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Journal of Behavioral Education, VoL 1, No. 1, 1991,pp.


Ecobehavioral Analysis in the Classroom:

Review and Implications
Charles R. Greenwood, Ph.D., 1,4 Judith J. Carta, Ph.D., 2
and Jane Atwater, Ph.D. 3

Accepted: July 30, 1990. Action Editor."NirbhayN. Singh

A rapidly developing area within applied behavior analysis that has implications for classroom instruction and behavior management is ecobehavioral
analysis. Ecobehavioral analysis adds to behavior analysis the assessment of
s#uational or contextual factors, such as classroom physical arrangements, instructional materials used by students, and teacher's behavior. Its eventual importance and contribution to behavior analysis and to education, however, has
yet to be realized. In fact, it is difficult to find adequate accounts of exactly
what ecobehavioral analysis entails (Morris & Midgley, 1990). To date, it has
led to a number of interesting contributions. These include the development
and validation of specific classroom instructional procedures, the development
of a number of approaches to the reduction of challenging behaviors, an improved understanding of the components of effective instruction including the
identification of instructional risk factors within regular and special education,
as well as providing a better understanding of how the quality of implementation functions as a mediating variable for student outcomes. In this paper,
we discuss the theory and principles that support ecobehavioral analysis, review
research literature concerning its use in educational settings, describe emerging
applications by school personnel (e.g., teachers, school psychologists), and examine a number of future resealvh directions and their implications.
KEY WORDS: ecobehavioral analysis; classroom instruction; challenging behavior.

1Director, Juniper Gardens Children's Project, Kansas City, Kansas.

2project Director, Early Childhood Research Group, Juniper Gardens Children's Project,
Kansas City, Kansas.
3project Coordinator, Juniper Gardens Survival Skills Project, Kansas City, Kansas.
4Correspondence should be directed to Charles R. Greenwood, Juniper Gardens Children's
Project, 1614 Washington Blvd., Kansas City, Kansas 66102,

1053-0819/91/0300-0059506.50/0 9 1991 Human Sciences Press, Inc.


Greenwood, Carta, and Atwater

Ecobehavioral analysis is a recent development within the field of applied behavior analysis. It combines the ecological psychologists' concern
with the broader aspects of the environment or habitat (e.g., Barker, 1968;
Rogers-Warren & Warren, 1977) with the applied behavior analysts'
strategies of behavioral assessment (Nelson & Hayes, 1979) and experimental design (Baer, Wolf, & Risley, 1968; 1987).
A hallmark of applied behavior analysis has been the continuous assessment of a single subject's behavior and the ability to monitor the effects
on this behavior of various environmental manipulations designed to influence it. Ecobehavioral analysis represents an expansion in this ability to
also include ecological factors. While inclusion of ecological variables is
not a new idea in behavior analysis (Bijou, Peterson, & Ault, 1968), only
recently have ecobehavioral assessment protocols emerged that enable
measurement of both behavior and ecological factors, such as physical arrangements, materials, and teacher behaviors (e.g., Greenwood et at., 1981;
Carta, Greenwood, & Atwater, 1985; Repp & Deitz, 1990; Stanley &
Greenwood, 1983).
The goal of ecobehavioral assessment is to display the covariation of
and dependencies between behavior and its ecological contexts, both past
and present. This display has been described as ecobehavioral interaction
(Greenwood, Delquadri, Stanley, Terry, & Hall, 1985), antecedent,
response, consequence (ABC) analysis (Bijou et al., 1968), teacher-student
interaction (Brophy, 1979) and social interaction analysis (Patterson, 1982).
The goal of ecobehavioral analysis', like behavior analysis, is the determination of functional relationships between independent and dependent variables. However, the assessment of ecological factors greatly extends the
power of such analysis. Rather than ruling out the effects of contextual
factors as in traditional behavioral assessment and analysis (Foster & Cone,
1980), in ecobehavioral assessment, contextual factors are represented in
the data record and in the research design.
The resulting advantage of ecobehavioral assessment over traditional
behavior assessment methods is that behavior may be analyzed in terms of
either major and/or minor sets of independent or contextual variables; that
is, those reflecting a treatment (or a treatment component) and/or those
reflecting the contextual factors related to a treatment (or a treatment component). In classrooms, for example, the success and viability of an intervention depends on a clear identification of the contextual factors that
support or interfere with its effective implementation. Thus, the traditional
questions about behavior change effectiveness may be answered and, additionally, questions concerning the structure, quality, and quantity of treat-

