Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA)

Functional Behavior Assessment is a process used to identify the factors that are maintaining the challenging behavior of a student. Functional assessments were developed by the science of Applied Behavior Analysis and are conducted under the assumption that the challenging behavior is serving a practical function or purpose for the student. For example: the student may be avoiding work by having an outburst or may be gaining the teacher’s attention for talking out of turn. Functional Assessments are used to develop a Behavior Intervention Plan that is based on the functions (purposes) identified.


Functional Assessments are required by the regulations governing special education (IDEA) under a variety of circumstances when the behavior of a child impedes his/her learning or that of others. An FBA may also be conducted as a preventive measure if the IEP team determines it. Unfortunately, most FBAs are requested by parents or schools when the disruptive behavior of the student is severe. The proactive use of FBAs is much more congruent with the ecological approach of Applied Behavior Analysis.


Although Functional Behavior Assessments are considered an elaborate process, a simplified version of a functional assessment is a skill that every teacher should be able to conduct on the spot. Determining the purpose that a behavior is serving a student is a skill that would prepare a teacher to effectively follow the recommendations in a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) and would also allow him/her to quickly determine the appropriate response under the variety of challenging situations that arise throughout the school day. 

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