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4, 2018

Reducing Escape-Maintained Behavior Through

the Application of Classroom-Wide Practices and
Individually Designed Interventions
Robert P. Trussell
University of Texas at El Paso
Hsin Ju Chen
National Taiwan Normal University
Timothy J. Lewis
University of Missouri — Columbia
Naomi E. Luna
University of Texas at El Paso

The purpose of this study was to explore the extent to which two classroom-
wide instructional interventions, peer support and instructional choice,
were able to reduce escape-maintained off-task and problem behaviors. This
study also measured the extent to which these interventions, when coupled
with individually designed function-based interventions, reduced escape-
maintained problem behaviors. A multiple baseline across settings design
was used to measure the impact of the classroom-wide intervention and the
function-based intervention for one student in a self-contained special edu-
cation classroom and a general education classroom. Results indicated that
implementation of these strategies reduced the escape-maintained problem
behaviors. Practical applications of the results of this study include the ef-
fectiveness of providing both choices and one-to-one support during tasks
requiring higher levels of language and social involvement.
Keywords: classroom-wide interventions, functional behavior assessment,
emotional/behavioral disorder (E/BD)

Classroom-wide Interventions
Effective classrooms incorporate strategies and interventions that
encourage academic and social success for all students, including

Correspondence should be addressed to: Robert P. Trussell, University of

Texas–El Paso, 500 W. University Ave, El Paso, TX 79968. Email: rptrussell

Pages 507–532

students with emotional/behavioral disorders (EBD), and those strug-

gling with problem behaviors (Carta, Atwater, Schwartz, & Miller,
1990; Wallace, Anderson, Bartholomay, & Hupp, 2002). Contributing
to this effort, Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) has
gained considerable attention over the past decade as an effective ap-
proach for promoting positive social and academic behaviors, while
reducing problem behaviors across school settings (Coffey & Horner,
2012; Sugai & Horner, 2006; Sugai et al., 2000; Taylor-Greene et al.,
1997; Todd, Horner, Sugai, & Sprague, 1999). A critical focus of PBIS
is the application of classroom-wide interventions in all classrooms
designed to be applied to all students (Sugai & Horner, 2006).
Research on classroom interventions has shown that student
behaviors are impacted by the features within the environment (Fair­
banks, Sugai, Guadino, & Lathrop, 2007; Hieneman, Dunlap, & Kincaid,
2005; Reinke, Herman, & Stormont, 2013). These features include the
structure of the physical setting, types of activities, and instructional
practices (Fox & Conroy, 1995). Specifically, classroom-wide interven-
tions can be organized and conceptualized as physiological factors
(e.g., noise level), context specific activities and social events (e.g.,
small group work, types of tasks, cooperative rather than competi-
tive tasks), and environmental or instructional factors (e.g., teacher
interactive practices, clarity of routines and procedures, management
practices) occurring temporally distant, concurrently and/or in com-
bination with challenging behaviors (Conroy & Stichter, 2003; Trus-
sell, Lewis & Stichter, 2008).
Classroom-wide interventions are research-based, best prac-
tices that encourage academic participation while reducing potential
problem behaviors. These interventions have been designed to sup-
port struggling students and to assist in the effort to include stu-
dents with EBD in a variety of educational settings (Reinke, Herman,
& Stormont, 2013). In the most basic sense, behaviors are motivated
by peer/adult attention or escape from difficult tasks/circumstances
(Carr & Durand, 1985; Kilgus, Fallon, & Feinberg, 2016). Instructional
practices that promote academic success while meeting the attention
or escape needs of students provide optimal support and opportu-
nities for students. Two instructional practices, peer tutoring and
providing choices, have been identified in the literature as support-
ing academic success while providing opportunities for escape and
The positive effects of peer tutoring have been demonstrated
across subjects such as reading (Oddo, Barnett, Hawkins, & Musti-
Rao, 2010), math (Hawkins, Musti-Rao, Hughes, Berry, & McGuire,
2009), social studies (Lo & Cartledge, 2004), basic reading skills (Falk
Escape-Maintained Behavior 509

