Thursday, May 26, 2016

A needed change of perspective

I was digging through the piles on my desk (aka my filing system) and came across resources that I received when I went to a training with the PBIS network on working out a Functional Behavior Analysis. The basis of the FBA is founded in understanding the ABC of the student behavior that we would like to see corrected.
  • A = Antecedent. This is what happens before the behavior occurs.
  • B = Behavior. This is the "problem" behavior that we would like to eventually see changed.
  • C = Consequence. This is what happens as a result of the behavior.
One more important piece is the Function, which is the "why" the student might exhibit this behavior. Most likely the function is avoidance/escape of something in the class. For more information on an FBA you can look here.

One of the things I remember most vividly from the training is that while we will have a desired behavior in mind, it will be a long time before we can get the student to modify their problem behavior to the desired behavior. The fact is that we need to help the student modify the problem behavior to an alternate behavior that still accomplishes their function. Over time, and a lot of patience, we can work with the classroom settings and the student to attempt to change the antecedent to make the problem behavior irrelevant and make the consequences change to make the problem behavior ineffective. Throughout this entire process, we work with the student to come to their own realization that the desired behavior is more favorable than the problem behavior.

As I stumbled across this resource again, it got me thinking. Throughout the FBA process, we are attempting to modify behavior, but supporting the student throughout the entire process. When we make attempts to change behavior, we might tend to focus on increasing the consequences and making them increasingly dire in an attempt to "threaten" the student into compliance. A traditional approach does not take into account the function or why the student is performing this behavior. The traditional approach tends to focus on trying to move a student to a desired behavior by focusing on the student's deficit.

What struck me with this newer (at least to me) approach to helping student arrive at a desired behavior is that this approach actually focuses on potential student strengths. If we want students to be successful, we need to help them see how they are growing and changing in positive ways. We need to have these check-in conversations with students to help them recognize that they are making progress on their long journey in education. It is often difficult to for students to see the finish line, but teachers and students might be ignoring the distance from the starting line that students have traveled.