What Is a Behavioral Assessment? - Definition, Tools & Example

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  • 0:02 Behavioral Assessment
  • 0:35 Assessing Behavior
  • 1:37 Explaining Behavior
  • 2:46 Types
  • 3:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Behavioral assessment is used to observe, describe, explain and predict behavior. This lesson explains the process and application of behavioral assessment and tests your understanding with a brief quiz.

Behavioral Assessment

Behavioral assessment is a method used in the field of psychology to observe, describe, explain, predict and sometimes correct behavior. Behavioral assessment can be useful in clinical, educational and corporate settings.

For example, Sara is five-year-old girl who has started getting into trouble at school. She has been sent to the office three times in one week and is now crying and refusing to go to school. What could be going on with Sara? A behavioral assessment might be the next step toward answering this question.

Assessing Behavior

There are many different tools that are useful in behavioral assessment and allow for a deeper understanding of why a behavior is occurring.

Observation allows those performing the assessment to see the behavior in action; it can take many forms and be done virtually anywhere. The most basic form of observation is to simply watch someone. Through observation, specific details about the behavior can be gathered. Let's say during a classroom observation it is noted that Sara has trouble following directions during spelling lessons, squints and rubs her eyes, speaks out of turn and gets up from her desk without permission.

Another good way to observe behavior is through the use of a questionnaire. This method of observation usually focuses on behaviors that have already occurred. For example, Sara's parents or the teacher may be able to use a questionnaire to provide more information about the behavior. Both observation and questionnaires allow behavioral analysts to describe behaviors, move us closer to understanding why they are occurring and what purpose they are serving.

Explaining Behavior

If we are to adequately explain behavior, we must figure out what purpose it is serving for the person who is exhibiting it. For little Sara, we know that the behavior occurs during spelling lessons. This may give us a hint that she is struggling with spelling, and that by acting out and leaving her desk, she does not have to complete the assignment and avoid a challenging task. Being able to explain the behavior is an important step in predicting and correcting it.

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