& Wehby, 2001) and science (Bowman-Perrott, Greenwood, & Tapia,

2007). McGill, Teer, Rye, and Hughes (2003) found a relationship be­
tween peer support and a decrease in problem behaviors. Addi-
tionally, students with EBD have benefitted from peer support. In a
meta-analysis, Bowman-Perrott et al. (2013) found that peer tutoring
was an effective intervention for students with EBD regardless of in-
tervention intensity.
Another instructional practice that has been shown to decrease
disruptive behaviors while increasing time on-task is offering choices
to students regarding the types of tasks or the sequence of task com-
pletion. Studies have indicated that teachers who allowed choice
making had decreases in disruptive behaviors and increases in task
engagement and completion (Dunlap et al., 1994; Rispoli et al., 2013).
In a study focused on choice making and academic engagement, Cole,
Davenport, Bambara and Ager (1997) investigated to see if the impact
of choice making was a result of the choice of a particular activity, or
the availability of having a choice. The study found that both condi-
tions’ levels of academic engagement for students with EBD remained
high. Rispoli et al. (2013) suggested that preferred tasks, materials,
and environments may reduce students’ need to escape or avoid
work. Further, providing choices may reduce the aversive quality of
an assignment (Skerbetz & Kostewicz, 2013).
In addition to classroom-wide interventions, another central fea-
ture of PBIS is the application of Functional Behavior Assessments
(FBA) in identifying pertinent environmental influences that main-
tain problem behavior (Sugai & Horner, 2006). Although students may
exhibit similar behavior patterns (e.g., high rates of off-task and dis-
ruptive behaviors), influences within the environment that maintain
problem behaviors are unique to the individual (Ervin et al., 2000;
Gage, Lewis, & Stichter, 2012). Previous findings suggest that prob-
lem behaviors of students with EBD can be maintained through the
acquisition of teacher attention and escaping undesirable academic
tasks (McIntosh, Campbell, Carter, & Dickey, 2009). Further, peer at-
tention has been shown to increase student off-task behavior (Lewis
& Sugai, 1996). Additionally, problem behaviors can be maintained
through avoiding adult and peer interactions (Shores, Gunter, Denny,
& Jack, 1993). Behavioral interventions based on functional assess-
ment are more effective at reducing problem behaviors of students
with EBD compared to traditional intervention approaches (New-
comer & Lewis, 2004). The impact of intervention plans for students
with EBD based on FBA procedures have included improved on-task
behaviors, as well as a decrease in disruptive behaviors (Ervin et al,
2001; Kamps, Wendland, & Culpepper, 2006).

There are many reasons why a student engages in a disrup-

tive or inappropriate classroom behavior that results in avoiding or
escaping an unpleasant task (Filter & Horner, 2009). Studies in the
field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) have identified challeng-
ing behaviors in educational situations as task avoidance or escape
behavior prompted by an aversive task stimuli, such as the pace or
complexity of task demands (Haring & Kennedy, 1990; Ingvarsson,
Hanley, & Welter, 2009; Iwata, 1987; Mace & Belfiore, 1990; Repp, Felce,
& Barton, 1988; Weeks & Gaylord-Ross, 1981). For example, a student
may attempt to escape from a complicated or uninteresting task by
becoming disruptive in class in order to receive an office referral. In
additional circumstances, a student may joke and or make humorous
sounds during independent seatwork in order to gain teacher and
peer attention (Carr et al., 1985; Kilgus, Fallon, & Feinberg, 2016).
According to Hartwig and Ruesch (2000), some students with
EBD do not have the social skills to communicate, and have eventually
learned over time that engaging in problematic classroom behavior
results in a desirable outcome. Students may engage in a disruptive
behavior even though they know how to communicate in more ap-
propriate ways because a problematic behavior is usually more effec-
tive and efficient for having their needs met (Maag, 2001).
The purpose of this study was to explore the extent to which
classroom-wide interventions were able to reduce escape-maintained
off-task and problem behaviors in both a self-contained special edu-
cation classroom and a general education classroom. Specifically, this
study assessed two classroom-wide interventions identified in the
literature as strategies for reducing problem behaviors that serve
the function of escape-maintained behaviors: peer support and in-
structional choice. Further, this study measured the extent to which
classroom-wide interventions coupled with individually designed
function-based interventions reduced escape-maintained problem


This study incorporated a multiple baseline across settings

design focusing on the impact of classroom-wide interventions and
FBA-based individually designed interventions for one student with
an educational diagnosis of Emotional Disturbance. The student at-
tended reading and math class in a self-contained classroom for
students exhibiting significant problem behaviors, and science in a
general education classroom.
Escape-Maintained Behavior 511

