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Tantrums, Out of Seat, and Clowning
The focus of this chapter is on disruptive behavior which can appear in many forms, including:
tantrums, getting out of the seat without permission, talking with others, clowning, or simply
pestering and annoying others within the class.
The following can be used to help students focus their reading or act as advanced organizers for
4. What might a student achieve by becoming Disruptive in the class?
5. How would you respond to a colleague who said – “These kids (disruptive) are just
looking for attention?”
6. What is your opinion of the position that students exhibiting tantrums, talking out in class
or generally being annoying to those within the class – need to experience strong,
negative consequences for these behaviors?
7. Some suggest that the first step in working with a student exhibiting disruptive behavior
is to perform a functional behavioral analysis. Why?
out of seat behavior
alternative forms of intervention
functional behavioral analysis
positive treatment effects
attention seeking behaviors
task adjustment as intervention
A-B-A-B (reversal) design
Anchor the Boat
variable interval reinforcement
Chapter Outline and Teaching Notes
• Student disruptive behavior
1) results in loss of lesson time for both the disruptive student and the others within the
2) can consume a disproportional amount to teacher time and attention thus interfering
with the normal flow of curriculum.
• Forms and functions of a student disruptive behavior:
2) interference with the ability of the disruptive student and
others in the classroom to attend to the lesson at hand
4) getting out of seat without permission
5) talking with others
7) pestering and annoying others within the class
1) to obtain something desirable
2) to escape or avoid something undesirable
3) counter-productive to the goals of the lesson and the class
1. Oftentimes a student may use his/her disruptive behaviors to gain the teacher’s
attention. In this situation, any attention including negative attention such as reprimands
the teacher gives to the student may serve as the reinforcement to maintain the
undesirable behavior. The appropriate treatment of choice in this situation would be
contingent withdrawal and differential reinforcement of appropriate on-task behavior
(e.g., Trice & Parker, 1983; Zwald & Gresham, 1982).
2. Instead of using extinction and differential reinforcement, alternative forms of
intervention would be employed as the appropriate treatment of choice for off-task
behavior (Umbriet, Lane, & Dejud, 2004).
3. Due to the purpose or reason for the disruptive behavior, the first step in intervening is
to perform a functional behavioral assessment, which is an assessment method to identify
the relationship between behaviors and the setting, antecedent, and consequent events
that maintain the behavior (Iwata, Vollmer, & Zarcone, 1990; Mace, Lalli, & Lalli,
1991). The purposes of the functional behavioral analysis are to understand the function
served by behavior and to plan interventions based on those functions (Derby et al., 1992;
Dunlap, Kern-Dunlap, Clarke, & Robbins, 1991).
The following are but a few examples of interventions demonstrated to be effective with students
exhibiting classroom disruptive behavior.
Summary Reference K6 6-9 9- 12 Other specifications
The study offers an example of a
behavioral consultation with a
teacher in order to develop,
implement, maintain and assess the
management program targeted to
reduce the tantrums and off-task
behaviors of a 7 year old in first
grade. Effectiveness of the
intervention was assessed using AB design, with direct observation
and the use of a behavior checklist
employed as measures of changes
in disruptive behavior from
baseline to treatment. Positive
treatment effects were maintained
at a 4-week follow-up.
Y n n Employed a behavioral
consultation model to
assist the teacher in the
process of reducing
tantrum behavior of a 7
year old in the first
This case study of a 10 year old,
fourth grade male student
demonstrated the effective use of
increasing task difficulty as an
intervention for reducing
disruptive behaviors such as
wandering around the classroom
and talking with other students.
The author employed a functional
behavioral assessment, collecting
data on the antecedents and
consequences that affected the
student’s off-task behavior. The
results of the analyses of these data
revealed the student’s tendency to
be off-task increased when the task
at hand was, according to the
student , “almost too easy”. This
observation led to the creation and
implementation of the task
adjustment as intervention.
N y n Case study, reversal
design with 10 year old
modification in task
difficulty to reduce off
of: out of
Universal interventions at a schoolwide level were employed. These
interventions are designed to
systematically teach and reinforce
consistent behavior expectations.
