Helping or Hindering

Are you helping or hindering the behaviors in your classroom

What is a Behavior?

According to the book, Behavior Analysis for Lasting Change, behavior is defined as "any living organism's including people's directly measurable actions or physical functions, including both saying and doing." All behavior has a function (purpose) whether it be sensory (automatic reinforcement), escape, attention, and/or tangible. There is a reason for all behavior, behavior does not just happen out of the blue.
To determine if something is a behavior one can think of the "Dead Man Test" which is: "if a dead man can do it, then it ain't a behavior. And if a dead man can't do it, then it is a behavior." Being anxious or hungry is not a behavior. Being blown over by a gust of wind is not a behavior because a dead man can be blown over, but moving ones arms and hands in front of your face, tucking and rolling, and yelling "whoa!" as you are being blown over is a behavior.

How to determine the function?

A functional analysis is the best form of evidenced-based behavior assessment to determine the function of any behavior. It involves manipulating (turning on and off) the suspected variables that are currently maintaining the behavior. The key point in running a functional analysis is to demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship. To carry out a functional analysis one should repeatedly compare at least two conditions to show their lawful influence(s) on behavior (particularly, a casual relationship between particular external and internal environmental events and behavior). There are four possible functions to any behavior and they are: Sensory in the form of automatic reinforcement, Escape, Attention, and Tangible. In a "standard" functional analysis the four possible functions of behavior are conducted along with a control condition. Each condition consists of an antecedent that calls for a certain behavior; a motivating operation (MO) that influences the effectiveness of the reinforcer; and a source of the contingent reinforcer. While conducting the control condition one would eliminate the MO for social and automatic reinforcement. You would do this by: First, you would direct the student towards a favorite activity, then you would deliver attention about every 30 seconds. If the student initiates appropriate social interaction then you would deliver attention, but if the individual emits the problem behavior you would ignore and wait until the behavior stops and then 5 seconds after the behavior has stopped you would deliver attention.
After completing all test conditions, you will examine the results by comparing the rates (frequency/rates) of problematic behaviors under the test conditions against those recorded under the control condition. If you discover that the problematic behavior(s) occurred more in a specific condition than under the control condition, then you have identified a behavioral function.
Once you have identified a behavioral function you can then select and teach a replacement behavior. Replacement behaviors are behaviors that have the same functions as the problem behavior but they are socially acceptable. The main purpose of a replacement behaviors is to help the students achieve their goals in a socially acceptable manner, by knowing that their problem behavior is not effective. For an example, if a student's problem behavior is maintained by escape behavior then an acceptable alternative behavior to achieve escape would be displaying a card requesting a break.
Once a behavioral function has been identified then you can apply a behavioral intervention that focuses on altering the antecedents and/or consequences maintaining the problem behavior.


1. What is a behavior?
2. What are the four functions of behavior?
3. What is a replacement behavior?
4. What is an example of a replacement behavior for a problematic behavior that is maintained by escape and/or avoidance.
5. Is there a difference between avoidance and escape behaviors and if so what is it?
Girl throws a tantrum at Walmart over a brownie
What is the function of the girls behavior?
Billy Madison (2/9) Movie CLIP - Billy Mocks a Third Grader (1995) HD
1. What is the function of the boys behavior of sitting on the sprinkler?
2. What is the function of Billy's behavior at the beginning of class when the teacher walks in and starts talking?
3. What is the function of Billy's behavior at the beginning of class BEFORE the teacher walks in?
Billy Madison (1/9) Movie CLIP - Billy at Dinner (1995) HD
Several different functions happening here. What are they?
1. When Billy walks in late and sits downs and starts slurping his soup.
2. When Billy makes loud obnoxious sounds towards Eric?
3. Billy's dad slams his hand on the table and yells at Billy?
4. When Billy grabs the guys arm and starts pretending to bite it.
The Big Bang Theory - Sheldon Trains Penny
What is Penny's behavior?
How is it corrected?