Functional behavioural assessment


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Basics of FBA

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Functional behavioural assessment

  1. 1. Functional Behavioural Assessment Must Do Kerensa Robertson
  2. 2. Descriptive Summary  FBA is concerned with understanding a child’s behaviour and the function that behaviour serves. It does this through looking at the context of that behaviour, by gathering data and formulating a hypothesis, then manipulating variables to increase the desired behaviour and reduce the negative behaviour.  FBA isn’t necessarily about changing the child, but changing the context so the child’s behaviour changes. It emphasises understanding the function of the behaviour for the student, such as being to disguise a lack of skills e.g. not having academic or social skills.  Theorists differ on how they define context, with some preferring proximal, or immediate causes, while others believe that distal causes, like family situations and psychological factors are included. (Mitchell, 2008).
  3. 3. Principles of FBA  1. Primary function of assessment is to provide intervention (Intervention must result from the data gathered and the function the behaviour serves)  2. Focus of assessment is on current context  3. Direct measurement of problem (must be an observable and definable behaviour e.g. out of seat and consistent between observations)  4. Behaviour is situational (must gather data from all target settings)  5. Context variables are relevant  6. Role of evaluation is to determine treatment effectiveness (Evaluation of intervention must occur before, during and after intervention) (Cipani, 2011 )
  4. 4. Stages of FBA (Mitchell, 2008)  Step 1: identify and accurately describe problem behaviour/s  Step 2: gather information from: existing reports, work samples, assessments, interviews and direct observation  Step 3: the team determines the function/s of the behaviour and develops a hypothesis about the behaviour/s and their causes.  Step 4: A Behavioural Intervention Plan (BIP) is developed by the team.  Step 5: Implementation of the intervention plan. Detailed records are kept.  Step 6: the plan is evaluated and modified where necessary.
  5. 5. Possible Information to collect for FBA  ABC (antecedent behaviour consequence) – records behaviour, preceding event and the consequence of the behaviour  Scattergraph to show connections between two events e.g. antecedents and behaviours  Frequency- how often the target behaviours occur  Duration- how long the target behaviour lasts for  Interval recording- record student’s actions at regular intervals e.g. 10 seconds  - Usually gathered by a teacher or observer but can also be self-monitoring (students monitor own behaviour, which can help correct behaviour but data may not be accurate).
  6. 6. Behaviorlens: An app for FBA Hyperlink Below!
  7. 7. Useful Questions to ask Teachers and Sencos:
  8. 8. Antecedent The purpose is to find out proximal causes of behaviour  When is the behaviour more likely?  What activities/events happen just before the behaviour/s?  What do people do or say before the behaviour occurs?  Who is present when the behaviour occurs?  Are there times when the behaviour is unlikely?  In what circumstances is the behaviour least likely to occur?
  9. 9. Behaviour The purpose is to define the observable behaviour’s and distinguish the most problematic ones to target  What form does the behaviour take?  Can you describe what they say/do?  What do you mean by (vague description e.g. defiant)?  Which behaviour is most serious to you?  Why is that behaviour more problematic?
  10. 10. Consequence The purpose is to discover the function of the behaviour  What happens immediately after the behaviour occurs?  So how do you respond to this behaviour? How effective is this?  How do the other students respond to this behaviour?  What changes as a result of this behaviour?  What do they get out of the behaviour?  What do they avoid as a result of the behaviour?
  11. 11. Categories of Consequences (adapted from Hulac, 2011)  When manipulating the consequences, we should focus on increasing the desired behaviour and reducing the negative behaviour. Some behaviours may not be socially mediated and the behaviour itself may produce the reinforcement e.g. daydreaming or fidgeting. Sometimes extinction (removal of punishment or reinforcement) can be used e.g. if the function of the behaviour is to gain the consequences. Positive Reinforcement -rewarding good behaviour e.g. praise The result is to increase the desired behaviour Negative reinforcement The negative behaviour results in avoiding a task the student doesn’t want to do e.g. bad language results from being removed from the class during a challenging test. The result is to increase the negative behaviour Positive Punishment Negative behaviour is punished appropriately e.g. Hitting another student results in a detention The result is to reduce the negative behaviour Negative Punishment Negative behaviour results in removal of a positive event e.g. texting in class results in the phone being confiscated The result is to reduce the negative behaviour