The study was conducted in three phases: (1) pre-assessment,

(2) intervention, and (3) post-assessment. During the pre-assessment
phase, data collection included identifying students, teachers, and
classrooms; incorporating indirect and direct FBAs; and developing
hypothesis statements. The intervention phase included data collec-
tion using partial interval recordings and teacher training to imple-
ment both classroom interventions, and individually designed FBA
interventions. The post-assessment phase included collecting probe
Participant and Setting
The study was conducted in a public elementary school in a
large urban area in the southwest region of the United States. One
student, Joshua, participated in this study. Joshua was an 11-year-old
Latino student in the fifth grade. He was chosen by teacher and ad-
ministrator nominations for continuous problem behaviors within the
classroom. Further, both archival records and office discipline refer-
rals indicated that he showed disruptive behaviors in classrooms over
an extended period of time. Additionally, he was evaluated using the
Social Skills Rating System (SSRS; Gresham & Elliot, 1990). The SSRS
classifies a student’s classroom performance in three dimensions: ac-
ademic competence, problem behaviors, and social skills. The result
of the SSRS showed that Joshua’s academic competence was below
average. In addition, his social skills were low.
School records indicated Joshua had a history of work refusal
that eventually resulted in placement in a self-contained special educa-
tion classroom. Two classroom teachers also participated in this study.
They were chosen based on their willingness to assist in the study and
their concern for Joshua’s problem behaviors. One was a special edu-
cation teacher in the self-contained special education classroom. The
other teacher taught Science in general education classrooms. Both
teachers were certified to teach fifth grade students. Each phase of
the study was conducted within the natural context of the classroom
Pre-Assessment Procedures
Functional behavior assessment. An FBA was conducted in
order to (a) define the student’s topography of problem behaviors;
(b) identify setting events that increased the likelihood of problem
behaviors, antecedent events that set the occasion for the problem
behaviors, and consequence events that maintained the problem be-
haviors; and (c) develop hypothesis statements regarding the function
of the problem behaviors.

Operational definitions of behaviors. Two specific behaviors

exhibited by Joshua were of interest: off-task and problem behaviors.
Off-task behaviors were operationally defined as leaning back, put-
ting his pen or book down, looking around the room, or laying face-
downward to the table. Problem behaviors were operationally defined
as talking out, arguing with peer, talking back to teacher, leaving the
seat without teacher’s permission, or making noise such as kicking a
Archival review. Joshua’s student files were reviewed to identify
possible antecedents and consequences related to his problem behav-
iors. The information reviewed included discipline referrals, atten-
dance history, academic assessment results, and teachers’ comments.
Teacher interview. The interview was conducted using the
Functional Assessment Interview (FAI; O’Neill et al., 1997). The cen-
tral focus of this interview was to determine primary behaviors of
concern, and then to identify conditions under which the behaviors
were most or least likely to occur. Teachers were asked to describe (a)
the behaviors of concern, (b) the possible physical and medical fac-
tors relative to problem behaviors, and (c) the circumstances that pre-
dicted the occurrence and nonoccurrence of the problem behaviors.
Student interview. The Student-Assisted Functional Assess-
ment Interview (SAFAI; Kern, Dunlap, Clarke & Childs, 1994) was
used. The purpose of this assessment was to interview the student
to help determine problem behaviors, setting events, antecedents,
and consequences that impact behaviors. The interview encouraged
the student to think about when the most and the least number of
problems happened at school, what the causes of the problems were,
how the situation could be changed for the better, and what possible
rewards he would like for demonstrating appropriate behaviors. In
addition, the student was asked to answer the questions related to
preferences for special subjects.
Direct observation. We conducted A-B-C observations (Bijou,
Peterson, & Ault, 1968) in order to verify the hypothesis developed
during the FBA. Three observations were conducted for the student
to establish the function of behavior and confirm the hypothesis
statements. Direct observations were conducted on off-task (lean-
ing back, putting his pen or book down, looking around the room,
or laying face-downward to the table) and problem behaviors (talk-
ing out, arguing with peer, talking back to teacher, leaving the seat
without teacher’s permission, or making noise such as kicking table
and problem behaviors). Each observation was 20 min and occurred
in all three settings (i.e., self-contained reading, self-contained math,
and general education science classes). The data collectors recorded
Escape-Maintained Behavior 513

