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Intervention in School and Clinic
The online version of this article can be found at:

DOI: 10.1177/10534512040390050801
2004 39: 305 Intervention in School and Clinic
Cherry F. Crum
Behavior Disorder
Behavioral Modification Strategy to Increase On-Task Behavior of a Student with a Using a Cognitive

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Hammill Institute on Disabilities

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ne of the greatest challenges that educators face
is giving individuals with behavior disorders
tools that will help them function independently
without promoting a dependence on prompts
commonly seen in children and youth with this
exceptionality. Traditional systems rely on an adult who
is the only person managing student behavior but often
does not notice every problem. Many of these programs
therefore are not used except when adults are available to
monitor the students.
An alternative to traditional behavior-management
programs is a self-management program designed to teach
students to manage their own academic and social be-
haviors, which should be the ultimate goal of any sound
behavior program. Known also as cognitive behavior man-
agement, self-monitoring, self-instruction, or metacognition,
the program teaches individuals with behavior disorders
to monitor their own work or behavior and to administer
their own reinforcement, when appropriate, thereby en-
hancing their independence.
Literature Search
For the present study, I conducted a computer search
to identify articles on cognitivebehavioral management
(CBM) systems used with children and youth who had
behavior disorders. The ERIC, Exceptional Child Educa-
tion Resources, and PsycINFO databases from 1985 to
2002 were searched using the descriptors cognitive behav-
ior, management, self-monitoring, self-instruction,
and metacognition. My search revealed that CBM has
been successful in increasing the independence of indi-
viduals without disabilities (Werts, Zigmond, & Leeper,
Using a CognitiveBehavioral Modification
Strategy to Increase On-Task Behavior of a
Student with a Behavior Disorder
In this study, the effectiveness of a self-
monitoring system, combined with goal
setting, for an 8-year-old student with be-
havior disorders was examined. The stu-
dent increased his on-task behavior in
his general education classroom during
self-monitoring. His on-task behavior fur-
ther increased when goal setting was
added as an intervention.
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2001) as well as persons with a variety of exceptionalities.
It has been used to teach skills to children and youth with
the following problems:
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD;
Kern, Dunlap, Childs, & Clarke, 1994; Shapiro,
DuPaul, & Bradley-Klug, 1998),
behavior disorders (BD; Kern et al., 1994),
learning disabilities (LD; Kern et al., 1994; Shapiro et
al., 1998),
serious emotional disturbance (SED; Levendoski &
Cartledge, 2000), and
cognitive challenges.
Researchers have used CBM to address different types
of areas:
academic (Levendoski & Cartledge, 2000; Mitchem,
Young, West, & Benyo, 2001),
behavior (Mahn & Greenwood, 1990),
social interactions (Copeland, Hughes, Wehmeyer,
Rodi, & Presley, 2002; Nelson, Smith, Young, &
Dodd, 1991).
In this study, I wanted to extend the current literature
base and determine the efficiency of a CBM technique on
the on-task behavior of an 8-year-old boy diagnosed with
a behavior disorder.
Participant and Setting
The student who participated in the study, James, was an
8-year-old White boy with a behavior disorder who was
included in a general education second-grade classroom.
At the time of the study, he received 20 minutes of acad-
emic support per week and 20 minutes of speech and
language instruction 2 days a week. In class and during
support service instruction, James was frequently off task
and distracted the other students in the group. The para-
professional and his teacher constantly used negative or
positive reinforcement to prompt him to stay on task.
James did not receive any specific support or instruction
on how to increase his independence.
A similar pattern was seen during independent seat-
work. James looked around the room, talked, and dis-
turbed the people around him. The teacher frequently
used positive and negative reinforcement to get him to
stay on task. James sat near the teachers reading table so
she could provide him with the continuous external
prompting he needed. To increase James ability to stay
engaged independently in his task, I selected staying on
task as the target behavior for this study.
Definition of the Target Behavior
On-task behavior was measured during handwriting and
phonics seatwork. James was judged to be on task if he
engaged independently in the following behaviors with-
out a teacher-initiated prompt: (a) sustained eye contact to
the learning stimuli specified by his teacher, and (b) proper
seated position (i.e., feet on the floor and hands engaged
with learning material). The on-task behavior could be
noncontinuous, with a definite starting point and observ-
able ending.
