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Aggressive Student’s Functional Behavioral Assessment Research Paper


Functional behavioral assessment (FBA) is a technology generally deployed for detecting misbehavior and crafting ways to achieve positive changes in the behavior of an individual under observation. Its primary objective is to draw the connection between the model of behavior and the environment, in which it is triggered with the aim of guiding the development and implementation of positive behavioral interventions through demonstrating alternative behaviors (Steege & Watson, 2009).

Except for positive intervention, one of its objectives is to avoid difficulties deriving from treating misbehavior. Such complications might include either severe forms of punishment, including physical punishment, or worsening of behavior. Finally, FBA is a tool for preventing further instances of similar misbehaviors because the primary assumption behind FBA is that any change in behavior is provoked by changes in an individual’s environment. It means that the idea behind functional behavioral assessments is to find cause-and-effect relationships in a given situation and eliminate them, so that the risk of similar problems in the future is minimized (Cooper, Heron, & Howard, 2007).

This paper aims at developing and outlining a comprehensive functional behavioral assessment report. It will provide the description of a scenario, describe assessment tools and procedures that would have been used in the similar case, and hypothesize on the functions of the target behavior based on the findings of the given investigation. Finally, this report will draw the conclusion on the ways to implement positive behavior intervention by designing the plan of alternative behaviors, which aims at detecting cause-and-effect relationships and developing ways to eliminate them.

Strengths of the Functional Behavioral Assessment

This assessment has a negative focus because a student under observation is aggressive. However, it has a significant strength – because it is an attempt to detect the underlying causes of such misbehavior, it promises a chance to overcome the problems with behavior and bring the child back to normal life with an opportunity to make friends and improve academic performance. Even the slightest possibility of success cannot be ignored because if even the minimal positive changes in behavior are noticed as the result of the assessment, then it might be considered a victory.

Description of the Challenging Behavior

An individual under behavioral assessment is a third-grade student attending a public elementary school. The primary matter of concern is that he has behavioral problems for the past three months demonstrating consistently disruptive behaviors. The scope of the problem is massive because misbehavior is demonstrated not only in the classroom but also other settings within the school such as recess, lunch, specials, etc. School staff characterized a student’s behavior as aggressive and non-compliant.

Level of the Problem’s Severity

Because the student under assessment misbehaves in the classroom and other areas in the school, his actions disrupt most students and teachers in a setting. Nevertheless, the student does not cause physical damage to himself or others as well as severe property damage. Also, he does not assault other people. That is why the rating of his behavior’s severity is 4 out of 5. This result is high enough, however, it is not critical and does not entail complete social isolation (as for now, it is partial). So, there is still a chance to bring him back to normal social interactions, even though it requires vast efforts.

Designing the Plan for Functional Behavioral Assessment

This assessment will deploy several methods with the aim of assessing the severity of the problem and trying to detect primary causes of misbehavior. It will include both direct and indirect methods of assessment. The first step will be observation. The focus will be made on observable and measurable behaviors. It will concentrate on finding out the suspected triggers of misbehavior. Specific attention will be paid to external triggers such as noise interruption during a desired event, giving a child a non-preferred task, withdrawing a desired object, etc., i.e. any factors caused by people surrounding a student. The triggers will be divided into slow and fast ones (Cipani & Schock, 2011).

Special emphasis will be made on the reaction to the behavior of other students and teachers aimed at determining whether it is one of the triggers and existence of particular warning signs. Observation will be based on A-B-C analysis. It means that the assessment will provide the information regarding the Antecedent situation, Behavior, and the Consequences of both events and behavior. Moreover, the process will be broken down into smaller periods of time to determine the severity of the problem premised on the frequency of instances of misbehavior and their duration. Moreover, the assessment will involve interviews with the student’s parents and those affected by his misbehavior. The goal of the interviews is to determine the external triggers of challenging behavior and collect background information.

Finally, the assessment will provide a plan for positive behavioral intervention. It will include the propositions for both teachers and students affected. The justification for influencing them is the fact that behavior is a communicational phenomenon. So, if the assessment finds out that the causes of misbehavior are, for the most part, external, then it is recommended to alter the student’s environment because it will change his reaction and improve behavior.

Functional Behavioral Assessment

  • The name of the student – John Black
  • Date of birth – March 25, 2008
  • Grade – 3rd grade of a public elementary school

Background Information

John comes from a traditional heterosexual, middle-class family. He lives with his mother and father in a house, where he has a separate room. They have a dog and a cat. Sometimes, boy’s grandparents come for a weekend. His parents were interviewed via email. They report that the boy does not demonstrate the signs of aggression when at home. He seems to be happy and communicates freely. No significant health concerns or recent physical injuries mentioned except for seasonal disease such as flu and recent chicken pox. John has a healthy, balanced diet with lots of fruit, vegetables, and dairy products. He is active and sleeps up to 10 hours a day without waking up at night.

However, when he comes to school, the model of his behavior changes. He is never late to classes, and his attendance is good. As of his academic performance, it is moderate. He is best and languages, literature, and arts, but has some problems with math.

His best time at school is up to one hour after arrival and at the end of the day. His worst time is before and during lunch. The only challenge is that during the last three months, he demonstrates the signs of excess aggression towards teachers and students. His teacher says that he isolates himself from social interactions and does not show the desire to communicate with his peers. Nevertheless, when positively provoked, he comes into contact with people around him, but prefers aggression as a model of communication instead of friendliness. School staff marked his behavior as “aggressive” and “non-compliant”.