Ecobehavioral Analysis


ment/instruction also may be addressed (e.g., Greenwood, Dinwiddie,

Terry, Wade, Stanley, Thibadeau, & Delquadri, 1984).
Today, it is possible to point to at least two major lines of applied
behavioral research that are successfully employing ecobehavioral analysis.
First, in the area of behavior reduction (e.g., self-injurious behavior, aversive
parent-child interactions, etc.), researchers are assessing the situational
aspects of undesired behavior in an effort to identify likely controlling factors (e.g., stimulus controls or functional consequences) and then
manipulating them in order to reduce the problem behavior. Examples are
functional analysis (e.g., Carr & Durand, 1985) and precision intervention
(Patterson, 1974; 1982).
Second, in the area of behavior acquisition or acceleration, researchers
are assessing the situational aspects of desired behaviors, such as classroom
survival skills, academic responding, and academic engagement. In this
regard, researchers have studied not only specific daily sessions as in traditional behavior analysis, but they have broadened the scope of their
analyses to include the total daily time devoted to the teaching of specific
academic skills. Researchers are also studying the structural and sequential
features of instruction as it is delivered and its concurrent effects on
students' academic responses. Researchers are also intervening by designing
instruction that not only accelerates rates of academic behaviors but also
increases the time in which teachers employ specific, effective instructional
arrangements and formats. Researchers are also decreasing students' time
spent within instructional arrangements that decelerate academic behaviors
(e.g., Greenwood, Delquadri, & Hall, 1984).
The purpose of this paper is to describe what this development may
represent for school personnel and its emerging relevance to the improvement of the education and treatment of students within the public school
and the regular education classroom. In support of this purpose, we review
the principles and theory supporting ecobehavioral analysis, review the research literature in which it has been successfully employed in educational
settings, and discuss emerging applications. We conclude the article by pointing out some future directions and the implications of ecobehavioral analysis.


Behavioral and ecological theories of learning and behavior change
traditionally have been based on the interrelationship between behavior
and its environment, past and present (Kantor, 1959; Skinner, 1953; Barker,
1963; Bronfenbrenner, 1979). As noted by Bijou and Baer (1978):


