Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Psychological and Social Foundations

Major Professor

Nathaniel von der Embse, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Ferron, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lise Fox, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Diana Ginns, Ph.D.


Behavior Problems, Direct Behavior Assessment, Early childhood education, Functional Assessment


Nearly 30% of students who enter state-funded early childhood education programs exhibit significant problem behavior, putting them at risk for long-term adverse behavioral and academic outcomes. Tier 2 behavioral interventions might not be effective for all when delivered in a one-size-fits-all fashion suggesting that individualizing behavioral intervention to the student’s specific concerns may be. To do so, it is necessary to collect problem identification data indicative of each student’s concerns and function of problem behaviors. This question is particularly pertinent in early childhood settings where educators have a wide range of training experiences and backgrounds. Early childhood teachers are essential partners in the consultative process; thus it is paramount they have the requisite skills in collecting accurate behavior data. This study sought to determine the effectiveness of several professional development protocols aimed at improving early childhood educator’s foundational knowledge to increase their involvement in the consultative process.

Using a concurrent multiple baseline single-case design, this study evaluated the necessary level of training for early childhood educators to participate in the consultative process as data collectors. The researchers conducted the study with six preschool teacher-student dyads in the Southeastern United States. The baseline condition consisted of brief exposure to the data collection tool and took approximately 2-5 minutes. This was meant to represent the use of the tool in the absence of all training. The first training included a didactic on the basics of behavior and functional assessment. The second training consisted of a performance feedback component where teachers rate pre-recorded and pre-rated videos and then reviewed their assessment scores compared to the correct scores. Researchers conducted a systematic visual analysis, calculated effect sizes using the Tau-U statistic, and ran multilevel models to determine the effectiveness of the two training protocols. All analyses were conducted for two variables: (1) Disruptive Behavior Agreement and (2) Consequence Agreement or the teacher’s ability to determine the rate of disruptive behavior and the consequences or function of the behavior in an observation. Teachers showed high levels of agreement in baseline when rating disruptive behavior only. However, teachers showed high levels of disagreement when rating the functions or consequences of their students’ behavior, which was largely unaffected by either training protocol. The frequency of disruptive behavior was statistically significant in every model as a covariate influencing agreement levels.

Results of this study suggest early childhood educators may have adequate foundational knowledge without additional professional development to serve within the consultative process as data collectors for frequency of disruptive behavior. The use of teachers as data collectors is critical as it can help build the consultative relationship and increase teacher buy-in for and engagement in the problem-solving process. However, more research is needed to determine the necessary levels of professional development for teachers to collect accurate and meaningful data on the function of behavior. School psychologists can use this information to engage early childhood educators with suitable professional development. Suggestions on future directions in research and implications of the tool in practice given the effect of behavioral frequency are discussed.