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Behaviour — Students

7  Functional behaviour assessment

A functional behaviour assessment (FBA) identifies where, when and the likely reasons why a behaviour of concern happens. In schools this is called the ‘function’ of the behaviour.

The information is then used to inform a behaviour support plan that includes strategies to address the reasons why the behaviour is occurring.

When to conduct an assessment

An FBA may be run when a young person’s behaviour gets in the way of their learning, the learning of other students or it causes harm to self or others.

An assessment can be conducted as often as needed. This is particularly the case when the behaviour of the student changes, there's a new behaviour of concern or a change in how often behaviour is occurring.

The assessment process

FBAs are conducted by skilled professionals with an understanding of why behaviours are occurring. This can include teachers, school leaders, allied health staff and regional staff.

An FBA is not necessarily a clinical process and does not need specific qualifications. However, if the behaviour poses a serious risk or previous strategies have not worked, it may be useful to engage a psychologist, behavioural specialist, or behaviour analyst.

The steps are:

  1. Identify the problem and defining the behaviour.
  2. Gather information about the antecedents and consequences that are triggering and maintaining the behaviour.
  3. Form a hypothesis by analysing the data to determine why the young person is demonstrating the behaviour.

After the assessment

After the assessment, you should:

  1. Plan interventions to identify the modifications that are needed to change the behaviour. You may need to create a behaviour support plan for the student.
  2. Implement and evaluate the effectiveness of the behaviour support plan.

Sources of information for the assessment

An FBA generally relies on multiple sources of information such as:

  • a review of the student’s school records
  • interviews with school staff and caregivers
  • structured ratings scales
  • collection of direct observation data
  • identification of any health and wellbeing concerns or issues
  • consideration of environmental conditions that may impact behaviours of concern

Indirect assessments involve an interview, questionnaire and/or rating scale. They may provide the situations and specific times that the behaviour is most likely to occur.

Direct assessments involve observing the behaviour under naturally occurring conditions. This is without changing or manipulating the environment in any way. They can be useful in identifying environmental factors, classroom activities or times of the day that contribute to the behaviour.

Specific methods of collecting data include:

Data collection options

Relationship with behaviour support plans

An FBA is one source of information that informs a behaviour support plan.

You can develop a behaviour support plan without an FBA and in many circumstances this would be appropriate.

However, for particularly challenging behaviours of concern, a behaviour support plan may be more effective where it is informed by an FBA. Without an understanding of the function of the behaviour the plan may be less successful.

Many teachers develop behaviour support plans for students based on their own observations, understanding and knowledge of students’ behaviours, triggers and environmental factors.

Parent consent

FBAs conducted by the Department do not need explicit parent consent, however it's best practice to consult with parents or carers.

This is so they understand why an FBA is needed. You should involve parents and carers where possible to understand why the behaviour is occurring and what the triggers are.

Parents and carers should also be involved in creating the student's behaviour support plan through a student support group.

FBAs conducted by external consultants must have explicit parent consent. You should make sure the parents understand the consultant will be sharing information with the Department (for example, to create the behaviour support plan).

Guidance chapter on functional behaviour assessments (FBA)

Reviewed 03 June 2020

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