Greenwood, Carta, and Atwater

The interaction between the child and environment is continuous, reciprocal, and
interdependent. We cannot analyze a child without reference to an environment,
nor is it possible to analyze an environmentwithout reference to a child. The two
form an inseparable unit consistingof an interrelated set of variables, or an interactional field. (p. 29)
To date, the majority of successful intervention procedures, including
current classroom behavior management strategies (e.g., Rusch, Rose, &
Greenwood, 1988), have focused on the analysis of the immediately present
and past classroom environment on behavior; that is, within the three-term
contingency (e.g., the antecedent, response, and consequence). While the
use of delayed consequences, for example, has been shown to be effective
(Rusch et al., 1988), basic behavior analysis texts teach the fundamental
wisdom of either reinforcing or punishing a behavior immediately following
its occurrence and in the presence of its controlling stimulus(i).
Recently, however, efforts have emerged to expand the scope and
breadth of functional events in behavior analysis (Wahler & Fox, 1981; Willems, 1974; 1977). Research has emerged addressing the effects of events
more distant in time than just immediately before or after a response has
occurred. These events, termed setting events, are events that are thought
to impact the operation of the three-term antecedent, response, consequence contingency (e.g., Morris & Midgley, 1990). Setting events have been
investigated in analyses of parent-child interactions (Patterson, 1982; Karpowitz & Johnson, 1981, Hart & Risley, 1989), regular classroom instruction
(Greenwood, Carta, Kamps, & Arreaga-Mayer, 1990), early intervention
(Carta, Sainato, & Greenwood, 1988), special education (Rotholz, Kamps,
& Greenwood, 1989), severe aberrant behavior (e.g., Repp & Dietz, 1990),
supported employment (Chadsey-Rusch, 1985), and residential treatment
(Clark, Inchinose, & Naiman, 1990; Reese & Leder, 1990).
Ecobehavioral assessment and analysis is a logical attempt to operationalize the interaction between behavior and environment such that both
past and present environmental events may be considered within an experimental analysis of behavior. In ecobehavioral assessment, as compared to
traditional behavioral assessment, student behavior is assessed in relationship
to events such as the classroom setting, the subject of instruction, the
materials being used, and the teacher's behavior directed toward the student.
In ecobehavioral analysis, the temporal relationships between ecological and
student behavior variables, and not just the rate of behavior, are the units of
analysis for predicting or manipulating student outcomes, such as developmental or academic achievement gains (Carta & Greenwood, 1985; 1987).
The advantages of this expansion within behavior analysis appear to
be several but remain to be demonstrated fully. First, in the area of assessment, ecobehavioral measures offer the user the ability to describe a

Ecobehavioral Analysis


behavior and its immediate and subsequent situational events. If these data
records are extensive, spanning several hours, days, or weeks, they also lend
themselves to the study of environmental effects distant in time from a
particular target response (e.g., Wahler & Fox, 1981). For an individual's
performance that is problematic or less than optimal, the ability to assess
its situational context presents the opportunity to form "empirical"
hypotheses about controlling relationships that may be tested for function
(e.g., Bijou et al., 1968). In fact, these data may suggest the most direct
and effective forms of treatment (Patterson, 1974).
Second, the use of ecobehavioral assessment within experimental
studies of behavior can document important features of the independent
variable, and allow quantitative comparisons of structural differences in the
independent variable(s) between baseline and experimental phases. Third,
the use of ecobehavioral assessment within experimental studies increases
the ability to explain changes in behavior that emerge, and also variability
in this change, in terms of immediate or distal situational events. As envisioned by Bijou et al. (1968), the interrelationship between descriptive
and experimental data when integrated by way of an objective measure,
such as ecobehavioral assessment, is as follows:
Ecological psychologistscould show in terms of frequencyof events, the practices
of a culture, subculture, or an institutional activityof a subculture; experimental
investigators workingwith the same data, terms, and empirical concepts would attempt to demonstrate the conditions and processes which establish and maintain
the interrelationships observed. (p. 176)
When applied to a problem such as school failure by children from poverty
(e.g., Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985; Bernick, 1986; Levin,
1986; Smith & Lincoln, 1988), descriptive data describing the ecological
features of classroom practices may reveal important differences between
poverty versus nonpoverty students in these practices and their effects on
students' behavior. Alternatively, experimental data documenting the
ecobehavioral features of practices that increase achievement and reduce
failure for children of poverty may suggest procedures that may be applied
to the education of all children. Thus, ecobehavioral analysis offers education a powerful, expanded process measure for the study of the delivery
of teaching and its effects on students, including the causes of academic
success and failure.


In a number of articles, we and others have described several applications of ecobehavioral analysis to research in regular and special


