Behavioral Assessment Tools

Excited children in the classroom.
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From acting out towards peers to inattention and other focusing issues, behavioral problems can upset a classroom's consistency and crush a positive learning environment. Before any education professional can help the child in question, a behavioral assessment is in order. Assessment tools look at the child's behavior, evaluate why and when the behavior is occurring and assist the teacher in creating an appropriate plan of action.

1 Choosing a Tool

There are assessment tools galore available for children of all ages. Before you select a tool understanding which one is right for you and your students is essential. A functional behavior assessment typically looks at the events surrounding the problem issues. There are indirect assessments that are subjective and record behaviors under natural conditions. These include checklists and interviews. A descriptive analysis is a type of assessment that uses quantitative observation in the student's natural setting. A functional analysis also uses direct observation, but is conducted under controlled conditions. Some tools are specific to a certain age or grade. Others target range of grade levels such as preschool, elementary ages or teens.

2 Child Checklist

A checklist can take the form of a questionnaire or survey that an educator or other trained professional administers. For example, the Child Behavior Checklist is a research-based assessment tool that only trained professionals, such as school psychologists or social workers, use. The checklist includes a version for parents to answer and a teacher questionnaire. There are two checklists, one for children ages 18 months old to 5 years of age and another for children between ages 5 and 18. Another checklist option is the Pediatric Symptom Checklist. This behavioral assessment allows parents to report on issues surrounding their childrens' social, behavioral and emotional issues. The checklist also includes a self-report version for children 11 and older.

3 Interview Evaluation

Interview assessment tools allow the assessor to speak to the student, or a parent or teacher, during the evaluation process]. Instead of checking off observed behaviors, this type of tool requires the professional to ask a list of pre-determined questions. For example, the Functional Analysis Screening Tool -- or FAST -- is an indirect method that asks the teacher or parent about events that precede behaviors and social reinforcements of those actions. Another option is for the assessor to create a student-specific interview. During a functional behavior assessment the evaluator may want to learn information about a specific action, emotional state or reinforcer. If this is the case, the interview will focus on the particular behavior that is in question.

4 Observation Data

Teachers and other education or psychological professionals can assess a child's behavior by watching. An observation-based assessment tool provides the opportunity to take a focused look at the child's behavior in a specific setting such as school or the home. For example the Functional Assessment Observation Tool requires the evaluator to record not just the child's behaviors during the observation period but also what happened before and what the consequences were. If you are looking for a less formal tool, making an Antecedent-Behavior-Consequences -- or ABC -- chart provides clues as to why the child is acting out. This tool, like the Functional Assessment Observation Tool provides information about what set the child off and what the result was.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.