Given the intervention goal of increasing the length of
time James stayed engaged on the task at hand, I chose
partial interval recording as the measurement method.
The teacher used a behavior observation sheet (Jenson,
Rhodes, & Reavis, 1994) to record the data under inde-
pendent conditions. She recorded the following behav-
iors in 10-s intervals for 15 minutes:
out of seatJames was fully or partially out of his as-
signed seat without teacher permission;
inactiveJames was not engaged with the assigned
task, instead sitting and waiting passively;
playing with objectsJames was manipulating objects
without the teachers permission;
talking out/noiseJames was verbalizing inappropri-
ately or making sounds with objects, his mouth, or
his body.
These behaviors were collapsed into one category, off task.
At the end of each 15-minute period, the teacher could
use the behavior observation sheet to see the number of
intervals during which James was engaged in on-task be-
The following materials were used in this study: (a) be-
havior observation form, (b) On-Task/Working Monitor-
ing Form, and (c) the Weekly Summary Sheet. All three
were adapted from the Tough Kid Tool Box (Jensen et al.,
spaces for recording 90 intervals of data for a target child
and peer. The form also provided a place where the fol-
lowing demographic data could be recorded: student
name, teacher name, grade, date, observer name, class ac-
tivity, and class structure (teacher directed whole class,
teacher directed small group, or students had indepen-
dent work session).
The observation form offered a definition of on-task
behavior (i.e., student making eye contact with the teacher
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VOL. 39, NO. 5, MAY 2004 307
or task and performing the requested task) and eight be-
havior codes:
1. talking out/noise,
2. out of seat,
3. inactive,
4. noncompliance,
5. playing with object,
6. positive teacher interaction,
7. negative teacher interaction, and
8. neutral teacher interaction.
In this study, data were recorded as on task (check
mark) or off task (zero).
contained space to record the following data: student
name, date, and class and a space to record a plus mark or
a zero. The following instructions were printed on the
When you are in class and think about it, put a + in a
square if you are working or studying. Put a 0 in a
square if you are off task and not working. Fill in Row 1
first, then Row 2, and so on. You should fill in at least two
rows per class.
WEEKLY SUMMARY SHEET. On this sheet, the teacher
could record the following data: student name, date, best
daily score, self-monitored behavior, and morning and
afternoon behaviors. The summary sheet contained the
following instructions:
Define one to three behaviors and write them in the
Have student record behavior for the morning and
the afternoon each weekday.
Do not have the student keep track of more than
three behaviors.
Have the student write his or her best daily score and
weekly average at the top of the form.
I used a criterion research, or ABC, design to determine
the impact of the CBM strategy on James on-task be-
havior (Jenson et al., 1994). In order to increase the du-
ration that James stayed engaged in his work, he was
asked to observe and collect data on his own behavior.
The teacher gave James a recording form and instructed
him to mark down each time the specified behavior oc-
INTERVENTION. Baseline data were collected for 5 days.
The intervention data were also collected for 5 days, dur-
ing James morning seatwork period. During the third
phase of the study, James was introduced to goal setting
and assigned to use this intervention with self-monitoring
of his behavior. James on-task behavior was compared to
that of a same-age, same-gender neurotypical peer dur-
ing the baseline and first intervention phases of the study.
The teacher explained to James that he needed to
self-monitor his on-task behavior while working on his
handwriting and phonics. She showed him how to record
a behavior, such as talking out, out of seat, or inactive,
each time it occurred, James recorded the information by
putting a + in a square if he was working or studying or
a 0 in a square if he was off task and not working.
James received a recording form for the time period in
which he was to self-monitor, and the teacher prompted
him to record his behavior during that period. If James
did not record the behavior appropriately, he was also
prompted to do so. At the end of the recording period,
James wrote down the number of target behavior occur-
rences on the summary sheet.