Greenwood, Carta, and Atwater

educational settings (e.g., Copper & Speece, 1990; Carta & Greenwood,
1985; Greenwood, Schulte, Dinwiddie, Kohler, & Carta, 1986; Greenwood,
Carta, Kamps, Arreaga-Mayer, 1990; Ysseldyke, Thurlow, Christenson, &
Weiss, 1987). We also have traced the evolution in research conducted over
time within a poverty-level community, including the community's public
schools. Initially this work was based on a standard behavior analysis
paradigm, but it has developed into an ecobehavioral analysis as questions
regarding the causes and the solutions to academic delay, retardation, and
school failure have remained unanswered (Greenwood, Carta, Hart,
Thurston, & Hall, 1989; Kamps, Carta, Delquadri, Arreaga-Mayer, Terry,
& Greenwood, 1989).
For example, after years of concentrating our efforts on improving
behavior management methods in the classroom by reorganizing classroom
environments in specific ways (e.g., behavior-specific rules, contingencies,
training social agents, including peers, etc.), it became clear that we had
little data on the reasons that some teachers were less successful in their
efforts to teach at-risk students in regular and special education classrooms (Hall, Delquadri, Greenwood, & Thurston, 1982). We knew that
children of poverty were academically delayed as early as kindergarten
and first grade and that, as a group, they performed at about the 20th
percentile on tests of academic achievement, rarely achieving normative
levels of performance during their early years in school (e.g., Becker,
1977). We concluded that a larger impact that would prevent or remediate
this problem might be possible if interventions were implemented early
and if they were designed to better address the classroom causes of
academic delay. Thus, our research focus changed from addressing the
specific, immediate needs of individual teachers and individual behaviors,
or training teachers to apply the general principles of behavior, to one of
systematic, longitudinal description and intervention (Greenwood, Carta,
Hart, Thurston, & Hall, 1989). We sought to develop the link between
descriptive and experimental data described by Bijou and by Patterson as
it related to the instruction provided students, its immediate effect on
students' academic behavior in the classroom, and its more distal impact
on students' academic development over significant periods of time in
To date, this effort has led to the development of four ecobehavioral observation systems for use in classroom settings. These systems,
the Code for Instructional Structure and Student Academic Response (CISSAR) (e.g., Stanley & Greenwood, 1981; Greenwood & Delquadri, 1988),
the Code for Instructional Structure and Student Academic ResponseMainstream Version (MS-CISSAR) (Carta, Greenwood, Schulte, ArreagaMayer, & Terry, 1988), the Ecobehavioral System for Complex Assessment

Ecobehavioral Analysis


of Preschool Environments (ESCAPE) (Carta, Greenwood, & Atwater,

1985), and Assessment Code~Checklist for Evaluating Survival Skills (ACCESS) (Atwater, Carta, & Schwartz, 1989), have been productively
employed in a number of studies concerning the evaluation and improvement of instruction in general education (Greenwood, Dinwiddie et al.,
1984; Greenwood, Schulte et al., 1986), special education (Greenwood,
Delquadri, & Hall, 1984; Kamps, Leonard, & Greenwood, in press;
Rotholz et al., 1989), and in regular and special education preschool
programs (Carta, in press; Carta, Atwater, Schwartz, & Miller, in press;
Carta, Greenwood, & Robinson, 1987). It has also led to specific
ecobehavioral observation systems for use by school personnel (e.g.,
Greenwood & Carta, 1988).
While originally developed for paper and pencil recording, observers
now have the option of using laptop computers to record data j using these
observation systems (Kamps et al., 1989). Observation data files stored on
these computers are uploaded to a desktop computer for systematic storage
and analysis. Software on the laptop supports data entry, interobserver
reliability comparisons, and uploading to the desktop microcomputer.
Software on the desktop computer supports uploading of data files, reporting of scores, and managing of a data base over time.
Primarily as a result of increased demands on assessment, ecobehavioral analysis requires a greater expenditure of time when compared
to traditional assessment procedures within behavior analysis. Thus, the
skeptic rightfully asks, "Is conducting an ecobehavioral assessment worth
the increased effort and expense in terms of the yield in new knowledge,
findings, and outcomes for students?" or "What exactly is obtained in an
ecobehavioral analysis that is not obtained in a standard behavioral
analysis, and how is it used?" We now address these questions with three
illustrations based on findings derived from classroom ecobehavioral research. These illustrations cover the assessment of the effects of classroom
instruction, development of interventions, and large-scale intervention/prevention.


