Positive Behavior Support and Functional Behavioral Assessment for Educators (page 3)
You no doubt have run across the terms positive behavior support and functional behavioral assessment in your career. But what do they really mean for educators on a day-to-day basis? First, it is important to understand that functional behavior assessment is considered a positive behavior support: the two go hand in hand. When we refer to positive behavior support throughout this book, we are including the ongoing process of considering the function of behavior, that is, functional behavioral assessment.
Positive behavior support is overwhelmingly viewed as best practice by leaders in the educational field. In addition, it is highly favored and possibly on the verge of being required by federal law when No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are reauthorized. Lawmakers are increasingly aware that if academic outcomes are to improve, behavior needs to improve and that the punitive practices used in many of our nation's schools are highly ineffective, if not damaging to students. IDEA currently requires that positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports be ''considered'' for students whose behavior impedes their learning or the learning of others. In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the U.S. Department of Education encourages local education agencies to use these funds for professional development in reading, math, writing, and science and for positive behavior support.1
What Exactly Is Positive Behavior Support?
Positive behavior support is a major initiative that has developed over the past decade in order to shift the focus of behavior management away from reactive, negative approaches to more proactive, positive ones. Positive behavior support is not simply providing rewards or incentives to students for behaving appropriately. It is a much broader concept with multiple applications in the educational setting. The Office of Special Education's Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports officially defines positive behavior support as ''an application of a behaviorally-based systems approach to enhance the capacity of schools, families and communities to design effective environments that improve the link between research-validated practices and the environments in which teaching and learning occurs.''2 Two key points in this definition are research-validated practices and enhancing the capacity of all environments. We will focus on each of these key points in turn.
NCLB strongly prefers educational programs grounded in scientifically based research and requires using only evidence or evidence-based interventions whenever possible. Positive behavior support and functional behavioral assessment practices are firmly grounded in applied behavioral analysis, an area of scientific study supported by over thirty years of research confirming the effectiveness of various antecedent and consequence strategies, data collections, graphing, and monitoring.3 The main research foundation of positive behavior support is that of the traditional gold standard of quantitative experimental research. However, educational research is complex, and many important topics do not lend themselves well to traditional research techniques. Therefore, positive behavior support embraces flexibility with respect to scientific practices, valuing the information gained by qualitative research methods such as naturalistic observations and case studies. A systematic data source is invaluable to evaluate and guide intervention.4
Enhancing the Capacity of Environments
By focusing on the ''environments in which teaching and learning occurs,'' including ''schools, families and communities,'' the goal of positive behavior support is not just on ''fixing'' the student with behavioral challenges but also on ''fixing'' aspects of the learning environment that contribute to the problem behavior. This includes increasing the prevention and early intervention skills of the adults rather than continuing to allow them to react only after behavioral problems have occurred. A reactive, punitive-only approach does not work. The positive behavior support movement has given birth to the idea that the best time to intervene is when the problem behavior is not even occurring.5 Just as safety laws prevent and reduce accidents and preventative medicine prevents and reduce illness, positive behavior support prevents and reduces behavioral problems.
A Three-Tiered Model
Positive behavior support is a systematic three-tiered model in which all students get universal intervention (this is the foundation); some students who do not respond adequately to universal intervention receive more intensive intervention; and a few students receive intensive intervention.
Research increasingly is demonstrating that three-tiered models pairing evidence-based interventions at each level of support are effective in reducing the number of students identified for expensive and intensive special education support and help educators to work smarter, not harder. Most educators who work with students with chronic behavior challenges want to focus on the top of the triangle: interventions targeting the most challenging students. In addition, school districts and buildings often implement only hit-and-miss strategies with students with behavior challenges rather than taking a systematic approach. These are huge mistakes. The entire positive behavior support pyramid needs to be built from the ground up because it works exponentially. That is, the interventions at the top of the triangle have a much more powerful effect if the interventions at the foundation are firmly in place.
Having interventions in place at all levels also cuts down on more minor behavior problems, thus leaving more resources in terms of time, energy, and finances to allocate to the upper levels. Providing a strong foundation at the first level of positive behavior support benefits all students and is essential to the goal of reaching and teaching students with behavioral challenges. Universal, or first-tier, interventions prevent the onset of problem behavior among low-risk students and sustain improvements made as a result of second- and third-tier interventions over time.6
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