What Is A Behavior Intervention Plan?

In order to design an effective Behavior Intervention Plan, a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) must be conducted. This assessment consists of a behaviorist or other educational professional (possible the teacher) observing the student in the classroom or school environment.

Being an educational professional is a hard job, as managing the emotions and behaviors of dozens of students every day is undeniably challenging. For example, if a student is disrupting class, it not only breaks the concentration of the teacher, but also detracts from the learning experience of others in the room.

However, students who act out in various ways are not necessarily to blame. There are often underlying causes for such behaviors, as well as environmental triggers that can be identified and mitigated to improve the situation.

To achieve this shift in behavior, away from disruptive or inappropriate behavior, many educational professionals and institutions use Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP). There are a number of steps to developing and executing a Behavioral Intervention Plan, which we will cover in detail. This is valuable information for educators, parents and students alike!

How to Start a Behavior Intervention Plan

Depending on the type of disruptive behavior on display from a particular student, different approaches for improvement must be taken, meaning that there is no “best” or “optimal” BIP. In order to design an effective Behavior Intervention Plan, a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) must be conducted.

This assessment consists of a behaviorist or other educational professional (possible the teacher) observing the student in the classroom or school environment, noting which behaviors are shown, as well as what appears to cause them, and what consequences result.

For example, a school behaviorist may sit in on a class to observe a student who regularly pushes his books onto the floor or throws other students’ notebooks on the ground. While observing a teacher going through a lesson, the behaviorist may notice that the student in question stops paying attention a few minutes before the behavioral outburst, perhaps putting down the pen and looking out the window, or watching other students. His pent-up energy appears to build before he begins to act out, distracting the teacher and the other students. Attention is then placed back on him by the teacher in the form of a reprimand, or perhaps he is sent to the principal’s office.

A Functional Behavior Assessment can be conducted in a variety of ways and in many different environments, but the critical takeaways are the apparent root cause of the behavior (the “why”), and the details of the behavior itself. Indirect assessments can also be conducted with teachers, parents, coaches, bus drivers or friends. These informal interviews can provide additional insight by detailing other behavioral episodes occurring outside of the classroom. This can help to narrow down potential “triggers” for undesired behavior and create a more complete picture of a child’s situation.

With this knowledge in hand, a Behavior Intervention Plan can be developed.

Designing a Behavior Intervention Plan

One of the key things to remember about a BIP is that it needs to be clear, and not unnecessarily wordy. Everyone involved in the process should be able to clearly understand the potential triggers that have been identified, as well as the actions intended to alter or eliminate those behaviors. One a BIP has been designed, it can be implemented in the classroom setting.

Continuing on with the example above, in which a student knocks his and others’ belongings to the floor in the middle of lectures, the observer conducting the FBA may have identified boredom or an inability to understand the subject matter as triggers for behaviors that would disrupt the lesson or draw attention to himself. The Behavior Intervention Plan would include strategies to adjust or avoid this behavior, such as moving the student to the front of the class for increased engagement, including more class interaction during lectures, or designing a signal the student can subtly use to let the teacher know they are confused. The technique chosen in the BIP will be based on the individual student’s need for support, based on direct and indirect assessment.

Do Behavior Intervention Plans Work?

There are a few key aspects of a Behavior Intervention Plan that will determine whether or not they are successful, including full engagement from all relevant parties, thorough analysis, flexible teaching strategies, and consistent support. Aside from developing and executing the plan itself, if these factors are also present, the chances of success are significantly higher.

Teacher helping young boy with writing lesson - Image(goodluz)s

It is important for everyone to be aware of and on the same page regarding a Behavior Intervention Plan (Photo Credit : goodluz/ Shutterstock)

Engagement: While a behavioral issue may only be obvious between a student and his teacher, it is important for everyone to be aware of and on the same page regarding a Behavior Intervention Plan. This will include parents, bus drivers, coaches, lunchroom attendants and anyone else who may be present when an undesired behavior occurs. If a student is only accurately supported in 1 or 2 classes throughout the school day, the undesired behaviors will likely remain in place. For that reason, a BIP must be easy to understand and disseminate, so that all parties feel comfortable putting the plan in place.

Teaching Strategies: While there are many intervention strategies that can help change behavior, it is also important for the teacher to use engaging and innovative teaching strategies. Furthermore, if a rewards-based system is implemented in a BIP, teachers will need to change the system from time to time, or the student may grow tired of the system and revert back to disruptive behavior.

oh i know i've gotta keep it fresh

Thorough Analysis: After a BIP is implemented in the classroom, its effects must also be analyzed. By noting behavioral changes, or marking down the frequency change of undesired behavior, it is possible to determine what strategies work and what methods fail. There is some element of trial and error in the design and execution of such plans; triggers may initially be misidentified, or strategies that work once or twice may quickly fail. The BIPs must be flexible, capable of evolving along with the behavior and students in question based on the results of the analysis.

Are Behavior Intervention Plans Permanent?

By design, such tools are meant to be temporary, with the ultimate goal of permanently replacing the undesired behavior with a desired one. If a BIP is implemented properly, improvement of the classroom situation can be quick, but there are also many cases where this is a long process with multiple iterations. Particularly in situations with multiple behavioral issues in a single classroom, or in cases where learning disabilities or attention deficit disorders are present, identifying when a problem is “solved” can be difficult.

Provided that support methodology is consistent in a school district over the years, BIPs may be updated or tweaked over time to gradually improve the situation. In the case of some students with more serious or permanent disabilities, BIPs may be maintained on a longer-term basis.

A Final Word

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It is important to remember that this is far from an exact science; while it has been proven to be successful in many settings, there are many variables to consider in the case of every student. The triggers are different, as are their home lives, genetic makeup, traumatic history and personality traits; identifying the “why” and working towards a healthy and transparent resolution to behavioral issues is what a BIP attempts to achieve. If you believe that your child would benefit from such a system, speak to his or her teachers and find out what resources the school has for behavior modification and resolution.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois. He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, an arts nonprofit based in Denver. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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