CONTINGENCY PROGRAM. To help make the change
permanent, I tied the self-monitoring program to a contin-
gency, which was based on James continuing to maintain
his target goals. At the end of each week, he received the
Weekly Summary Sheet and was told what the contin-
gency would be for the following week. Starting the third
week, James was awarded 15 minutes of free time each day
and lots of praise for meeting his goal for the day. After
the morning work was completed and checked by the
teacher, James could participate in the free-time activity
previously agreed upon. His options included (a) listen-
ing to music or a story using headphones, (b) coloring or
drawing, or (c) playing with a puzzle.
During the final phase of the study, I implemented
goal setting in conjunction with the CBM plan. Before
work began each day, James would set a goal for on-task
behavior and then monitor his goal throughout the morn-
ing. Two additional subjects (draft book writing and read-
ing seatwork) were added.
I graphed the baseline data collected over 5 days, and they
indicated a decreasing trend in on-task behavior (i.e., the
length of time that James demonstrated on-task behavior
was decreasing). The same-age, same-gender neurotypi-
cal peer was steady in the time of his on-task behavior.
During each intervention phase, the number of intervals
during which James exhibited on-task behavior steadily
increased to approach the on-task behavior of his peer
(see Table 1).
During baseline, James was on task for an average of
17.33% of the intervals (SD = 5.53), compared to his
peer, who was on task an average of 94.89% of the inter-
vals (SD = 8.45). By comparison, during the intervention
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phase, James on-task behavior increased to 66.44% of
the intervals (SD = 19.43). His peers behavior remained
comparable to the baseline performance (on task 99.56%
of the intervals; SD= .99). As mentioned, during the third
phase of the study, I added goal setting to the CBM in-
tervention. James established a goal for his performance
by indicating whether he would maintain his perfor-
mance from day to day. James on-task behavior increased
between the first and second intervention phases. Also,
his behavior appeared to stabilize during the second CBM/
goal-setting phase. During the final phase of the study, he
was on task 86.60% of the intervals (SD = 1.14). Table 2
reports the results of James on-task behavior throughout
the study.
In this study, I evaluated the effectiveness of a CBM tech-
nique on the on-task behavior of an 8-year-old boy with
a behavior disorder. Overall, the data indicated that the
CBM strategy was effective. James exhibited on-task be-
havior for increasing periods of time, and he started to
use the CBM material by himself by getting the work-
sheet he needed before he started the task. He knew how
to complete the worksheet and summarize the informa-
tion on his weekly worksheet without any prompting
from the teacher. James was reminded for 2 days how to
record behavior on his sheet. The first day, he looked at
the teacher frequently to see if he was being watched.
When he turned in the worksheet, the teacher praised
him for staying on task. James increased the amount of
his on-task behavior each day. Gradually, he was able to
monitor his own behavior. By the third day, James picked
up his form and independently monitored his behavior
without being prompted.
Because this study lasted only 15 days, the results may
not generalize to a longer time period. In addition, I con-
ducted the study in a general education setting during the
students morning academic activities. The true test of an
intervention would be the ability for the student to gen-
eralize the on-task behavior across the day in different
Implications for Teachers
Cognitive behavior management is a valuable tool for help-
ing students reach their academic and social potentials by
providing teachers with strategies and information on how
to support student needs. Cognitive behavior manage-
ment provides students with strategies to manage their
own behavior, thereby giving them more independence
Table 1. Number of Intervals That
James and a Peer Were On Task
Day James Peer
1 21 88
2 19 72
3 17 90
4 12 90
5 9 87
6 44 90
7 41 90
8 61 88
9 71 90
10 82 90
Table 2. Number of Inter-
vals That James Was On
Task During the Study
# intervals
Day for James
1 21
2 19
3 17
4 12
5 9
Intervention I
6 44
7 41
8 61
9 71
10 82
Intervention II
11 87
12 85
13 86
14 88
15 87
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VOL. 39, NO. 5, MAY 2004 309
in their daily lives. Through the use of CBM, students
can gain critical skills they can use throughout their lives.
It is imperative that teachers and researchers continue to
investigate the impact of this technique for children with
a variety of exceptionalities across different settings.
Cherry F. Crum, MA, is an educator in an elementary school
in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Her current interest is the study of
cognitivebehavioral modification.
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