Creating effective IEP goals for behavior can be challenging. To ensure that your IEP is effective, you will need to include goals that are measurable, achievable, based on sound evidence and data-driven, and tailored to the needs of the individual student. Our five strategies will help you develop attainable IEP behavior goals that lead to positive behavior change.
Do you have a favorite student? I know we aren’t supposed to, but let’s be honest, we all have some of those students who leave marks on your heart. Maybe for you it is a student who reminded you of yourself. For me, one of my absolute favorite students was also one of the most challenging kiddos I have ever had.
As a learning support teacher, I thought my main focus would be academics since students with severe behaviors had emotional support as a placement. Turns out, nope, things aren’t quite this clear cut. Lots of students in learning support placements also have behavioral needs. In my first job, about two-thirds of my caseload had both academic needs and behavioral needs.
My absolute favorite student had some of the most challenging behaviors. He would have major meltdowns where he destroyed classrooms. He frequently used profanity and talked about inappropriate topics with both students and staff. The most interesting behavior was when he would make a certain type of moaning noise when he was included in his general education class for math. Not to be too crude but use your imagination here. It was the type of moaning noise that got him kicked out of class every single time. This behavior was pretty effective for work avoidance!
I was lucky enough to work with this student for three consecutive years. We did so many observations, functional behavior assessments, and positive behavior plans. Eventually, we were able to target some of the behaviors with effective interventions. Even though I know we made progress with him, I never felt confident that this IEP reflected the progress we made together.
In this post, we will discuss:
- Start with the Student’s Strengths
- Review Any Existing Recordings on Past Behaviors
- Use a Data-Based Approach
- Chart Behavior Progress Over Time and Set Incremental Goals
- Make Your Goals Measurable and Achievable
Start with the Student’s Strengths
Begin the goal-setting process by identifying and building on the student’s existing strengths. What does this student like? What is motivating? Is the motivator reinforcing enough? Try to develop a plan that combines both intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) rewards, such as a verbal praise and/or tangible items like stickers, snacks or privileges.
Here are a few examples: If the student has a preferred adult, they could earn a walk break with that adult for so many minutes of not demonstrating the behavior you want them to stop. I had a student who was obsessed with dinosaurs. He also screamed through lunch every single day. So, our plan was that he could earn time playing dinosaurs with me for every minute he sat during lunch time without screaming. This took a few days but he did start earning that time consistently.
Review Any Existing Recordings on Past Behaviors
Before setting reachable IEP behavior goals, it is important to review any existing recordings on past behaviors. This way, you can gauge the student’s current baseline and create an education plan that offers incremental targets for improvement. Can you speak with previous teachers, past schools or parents? It may be helpful to review frequency data such as how often and under what context the target behavior occurred. Reviewing past recordings also provides an opportunity to assess which interventions have been successful in the past, so you can use them as a foundation for future goals.
You can use simple clickers like these to collect frequency data. How often a behavior occurs is incredibly important when setting IEP goals. There is a huge difference between a student who calls out once or twice in a lesson and one who calls out 43 times in a lesson.
It is also super helpful to know what interventions have been tried in the past. We should be trying interventions for a minimum of 4 weeks before deciding if it is effective. If you know that previous teachers already tried X, Y, and Z, you don’t need to waste precious time trying those if the team has already deemed them ineffective.
Use a Data-Based Approach
Setting appropriate IEP behavior goals requires a comprehensive data-based approach. This process involves collecting and analyzing data every step of the way in order to determine if progress was made. During goal setting, it is important to establish baseline performance and measurable criteria that capture success. To do this, track the problem behavior frequency, duration and type during regular observations, then collect additional relevant data whenever possible through teacher interviews or student surveys.
The world of special education isn’t based on emotions. We are not writing plans based on how the teacher feels it is going. We need measurable data in order to track whether or not an intervention is working. When you are in the trenches, it always feels like you are in battle. If you have specific measurable goals, you will be able to see progress or regression over time.
Chart Behavior Progress Over Time and Set Incremental Goals
In order to accurately measure the effectiveness of your IEP behavior goals, being able to chart progress over time is important. Setting incremental goals can provide a step-by-step way for students to learn new behaviors and meet their IEP goals. For example, if the goal is for a student to raise his hand or speak out during class more often than he currently does, setting a target rate may be helpful. You can set gradual increments leading him from his current rate of speaking out in class five times per day to eight times per week by the end of the IEP year.
I love this digital behavior chart for keeping track of behavior data. This easy-to-use google sheet should be shared with all team members. Teachers, aides, and paraeducators can all add data into the sheets. These sheets have spots for up to 4 behavior goals which will be monitored across 10 lessons per day. The first file has a sheet for every school day from August 2022 to December 2022. The second file has a sheet for every school day from January 2023 to June 2023. The sheets calculate percentages across the day and automatically create graphs of behavior across time! The graphs are great visuals for IEP meetings and parent conferences!
If you are interested in learning more about these behavior charts, check out this guide.
Make Your IEP Goals for Behavior Measurable and Achievable
To ensure that your IEP goals remain attainable and effective, measure outcomes in tangible ways. Determine how success will be defined for each goal: will social skills improve because of increased cooperation or better communication? Will a student’s listening skills or attention span increase? Identify measurable objectives that demonstrate progress towards reaching the ultimate goal, such as increasing time on task or using more appropriate behaviors with teachers and peers in classrooms.
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