the immediate antecedents and consequences each time the problem

behavior occurred in order to identify the relation between problem
behaviors and antecedents and consequences (see Data Collector
Training for data collector training and qualifications).
Hypothesis statements. The researcher and teachers developed
hypothesis statements that included the problem behaviors, anteced-
ent events and consequent events, and the function of behavior based
on the information of archive review, interventions, and observations.
The criteria for a hypothesis statement was that it had to: (a) be based
on the interview and observational data, (b) identify the conditions
under which improved behavior was likely, and (c) be directly testable
within the context of naturally occurring activities in the classroom.
Intervention Procedures
Classroom-wide interventions. Classroom-wide interventions
were developed based on the literature and chosen to potentially
match the function of escape/avoidance. According to the literature, of-
fering choices (Dunlap et al., 1994) and providing one-to-one (McGill et
al., 2003) with peer support (Falk & Wehby, 2001) were well-researched
strategies used for students exhibiting escape/avoidance-maintained
behaviors. Based on the research, two classroom interventions were
created and implemented. The first classroom intervention involved
choices in which all students were allowed to choose to eliminate one
item for every two items completed correctly on an independent seat-
work assignment. The second classroom intervention involved one-
to-one and peer support. All students were allowed to work with a
peer in the following way: for each item of a seatwork assignment,
one student would solve one item while the other student asked ques-
tions and scribed the answer. When completed correctly, the students
would switch roles and address the next item in the same manner.
For both classroom interventions, if students did not finish seatwork,
they had to complete all work during a preferred activity time (see
Table 1).
Behavioral Intervention Plan. The Competing Behavior Model
(CBM) (O’Neill et al., 1997) was used to create a Behavioral Interven-
tion Plan (BIP) that was based on FBA information for Joshua. The
CBM consisted of 3 steps. First, the functional assessment summary
statement was included in the diagram. The second step of the CBM
was to clarify alternative or competing behaviors and consequences
of those behaviors. Last, interventions based on the CBM were de-
veloped with the intent of making the problem behavior irrelevant,
inefficient, and ineffective. After completing the CBM, multiple strat-
egies and procedures were identified and selected for intervention.
The strategies included four components: (1) setting event strategies,

Table 1
Individual Behavior Interventions
Setting Event Strategies
   1. Intensive reading instruction is given in the morning.
   2. Video record his reading so that he can see and hear his own progress.
   3. Provide a preview of materials for the upcoming week.
   4. Review/reteach social skills in social skill’s class.
Antecedent Strategies
   1. Break tasks into 30 minute intervals.
   2. Provide pre-corrects for replacement behaviors.
Replacement Behaviors
   1. Complete 2 problems correctly and then skip one.
   2. Move around room to access information from peers and teacher.
Consequence Strategies
   1. By using the replacement behaviors, Joshua will be able to escape part of the
assigned work in a socially and academically appropriate manner.
   2. If a problem behavior continues, then the teacher will extend 5 minutes
working time incrementally until replacement behaviors are utilized and
work is complete.

(2) antecedent strategies, (3) teaching strategies, and (4) consequence

Teacher Training
Training process. Teachers were trained to apply both levels
of intervention in order to precisely implement classroom interven-
tions and the individually designed interventions. For teachers to
accurately apply classroom-wide interventions, they were trained us-
ing the following process. First, the results of the baseline data were
shared with the teacher. Second, the classroom-wide interventions
(providing choices and one-to-one peer support) were shared through
discussion and researcher modeling of the interventions. Upon initial
review of the classroom-wide interventions, the teachers were asked
about their ability to apply the interventions and any complications
that needed to be addressed before applying the interventions. Third,
as necessary, the researcher modeled the intervention for the teacher
with non-participating students. Fourth, to assure implementation
integrity of the classroom interventions, the teacher received daily
feedback as to the accuracy of their application of these practices and
shown progress in relationship to baseline data.
For the two classroom interventions, teachers were given the fol-
lowing instructions. First, the maximum time period for each lesson
was 30 min, including lecture and seatwork. Second, the time limit for
seatwork was 10 min. Third, for providing choices, teachers were in-
Escape-Maintained Behavior 515

structed to circulate and prompt students who answered a question/

problem correctly to take away one question/problem. Fourth, for
providing peer support, teachers instructed students to work in pairs,
and provided them training in the following procedure: one student
solved one item, while the other student asked questions and scribed
the answer. Students were provided examples of the types of ques-
tions they should ask, as well as provided the procedures for scrib-
ing information. This training occurred as a whole classroom. When
completed correctly, the students would switch roles and address the
next item in the same manner. Fifth, if students did not finish seat-
work, then students had to complete all work during a preferred ac-
tivity time.
In order to ensure that the teachers correctly implemented the
individually designed intervention, teachers were trained in the fol-
lowing manner. First, teachers were familiar with the results of the
FBA and participated in developing hypothesis statements based on
the results of the FBA. Second, the results of the baseline data were
shared with teachers providing them with a clear visual of both off-
task and problem behaviors. Third, the recommended interventions
were shared. In addition, teachers were asked in terms of their abili-
ties to apply these interventions and any complications that need to be
addressed before applying the interventions. Fourth, the researcher
modeled the intervention for teachers, if necessary. Fifth, teachers re-
ceived daily feedback in order to make sure teachers implemented
interventions accurately.
Integrity measures. The BIPs were applied on a daily basis.
Integrity of application was measured by incorporating an individu-
ally designed BIP checklist for teachers. To verify that the individu-
ally designed interventions were being applied accurately, two levels
of treatment integrity were implemented. First, researchers met with
each teacher on a daily basis to review adherence to the individual
behavior intervention. Second, each teacher was given a checklist
highlighting the individually designed intervention, including set-
ting event, antecedent, replacement behavior, and consequence strate-
gies. Teachers were asked to self-evaluate whether the strategies on
the checklist were applied, and then discuss these results with the
researchers after each observation session involving the individually
designed interventions.
Data Collector Training
Data collectors were graduate students studying special educa-
tion at the college of education. These students were certified teachers
in special education and had advanced training in single-subject design

and FBA. For this study, data collectors were trained using video-
taped samples. First, the researcher explained what partial-interval
recording was and how to record target behaviors. Second, the re-
searcher demonstrated how to record data using videotaped samples.
Third, data collectors were asked to record data individually at the
same time. Next, the researcher calculated the inter-observer agree-
ment (IOA), and shared the results with data collectors. Then, data
collectors were asked to compare their data and explain the possible
reasons for their differences on the data. Fourth, the third step was
repeated until the IOA reached 95%.
Measure of Student Behaviors
The targeted behaviors of the student (off-task and problem
behaviors) were directly observed during each phase of the study
(assessment, baseline, intervention, and post-assessment) using a
six-second partial-interval recording instrument. IOA data were col-
lected and expected above 80%. Direct observation data were plot-
ted and visually analyzed. The data in this study were evaluated
using visual inspection examining the intervention effects at differ-
ent points in time across settings. A graphic display of each observa-
tion session within baseline and each intervention phase was plotted.
Data analysis included inspections of levels of performance from one
phase to the next, the trend in performance across phase, the percent-
age of non-overlapping data (PND) between phases, and the rapidity
of behavior change with phases. The probe procedure was used to
assess the maintenance of intervention.


Results will be presented in two sections. The first section is a

summary of the functional behavioral assessment. The second sec-
tion presents the content and results of the behavioral interventions.
Functional Behavioral Assessment
An FBA was conducted to identify behaviors, antecendent con-
ditions and maintaining consequences. The FBA included interview-
ing teachers and the participating student. Based on the information
gathered, a hypothesis statement was developed and then confirmed.
Student interview. According to the results of SAFAI, Joshua
indicated that he felt that sometimes the work was too hard, too chal-
lenging, and too long for him. In addition, he never felt the work was
too easy or too short. He also said that he was always distracted by
Escape-Maintained Behavior 517

other things in the classroom. He disliked reading, social studies, and

English more than other subjects. The reason was that he thought that
reading and English courses were too long and too difficult, and he
did not know how to spell correctly.
Statement of behavioral function. Based on direct and indirect
data collection, two hypothesis statements were developed: (1) Hypoth-
esis statement for off-task behaviors: Joshua became off-task by leaning
back in his seat, putting his pen or book down, looking around the
room, talking to peers, and escalated to laying face-downward to the
table. These behaviors tended to occur during independent seatwork
where reading was required. The function of the off-task behavior
was to escape tasks; (2) Hypothesis statement for problem behaviors:
Joshua engaged in problem behaviors by talking out, arguing with
peer, talking back to teacher, leaving the seat without teacher’s per-
mission, or making noise. These behaviors occurred primarily during
reading or independent activities. The function of the problem behav-
iors was to escape tasks.
Confirming hypothesis statement. Three 20-min observations
were conducted to verify the hypothesis statements using A-B-C as-
sessments (Bijou et al., 1968). The A-B-C assessment identifies ante-
cedent conditions and consequences that occur in relation to problem
behaviors. Data in this assessment were structured by identifying
each problem behavior, and the events right before the behavior and
right after the behavior. Direct observation confirmed the teacher
interviews. Observations indicated that Joshua engaged in many
off-task and problem behaviors, such as talking out, talking back,
making noise, and leaving the seat that were disruptive to both his
own and peers’ learning. These problem behaviors were observed
during teacher instruction, small group, and independent work with
the maintaining consequence being escape/avoidance of tasks.
Off-task behaviors. For the purpose of clarity, both off- and
on-task data were plotted and visually analyzed (see Figures 1 and
2). Analysis of off-task behaviors indicated that during baseline in
the reading class in the self-contained classroom, there was an in-
creasing trend of problem behaviors. The mean percentage of off-
task behaviors was 47.5% , ranging from 30% to 68.5%. Two levels of
classroom-wide interventions were implemented. The first classroom
intervention was the provision of choices. After implementation, the
data showed a descending trend of off-task behaviors (mean, 34%;
range, 9% to 58%). The second classroom intervention was providing
one-to-one peer support. After this intervention was implemented,
the data showed a descending trend of off-task behaviors (mean, 13%;
range of 8% to 21%). When analyzing the results of the two classroom-

wide interventions, the first three points occurred during the choice
intervention and exhibited an inconsistent pattern. When the class-
room intervention was changed to one-to-one with peer support,
there was a steady descending trend.
For math class in the self-contained classroom, baseline data
showed an increasing trend of off-task behaviors. The mean percent-
age of off-task behaviors was 23.4% with the range from 10.5% to 44%.
During the provision of the choice intervention, the data showed an
inconsistent pattern of off-task behaviors, although the overall mean
was below baseline levels (mean, 23.6%; range, 3% to 37%). The one-
to-one peer support intervention showed a descending trend of off-
task behaviors (mean, 5.7%; range, 0% to 11%). When analyzing the
results of the two classroom interventions, the provision of choices
displayed an inconsistent pattern. When the classroom intervention
was changed to one-to-one with peer support, although there were
only two observations points, there was a steady descending trend
when compared to both baseline and the first classroom intervention
For science in the general education classroom, baseline data
showed an increasing trend of off-task behaviors. The mean percent
of off-task behaviors was 24% with the range from 3.5% to 47%. Dur-
ing the provision of choices intervention the overall data showed a
descending trend of off-task behaviors (mean, 7%; range, 3.5% to 14%).
The second classroom intervention, providing one-to-one peer sup-
port, showed a descending trend of off-task behaviors (mean, 2.1%;
range, 0% to 5%).
Problem behaviors. For reading class in the self-contained
classroom, the baseline data showed an increasing trend of problem
behaviors. The mean percentage of problem behaviors was 12%, rang-
ing from 0% to 29.5%. During the provision of the choices interven-
tion the mean percentage of problem behaviors was 48%, with a range
of 23.5% to 72%. The overall data showed an ascending trend of prob-
lem behaviors. The one-on-one peer support interventions showed a
descending trend of off-task behaviors (mean, 17.4%; range, 9.5% to
For math class, the baseline data showed a stable trend of prob-
lem behaviors with a mean of 20% and range of 2% to 29.5%. During
the choices intervention the mean percentage of problem behaviors
was 24.5% with a range of 2% to 50.5%. The overall data showed an
descending trend of problem behaviors. The peer support interven-
tions showed a descending trend of off-task behaviors (mean, 8.25%;
range, 2% to 14.5%).
Escape-Maintained Behavior 519

For science class, the mean percentage of problem behaviors was

3% at baseline with a range of 0% to 15%. During the provision of choices,
the mean percentage of problem behaviors was 1.5% with a range of 1%
to 2%. The overall data showed an descending trend of problem behav-
iors. The peer support intervention showed a descending trend of off-
task behaviors (mean of 1.25% with a range of 0% to 1.5%).
In summary, Joshua’s problem behaviors decreased during both
the classroom-wide interventions. For reading in the self-contained
classroom, the mean percentage of problem behaviors decreased from
49% during baseline to 35% during classroom interventions. For math
in the self-contained classroom, the mean percentage of problem be-
haviors decreased from 32.5% during baseline to 27% during class-
room-wide interventions.
Results of Classroom-Wide Interventions with
Individual Behavior Interventions
Off-task behaviors. Visual analysis of the classroom interven-
tions with individual behavior interventions showed decreasing
trends of off-task behaviors in all three classes (see Figure 1). For
the reading class, a reduction of off-task behaviors was found with
mean of 4.5% and a range of 0% to 17%. For the math class, the data
also showed a decrease of off-task behaviors with the mean of 6.5%
with a range of 2% to 11.5%. Although the mean is slightly above the
mean for the second classroom intervention (5.7%), there are more
data points for comparison during the classroom intervention and
individual interventions. For science class, the off-task behaviors de-
creased close to zero (mean, 0.1%; range, 0% to 0.5%). The percentages
problem behaviors in the last three sessions were all down to 0%.
Probe data were collected in two of the three settings. The sci-
ence class was unavailable due to state-wide exams during the col-
lection of probe data. The probe data in the self-contained classroom
were collected beginning the fourth week after the final sessions of
the study. In the self-contained classroom during reading and math,
the teacher continued to implement the classroom-wide interven-
tions, as well as the individually designed BIP. Results of the probes
indicated that off-task behaviors had decreased further from levels at
the end of the study. During reading, three data points were collected
during the fourth week with a mean of .8% and range of 0% to 1.5%.
During math, the mean was 1.3% with a range of .5% to 2.5%. In the
science class, there was no probe data for problem behaviors.
Problem behaviors. Visual analysis of the classroom-wide inter-
ventions with individual behavior interventions showed decreasing

Baseline Choices One-on-One Classroom & Individual Probe

Peer Support Interventions
60 Reading
Percent of Interval with Off-Task Behavior

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

60 Math
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

70 Science
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27


Figure 1. Percentage of intervals with off-task behaviors.

trends of problem behaviors in all three classes (see Figure 2). For the

reading class, a sharp reduction of problem behaviors was found with

the mean of 8.5% with a range of 0.5% to 27.5%. For the math class,
the data also showed a sharp decrease of problem behaviors with the
mean of 4.2% with a range of 2% to 8%. For science class, the problem
behaviors decreased to zero (mean, 0%; a range, 0% to 0%).
Inter­Observer Agreement
The agreement percentages were computed on a session-by-
session basis during baseline, classroom interventions, and with in-
dividual behavior interventions in three settings. Forty-four percent
of sessions included a second observer (46% in reading, 46% in math,
40% in science). The average agreement across all sessions was 97%
Escape-Maintained Behavior 521

Figure 2. Percent of interval with on-task behavior and problem behavior.

with a range of 85% to 100% agreement. The detail information of

inter-observer agreement was conducted (see Table 2).


The purpose of this study was to explore the extent to which

classroom-wide interventions were able to reduce escape maintained
off-task and problem behaviors in three settings. Specifically, this
study assessed two classroom interventions identified in the literature
as strategies for reducing problem behaviors that serve the function
of escape-maintained behaviors, choice and one-to-one peer support.
Further, this study measured the extent to which classroom-wide in-
terventions coupled with individually designed function-based inter-
ventions reduced escape maintained problem behaviors.
Table 2

Inter-observer Agreement
Reading Math Science
Mean Range Mean Range Mean Range
Baseline 97% 95% — 99% 93% 85% — 99%  96% 95% — 100%
Classroom Interventions 96% 94% — 99% 97% 93% — 100%  99% 98% — 100%
Classroom & Individual Interventions 97% 90% — 100% 98% 98% — 99% 100% 100%
Probe 99% 99% — 100% 98% 97% — 99% N/A N/A
Escape-Maintained Behavior 523

The literature has provided research on interventions that have

been shown to be effective in reducing problem behaviors main-
tained by task escape. The methodology of many of these previous
studies has tended to focus on providing specific interventions to an
individual student and then measuring the results. The current study
was able to expand the literature by showing that these interventions
can be incorporated into lessons directed to all students in a given
setting. This study demonstrated that when these interventions were
included as classroom-wide teacher practices, there were consistent
reductions of problem behaviors of an escape-motivated student in
both the self-contained classroom and in the general education class-
room. A viable explanation for these decreases relates to the function
of behavior. When interventions focused on providing access to es-
cape through choices and one-to-one peer support, the teacher created
an environment in which there were more and better opportunities to
escape features of the task. By incorporating these interventions at
the classroom level, the environment made accessing escape through
appropriate instructional behaviors more effective and efficient than
the problem behaviors. The increased classroom supports may have
provided frequent opportunities to access escape in acceptable ways.
In this study, the targeted student’s problem behaviors decreased
during the classroom interventions in all three settings.
These results are important for several reasons. First, they dem-
onstrate that interventions that have traditionally been developed
and applied to individual students whose function of behavior is es-
cape can be effectively applied classroom-wide. Based on these find-
ings, it is anticipated that teachers who incorporate these strategies
throughout their lessons will have increased participation of students
who would otherwise tend to escape or avoid the tasks. By incorpo-
rating classroom interventions targeting escape behavior, teachers
will be including a measure of prevention of potential problem be-
haviors. Second, the time and effort needed to conduct an FBA and
then develop a BIP are considerable. Therefore, providing a first level
of intervention that has a positive impact on behaviors and does not
involve the intense time commitment of an FBA/BIP is a significant
benefit to teachers.
The literature has indicated that providing choices can be ef-
fective in reducing problem behaviors and increasing task engage-
ment, especially for students whose behaviors are maintained by
task escape (Filter & Horner, 2009). This study showed that provid-
ing choices was able to reduce problem behaviors but was more effec-
tive during certain types of tasks. According to the results, providing
choices was less effective under conditions in which the instructional

activity required repetition of applied skills, such as those that oc-

curred while completing math worksheets. Conversely, during tasks
that required higher levels of language and social involvement, such
as those occurring during reading and science tasks, both providing
choices and one-to-one peer support were more effective. Research
has shown that both one-to-one (McGill, Teer, Rye, & Hughes, 2003)
and peer support (Falk & Wehby, 2001) are effective in reducing prob-
lem behaviors and increasing task engagement. This research dem-
onstrated that when one-to-one peer support was provided during
activities requiring a higher use of language and increased social in-
teraction, there was a significant increase in task engagement in both
the self-contained classroom and the general education classroom.
According to this study, when choices were applied as class-
room interventions, the results were less effective under conditions in
which the instructional activity required repetition of applied skills.
This information indicated that the use of choices is either more ap-
propriate on an individual basis or that the use of choices is not effec-
tive as a classroom-wide intervention under these conditions.
This study was able to confirm the effectiveness of FBA-based
interventions on a student’s problem behaviors. The student’s overall
problem behaviors were greatly reduced after introducing the class-
room interventions with individual behavior interventions. Consid-
ering that FBA looks beyond the immediate observed behaviors and
focuses on the factors of predicting and maintaining the problem
behaviors, it is possible that FBA-based interventions alter predict-
able patterns of problem behaviors, and then reduce the probability
of problem behaviors. This study provided further support for FBA-
based interventions. Although the student’s overall problem behav-
iors decreased during the classroom interventions, problem behaviors
decreased dramatically when FBA-based individual behavioral inter-
vention were implemented across settings. In other words, although
the classroom-wide interventions can improve students’ behaviors by
modifying the classroom environment, the FBA-based individual be-
havioral intervention is more successful in reducing students’ prob-
lem behaviors to levels approaching zero percent occurrence.
The results of this study were also consistent with prior research
regarding the effectiveness of the generalization of replacement be-
haviors over time (Heckaman, Conroy, Fox, & Chait, 2000; Kern, Galla-
gher, Starosta, Hickman, & George, 2006). The present study collected
three probe data during the 4th week after completing behavior inter-
ventions in reading and math classes. In the reading classroom, three
data points were collected during the fourth week with a mean of .8%
and range of 0% to 1.5%. In the math classroom, the mean was 1.3%
Escape-Maintained Behavior 525

with a range of .5% to 2.5%. These data suggest that there is strong
durability of FBA-based interventions.
There are some limitations that should be noted. First, due to
competing priorities within public schools, including standardized
and benchmark assessments, there are several challenges to conduct-
ing applied research. First, during periods of assessments, students
are generally unavailable for observations, thus disrupting the se-
quence of observations sessions. During this study, only two data
points could be collected during the one-to-one peer support inter-
vention during math class. Second, special education faculty are often
called upon to administer certain types of assessments to students
with disabilities. For example, during this study the special educa-
tion teacher was not available on certain days in order to conduct
The second limitation of this study is the small sample size.
There was only one student participating in this study, which causes
the problem of generalization. However, the single subject research
design has been applied and proven valid with repetition across sub-
jects, times and places. In addition, the student’s problem behaviors
in this study were maintained by escape/avoidance of tasks and FBA-
based behavioral interventions were designed to address the escape
function. However, past research has indicated that there are differ-
ent functions of behaviors including social attention seeking, tan-
gibles or preferred activities seeking, social avoidance and internal
stimulation seeking or escaping (Alberto, & Troutman, 2009; Ervin et
al., 2001; Gresham, Watson, & Skinner, 2001). Therefore, the results of
this study did not explore whether the same results will exist with
other functions of behaviors.
In addition, there were only two data points for math in the peer
support condition. A clear acknowledgement of change is arguably
difficult to defend with only two data points.
Implications for Future Research
There are several directions for future research. First, since
there was only one student in the present study, future studies should
recruit either more students with the same function of problem be-
haviors or different function of problem behaviors to increase the
reliability of the results. Further, future research could compare the
effectiveness of FBA-based interventions in different settings, includ-
ing structured classroom activities and unstructured settings, such
as the cafeteria and playground.

This study was able to demonstrate that classroom interventions
were able to reduce escape maintained problem behaviors in two self-
contained settings and one general education classroom. Specifically,
this study was able to implement these strategies as classroom-wide in-
terventions and achieve reductions in problem behaviors. Further, this
study established the extent to which classroom-wide interventions
coupled with individually designed function-based interventions re-
duced escape maintained problem behaviors.


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