The program, Anchor the Boat,
employs positively stated
behavioral expectations, teacherdirected instruction and group
based contingencies. The group
based contingency relies on peers
to function as change agents
influencing each other’s behaviors
by providing reminders, prompts
Y n n Class-wide
program using peers as
The current study investigated the
efficacy of two short- term,
counseling approaches (i.e. Reality
therapy and Solution Focused Brief
Counseling) for elementary school
students engaged in excessive offtask behaviors. The time series
design employed enabled the
researcher to demonstrate
significant positive changes in the
on-task behavior of the students
when treated with either approach.
The authors reported that both
students showed statistically
significant improvement in on-task
behavior when compared to
N y n Employs a time series
design, with statistical
procedure for assessing
HOM 1: Disruptive and Off Task Behaviors
HOM 2: Reducing Disruption
Forms of student disruptive behavior:
• interference with the ability of the disruptive
student and others in the classroom to attend to
the lesson at hand
• getting out of seat without permission
• talking with others
• pestering and annoying others within the class
• to obtain something desirable
• to escape or avoid something undesirable
• The first step in intervening is to perform a
functional behavioral assessment.
• Contingent withdrawal and differential
reinforcement of appropriate on-task behavior
• Increasing task difficulty has been used as an
intervention for reducing disruptive behaviors
• The program, Anchor the Boat, a school-wide level
• Reality therapy and Solution Focused Brief
Counseling have been used with elementary school
students engaged in excessive off-task behaviors.
Activity 1: Regardless of the nature of the disruptive behavior it can be assumed that it is serving
a purpose for the student who is being disruptive, one which is counterproductive to the goals of
the lesson and the class. For this activity work with a colleague and brainstorm the various
‘goals’ or ‘purpose’ that a student may employ each of the following behaviors.
• Getting out of the seat and walking about the classroom
• Making noises to distract the teacher
• Calling out
• Taunting and teasing those students near him/her
Activity 2: The following activity requires you to observe a classroom and to focus on a student
who the teacher has identified as ‘disruptive’. Without being noticed you are to record
descriptions of the conditions surrounding the students’ disruptions. That is:
• Record each time the student exhibits the identified disruptive behavior (e.g.: calling out;
clowning; making noises, etc.)
• Describe what was happening at the time of the behavior. What was the teacher doing –
what were the students around the child doing PRIOR to the exhibiting of the behavior?
• Now describe what happened right after the behavior was employed. What did the
teacher do? What did the peers do? What did the student do?
Review your data to see if there is a pattern of either antecedent events (those occurring before
the behavior) which may ‘stimulate’ or ‘invite’ the behavior, or any consequences (events
following the behavior) that may work to make the behavior ‘worthwhile’.
Activity 3: The study by Lee A. Wilkinson demonstrated the value of a behavioral consultation
with a teacher in order to develop, implement, maintain and assess the effectiveness of a
contingency management program targeted to reduce tantrum behaviors. This activity requires
you to contact 3 counselors (one at an elementary school, one middle school and one high
school). Interview the counselors to find out:
• To what extent are they called to serve in the role of ‘consultant’
• What, if any, experience do they have performing a functional behavioral analysis
• What would they recommend to a new counselor who is hoping to serve in the capacity
of a behavioral consultant?
Allen, L.D., Gottselig, M., & Boylan, S. (1982). A practical mechanism for using free time as a
reinforcer in classrooms. Education and Treatment of Children, 54, 347- 353.