The sample is hyperactive and impulsive. He cannot sit still when required and moves either legs or his whole body. Sometimes he leaves his seat and goes out of the classroom before the end of the lesson. In addition to it, the sample talks out, plays with pens and pencils. Sometimes he experiences difficulties with completing tasks because he lacks concentration and attention to details. Finally, he throws papers at his classmates, mocks them, and takes their personal belongings without their permission. Once, he sponged the whiteboard when his classmate was solving an equation. The student does not show any signs of severe property damage except for several broken pencils taken away from his classmates and a whiteboard pen to avoid solving an equation.

School Yard

The student is verbally and physically abusive. He punches his peers and calls them names. He becomes angry when teachers or staff comment negatively on his behavior or try to quiet him. No signs of severe property damage.


The student is hyperactive and impulsive. He cannot sit still while eating. In addition to it, he is verbally and physically abusive. The sample punches peers, calls them names, sometimes he throws food at them. He becomes angry when teachers or staff comment negatively on his behavior and try to quiet him. The student does not show any signs of severe property damage.

School Bus

The sample is hyperactive and impulsive. He cannot sit still while on the bus. The student does not like when other students sit next to him. That is why he calls them names, mocks and hits them, i.e. is verbally and physically abusive. The student does not show any signs of severe property damage.

Primary Problems with Behavior

  • Passive Behaviors: lacking concentration, withdrawal, failing to complete tasks, frustration.
  • Verbal behaviors: talking out, arguing teachers and classmates, calling names, and mocking peers.
  • Physical Acting Out: leaving seat and classroom during the class without permission, throwing papers and food at classmates, punching, taking property without permission, excess movement, and hitting.

Setting and Severity

For the most part, the student is aggressive when he is in the classroom. Both teachers and classmates are affected by his behavior because he either argues with them or assaults them physically or verbally. Observations demonstrate that his behavior, in most cases, occurs during the math classes including time short before and after the class. The demonstrations of misbehavior vary from mild to severe, i.e. from moving arms to playing with objects and leaving the classroom. The duration is usually up to five minutes. However, they are frequent. So, there might be up to five instances of problem behavior during a single class.

Suspected Triggers

It can be said that the student’s behavior is the worst during the class, which he is not interested in, i.e. math. It is the internal trigger. It is a slow one because the sample reacts with aggression only in the cases when he fails to complete the task or gets a low grade. During other classes, especially literature, languages, and arts, he is communicative to a particular extent and does not demonstrate the signs of misbehavior.

As of some fast triggers, they include teacher and students’ reactions to the sample’s problems with math. It means that he becomes frustrated in the cases when students start mocking him for his low grades or when a teacher assigns him a difficult task. The worst instances are those when he is asked to solve equations in front of his classmates. Because he is afraid of being mocked, he chooses either to leave the classroom or talk out. These triggers are external.

Functions of the Behavior

The primary suggestion reached in the course of this assessment is that the student’s aggressive behavior carries out particular functions such as the desire to attract attention, escape unpleasant situations or achieve preferred outcomes (Brosnan & Healy, 2011). It means that he might have chosen this particular model of behavior because he wants to attract the teacher’s attention to his problems. However, at the same time, the sample does not realize that assigning difficult tasks is one of the ways to solve his problem. So, he chooses the same strategy to avoid embarrassment in the eyes of his classmates. As a result, he disrupts a math lesson almost every time.

Suggested Strategies to Improve Behavior

The assessment has proved that there are both internal and external triggers of the student’s aggressive behavior. Because he has particular problems with math and lacks concentration, it might be an option to change his seat. If he were closer to a whiteboard and his teacher, it might have improved his educational performance and contributed to overcoming the challenge of his misbehavior.

In addition to it, the positive behavioral intervention plan includes educative dimension. It should be noted that both the teacher and the students should be educated. As of the teacher, he should be pointed that John has specific needs, so, it is better to address them individually than in front of the whole class. Making the teacher understand this simple truth will help avoid similar instances of misbehavior in the future because if the problem is solved, there will be no justification and motivation for such behavior.

Moreover, it is vital to educate all peers highlighting the fact that it is normal to experience difficulties with particular subjects or tasks. So, they should try to help their classmate instead of mocking him. The rationale for this proposal is that it might change the atmosphere in the classroom and improve the academic performance of all students, not only John.

Finally, it is vital to educate the sample student himself. It is paramount to make him realize that asking for help is a normal practice when living in society and that it is always better to ask for help than ignore the problem by attracting attention to one’s challenging behavior. Except for teaching the desired behavior, it is also important to remind John of potential consequences of his behavior, which might include some mild forms of punishment such as reprimand to the most severe ones including after-class detention and parent conference with the teacher and a school principal. Making John realize that his behavior might entail undesired consequences as well as creating a favorable emotional atmosphere might be fruitful in solving this problem.


Brosnan, J., & Healy, O. (2011). A review of behavioral interventions for the treatment of aggression in individuals with developmental disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 32(2), 437-466.

Cipani, E., & Schock, K. M. (2011). Functional behavioral assessment, diagnosis, and treatment: A complete setting for education and mental health settings (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer.

Cooper, J.O., Heron, T.E., & Howard, W.L. (2007). Applied behavior analysis. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Steege, M.W., & Watson, T. S. (2009). Conducting school-based functional behavioral assessments: A practitioner’s guide (2nd ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

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