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Determine Function of Behavior


Function of behavior refers to the reason why the behavior continues to occur. As we map-out behavior into the setting event-antecedent-behavior-consequence framework, we begin to see a pattern form. Understanding this pattern helps us to determine what type of reinforcement (i.e., the function) the student is receiving as a result of engaging in the problem behavior.  In school settings students typically engage in behavior to either get something they want (e.g., attention) or get out of something they don't want to do (e.g., a work assignment).  We call these positive reinforcement (i.e., accessing something desirable) and negative reinforcement (i.e., the removal of something unpleasant).   In Positive Behavior Support, the accepted convention for explaining the pattern and function of behavior is called the Competing Pathway Model.  The Competing Pathway helps us to think through all parts of the problem and can effectively plan for interventions. 

Let's look at an example of the Competing Pathway for Randy, a 7th grade student having difficulty during academic routines. In this example, the team concluded that the function of Randy's behavior is to escape out of challenging tasks.  While he does receive adult attention as a result of acting out, teachers do not observe the behavior occur when the work is easy for Randy.  Using this hypothesis they then built an intervention plan that systematically addresses each part of the behavior pattern.  The information in green is what was learned during the information gathering process.  The information in blue is the complementary intervention strategies. The yellow box is reflects what is typically expected of students during the routine.

Determine Function of Behavior

Tools and Resources

Use the Competing Pathway Model to map-out the behavior pattern.  This document will provide an explanation of positive and negative reinforcement, the components of the Competing Pathway and a blank worksheet.