Descriptive Data

Our earliest studies sought to account for the less than optimal performance of low-SES, low-achieving students in terms of both their daily
academic behavior and its instructional ecology. Our approach was to


Greenwood, Carta, and Atwater


Instructional Practices

Promoting LOW Levelm

of Academic


Promoting High L e v e l s
of Acidemlr


~ _ ~ C ur r iculum-Based~







t andardized

Fig. 1. Hypothesized relationships between instruction, its

ecobehavioral effects, and rate of growth in curriculum-based and
standardized measures of academic achievement.

compare ecobehavioral events in the instruction of low-SES to that

provided high-SES students. First, in a fourth-grade sample and in subsequent second- and third-grade samples, we reported that high-SES students received significantly more time per day in subject matter
instruction (Greenwood, in press a). Second, the ecological structure of
the instructional programs serving these students differed in terms of
multiple qualitative and quantitative factors (e.g., materials used, grouping arrangements, and teachers' behaviors) compared to those received
by Iow-SES students (Stanley & G r e e n w o o d , 1983; G r e e n w o o d ,
Delquadri, Stanley, Terry, & Hall 1986). Third, low-SES students, who
were significantly less skilled on academic tests and measured IO, were
also significantly less engaged in academic behaviors (Mdifference = 11
minutes per day; range = 9-110 minutes of engagement per day) during
their daily lessons than were high-SES, higher-skilled students (Stanley
& Greenwood, 1981). Fourth, the instructional arrangements employed
by teachers of high-SES students covaried with higher levels of students'
academic engagement (Greenwood, Delquadri, Stanley, Terry, & Hall,
1985; 1986).

Ecobehavioral Analysis


Our interpretation of these ecobehavioral differences between groups

divergent in SES, achievement level, and measured IQ was that they represented classroom risk factors. For delayed and vulnerable low-SES students, it seemed that the ecological features of their instruction actually
decelerated academic responding and very likely their overall rate of
academic development. Our operating hypothesis was that instruction characterized by decelerating ecological arrangements, when employed systematically by teachers over time, predicted slower rates of academic
growth, higher rates of placement in compensatory and special education,
and early dropout from school. Alternatively, we expected that when
teachers employed instruction characterized by ecological arrangements
that accelerated academic responding, students would learn more in less
time (see Figure 1).
From this perspective, it did not follow that academically vulnerable
students should be maintained in classroom environments that encouraged
and produced the lowest levels of daily academic responding and engagement. We hypothesized that, if instructional procedures were systematically
altered, they would lead to improved levels of student academic responding
and, consequently, to a decreased risk and greater than expected outcome
for low-SES students (Risley, 1977; Kamps et al., 1989). We predicted that
low-achieving students would learn more in less time within instructional
contexts that provided more opportunities for active responding (Hall,
Delquadri, & Harris, 1977).

Ecobehavioral Contribution

In the absence of ecobehavioral comparison between high- versus lowSES students, an empirical link between low-achievement and instruction
and its effects on students' academic behavior could not have been made.
And, as has traditionally been the case, the problem of low-achievement
would continue to be attributed to other, largely nonempirical, nonalterable
factors (e.g., Carta, in press). For example, up to 1978 behavior analysis
had demonstrated the effectiveness of the principles of behavior in the
classroom (e.g., Hall, Lund, & Jackson, 1968; Walker & Buckley, 1968)
and a number of effective instructional practices had developed, including
Direct Instruction (e.g., Becker, 1977), Precision Teaching (White & Liberty,
1976), and Personalized Systems of Instruction (Keller, 1968). However, it
had not led to an understanding of the home, community, and school
mechanisms (e.g., situations/student behavior interactions) that led to the
persistent problems of academic delay and school failure encountered by
Iow-SES students. Behavior analysis had demonstrated how to fix the


Greenwood, Carta, and Atwater

problems but had not yet contributed to understanding how or why the
problems emerged.


