Effects of a Preparation Program Focused on Accommodating Children with Challenging Behaviors

Summer 2008

Source: Teacher Education and Special Education, Volume 31 Number 3, Summer 2008, 164-181.

The article evaluates the effectiveness of pre-service training that focuses on collaborative consultation and positive behavior support for treatment of challenging behaviors.
The purpose is to implement and systematically evaluate a pre-service training program designed to cultivate growth in knowledge, skills, and efficacy beliefs related to accommodating the needs of children with challenging behaviors.


The effectiveness of an 8-month training program is evaluated for three participant groups: (a) 16 advanced undergraduate and master's-level students who received the training, (b) 16 classroom teachers who participated as consultees, and (c) 16 target children (4 to 10 years) who exhibited challenging behaviors that interfered with their learning.

Pre-service trainees were 16 advanced undergraduate and master's-level students (13 female, 3 male) at the University of Wisconsin in Madison (n = 9) and Milwaukee (n = 7). Across training sites, 11 trainees (69%) were Caucasian, 2 (12.5%) were African American, 2 (12.5%) were Hispanic, and 1 (6%) was Asian American. Trainees in the Milwaukee cohort (Cohort A) were 2ndyear students in school psychology. The Madison cohort (Cohort B) included three students in school psychology, three in counseling psychology, and three in early childhood-elementary education. Nine additional students were recruited from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to serve as a comparison group. Comparison students were matched to Cohort B based gender, academic discipline, and year of study. These individuals completed outcome measures at two measurement times but did not participate in training activities.

Classroom teachers were selected from six elementary schools that served as practicum sites for ACTION training (three in Madison and three in Milwaukee). One service provider at each school (school psychologist, social worker, or special educator) was designated as a field-based liaison who recruited teacher participants. Teachers (n =16) taught in general education classrooms, Kindergarten through Grade 4, and identified one child in their classroom who exhibited challenging behaviors that put the child at risk for special education referral. All teachers (15 female, 1 male) were Caucasian.
The average number of years teaching was 7.15 (range = 3 to 21), and half of the teachers (n = 8) held a master's degree.

Target Children
Seven children from Milwaukee and nine from Madison were identified by teachers as target children. Children ranged in age from 4 to 10 years and displayed challenging behaviors that interfered with their social and/or academic functioning at school. Race and ethnicity was reported for 13 children; of these, 9 were Caucasian and 4 were African American. At the time of participation, no child was receiving special education services.

Multiple outcome measures are administered across two or three measurement times. Trainees demonstrate significant gains in knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy from pre-training to post-training, and they have higher performance on three outcome measures at post-training compared to a matched group of students who do not receive training. There are also significant gains for teacher consultees (knowledge and self-efficacy) and target children (behavior ratings and progress toward goals). Findings are discussed relative to study strengths and weaknesses, and implications for future research are identified.

Updated: May. 07, 2009