Education in Spite of Policy
Developing Schoolwide Programs to Prevent and Manage Problem Behaviors: A Step-by-Step Approach
Kathleen Lynne Lane, Jemma Robertson Kalberg and Holly Mariah Menzies, 2009
New York: The Guilford Press
196pp., $32.00 (paperback), ISBN 978-1-60623-032-9
Conducting School-Based Functional Behavioral Assessments (Second Edition) A Practitioner's Guide
Review by Derek Gillard
© copyright Derek Gillard 2009
Note (August 2018) I apologise for the absence of page references in this review.
Behaviour in schools has attracted much attention, particularly in the past twenty years. Many books have been published on the subject, and in the UK there have been two major government reports: the Elton Report (1989) Discipline in Schools and the Steer Report Learning behaviour (2005). The Steer committee also published a follow-up report Learning Behaviour: Lessons Learned in 2009.
The two books considered here are both American publications and each promotes a particular approach to the problem of identifying and dealing with problem behaviour. In the case of Lane, Kalberg and Menzies, that approach is 'positive behaviour support' (PBS), and for Steege and Watson it is 'functional behavioural assessment' (FBA).
Lane, Kalberg and Menzies
In Chapter 1 the authors begin by considering what is meant by antisocial behaviour and go on to consider the multiple needs of students with emotional or behavioural disorders (EBD).
In response to calls for action, many schools have moved away from 'traditional, reactive approaches' and are developing 'three-tiered models of support that subscribe to a proactive, instructional approach to behavior'. The book is concerned with one of these approaches: Positive Behaviour Support (PBS).
Many teachers say they don't have the skills, resources or support to prevent and respond to challenging behaviour. The book aims to address this concern by providing an opportunity for all concerned in the work of schools 'to become familiar with strategies that better serve students with, and at risk for, EBD through the support of three-tiered models of intervention'.
Chapter 2 begins with an overview of the literature of primary prevention models, then addresses the challenges of conducting schoolwide prevention programmes, and lastly introduces 'core quality indicators' for consideration when 'designing, implementing, and evaluating the primary plan'.
Chapter 3 provides additional information to help further define the PBS model, describes the four systems which constitute comprehensive PBS models, and illustrates how the progressive continuum of behaviour supports functions in the model.
In Chapter 4 the authors offer a step-by-step team-based approach for designing and implementing a comprehensive primary prevention model which contains academic, behavioural and social components.
Chapter 5 discusses the importance of conducting a sound evaluation to determine the the extent to which the primary programme positively impacts student outcomes in terms of academic, behavioural and social performance. It presents an assessment plan including tools such as treatment integrity and social validity measures, suggests validated screening tools for identifying students with or at risk of EBD, and offers practical guidelines for measuring the effectiveness of the primary intervention programme.
Chapter 6 provides a rationale for monitoring how the school as a whole is responding to the plan, how individual students are responding, and for identifying students who require additional support.
In Chapter 7 the authors answer some frequently asked questions regarding the design, implementation and evaluation of primary intervention models in order to 'provide concrete information that addresses logistical issues'.
Steege and Watson
Where Lane, Kalberg and Menzies focused on PBS, Steege and Watson concentrate on FBA (functional behavioural assessment).
In his Foreword, Frank M Gresham, of Louisiana State University's Department of Psychology, notes that FBA has been inaccessible to school-based practitioners because it is mostly found in technical journals which have not sought to provide recommendations for practice. 'This book does an excellent job of translating what can be technically daunting literature into practical and usable strategies for conducting FBAs in schools'.
Chapter 1 provides an overview of the history of functional procedures, discusses 'the futility of attempting to base intervention decisions on a diagnostic label', and lists a number of errors often made by school-based teams when evaluating challenging behaviour.
In Chapter 2 the authors introduce their S-M-I-R-C model, which aims to capture the complexities of everyday interactions and offer a useful basis for analysing behaviour, and in Chapter 3 they provide user-friendly legal advice in the light of the US government's Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act.
Chapter 4 deals with a number of complex issues such as motivating operations, how altered physical states often directly affect behaviour, why response classes may be important in the FBA and intervention process, and how the matching law influences behaviour in the school setting.