Developing Interventions
Classwide Peer Tutoring (CWPT) (Greenwood, Delquadri, & Carta,
1988; Greenwood, Carta, & Hall, 1988) was developed in response to the
data describing ecobehavioral differences between students in high- versus
low-socioeconomic (SES) schools. The challenge was to not only develop
a means of classwide management based on behavioral principles of instruction but a method that would also reliably accelerate all students'
levels of academic responding and engagement. Our goal was to develop
a procedure that would remove the daily gap and range in students'
academic responding noted in the descriptive research and, at the same
time, meet criteria important for wide-scale implementation (e.g., feasibility, adaptability, cost efficiency, social validity) (Fawcett, Mathews, &
Fletcher, 1980; Greenwood, Carta, & Kamps, 1990).
Our clinical impressions and pilot research (Delquadri, 1978) had suggested that one-on-one peer tutoring was an approach in which learners
engaged in the highest levels of academic responding and, after which, they
performed well on tests/probes covering the material that had been tutored.
However, it failed to meet all the criteria for wide-scale application (Greenwood, Carta, & Kamps, 1990). Thus, we concentrated on adapting one-onone peer tutoring as a method for classwide application and tested it for
This led to our first successful report concerning CWPT based on a
standard behavior analysis (Delquadri, Greenwood, Stretton, & Hall, 1983).
In this study that was conducted in a regular education classroom, we
demonstrated that the number of errors on weekly spelling tests could be
reduced for all students using CWPT compared to conventional, teachermediated instruction. These findings were independently replicated several
years later by Maheady and Harper (1987), who demonstrated not only
gains in students' weekly test scores, but also in students' grades.
What followed were several additional single-subject experiments
employing CWPT that targeted different subject matter (math facts,
vocabulary, and reading), and that added ecobehavioral assessment to the
overall research design. This research replicated the prior studies, in that
students again increased their mastery and/or fluency criterion-referenced

Ecobehavioral Analysis


and curriculum-based measures of achievement (Delquadri, Greenwood,

Whorton, Carta, & Hall, 1986).
As importantly, however, results from these studies benefited from
the ability to compare differences in ecobehavioral factors between conventional instructional methods (i.e., baseline) to CWPT as treatment. The
ecological data indicated clear situational differences between CWPT and
baseline instruction (Greenwood, Delquadri, & Hall, 1984). During CWPT,
students spent more time using specific tutoring materials, such as paper
and pencil, as they practiced spelling words, or more time using reading
texts, as they read aloud to their tutor. During CWPT, teachers also spent
more time among and to-the-side of students while tutoring as they
monitored and reinforced students' responding as required by the program
(Greenwood, Dinwiddie et al., 1984).
During conventional instruction, more time was devoted to lecture,
teacher-student discussions, or observing media, such as overhead
transparencies. Teachers also spent more time at their desks or standing
in front of the class as they directly presented aspects of the lesson.
The students' behavioral data indicated that during CWPT, students
spent more time engaged in academic responding (e.g., writing, academic
talk, and reading aloud) and less time engaged in looking at the teacher
or looking for materials. They also spent less time engaged in competing,
inappropriate behaviors. The opposite profile was observed during the use
of conventional instruction; students engaged more in passive behaviors
(e.g., looking at the teacher), more inappropriate behaviors (e.g., looking
around), and fewer active academic behaviors (e.g., writing, reading, etc.).

Ecobehavioral Contribution

In the absence of the ecobehavioral data and findings, it would not

have been possible to explain with any certainty why tutoring was effective
and in exactly which situations or contexts it was effective. To this point
in time, behavior analysts had not been highly concerned with the measurement of treatment variables in the way demonstrated in these studies
(cf. Peterson, Homer, & Wonderlich, 1982). These data provided clear differences in the structure (ecological) and function (students' behavior) of
instruction in terms of gains in academic outcome measures (e.g., content
mastery and fluency). Thus, these experimental studies forged the first important link with the earlier descriptive studies, in that the correlations observed between ecobehavioral measures and students' achievement were
now shown to be functional.


