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Direct assessment involves observing and recording situational factors surrounding a problem behaviour (e.g., antecedent and consequent events). So, for example, a member of a IEP team may observe disruptive behaviour in the setting that it is likely to occur, and record the data.
The observer may use a matrix or scatter plot to chart the relationship between specific instructional variables and student responses. These techniques also will be useful in identifying possible environmental factors (e.g., seating arrangements), activities (e.g., independent work), or temporal factors (e.g., mornings) that may influence the behaviour. These tools can be developed specifically to address the type of variable in question, and can be customized to analyze specific behaviours and situations (e.g., increments of 5 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, or even a few days). Regardless of the tool, observations that occur consistently across time and situations, and that reflect both quantitative and qualitative measures of the behaviour in question, are recommended.
Functional analysis is a particular, rigourous approach to behavioural assessment