Behavioral interventions have undergone various phases over the years to realize the current roles in supporting special education. Interventions seek to promote positive behaviors, a basis for the learning of students with disabilities. Educators and policymakers still regard behavioral interventions to help address extreme behavioral problems of students with developmental disabilities. Behavioral interventions create room for using eschewed aversive stimuli, respectful strategies, and assessment-based techniques. The interventions have been used in many populations and contexts, particularly in the adoption of special education schools and other units supporting analysis and intervention (Kincaid et al., 2016). Although behavioral interventions have been highly useful in the learning of special education, various trends and issues have arisen. The common trends and issues in the use of behavioral interventions are broadly classified into conspicuous trends and overreliance on particular methodological fits, which negatively impact the effectiveness of the interventions developed for sporting learning of students with disabilities.
A critical analysis of empirical research published by the positive journal of behavioral interventions provides an overview of the conspicuous trends observed in the development of behavioral interventions. The investigation reveals that researchers’ severe behavioral problems are receiving inadequate attention compared to the less severe behavioral problems that continue being researched heavily (Dunlop & Lee, 2018). In this scenario, severe problem behaviors include physical aggression, significant property destruction, self-injury, and severe tantrums such as screaming or throwing objects. This description excludes explicitly disruptive behaviors such as minor aggressions, inappropriate vocalizations, out of the seat, and noise-making since such behaviors are nonviolent. Severe learning disabilities include limitations related to cognitive, intellectual, or communicative problems. The existing studies reveal variations in the exploration of the behavioral interventions for both extreme behaviors and less severe students’ behaviors in their education.
Dunlap and Lee (2018) found that a common trend in the development of behavioral interventions is a significant decrease in research seeking to address severe problem behaviors. The less severe behavioral problems are receiving more attention than the more severe behavioral issues. Consequently, educators teaching students with severe learning disabilities have little behavioral interventions to apply in their teaching practices. This kind of trend is an issue to the overall learning of special education due to the reduced resources for policymakers and educators to improve the learning of students with severe behavioral problems.
Dunlap and Lee (2018) note a similar trend in research articles involving the use of participants as people with severe disabilities. The authors noted a decrease in the engagement of people with severe disabilities as the primary study participants. Another study conducted by Dunlop et al. (1997) reveals a similar trend where there was a 10% decrease of participants in instances involving destructive behavior. The authors also noted an overall reduction in intellectual disabilities investigation, including moderate and severe disabilities. Hence, it is evident that researchers are slowly increasing their focus on the less severe behavioral problems than severe behavioral problems, thereby limiting the behavioral interventions for severe learning disabilities.
A comprehensive study conducted by Dunlap and Lee (2017) focused on behavioral interventions journal provides a broader overview of the trend. The authors focused on 12 issues of extreme behaviors published in the first three volumes and compares the representation of those problems in the recent publications. The data analysis reveals that the most recent behavioral interventions are significantly different from the current issues. The latter slightly feature severe disabilities or extreme problem behaviors while the former extensively featured on the 12 issues. The study shows that the recent volumes of the journal are characterized and heavily weighted on schoolwide behavioral interventions, school-based personnel preparation, and screening and assessment. The content of behavioral interventions journal has shifted from the original investigation of individuals with severe problem behaviors to orientations exploring assessment and interventions with institutions failing to address specific needs of students with disabilities.
These findings do not necessarily mean that the shift is bad nor fit for the behavioral interventions for special education. However, it is worth noting that the recent behavioral intervention journals’ contents are quite different from those developed several decades ago. Researchers noted that the journals do not compromise the quality of the articles published, subscriptions, impact factors, and submissions. The interventions developed by the current articles are still relevant for the contemporary special education practices. Nevertheless, there should be a worry for the special education teachers and policymakers since the needs and interests of individuals with extreme behavioral problems are currently no longer a priority for most of the special education researchers. As such, the learning of students with extreme behavioral problems is likely to be negatively affected due to the inadequate behavioral interventions that align with contemporary learning practices for people with extreme behavioral challenges.
