Measuring Behavior

What role does the measurement of behavior play in functional assessment?

Data based decision making is a critical part of functional assessment and positive behavior support. The ability to define and measure behavior helps you to identify the function maintaining a problem behavior and to evaluate the success of a positive behavior support plan. Measuring problem behavior during the functional assessment process can give the team information about how frequent and severe the problem behavior is in different settings. Specific tools used in the functional assessment process are available in this module. Another important measurement issue involves collecting baseline data. The information collected before any interventions are implemented is referred to as a baseline. Baseline data can be compared to the data gathered during an intervention in order to evaluate implementation efforts.

What types of behaviors are measured in a functional assessment?

One or more problem behaviors are often measured during a functional assessment. However, other types of behaviors are measured as well. Gathering information about a student's appropriate behavior is also important. As a teacher, you evaluate academic skills to determine what types of instruction are necessary for a child to succeed. The same type of evaluation is used to evaluate social behaviors. Other behaviors that may be measured are related to quality of life. The number and type of friendships with peers or the number of times choices are offered might be measured to evaluate changes in quality of life.

How do I find out more about measuring behavior effectively?

You can learn more about measuring behavior in the Special Connections Assessment module in the Data Based Decision Making section.

Additional References

Alberto, P. C., & Troutman, A. C. (1999). Applied behavior analysis for teachers (5th 
ed.). Columbus, OH: Merrill.
Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (1987). Applied behavior analysis. 
Columbus, OH: Merrill Publishing Company.
Felce, D. & Emerson, E. (2000). Observational methods in assessment of quality of life. 
In T. Thompson, D. Felce, & F. J. Symons (Eds.). Behavioral observation: Technology 
and applications in developmental disabilities (pp. 159-174). Baltimore: Paul Brookes 
Hughes, C., Rodi, M. S., & Lorden, S. W. (2000). Social interaction in high school and 
supported employment settings. In T. Thompson, D. Felce, & F. J. Symons (Eds.). 
Behavioral observation: Technology and applications in developmental disabilities (pp. 
253-269). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes. 
Kazdin, A. (2001). How to identify, define, and assess behavior. Behavior modification in 
applied settings. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.
Miltenberger, R. G. (2001). Observing and recording behavior. Behavior modification: 
Principles and procedures. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
O'Neill, R. E., Horner, R. H., Albin, R. W., Sprague, J. R., Storey, K., & Newton, J. S. 
(1997). Functional assessment and program development for problem behavior: A 
practical handbook (2nd ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.