Defining Problem Behaviors
The essential purpose behind this exercise, for the universal team and the faculty as a whole, is to define what specific behaviors (observable and measurable) are problematic within the school or preschool. The second task is to define these problem behaviors into tiers, including major or minor. For most schools a major problem behavior refers to those behaviors for which the student is sent out of the room to the office or to specialized personnel. For this reason major behaviors are often referred to as "office managed." Minor behaviors, on the other hand, are those that are managed by the teacher within the context of the classroom or activity.
Engaging a staff in identifying and defining what they consider to be problem behaviors is likely to surface a varied tolerance level for different types of behaviors. To develop a consistent environment, it is important to encourage the commitment to a common message around these behaviors.
Listing behaviors that staff find troublesome may result in a lengthy number of items. These behaviors should then be categorized into general areas; for instance, disrespect, physical aggression, inappropriate language, etc.
If you're planning to use SWIS as your data gathering system, you should refer to the SWIS behavior categories to ensure that your behavior categories align with those in the SWIS system.
Once they have the categories, the team should begin by brainstorming the "major" versions of the behavior, or what behaviors would always constitute a referral to the office. The following variables should be taken into account when determining the distinction between a major versus minor behavior:
- intensity of behavior
- frequency and rate of the behavior (how often it happens within a timeframe)
- duration of the behavior (how long it lasts)
- the intent of the behavior to the extent that it is evident
- the direction of the behavior (who or what the behavior is directed toward)
- safety issues and
- the result of the behavior itself. For instance sometimes the result of a minor behavior is severe enough that it requires a higher level of response.
Once the categories and definitions have been agreed upon, effective implementation and fluent understanding of these definitions will require ample practice, repetition and follow-up discussion on the part of staff members.