The study took place in an inclusive public school in Tennessee. Charlie was in a first-grade classroom that was taught by a teacher who had 6 years of experience and a master’s degree. Margaret was in a second-grade classroom that was taught by a first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree.
Two students were part of the study sample. Charlie was a 7-year-old student who was at risk for emotional and behavioral problems, according to his teacher’s assessment on the Student Risk Screening Scale (SRSS). He did not receive special education services at the time of the study.
Another participant, Margaret, only had measured outcomes in the social-emotional competence domain. The social-emotional competence domain does not reach the threshold to include single-case design evidence in the effectiveness ratings in this report. Margaret was at risk for emotional or behavioral problems and was not receiving special education services at the time of the study.
Functional behavioral assessment (FBA) procedures, including teacher and parent interviews, direct observations, and behavioral rating scales, suggested that Charlie engaged in off-task behavior to attract teacher and peer attention and escape from nonpreferred activities. The resulting FBA-based interventions involved: a) teaching the student a replacement behavior; b) restructuring the environment, if needed; or c) restructuring the contingencies surrounding the behavior. If Charlie succeeded in only demonstrating off-task behaviors that were within the daily limit (initially four, then increased to eight per day) and completed all of his assignments with 100% accuracy, he was allowed access to additional activities, such as a weekly trip to the library. Charlie’s teacher would praise his positive behavior throughout the day, and send notes to his parents about his performance which allowed them to provide positive reinforcement at home. When Charlie engaged in off-task behavior, the teacher gave brief verbal redirection and placed a tally mark on the chalkboard.
The results of the FBA suggested that Margaret engaged in negative social interactions to gain peer attention during seatwork. Her FBA-based intervention involved a self-monitoring checklist as well as a prompt card with examples of positive social comments to use during the class period. She was then paired with a peer assistant who tallied Margaret’s positive and negative social behaviors. Margaret would set a daily goal of positive comments, and if she reached her goal at the end of the day, Margaret was allowed to serve as the teacher’s assistant at the end of the day. Throughout the day, the teacher provided positive reinforcement when Margaret exhibited positive behavior, and only provided simple redirection when negative behavior was displayed.
The study used a reversal-withdrawal design for Charlie. During the baseline/withdrawal sessions, regular classroom practices were implemented in a 90-minute period in the morning. In that period, students were to complete three “center” assignments, while the teacher met with each reading group for 30 minutes. Students sat in groups of four and were allowed to talk quietly if they needed help completing the assignments. If a student exhibited negative behavior, the student had to “move their star” that was visible by the classroom; as the stars moved downward, privileges were lost.
Margaret’s study used a reversal-withdrawal design with four phases and fewer than five data points in one of the phases; because all phases have at least three data points (rather than five), the design meets WWC pilot single-case design standards with reservations. During the baseline/withdrawal sessions, regular classroom practices were implemented in a 90-minute period in the morning. In that period, students were to complete three “center” assignments, while the teacher met with each reading group for 30 minutes. Students sat in groups of four and were allowed to talk quietly if they needed help completing the assignments. If a student exhibited negative behavior, the student had to “move their star” that was visible by the classroom; as the stars moved downward, privileges were lost.
Support for implementation
The primary investigator trained the teacher to implement the intervention during 6 hours of staff development over the summer. The content focused on the principles of applied behavior analysis and how to design, implement, and evaluate a function-based intervention. During the course of the academic year, teachers had weekly contact (1 hour) with their project liaison to reinforce and re-teach the procedures addressed during the initial training.