  12. 12. Theoretical Basis  FBA is the descendant of Behaviourism, which maintains that human behaviours can be described scientifically, and that we can alter behaviour by rewarding positive behaviour and punishing negative behaviour. The work of B.F. Skinner has been highly influential in the field of behaviour modification, although he saw free will as an illusion and education as being one of teacher as expert. Behaviourism evolved into Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA).  FBA is also a result of moves in the 60’s and 70’s towards ABA. It became popular when the 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) specifically named it as part of the act and it effectively became law .(Mitchell, 2008)  It also aligns with Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory which looks at the microsystem and meso system and the influences these have on the child. Bronfenbrenner takes this further to look at the effect breakdowns in these systems might have on the child. Unlike Behaviorism, Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model acknowledged the role of the individual on the systems and how personal characteristics can change environments (and vice versa). (Huitt, 2012)
  13. 13. Pros and Cons of FBA Pros Cons Interventions that target antecedents and consequences are proven to be successful with behavioural and emotional issues Mitchell, 2008 cites several studies which show the success of this approach. The causes of student behaviour may be difficult to correctly identify. By focusing on possible proximal causes, more complex causes can be overlooked (Mitchell, 2008) By overemphasising possible distal causes, more obvious proximal causes can be overlooked (Waller, 2009) There may be multiple causes of the behaviour and the behaviour may not be consistent so analysis can be challenging. (Miller, Tansy, & Hughes, 1998) Successful interventions rely on understanding the function of the behaviour “Any undesirable childhood behavior can be made inefficient, ineffective, or unnecessary unless you forget that the behavior serves a purpose for that child” (Waller, 2009; p28) There is no systematic approach for understanding the function/s of the behaviour There is no consistent practice, procedure or method for synthesising information, and there is little research into developing educator- accessible systems for doing so. (Miller, Tansy, & Hughes, 1998) Once understood, FBA can be carried out in the classroom as a strategy by teachers (Waller, 2009) FBA is labour intensive and can be expensive to implement (Mitchell, 2008)
  14. 14. The New Zealand Context  When looking at the New Zealand context, the FBA model fits into the vision, values and competencies, but not necessarily comfortably.  The vision of New Zealand children as confident learners (Ministry of Education, 2007) is only achieved when they are engaged and learning at school. A successful intervention should help students to achieve this.  The values of the curriculum are around inclusion, learning to learn and community engagement. A child who is misbehaving because they do not have the skills to participate in class is not included. FBA should identify the skills shortage and plan an intervention to help the student acquire those skills and be able to be included. The nature of an FBA is to help students to learn how to learn by changing their context to enable this. By gathering data and planning an intervention, there should be community engagement, in which the community of the child is included in planning and executing the intervention for it to be successful.  The FBA should help a student to ‘manage self’ better, and ‘participate and communicate’ more effectively as the student’s skills develop. However the links to the Treaty of Waitangi are more obscure. By viewing the recently renewed Ka Hikitia (2013) Maori education plan, the aim of engaging students in education by giving them the skills to succeed may align with the FBA for the targeted students, who are experiencing difficulty with aspects of school life.
  15. 15. References  Cipani, E. (2011). Decoding challenging classroom behaviors: What every teacher and paraeducator should know!. Springfield, Ill: Charles C Thomas.  Gimpel, P. G., Ervin, G., Daly, R. A., Edward, K., & Merrell, K. W. (2010). Practical handbook of school psychology: Effective practices for the 21st century. New York: Guilford Press.  Hulac, D. M. (2011). Behavioral interventions in schools: A response-to-intervention guidebook. New York: Brunner-Routledge.  Huitt, W. (2012) A Systems Approach to the Study of Human Behavior. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date] from  Miller, J. A., Tansy, M., & Hughes, T. L. (1998). Functional behavioral assessment: The link between problem behavior and effective intervention in schools. Current Issues in Education [On-line, 1(5). Retrieved from  Ministry of Education (2013). Ka Hikitia: Accelerating Success 2013-2017, retrieved from heMinistry/KaHikitia/KaHikitiaAcceleratingSuccessEnglish.pdf  Ministry of Education (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media  Mitchell, D. R. (2008). What really works in special and inclusive education: Using evidence-based teaching strategies. London: Routledge.  Waller, R. J. (2009). The teacher's concise guide to functional behavioral assessment. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin Press.