Liaupsin, C.J., Scott, T.M., & Nelson, C.M. (2000). Functional behavioral assessment: An
interactive training module: User’s manual and faciliator’s guide (2nd.ed.). Longmont, CO:
Witt, J.C., Daly, E.M., & Noell, G. (2000). Functional assessments: A step-by-step guide to
solving academic and behavioral problems. Longmont, CO: Sopris West.
http://www.healthcentral.com/ency/408/001922.html This Web site provides definitions of
disruptive behavior as well as tips and ideas to work with the child.
http://www.mhawestchester.org/diagnosechild/cbehavior.asp This Web site offers numerous
examples of disruptive behaviors, what causes it, and how we can work with it.
http://www.teachervision.fen.com/teaching-methods/discipline/2943.html This Web site
provides teachers as well as parents numerous ideas for working with the disruptive child in a
Preventing Classroom Discipline Problems. A handbook, with its own self-improvement
exercises, for all the skills needed to implement successful classroom management, and eliminate
discipline problems. It can be used for education workshops, administrators, teachers and
education students. The video can be shown at faculty meetings/education workshops, classes,
etc., and the CD (which has the same demo scenes) can be used for independent training (with
better random access) at each student or teachers’ private computer.
“Temper Tantrums!” The One Minute Tantrum Solutions. This video describes how to
respectively and effectively handle temper tantrums so that children are guided towards healthy
ways to handle their needs.
Managing the Disruptive Classroom. Learn a proven set of strategies for managing classrooms
and dealing with disruptive behavior. Four workshops are featured on the film, including
introducing the fundamental principles and strategies of reality therapy as well as others and
applying them in the classroom.
Multiple Choice (correct answer in bold)
1. It is suggested that disruptive behavior may serve the following purpose(s): a) help student to
obtain something desirable b) escape or avoid something undesirable c) give manifestation to
uncontrollable impulse d) both ‘a’ and ‘b’ e) both ‘a’ and ‘c’
2 The following would be an appropriate technique for responding to a student who is seeking
attention: a) contingent withdrawal of attention b) punishment c) differential reinforcement
d) both ‘a’ and ‘b’ e) both ‘a’ and ‘c’
3. An assessment method that identifies the relationship between behaviors and the setting,
antecedent, and consequent events that maintain the behaviors is called: a) context analysis b)
critical incident analysis c) reflective assessment d)functional behavioral analysis
4. The studies reported support which of the following for reducing student disruptive behavior?
A) Punishment for off-task work B) the modification of task difficulty C) the active
participation of Parents D) Tutoring
5. Which of the following has empirical support for its effectiveness in treating disruptive
classroom behavior? A) Contingency management b) Reality therapy c) Solution Focus
therapy d) both “A” and “C” e) all of the above
True and False (False explained)
1. Extinction is the recommended first step to take when attempting to respond to in-class
disruptive behaviors. A) True b) False It depends on if the child is seeking attention (thus
extinction and differential reinforcement would be suggested) or escape and avoidance in which
case alternative forms of intervention are desired.
2. Because the purpose or reason for the disruptive behavior is so pivotal to the creation of
an efficient intervention, the first step in intervening may be the performance of a functional
behavioral assessment. A) True B) False
3. The single case or small designed studies reported offer adequate control for threats to
internal validity but have limited generalization of findings. A) True B) False
4. Contingency management procedures targeting the reduction of inappropriate behavior by
reinforcing more appropriate alternative behavior has been well supported in the research. A)
True B) False.
5. Task difficulty has been identified as one of the primary curricular variables associated with
problem behaviors in the classroom. A) True B) False
1. Describe what is meant by Functional Behavioral Analysis and offer examples from the
studies presented that demonstrate the value/utility of this process for intervention
Key Points: The description of the Functional Behavioral Analysis should reflect
students understanding of the need to assess conditions that occur prior to and
immediately following the exhibition of the target behavior. An example of its
utility was the study demonstrating the need to increase the difficulty of a task as a
means of reducing a female student’s off-task behavior.
2. The studies reported demonstrate that disruptive behavior may be a tool for the student to
gain something desirable or to avoid or escape something undesirable. Provide an
example reflecting each of these conditions and describe the intervention you would
choose for each.
Key Points: The students’ response needs to clearly identify conditions in which
disruptive behavior is used to gain some desirable outcome – example, Adult
attention and when it is used to escape or avoid something undesirable – example,
doing difficult or boring work. Next, the student needs to appropriately apply
extinction and differential reinforcement to conditions where the behavior is used for
goal attainment; and modification of task as intervention when the behavior is used to
avoid or escape an undesirable condition.