EDSP 6648: FBAs and Their Importance

The Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) is used to collect information about problem behavior in order to understand why that problem behavior is occurring. Yell, Meadows, Drasgow, and Shriner (2013) describe four types of information that are identified in an FBA:

  1. Description of the problem behavior and daily routines
  2. Consequences maintaining the problem behavior
  3. Antecedent events that trigger problem behavior
  4. Setting events that increase the likelihood of problem behavior

An FBA is the first step in identifying the cause(s) of the behavior and hypothesizing about possible solutions. This knowledge is critical for the teacher because it can help them understand why the student is acting out and brainstorm possible ways to intervene.

In the first step of the FBA, being specific about the behavior is important. Saying that the student is “aggressive” or “frustrated” doesn’t describe exactly what is happening. The description of the behavior has to be specific and observable (i.e., not an emotion). For example, “Timmy throws his book on the floor when asked to read aloud.”

The second step is figuring out what is maintaining the behavior. “The FBA is driven by determining the function of the behavior” (Yell et. al., 2013). What is the student gaining by behaving the way they are? Are they craving attention, avoiding something, or is the root of the problem that they have a skill or performance deficit? What are the consequences of the students’ action?

Thirdly, it is important to determine what directly precedes the behavior. This could be the teacher asking the student a question or it could be teasing from a classmate.

Lastly, knowing the setting events that increase the likelihood of the problem behavior are helpful to know. These could be biological (fatigue, hunger), environmental (noise, seating distractions), or situational (routine changes, personnel changes) (Yell et. al., 2013).

An FBA can start with an interview of parents, teachers, and psychiatrists or counselors. Completing behavior check lists or rating scales can be very informative as well. Looking at medical records or other school reports can create a clearer picture of what the student is going through. Based on the interviews and data acquired so far, direct observation can solidify what was hypothesized about the problem behavior. Yell et. al. (2013) describe two types of direct observation methods: scatter plot assessment (SPA) and ABC observation. Having specific data about the time of day the behavior is most likely to occur is useful.

With this information in mind, we can better predict what exactly is causing the student to act out. The end result of the FBA is to create suggestions for the behavior intervention plan (BIP) that the student, parents, and educators follow.

I think it is critically important to watch out for students who do exhibit problematic behavior on a regular basis and to a marked degree. The main goal of an FBA should be to help improve the student’s skills and stop the bad behavior by replacing it with a more ideal and socially accepted behavior. As a future teacher, I hope to be able to react in an appropriate manner to all types of behavior. Yell et. al. (2013) assert that most teachers still tend to use punishment as the first line of defense when dealing with problem behavior. It can certainly be easy for a stressed and frustrated teacher to simply yell at the student causing the classroom disruption, but that is certainly not an ideal way to handle such events.

It will be a challenge to learn to control my own emotions and model good behavior for my future students so they in turn learn how to handle conflict appropriately. The FBA can not only be used for students with EBD, but it can also be used informally by the teacher for the general student population. Simply having a better idea about student behavior and the causes can be very helpful for dealing with any kind of student behavior, no matter how trivial. Changing my behavior and how I intervene, reinforce, or punish certain behaviors seems critical to maintaining an efficient and productive classroom conducive to learning for all.

Reference: Yell, M. L., Meadows, N. B., Drasgow, E., & Shriner, J. G. (2013). Evidence-based practices for educating students with emotional and behavioral disorders (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.


EDSP 6648: Defining EBD

The term emotional and behavioral disorder (EBD) is difficult to define because everyone has a different idea of what it means. Before this class, I did not realize that EBD existed. I would have simply referred to the disorder as anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, or some other diagnosed condition. Do all students that act out in school have a EBD? Probably not, but now I realize that EBD is more complex than that. How do you know when emotional and behavioral problems constitute a disorder?

Even lawmakers have trouble coming up with a good definition of EBD (Yell, Meadows, Drasgow, & Shriner, 2013). In order for a student to receive EBD special education services, they must meet the federal definition for EBD. However the federal definition is vague and ambiguous when it comes to what a “marked degree” is and how long “a long period of time” is. Every person is different and people with EBD are no exception.

I define EBD as someone that has either an emotional or behavioral problem that causes them to have inappropriate actions or thoughts that adversely affect their ability to learn, work, or form meaningful relationships with others. These actions or thoughts happen repeatedly and over the course of several months. This would not include people with depression who have just lost a family member or someone important to them for example, unless it continues for several months and it negatively affects their learning or work. But even that definition is still lacking. The federal definition says EBD does not include people who are “socially maladjusted,” such as people who participate in gang activities. However, I feel like these people need just as much help as someone who has an anxiety disorder.

In any case, I believe many of the conceptual models and risk factors can help us better define EBD. Yell et al. (2013) describe several models including the psychodynamic, psychoeducational, ecological, humanistic, biophysical, behavioral, and cognitive models. I know it can probably be difficult to pinpoint exactly what is causing the EBD, but I think many times it is multiple factors working together. For example, the ecological model states that the poor behavior could be a result of an adverse environment. Risk factors for such an environment could include family risk factors such as having parents in legal trouble, neglect or abuse, or even rejection by family (Yell et. al., 2013).

Behavior problems could be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain or genetics, which describes the biophysical model. And yet another belief is that behavior stems from social contexts and cause and effect treatment or punishment. All of these different models and risk factors influence my description of EBD. It will be my job as a future elementary teacher to watch out for children who have either been diagnosed with EBD or show signs of having a potential problem.

Reference: Yell, M. L., Meadows, N. B., Drasgow, E., & Shriner, J. G. (2013). Evidence-based practices for educating students with emotional and behavioral disorders (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.