

The last example of a common behavior that a teacher may encounter is a child who becomes extremely disruptive and defiant when called on to read aloud in class. The target behavior is the disruption and defiance the child displays. It appears the potential function of behavior is avoidance or escape. It seems like the child is trying to avoid having to read aloud in class.

This short paper helped me understand what all is involved in collecting data in order to determine the functions of behavior. I also analyzed the importance of collecting and reviewing data prior to putting in place any interventions to address challenging behavior. I describe three examples of common behaviors a teacher may encounter in her class with a student. The three examples I described could possibly be seen in a real world classroom. This assignment has given me an understanding of challenging behavior and functions of those behaviors.

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