Applied Behavioral Analysis and Education

Applied Behavioral Analysis and Education2017-06-24T20:51:41+00:00

Project Description

an icon of a headshot with some textExample: Applied Behavior Analysis and Education

Jefferson Elementary School implemented school wide positive behavior support. This new approach to behavior supports was put in place to address some problems in the school.  In the previous school year, there were a high number of office discipline issues. Many of these were given because students were not following teacher requests.  In addition, there were many fights between students.  Teachers identified three behavior expectations for students in school:

  1. Be respectful.
  2. Be responsible.
  3. Be ready.

Teachers defined what each expectation would look like in different parts of the school. In the cafeteria, “be responsible,” meant cleaning up your trash after lunch. In the classroom, “be respectful,” meant listening to instructions the first time. The staff worked together to develop materials and opportunities to teach students about the three expectations. Teachers modeled for students what active listening looks like.  Teachers emphasized that students’ hands should be folded.  Their eyes should be following the teacher. The teachers then had all students role play in small groups. The staff rewarded students with a “Jefferson Point” when they saw them to act out these expectations at school. Students could use the points in exchange for small prizes. Teachers and administrators tracked the number of Jefferson Points awarded per grade and per student.  They also tracked the number of office referrals made per grade and per student.  They noted the reason that office referrals were given (i.e., fighting, noncompliance, excessive tardies). The school administrator sent a survey to parents three times in the school year. She asked parents, teachers, and students to rate their satisfaction with the school’s new approach to behavior support and management.

The following principles of ABA are represented in the example:

  • Positive Reinforcement. Students earn points for expected behavior; points are traded for prizes.
  • Data Monitoring.  Collecting surveys, tracking of office referrals.
  • Teaching Alternative Behaviors.  Eye tracking, sitting with hands folded, etc.

The primary level of positive supports will not be enough to help some of Jefferson Elementary School’s students. Three second grade students continue to have problems that result in visits to the school office six to ten times per year. These problems frequently happen during lunch and recess.  The students tend to pick fights with other students.  Teachers observed the students over multiple days and times.  They completed an Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (ABC) chart. This helped them to see patterns in what causes students’ behaviors.  They were also able to determine that the students’ problem behaviors were resulting in getting peer and adult attention.

Teachers organized a group intervention that taught the students social skills.  This activity was intended to increase students’ positive communication strategies.  They could use these strategies for interacting with peers.  Teachers used stories with characters who enact expected behaviors during lunch and recess.  Students learned appropriate ways to ask a peer to play or to sit together.  Students practiced these strategies during their group intervention time.  Teachers also asked a peer to check-in with the students during lunch and recess.  When the students use their social skills as expected, teachers reward the expected behavior with Jefferson Points.  These students collect Jefferson Points and they are able to redeem the points for prizes.

The following principles of ABA are represented in the example:

  • ABC Data Collection. Observations in which the antecedent, problem behavior and consequence are recorded over several days and times.
  • Antecedent Intervention.  The social skills group which taught positive ways to communicate.
  • Noncontingent Reinforcement.  Giving positive feedback throughout the day.
  • Positive Reinforcement.  Providing positive feedback.
Ted, one of the students already targeted for additional supports, continues to struggle with behavior expectations.  He also started blurting out phrases in class.  The phrases are unrelated to the activities he is completing.  This happens often while working independently on math problems at his desk.  The school psychologist works with the teachers to complete a functional behavior analysis (FBA).  This helps confirm the main reasons why Ted blurts aloud in class.  The FBA shows that Ted receives peer attention and escape from difficult math problems.  The school psychologist suggests an individualized positive behavior support plan for Ted. This plan is designed to teach Ted to ask for help in the following way:

  • Help Ted solve the first problem on the worksheet as soon as he receives the worksheet.
  • When Ted works independently on math problems, remind him that the way to ask for help is to say, “help, please.”  As soon as Ted says this, show him how to solve the problem.
  • Show Ted how not to request assistance.  For example, when Ted can solve a problem on his own, he should not ask for help.  If he does, his teacher will direct him back to his worksheet.  The teacher provides a reward when Ted completes the worksheet.
  • When Ted requests help as instructed, the teacher will no longer need to help solve the first problem on the worksheet.  This help will be slowly phased out.
  • Continue monitoring Ted’s progress over time.  Monitor the number of times Ted appropriately asks for help, the number of times he blurts phrases, and the number of times he requests help inappropriately.
  • Over time, the teacher and school psychologist see that Ted’s problem behavior occurs less often.  He begins to request help more often.

The following principles of ABA are represented in the example:

  • Functional Assessment.  Identifying the function of problem behavior.  The function is the reason why the behavior happens.
  • Teaching alternative behaviors.  Teaching students to ask for help.

For more information on Applied Behavior Analysis visit the Minnesota Northland Association for Behavior Analysis: