Strategy: Culturally Responsive Function-Based Thinking
Most, if not all teachers have heard the term functional behavior assessment or FBA. A functional behavior assessment is defined as “a process of understanding behavior in the context in which it is observed and guiding the development of positive behavioral interventions that are relevant, effective, and efficient” (Sugai et al., 2000, p. 137). State departments of education across the country have similar definitions. Most schools either have in-house or district/regional supports in place to guide the process of developing a formal functional behavior assessment. This is a process that is usually lead by the Special Education team and includes mental health experts such as guidance counselors and school psychologists. To address gaps in the implementation of FBA in school settings, “function-based thinking” (or FBT) has been identified as a means for general educators to consider the function of behaviors without engaging in the formal FBA process (Hershfeldt, Rosenberg, & Bradshaw, 2010). Part of the FBT process would include a culturally responsive (CR) approach in that a teacher’s awareness of their own behaviors and how they respond to students can help to identify culturally responsive ways in which they might be able to support the student in their classroom.
Sometimes, the disruptive behaviors students demonstrate deem it necessary to formally assess a student to determine if they are receiving the supports that they need in order to be successful. Oftentimes, disruptive behaviors are easier to address and can be managed in the classroom without a formal process. This is not to say that if a student demonstrates the need to receive formal services, that the process of engaging in function-based thinking on the part of the classroom teacher would be a sufficient replacement of that process.
When reflecting on classroom and instructional practices, it is important to remember that thoughts, feelings, and actions are influenced by the environment and people around us. Correspondingly, changes to the environment can result in shifts in behavior, creating improvements or greater difficulties. With this in mind, it is essential to focus on the culturally responsive (CR) component of the FBT process. Student and teacher values, expectations, and assumptions are informed by one’s culture. When there is a mismatch in student and teacher cultures, this can contribute to the problem as an antecedent of the behavior problem. Furthermore, some behaviors that a student exhibits might be culturally accepted within their personal circles outside of the classroom but be in stark contrast to what a teacher considers to be acceptable. This difference in belief of what types of behavior may or may not be acceptable should be discussed between the student and teacher so that common ground can be found. Lastly, teachers should consider the consequences of the undesirable behavior, both from the student and the teacher perspective in order to consider whether those consequences are culturally appropriate.
A necessary part of the culturally responsive function-based thinking or CR-FBT process is that you, as the teacher, engage in critical self-reflection. Critical self-reflection is the awareness of:
- How and why you choose to utilize certain practices, procedures, and materials in the classroom
- How these choices impact student learning
- How different teaching methods promote equitable outcomes, reducing barriers to student learning
|Coopersmith (1967)||Maslow (1968)||Dreikurs (1972)|
|Brendtro (1990)||Glasser (1990)||Kohn (1993)|
- Step 1 – Cultural Reflection: Observe the behavior and consider points of cultural incongruity for the student which may contribute to the problem behavior.
- Step 2 – Assessment: Assess the ABCs (Antecedents, Behavior, and Consequences), incorporating possible motivations related to culture and cultural difference.
- Step 3 – Plan: Develop and implement a plan that will support behavior change by altering the As and/or altering the Cs and teaching a replacement behavior.
References to Other Relevant Resources:
Hershfeldt, P. A., Rosenberg, M. S., & Bradshaw, C. P. (2010). Function-based thinking: A systematic way of thinking about function and its role in changing student behavior problems. Beyond Behavior,19, 12-21.
Jones, V., & Jones, J. (2013). Comprehensive classroom management: Creating communities of support and solving problems (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Moore, T., Jackson, R. G., Kyser. T. S., Skelton, S. M., & Thorius. K. A. K. (2016). Considerations for
professional development in equity-oriented instructional practices. Equity by Design. The Great Lakes Equity Center (GLEC). Retrieved from: https://greatlakesequity.org/sites/default/files/20160109460_newsletter.pdf
Sugai, G., Horner, R. H., Dunlap, G., Hieneman, M., Lewis, T. J., Nelson, C. M., Scott, T., Liaupsin, C.,
Sailor, W., Turnbull, A. P., Wickham, D., Wilcox, B., & Ruef, M. (2000). Applying positive behavior support and functional behavioral assessment in schools. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 2(3), 131-143.