Greenwood, Carta, and Atwater

These promising results led to a number of refinements in the CWPT

program, which eventually led to a large-scale, longitudinal study. This study
was designed to further examine the effects of CWPT on students' standardized achievement test scores and to further test the original hypotheses
concerning ecobehavioral processes of instruction as both risk factors and
solutions to the problem of academic delay in students from poverty.


Large-Scale Intervention/Prevention

As described, initial development of CWPT benefited from the conceptual and empirical integration of the findings from the earlier descriptive research and subsequent single-subject experimental research very
much in the way envisioned by Bijou et al. (1968). However, because
these data did not include standard measures of achievement and did
not cover significant periods of schooling, they were not sufficient in
scope to address the original problem of academic delay and its causes,
remediation, and prevention. Thus, during the 1982-87 school years, we
conducted a controlled field trial that included a group of Iow-SES students, whose teachers employed CWPT in grades 1, 2, 3, and 4, who
were compared to two control groups (low- and high-SES), whose
teachers employed conventional instruction. Included in the overall
design (Greenwood, Delquadri, & Hall, 1989) were repeated measures
on standardized achievement, curriculum-based achievement measures,
ecobehavioral observations, and measures of treatment fidelity.
Results of this four-year study replicated prior findings and extended them to standardized achievement measures over a period spanning four years of public schooling. It also confirmed our original
hypotheses about instructional risks for students and the relative power
of CWPT in mitigating these risks (Carta & Greenwood, 1988; Greenwood, in press a). For example, at second grade, the p r e d i c t e d
ecobehavioral differences between the low- versus high-SES conventional
instruction groups emerged and then widened in subsequent grades,
replicating findings in our original descriptive study at fourth grade
(Greenwood, Delquadri et al., 1981). Additionally significant was the observation that CWPT resulted in ecobehavioral processes and academic
outcomes more equivalent to those obtained in the high-SES group than
those in the low-SES control group. Moreover, in a sixth-grade follow-up,
we reported that 9% fewer low-SES students (whose teachers had used

Ecobehavioral Analysis


CWPT) were eventually placed into special education programs for learning disabilities or mental retardation compared to the Iow-SES control
group (Greenwood, in press b). Thus, it was demonstrated that sustained
and systematic use of CWPT removed specific instructional risks for lowSES students and produced significant, socially important gains in
academic achievement.

Ecobehavioral Contribution

In the absence of these data and findings, it would not have been
possible to confirm the link between ecobehavioral features of instruction
and delayed academic development at the elementary school level. In particular, it (a) provided a means for assessing and evaluating classroom instruction, (b) led to an analysis of what features of the instructional ecology
were critical to desired behavioral and eventual outcome effects, (c) contributed to an ecobehavioral theory of instructional risk and academic
delay, and (d) provided a number of plausible directions for designing and
testing new instructional practices.


The implications for ecobehavioral analysis in regular education indude: (a) a rapidly expanding knowledge base concerning the features of
effective instructional practices, and (b) direct applications by school personnel. Ecobehavioral research has contributed a number of important
findings regarding effective instruction and a theory of instructional risk,
many of which have been previously discussed. Additionally, however,
ecobehavioral research supports the general view of the sensitivity of student behavior to changes in specific classroom situational factors. It supports the importance of increasing productive uses of instructional time
and of avoiding events that reduce the time devoted to instruction and
active student engagement (e.g., interruptions, transitions, poorly executed
instruction, etc.). A similar construct in educational research has been
academic learning time (e.g., Berliner, 1988), or the time that students are
engaged in tasks at high levels of accuracy that are also tested as evidence
of academic achievement. The particular contribution and advantage of
ecobehavioral analysis compared to this construct, however, has been its
particular ability to also specify the instructional situation, such as reading


