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Direct Behavior Rating in the Classroom

The concept of direct behavior rating (DBR) began in the late 1960s with school psychologist Calvin Edlund (1969). He posited a program whereby teachers first explained to students what acceptable behavior was and then rated them at the end of each lesson. Those who demonstrated the described acceptable behavior received a checkmark. At the end of the day, the rating form from all lessons was sent home to the children’s parents. Incentive for good behavior was placed squarely on the parents, who rewarded their children based on the number of checkmarks received.

Through the 1970s and 80s, the idea evolved into concepts such as the “good news note,” the “brag sheet,” the “home-school note” and the “daily report card.” It was a quick and easy for way for parents to see at a glance how their children were behaving in school and reward accordingly.

Unlike rating scale assessments, which ask teachers and parents to recall a child’s behavior during a 30-day period or so, direct behavior rating relies on real-time observation.

DBR is a hybrid tool that combines the strength of a rating scale and the benefit of direct observation. Using this system, teachers can not only identify specific behaviors in real time—and perhaps at the same time every day, such as in homeroom or during bell work—but they can also rate those behaviors with a simple yes/no question (e.g., “is a child on task?”) or a more detailed assessment (e.g., 0=not at all on task; 10=completely on task).

By using DBR, teachers can determine if one student or a group of students has worrisome behavior that needs further evaluation. Monitoring overall (e.g., “respectful”) and targeted (e.g., “sits in seat”) behaviors during similar circumstances (e.g., bell work) and at the same time (e.g., homeroom) over a period days or weeks allows educators to record student behavior patterns, organize and summarize data, and target interventions accordingly.

Once behavior issues have been identified using DBR, the next step is to use DBR to monitor the effectiveness of intervention techniques. The teacher and/or school counselor first devises a behavior modification plan. Once the plan is in place, the teacher or team can track the student’s behavior using DBR to determine if and how well the intervention is working.

One of the benefits of using DBR in the classroom is that it’s quick. A few minutes is all it takes for teachers or school psychologists to observe behaviors and record data. At the end of a set period, that data can be reviewed to determine the student’s Response to Intervention (RTI). DBR is also easy – all it takes is a checkmark or rating determination.

An online system like DBR Connect is even more efficient as student information is easily accessible and data is automatically stored. At the end of the observation period, a click of a button is all it takes to review the data and generate a report.

PAR recently spoke with DBR Connect coauthors Sandra M. Chafouleaus, PhD, and T. Chris Riley-Tillman, PhD, to learn more about Direct Behavior Rating-Single Item Scale (DBR-SIS).

Our understanding is that direct behavior rating has been around for quite some time. Historically, what changes have taken place to get us to where we are today?

Yes, direct behavior ratings (DBRs) were developed from daily behavior report cards, home school notes, and other tools that educators and parents have used for decades as a way to communicate information about child behavior. We took that rich history of use and worked to standardize the instrumentation and procedures. This allowed for comprehensive evaluation of the psychometric evidence for use in screening and progress monitoring purposes. DBR Connect is the result of all of that research and development, overall supporting that DBR-SIS can provide data that are reliable, valid, and sensitive to change.

How does DBR tie into positive behavioral support and/or multitiered models of delivery of services?

Multitiered models of service delivery and positive behavioral support are founded in prevention—that is, early identification and remediation of difficulties. These frameworks require use of ongoing data to inform decisions about continuing, modifying, or terminating supports, and DBR-SIS function as an ideal prevention-oriented method for progress monitoring assessment.

You have described DBR as a hybrid tool. What do you mean by that?

DBR offers strengths of both traditional rating scales and systematic direct observation. That is, like systematic direct observation, a predefined observation period is selected with repeated assessment to allow for comparison of data across assessment periods (required in progress monitoring). The instrumentation and procedures of DBR-SIS is highly efficient like rating scales, since only brief rating of the defined targets is needed to record data.

You mention in your book that one of the roles of DBR is communication. Can you talk a bit about that?

Yes, DBR has a rich history in use for communication purposes, whether teacher-teacher, teacher-parent, teacher-student, or parent-student. It is easy to understand at all levels and provides a simple format for discussing behavior expectations.

What guided your decision to focus on the three core behavioral competencies that you chose for DBR Connect?

Our research started with a broad review of the literature on school-based behavior expectations in schools—including consideration of indicators of student success and those areas most concerning to educators. We narrowed the literature to items that could be defined both in broad and narrow terms, and then conducted a series of research studies to identify those target behaviors that resulted in the strongest evidence for use. In the end, the core school-based behavioral competencies —that is, those behaviors that every student should display in order to fully access instruction and participate in the school environment—are academically engaged, disruptive, and respectful. That said, we also acknowledge that some situations may call for additional targets; thus, we maintain the flexibility of DBR-SIS by supporting use for any behavior of relevance to a particular context.

Who is the target audience for DBR?

Teachers are the primary users of DBR, meaning they serve as the primary raters and producers of data summaries for decision making. However, all educators (e.g. administrators, school psychologists) can benefit from data reports to inform decision making, and there may be some situations in which other users may serve as appropriate raters (e.g. monitoring of behavior progress during counseling sessions). Remember, an important strength of a DBR data stream is the capacity to share with students and parents to communicate information about behavior.

Is there any special training required to use DBR?

No special training is required, but we do recommend that users become familiar with how DBR works and have opportunity for practice and feedback prior to collecting data. We offer a free online training system that includes all of these components.

Used within a multi-tiered system of support, DBR is a tool that helps screen at-risk students and monitor RTI effectiveness.

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