Behavioral Observation of Students in Schools & Observational Tools

Children with behavior issues can become successful in school with interventions.
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While most students are able to attend schools without behavioral issues, some need behavioral interventions in order to function successfully in the classroom. School personnel will need to evaluate students by using both observational tools and testing in order to determine the most appropriate and effective intervention for each student.

1 Behavior Issues in School

At some point in their educational journey, most children are disciplined at school, but this is usually an infrequent occurrence. However, some children regularly have a difficult time managing their behavior during school hours. According to the Institute of Education Sciences, students' behaviors become an issue in the classroom when they constantly blurt out answers, are physically aggressive toward their teacher or peers, the behavior persists or escalates within the classroom, the behavior puts other children in fear of interacting with the student, the behavior deviates from the developmentally appropriate behavior of the age group, or the behavior endangers other students or staff.

2 Observations

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, many schools have counselors, interventionists, or school psychologists who can conduct behavioral observations of a child in the classroom with parental permission. Often, the evaluator will return to the classroom multiple times to observe the child in different situations and activities.

School districts may use the ABC form to record behavior (Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence). On this document , the evaluator records what occurred before and after the undesired behavior. Other school districts use a form called the Classroom Behavior Observation Form that is used in conjunction with the Woodcock-Johnson psychological tests. After documenting a student's behavior, the teacher, evaluator, parents and other staff members will meet to discuss the results and decide if further testing is needed or if behavioral interventions should be tried.

3 Testing

In certain cases, according to the National Association of Special Education Teachers, students may need to undergo behavioral testing. Some school districts begin a behavioral evaluation with a parental rating scale of behavior. One evaluation tool completed by parents is the Disruptive Behavior Disorder Rating Scale; another is the Behavior Rating Scale. Usually, teachers also fill out a behavior scale. The evaluator may then administer a personality test to go with the behavior observations and checklists completed by parents and teachers. Examples of personality tests for children include the Murphy-Meisgeier Type Indicator for Children and the Personality Inventory for Children.

4 Interventions

According to the National Association for School Psychologists, after psychological testing is complete, the evaluator will meet with the parents, teachers and other school staff to discuss the findings. There are times that further testing may be necessary. The evaluator may recommend a visit to a personal physician. The school will implement behavioral interventions based on the evaluator’s recommendations. Students may be placed on a behavior plan, a learning contract, or a positive learning goal sheet. The evaluator may also recommend goal sheets or behavior charts for home as well. Also, there may be a follow-up meeting scheduled so that parents and staff can discuss whether the interventions are having a positive effect on the child's behavior.

Lori Garrett-Hatfield has a B.J. in Journalism from the University of Missouri. She has a Ph.D. in Adult Education from the University of Georgia. She has been working in the Education field since 1994, and has taught every grade level in the K-12 system, specializing in English education, and English as a Second Language education.