Addressing Disruptive Behavior in EFL Classrooms

Addressing Disruptive Behavior in EFL Classrooms

The Fundamentals of A Teacher-Based Functional Behavioral Assessment (Fba)

FBA is the process of gathering and analyzing information about a student’s problem behavior in order to determine the purpose of the actions, which is an investigation designed to help educators. FBA has been recommended as an effective method to be used at the first signs of mild to moderate misbehavior and a great professional development opportunity which can change the way teachers look at problematic behaviors. It is used for students who talk or walk around the room and interrupt the lesson, call other students names, do not do their homework, laugh, make noises or daydream in class rather than for those who exhibit dangerous behavior patterns (i.e. hitting). This assistance can be achieved by identifying positive interventions to reduce the undesirable behavior and identify appropriate behaviors in the place of the inappropriate ones.

Basic assumptions of FBA

The FBA is based on the following six (6) assumptions:

Challenging behaviors do not occur in vacuum but there is a reason for their occurrence

Behaviors occur in response to an identifiable stimulus (event)

Behaviors are governed, weakened or strengthened, by the consequences that follow them

Behavior is a form of communication in a non-verbal way

All behaviors demonstrated by all people serve a function and are meant to do two (2) things:

avoid or escape something unpleasant (i.e. fear penalties)

get something desirable (i.e. attention, good grades)

Misbehavior may be adaptive given the circumstances (i.e. my teacher is an ineffective teacher in class management and she can’t protect me, so I’d better misbehave and my classmates will like me rather than victimize me)


Questions used to determine if an FBA is appropriate for conducting

Does the student’s behavior significantly differ from that of his/her classmates?

Does the behavior lessen the possibility of successful learning for the student or others?

Have past efforts to address that behavior using standard intervention been unsuccessful?

Does the behavior represent a performance deficit or a cultural difference?

Is this behavior chronic, serious, persistent or a threat to the safety of other students?

Who can be involved in an FBA process

It is a team effort and the range of individuals who can be involved in this process are school counselors, teachers, parents, school psychologists and school administrators.

Steps for conducting an FBA

It can be a ten-day process of observation and there are three (3) steps:

Step 1

Identify and define the problem behavior

Educators need to identify the behavior and define it, which is called “behavioral recording”. This helps to provide the teachers with a precise picture of the regularity or severity of the behavior under investigation. More specifically, the teacher observes the student directly and collects data on HOW LONG (duration recording) and HOW OFTEN (frequency recording) this behavior pattern occurs.

Using percentages to calculate

The duration recording is the percent of time and the frequency recording is how many times the behavior occurs during a designated period of time, in a minute/an hour/a day/a week

Example of a teaching hour (50 minutes)

The sum of the times is divided by the total observation time. If the behavior is displayed for a total of 10 minutes during 30 minutes of observation then the behavior is happening 33% of the time.

Ways to use frequency recording and keep count of a behavior’s occurrences without interfering with teaching

little pieces of paper can be ripped off a page and placed in one pocket

knots can be tied in a piece of string

small buttons can be moved from one pocket to another

Step 2

Collect information to determine purpose

Multiple sources can be used for gathering information, which can be biological, social, contextual, or environmental. For instance, location (classroom, playground), a review of students’ records (medical, educational), questionnaires, interviews with other teachers, other school personnel or parents, specific times (during testing or during the break, presence of certain classmates, working in small groups)

Tools for gathering information / for a completed FBA

ABC observation form (antecedent = events preceding bad behavior - behavior = what student does - consequence = events following bad behavior) Note: in ABC the order is as follows: first B (we always start with the behavior which is the focal point, secondly A and thirdly C)

Interview format (for another teacher when 2 teachers co-teach the same student & the parents of the student)

The Functional Assessment Checklist for teachers and staff (FACTS part A/B)

Extract from the results teachers can get based on an authentic interview with a student who exhibits disruptive behavior

Step 3

Categorize behavior & form a hypothesis


Definition of hypothesis

A hypothesis is a statement describing conclusions about the probable causes for the students misbehavior

Framework for stating hypothesis for compiled information

This framework can be used to develop a behavioral intervention plan (BIP). In other words a BIP is based on an FBA.

Intervention strategies / teaching alternative behaviors to the problem behavior


Events that follow a student’s misbehavior such as verbal reprimands, isolation, detention, and suspension are approaches that fail to teach the student acceptable replacement behaviors. It is believed that students will change their behavior only when it is clear that a different response will more effectively result in a desired outcome. In brief, the ultimate purpose should be to increase alternative and desired behavior while decreasing problem behaviors. Needless to say, practical FBA methods may prevent the escalation of mild to moderate student problem behaviors that if left untreated may require more intrusive methods and the assistance of behavior specialists.

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