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Using Data to Align a Behavior Intervention to a Target Behavior

October 14th, 2021

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With strong Tier 1 supports in place, educators are able to turn their attention to the students in need of a targeted or individualized behavior intervention. But with limited time and resources, how can educators select interventions that are most likely to have a positive impact on students? The answer is to use data to align supports to the target behavior.

By examining different types of data, educators are able to align a behavior intervention tied to a specific skill gap or to a specific motivation. This article explores these ideas further.

Universal Screening 

Just as social-emotional behavior (SEB) universal screening data can be used to identify Tier 1 needs, they can also be used to identify and group students for behavior interventions to help them develop the SEB skills they need to succeed in learning. 

If the target behavior is indeed rooted in a skill gap, using valid and reliable SEB screening data helps ensure that a selected behavior intervention is aligned to the actual target behavior—and therefore more likely to help students move forward. 

However, it’s also possible that a target behavior is not necessarily rooted in an SEB skill gap, and is instead serving a different purpose or is fueled by a motivation. What other data can be gathered or used to guide SEB interventions? 

Analyze for Antecedents 

An antecedent is an event or trigger that happens immediately before a specific behavior occurs. Antecedents are part of the ABCs of behavior: Antecedent, Behavior, and Consequence (National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII)). 

Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence

An example: a student who struggles with reading is asked to read in front of their peers but refuses, and the educator writes the student up. Here, the antecedent is that the student was asked to read aloud, the negative behavior is his refusal to read, and the consequence is the write-up. Ultimately, the student avoids the task, which was the student’s goal or motivation. 

If we know where students’ strengths lie and where they need support, educators can better predict the antecedents and alter the learning environment to promote positive outcomes. For example, if the student demonstrates positive behavior during peer interactions, an educator can incorporate more group activities within instruction and be strategic in the peer groupings.

Analyze the Function of the Behavior 

When a problem behavior is not related to an SEB skill gap, it is often because a student is trying to accomplish one of two things: avoid something or obtain something.

In this case, knowing the function of the behavior or the motivation should drive the behavior intervention selection. Just as a math intervention would not help improve a student’s reading skills, a behavior intervention that is mismatched to the motivation of the target behavior is not likely to significantly support the student. 

For example, one of the most common behavior interventions is Check-In/Check-Out (CICO). However, it is not always the most effective selection because it doesn’t always address the function or motivation behind a student’s target behavior or need (unless modified appropriately).

When a target behavior is motivation-driven, a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) can also be used to determine the student’s motivation. An FBA is an “assessment that is used to determine the environmental functions of wanted and unwanted behaviors.” Research shows that interventions informed by an FBA are more effective than those that are not (Martella, Nelson, Marchand-Martella, & O’Reilly, 2012). Examples of FBAs include the Functional Assessment Checklist for Teachers and Staff (FACTS), Intervention Selection Profile-Function (ISP-Function), Functional Analysis Screening Tool (FAST), and Motivation Assessment Scale (MAS) (Kilgus & von der Embse, 2021).

Tier 2 & Tier 3 Behavior Intervention Examples

A plethora of SEB interventions exist. It’s crucial for teams to be aware of various research-based behavior interventions so they have a menu of possible supports to match with the student’s target behavior. Other behavior interventions include:

  • Check-In/Check-Out (CICO)
  • Academic Behavior CICO
  • Internalizing CICO
  • Social Skills Instruction
  • Homework, Organization, and Planning Skills (HOPS)
  • Resilience Education Product (REP)
  • Breaks are Better
  • Cognitive Behavior Intervention for Trauma in School (CBITS)
  • Mentoring
  • Behavior Contract
  • Class Pass Intervention
  • Positive Peer Reporting
  • Self-Monitoring
  • School-Home Note


Thank you for reading an excerpt of our Data-Driven Social-Emotional Behavior (SEB) Interventions: Effective, Learner-Centered Supports at Each Tier eBook. To read more, download the full resource:

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Illuminate Education equips educators to take a data-driven approach to serving the whole child. Our solution combines comprehensive assessment, MTSS management and collaboration, and real-time dashboard tools, and puts them in the hands of educators. As a result, educators can monitor learning and growth, identify academic and social-emotional behavioral needs, and align targeted supports in order to accelerate learning for each student. 

Ready to discover your one-stop shop for your district’s educational needs? Let’s talk.

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