In Chapter 5 the authors provide a definition of FBA as 'both (1) a theoretical framework for understanding human behavior and (2) a set of assessment procedures', and then consider various elements of FBA in more detail.
Chapter 6 offers advice on conducting an FBA, a process involving several interrelated stages. It is 'usually initiated by a referral for assessment and intervention and begins by defining and recording behaviors'.
Chapter 7 is concerned with 'indirect assessment', which is defined as the process in which 'information regarding antecedents and consequences and other other critical variables are gathered indirectly via interviews, rating scales, screening forms and the like'. It notes that 'the temptation to rely solely on indirect FBA procedures is alluring' but warns that 'simply filling out a form that is titled "functional behavioral assessment" does not necessarily constitute an adequate FBA'. In some cases such a process may be enough and the intervention may be successful. If, however, the results of an indirect FBA are suspect or inconsistent, then additional assessments may be needed. The following chapters provide descriptions of direct observation procedures which can be used to further assess what the authors describe as 'interfering behaviors'.
Chapter 8 describes direct descriptive FBA as 'one of the most powerful tools in school-based FBAs ... because each of its procedures is based on direct observations of behavior in the setting and/or situations in which the target behaviors occur'.
Aspects of functional behavioural analysis are considered in Chapter 9, while Chapter 10 discusses an applied model for conceptualizing, understanding and organizing the myriad variables that impact behaviour, and Chapter 11 provides multiple examples of what the outcomes of an FBA should look like.
In Chapter 12 the authors consider the documentation required and provide a model for delivering intervention services in schools which rely on 'basic teaching principles' and information gleaned from the book.
Chapter 13 offers advice on ensuring that interventions are implemented accurately and consistently. The authors conclude by stressing the importance of ensuring that 'students are actively engaged in a dense schedule of a wide range of socially significant, meaningful, and functional educational opportunities throughout the school day'.
Given, as I noted above, that there have been numerous books and official reports about behaviour in schools over the past twenty years or so, it is fair to ask first whether these two books add anything new to the debate. To the extent that they deal with specific models of identifying problem behaviours and methods of intervening to prevent or modify them, the answer is probably yes.
Both books are extremely comprehensive and detailed. They include numerous tables, graphs and diagrams, and specimen forms which can be adapted for use in screening, observation and programme planning and monitoring. They offer many examples of good practice and practical suggestions for teachers and others involved in schools.
It is, however, also fair to point out that British readers may find the language in these American books a stumbling block, especially in the case of Lane, Kalberg and Menzies. They use some odd spellings ('pretest' and 'posttest', for example) and, inevitably, American vocabulary ('bathroom' for toilet etc). Perhaps even more irritating, the book contains huge numbers of references which often make grasping the meaning of a sentence difficult. For example:
improvements in hallway (Leedy, Bates, & Safran, 2004; Lewis et al., 1998), playground (Lewis et al., 2002; Lewis et al., 1998), and transition (e.g., Colvin et al., 1997) behaviors were reported. Several other studies also reported decreases in ODRs (e.g., Bell, Coleman, Anderson, & Whelan, 2000; Ervin, Schaughency, Goodman, McGlinchey, & Matthews, 2006; George, White, & Schlaffer, 2007; McCurdy, Manella, & Eldridge, 2003; Nelson, 1996; Nelson, Martella, & Galand, 1998; Nelson, Martella, & Marchand-Martella, 2002; Scott & Barrett, 2004; Sprague et al., 2001; Todd, Haugen, Anderson, & Spriggs, 2002) and suspensions (Bell et al.; George et al.; Netzel & Eber, 2003; Scott, 2001; Scott & Barrett, 2004).There is also a fair amount of jargon, or at least terms which may baffle a British audience: 'validated literacy curricula' and 'multisystemic therapy program' for example. The book is aimed at practitioners but is decidedly academic in tone and is unlikely to appeal to busy classroom teachers.
British readers may find some of the content shocking: a list of school shootings in the US since 1996, for example, runs to two and a half pages.
By contrast, Steege and Watson's book is more readable. Though it, too, is an academic work which contains its share of Americanisms and references, it is more user-friendly and readable: indeed, it is often conversational in style.
Despite the above criticisms, both books contain much that British teachers will find interesting and thought-provoking.