The study took place in a rural, public middle school in the southeastern United States. The same reading and language arts teacher delivered the intervention to all four students in an eighth-grade general education classroom. Alexandra received instruction in one class, and the other three students (Brenda, Hannah, and Larry) were in the other class together. The intervention conditions were manipulated for these three students simultaneously.
Four students were part of the study sample. Alexandra and Brenda were both 13-year-old Caucasian females. Hannah was a bi-racial (Caucasian and African-American) 13-year-old female, and Larry was a 14-year-old African-American male. None of the students received any special education or related services at the time of the study, but all four students were at high risk of future anti-social behaviors. Alexandra demonstrated excessive lying and problem behaviors and had a negative attitude that frequently disrupted the learning of others. Brenda exhibited disruptive behaviors and a negative attitude, failed to complete assignments, was often non-compliant, and had low-academic performance, despite previous participation in a program for gifted and talented students. Hannah was frequently aggressive with peers, had behavior problems, frequently lied, and had a negative attitude. Larry received poor grades, had a generally negative attitude, and was prone to behavior problems including lying and aggression towards peers. Alexandra, Hannah, and Larry were eligible to receive free or reduced-price school meals.
This study used alternating treatments design experiments to explore the effect of interventions based on structural behavior assessment, which is a type of functional behavioral assessment (FBA) that focuses on the relationships between contextual variables (e.g., classroom climate) and subsequent behaviors; assessments were used to form hypotheses and design individualized interventions that change contextual factors. The FBA included reviewing student records, conducting structured and unstructured interviews with teachers, and completing a rating scale. According to interviews, the students’ disruptive behaviors were most likely to occur if students were sitting next to a preferred peer, and least likely to occur when engaged with the teacher. Based on these findings, two FBA-based interventions were developed for each student: (1) proximity to teacher (within eight feet of the student), and (2) separation from preferred peer (seated in a non-adjacent seat more than eight feet away). During the alternating treatment design experiments, three conditions (baseline, proximity to teacher, and separation from preferred peer) were each introduced once per day, over 5 consecutive days. The researcher prompted the teacher each time a condition was to change.
This study used alternating treatment design experiments for all four students. During the comparison condition, the teacher made no particular effort to stand near the sample students or separate them from preferred peers, so proximity was not controlled. Based on classroom recordings from baseline, it was clear that teachers and preferred peers were not routinely in close proximity of target students.
Support for implementation
The students’ regular classroom teacher conducted the instruction in both the baseline and intervention conditions. The researcher provided a preset device that discreetly prompted the teacher when it was time to change conditions. The researcher also developed a procedural reliability checklist to measure the fidelity of each intervention.