Greenwood, Carta, and Atwater

instruction and use of reading texts, in which oral reading or silent reading
responses might be expected to occur.
Ecobehavioral analysis supports the experimental analysis of complex
instructional environments (e.g., contextual arrangements of variables) in
addition to specific procedural components (e.g., use of teacher instructions). It supports the notion that instruction must be evaluated in terms
of both the efforts made to teach and their immediate and long-term effects
on students' performance.
Only recently has an ecobehavioral technology emerged for use by
school personnel in the regular education classroom. Foremost has been
ecobehavioral observational methods. One promising approach is the
ecobehavioral matrix. For example, Touchette, MacDonald, and Langer
(1985) used this approach as a means of relating the frequency of certain
behavior problems (recorded across one dimension of the matrix) to particular hours of the day (recorded across the other dimension of the
matrix). A similar matrix procedure also has been used to record the
joint occurrences of specifically defined ecological events (e.g., instructional materials) and student's behavior (Greenwood & Carta, 1988).
This method generates data on the frequency of ecological and behavioral event co-occurrences, rather than only the frequency of behavioral events, that could be used by classroom teachers as a basis for
planning interventions.
Teachers in regular education classrooms may use such data to identify the instructional conditions most related to desired academic behaviors
and the conditions that interfere with these behaviors. These data then may
be used to support modifications that represent progress toward specific
instructional goals (Greenwood, Delquadri et al., 1985). An ecobehavioral
technology for use by applied personnel (e.g., classroom teachers) is clearly
an area in need of future research and development.
Equally relevant are the newly emerging intervention procedures and
methods based on ecobehavioral research. For example, CWPT (Berliner,
1990; Shapiro, 1988), classroom survival skills interventions (e.g., Carta, Atwater et al., in press) and functional communication training (Carr &
Durand, 1985) may be employed by classroom teachers to increase instructional effectiveness and reduce classroom behavior problems.

In this paper, we have made a case for the relevance of ecobehavioral
analysis to the improvement of classroom instruction and behavior management, including increasing students' academic outcomes. We noted that be-

Ecobehavioral Analysis


havioral and ecological theories espoused by Skinner, Kantor, Barker,

Bijou, and Bronfenbrenner traditionally have posited interactions between
behavior and environmental factors. Thus, ecobehavioral analysis is a
natural extension of behavioral assessment and experimental analysis to include environmental factors.
Where behavior analysis has traditionally focused on experimental
analyses of behavior, ecobehavioral analysis adds the ability of conducting
naturalistic analyses of behavior that reveal the situational variables whose
manipulation may most likely lead to actual behavior changes. For many
problems, such as remediating academic delays and preventing school
dropout, ecobehavioral analyses of classroom instruction appear to lead to
important conclusions about what works, what does not, and why.
For the first time, it appears that a methodology (ecobehavioral
analysis and functional analysis) is emerging for expanding the wellknown methods of the experimental analysis of behavior to also embrace
sophisticated naturalistic analyses of behavior problems, including some
major social problems and the risks associated with routine practices.
Hypotheses concerning likely functional variables derived from naturalistic, ecobehavioral assessment data may now be integrated conceptually
and empirically within traditional experimental research designs for tests
of functional relationships.
Bijou et al. (1968) and Patterson (1974) described how improvements
in assessment bring with them the ability to conduct analysis of the function
of a particular behavior within a well-defined set of situational parameters.
By employing ecobehavioral analyses, it seems possible to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of instruction based on manipulations of empirically selected parameters rather than "spraying contingencies willy-nilly
through the social system" (Patterson, 1974). From this advance may come
the next generation of effective classroom instruction and behavior management methods and procedures.

This work was funded by grants from the National Institute of Health
and Human Development (HD 03144) and from the Office of Special
Education Programs and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of
E d u c a t i o n (G008730254; G008730085; G008730080; G008630226;
G00860071; G008400654; G008300067; and H024J80003). The authors
would like to acknowledge the pioneering work of Sidney B i j o u - i n particular, his clear appreciation for the importance of integrating descriptive


Greenwood, Carta, and Atwater

and experimental data. This work is dedicated to the families and children
of the Kansas City metropolitan area.

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