FBAs for the 21st Century: The Seven High-Hit Reasons for Students’ Challenging Behaviour

In the context of multi-tiered systems of support, when students are not progressing or “responding,” academically or behaviorally, to effective classroom instruction and classroom management, a data-based problem-solving process is needed to determine the underlying reason(s) for the lack of success. The results of the assessments then are linked, as appropriate and necessary, to instructional or behavioral interventions that are delivered at different levels of intensity so that, hopefully, students quickly make progress and experience success. For students with significant social, emotional, and/or behavioral issues, functional behavioral assessments (FBAs) are often a significant part of the assessment process. Indeed, FBAs are an explicit option in IDEA as related, typically, to students with emotional disabilities, and behavioral manifestation processes.

Critically, many FBAs still are completed using approaches that have existed since the 1970s, they focus on a narrow operant perspective of behavior that does not incorporate over 40 years of biologically- and psychologically-based research, and hence, they may result in questionable conclusions and recommendations. This presentation integrates the established research-to-practice since the 1970s and describes the seven “high-hit” reasons why students present with behavioral challenges—discussing how to assess these reasons as part of a “21st Century” FBA. The presentation also details how to link each high-hit reason to specific social, emotional, or behavioral interventions across the multi-tiered continuum. Finally, given the students typically involved in these assessments, we will outline over 50 Tier II or Tier III strategies and interventions. Critically, most “traditional” FBAs assess for only two of the seven high-hit types (i.e., students with motivational or emotional difficulties). This presentation will “close the research to practice gap” by adding five additional and essential reasons explaining students’ challenging behavior.


1. Participants will learn about the history and current status of functional behavioral assessments—along with their current research to-practice gaps

2. Participants will learn about the seven “high-hit” reasons why students present with social, emotional, and/or behavioral challenges, and discuss how to assess these reasons as part of a “21st Century” functional assessment.

3. Participants will learn how to link each high-hit functional assessment reason with specific social, emotional, or behavioral interventions— especially those at the Tier II level of a multi-tiered system.



Wednesday 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM

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  • Howard Knoff, Ph.D.

    Dr. Howie Knoff is an internationally-known innovator and hands-on practitioner in the areas of: School Improvement and Turn-Around, Strategic Planning and Organizational Development , School Discipline, Classroom Management, and Student Self-Management (PBIS/PBSS/ SEL), Differentiated Academic Instruction and Academic Interventions for Struggling Students, Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Instruction and Strategic and Intensive Interventions for Challenging Students, Multi-tiered (MTSS/RtI) Services and Supports, and Effective Professional Development and OnSite Consultation and Technical Assistance

    Howie is the CEO of Project ACHIEVE Educational Solutions, and he has implemented his innovative school improvement approaches in thousands of schools or districts over the past 40 years through his Project ACHIEVE program— designated by U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as an evidence-based model prevention program in 2000. An international expert on school safety and discipline, classroom management and school-wide SEL systems, student engagement and achievement, and interventions with behaviorally challenging students, Dr. Knoff was a tenured Full Professor (22 years at the University of South Florida and SUNY-Albany), and Director of the federally-funded State Personnel Development/State Improvement Grant for the Arkansas Department of Education for 13 years—responsible there (with his staff) for school improvement, PBIS, and MTSS services and supports to districts and schools across the state.

    Howie received the Lightner Witmer Award from the American Psychological Association’s School Psychology Division for early career contributions in 1990. He has been awarded over $40 million in federal or foundation grants during his career. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (School Psychology Division), a Nationally Certified School Psychologist, and a Licensed Psychologist. Howie has extensive experience as an Expert Witness in federal and state court cases across the U.S., he is frequently interviewed across many different media outlets, and he was the 21st President of NASP.