Dunlap and Lee (2017) note a variation on the methodologies used in the development of behavioral interventions. The authors found the current editorial policy, either implicit or explicit, aligns with a particular methodological rigor, type of research design, exploration of controversial issues, measurement strategies, the reference to specific populations, relevance to theory and practice, and internal and external validity. Although sometimes journal perfectly aligns with specific approaches or disciplines, more cases reveal a preference to a certain research methodology. The common models used in research vary from applied, theoretical, and conceptual approaches; researchers use these methodologies based on their suitability.
Previously, researchers used action-oriented field research in the development of behavioral interventions. The framework was common in the creation of positive behavioral support approaches since it was grounded in careful use of experimental methods and measurement. The model was unique in various ways and is still regarded as the positive behavior support interventions heritage. The model had a significant focus on practical solutions to extreme human behavior problems. It supports a quest for parsimony for researchers to achieve direct and simple outcomes and sought to develop a meaningful impact to benefit the large portions of the society as units and individuals. The model offered an opportunity to place solutions above the scientific structures and oblige to research designs to meet the needs of the situations. It emphasized on ecological validity and recognized solutions in analog contexts not to be fit in resolving human problems. Other features of the initial model include identifying collaboration amongst researchers, students, colleagues, and research participants to develop effective solutions and assert that ideas are more important than ideologies. The approach focused on all the potentially useful perspectives that seemed counterproductive in solving extreme challenges.
However, over the past two decades, the methodological rigor trend has shifted with a primary focus on human services research approaches. The randomized controlled trials in education and special education have been frequently used as standards for high criteria and experimental methods as acceptable levels of rigor for all the research designs (Kratochwill et al., 2013). Although the current research approaches are still valuable in special education research, a trade-off is likely to occur between the rigor amongst relevance, creativity, and flexibility. Dunlap and Lee (2017) noted that most recent research articles impose their methodological constraints on applied research with statistical theories as to the justification since they have limited pertinence to the phenomena under investigation. Consequently, the need for rigor results in the creation of research with unreasonable costly and irrelevant to the critical human problems inspiring the purpose of the studies. Some researchers, such as Strain (2018), emphasize the call to action and minimize threats as hindrances for an eloquent examination of extreme behavioral issues.
Dunlop at al. (1997) found that the level of rigor in studies published by the positive behavior intervention journals has contributed to the declining relevance of the research articles conducted in-home settings. Such kind of trend raises an issue with the quality of the rigor promoted by researchers and scholars in the development of the interventions. The study outcomes lose some relevance since the interventions developed do not adequately meet the standards of resolving challenges students with severe disabilities and behavior problems. Consequently, there lack standards of methodological rigor for balancing other research elements to ensure studies meet the purpose of the journal and publish credible information for improving quality of life. There is a need for researchers and scholars to use data that is reliable, valid, believable, and hold the potential of providing meaningful solutions to the problems of human behavior.
In conclusion, the existing research suggests a change in the development of behavior interventions supporting the learning of students with disabilities. Severe behavioral problems are receiving inadequate attention by researchers compared to the less severe behavioral problems that continue being researched heavily. This trend limits the literature and interventions that could be used by special education teachers in teaching students with extreme behavior problems. There is also a change in methodological rigor where randomized controlled trials have been frequently used as standards for high criteria and experimental methods. This trend negatively impacts the quality of the findings and outcomes, thereby making the current interventions lose relevance in contemporary special education, specifically in meeting the needs of students with extreme problem behaviors.
Dunlap, G., Fox, L., Vaughn, B. J., Bucy, M., & Clarke, S. (1997). In quest of meaningful perspectives and outcomes: A response to five commentaries. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 22(4), 221-223. https://doi.org/10.1177/154079699702200409
Dunlap, G., & Lee, J. K. (2018). Issues and Trends in the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions: Severe Problem Behavior and Severe Disabilities. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 20(1), 27-30. https://doi.org/10.1177/1098300717735315
Kincaid, D., Dunlap, G., Kern, L., Lane, K., Brown, F., Bambara, L., & Knoster, T. (2016). Positive behavior support: A proposal for updating and refining the definition. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 18, 69–73. https://doi.org/10.1177/1098300715604826
Kratochwill, T. R., Hitchcock, J. H., Horner, R. H., Levin, J. R., Odom, S. L., Rindskopf, D. M., Shadish, W. R. (2013). Single-case intervention research design standards. Remedial and Special Education, 34, 26–38. https://doi.org/...
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