Assessing behavior can be a tricky business because it is sometimes hard to know which parts of a child or young person's behaviour should be tracked and monitored. Behavior is often a response to something happening in the environment. Sometimes it is in response to something happening internally and emotionally in the child and sometimes it is both. These choices mean that it is sometimes more helpful to explore the situation that has acted as a stimulus and other times more important to capture the emotional response which has displayed itself as a piece of behavior.
Yet another way of thinking about behavior assessment is whether it should be about the parts of the behavior that bother other people - either because they are troubling to another and worries them or because they are troublesome to others and annoy them? Or should it be about the parts that perhaps point to deeper psychological and emotional difficulties - and in that case how do you know which ones to isolate and give attention to. In all a difficult set of judgments to make when you are trying to track and monitor change and strength-building!
On the whole behavior forms patterns. In response to certain environmental situations a certain behavioral pattern will emerge which people begin to recognize as 'typical' of that child or young person. Like when a teacher with a strongly auditory teaching style, where they lecture on their topic, is working with a child who is very kinaesthetic. This teacher's style acts as a stimulus for the child and the child starts trying to find something to do rather than keep trying to process information through the auditory parts of their brain which isn't a strength of theirs and gets tiring. This then sets up a pattern of behavioral responses in the teacher and a predictable pattern of behaviors between the two of them are the result. So what kind of system could we use to assess all of that and use to enable us to make positive changes?
Usually people look for assessment tools or a procedure that will help them understand what is going on and give them a record of changes. There is some school software that can do this in very general terms and there are some behavior assessment tools that are based on clinical diagnoses which tend to be used by Educational psychologists or mental health professionals. There is another way which is more developmental in its approach and helps people understand and change themselves!
This system is called Transactional Analysis which gives us a very simple model to understand behaviors, either in one person or between two people. The system literally analyzes the transactions/exchanges people have with one another and helps them step back and see what 'ego state' they were each in as they said what they said and did what they did. It is a useful system for looking at what is happening, assessing what needs to be different and providing a tool for understanding so that whoever is involved can get a better handle on what they are doing and what they might do instead. If you would like to know more about TA (transactional analysis) and how it can be used to help assess behaviors please click here to see a short video on using it. Alternatively a good book on TA is called TA Today by Ian Stewart and Van Joines. The big strength of TA as an assessment tool is that it becomes a way for everyone to understand what is happening and this shared knowledge helps people share responsibility for the climate and ethos in the organization and school.