Monday, December 7, 2015

Behavior management vs. behavior modification

Behavior management and behavior modification are not exactly the same. In behavior modification the focus is on changing behavior by teaching functional equivalent replacement behaviors, while in behavior management the focus is on maintaining order. Hence, behavior modification focus on building functional (socially appropriate and valuable) behavior repertoires.

Behavior management skills are of particular importance to teachers in the educational system. Behavior management include all of the actions and conscious inactions to enhance the probability people, individually and in groups, choose behaviors already in their repertoires, which are personally fulfilling, productive, and socially acceptable.[1]

There is a great deal of research related to "behavior change" and "behavior management". B.F. Skinner's approach says that anyone can manipulate behavior by first identifying what the individual finds rewarding. Once the rewards of an individual are known, then those rewards can be selected and provided in exchange for good behavior. Skinner calls this "Positive Reinforcement Psychology". In order to effectively address behavior problems, individual must be persuaded (motivated) to behave appropriately.

Behavior Management:

Many of the principles and techniques used are the same as behavior modification yet delivered in a less intensively and consistent fashion. Usually, behavior management is applied at the group level by a classroom teacher as a form of behavioral engineering to produce high rates of student work completion and minimize classroom disruption. In addition, greater focus has been placed on building self-control.

Brophy (1986) writes:

"Contemporary behavior modification approaches involve students more actively in planning and shaping their own behavior through participation in the negotiation of contracts with their teachers and through exposure to training designed to help them to monitor and evaluate their behavior more actively, to learn techniques of self-control and problem solving, and to set goals and reinforce themselves for meeting these goals." (p. 191) [2]

In general behavior management strategies have been very effective in reducing classroom and home disruption.[3] In addition, recent efforts have focused on incorporating principles of functional assessment into the process.[4] This means understanding the function (needs and wants) of the challenging behavior and developing interventions with the objective of teaching functional equivalent behaviors.

While such programs can come from a variety of behavioral change theories, the most common practices rely on the use of applied behavior analysis principles: positive reinforcement    and mild punishments (such as response cost and time-out). Behavioral practices such as differential reinforcement are commonly used.[5] Sometimes, these are delivered in a token economy or a level system.[6] In general the reward component is considered effective. For example, Cotton (1988) reviewed 37 studies on tokens, praise and other reward systems and found them to be highly effective in managing student classroom behavior.

Behavior Modification:

As parents and teachers we should be aware of the importance of incorporating behavior modification as a crucial component of our approach, especially when working with children with special needs. These kids do not learn from the environment like regular developed ones do. They have to be taught the appropriate behaviors that will replace the challenging behaviors ones. As I said in previous blogs, “We are in the business of building socially appropriate behaviors repertoires. We are behavior teachers.”

Daniel Adatto, BCBA


1.      ^ Baldwin J.D. and Baldwinn J.I. (1986). Behavior principals in everyday life (2nd Edition), Engle Wood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

2.      ^ Brophy, J. (1986). "Classroom Management Techniques." Education and Urban Society 18/2, 182–194

3.      Brophy, J.E. (1983) "Classroom Organization and Management." The Elementary School Journal 83/4, 265–285.

4.      Angela Waguespack, Terrence Vaccaro & Lauren Continere (2006). Functional Behavioral Assessment and Intervention with Emotional/Behaviorally Disordered Students: In Pursuit of State of the Art. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 2 (4), 463–474. [1]

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