How a Baseline Measurement of Behavior Helps Behavioral Intervention

Teacher Kneeling by Desk, Helping a Young Student

Cavan Images / Digital Vision / Getty Images

The term baseline measurement can refer to a measurement of any problem—be it a child's behavior problems or a social ill in one's community. In terms of a child who's acting out, however, a baseline measurement refers to the beginning measurement of a behavior.

Say, for example, that a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) repeatedly blurts out answers in class. The baseline measurement would assess how often the child engages in this behavior. An educator who observes the child determines that he has these outbursts at least 11 times per day.

How Baseline of Behavior Works

This baseline of behavior is measured before an intervention is begun. The child's teacher or another faculty member would measure the baseline rate of the student's off-task behavior before implementing a behavior modification system designed to increase the student's on-task behavior.

The baseline measurement, compared to later measurements after the intervention, gives a starting point to measure how effective the intervention is.

In the case of the child with ADHD, the teacher might give the child some strategies to stop screaming out answers in class. The teacher might try positive behavior reinforcement. For example, every time the child raises his hand before giving the teacher an answer, she could reward the child in some way, such as allowing him to be her helper when she passes out papers to the students in class or giving him extra minutes of free reading time.

After using these strategies to cut down on the student's negative behaviors, the teacher would once again measure how often the child blurts out answers instead of waiting to be called on in class. After using behavior modification strategies, the teacher finds that the child now only blurts out answers in class about five times a day. This lets the educator know that her intervention plan is working.

If the child continued to blurt out answers 11 times per day, the same amount he did when she took the baseline measurement of his behavior, the teacher would know that she needs to come up with a different intervention method to correct the child's behavior.

What to Do When a Behavior Modification Plan Fails

Teachers and parents should consider alternatives when a behavior modification plan goes awry. Instead of using positive reinforcement alone to reduce the number of outbursts the child with ADHD has in class, perhaps the child also needs to face negative consequences for his outbursts. The teacher may determine that other modifications may need to be made to help the student's behavior problems.

Moving the child away from a particular student may help if it's determined that the classmate is egging the child on. Or perhaps the child is seated in the back of the classroom and feels that shouting is the only way for him to be heard. A school counselor or ​psychologist might be able to provide more insight into the root of the child's behavior problems.

Was this page helpful?