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The Benefits of Behavior Analysis for School Resource Officers

The main goal for any school resource officer should be to prevent juvenile delinquency by promoting positive relationships between the students at the schools and law enforcement. One way to accomplish this effectively is by implementing applied behavior analysis techniques. This type of specialized training can allow resource officers to understand, modify, and correct aberrant behavior.

Behavior Analysis: A Brief Background

Ideas and History of Behavior Analysis

The idea behind behavior analysis is that studying the actual behaviors of societal importance, or in this case, students provide the most valid information for understanding the role of the environment in certain actions. By using behavior analysis, one can better, and more quickly find a solution to a problem. With a better knowledge of the students’ behavior they watch over, a school resource officer can be better equipped to promote desired behaviors (or socially acceptable behaviors) between students and law enforcement – ultimately helping to keep the students safe.

A well-known experiment involving behavior analysis conditioning was conducted by Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov established the concept of conditioning by demonstrating that an environmental stimulus could be used to elicit a specific response from the subject. His theories eventually led to the development of operant conditioning, in which reinforcement results in an increase in the future frequency of a response. For example, by consistently rewarding students for good behavior, and employing consequences for maladaptive behavior, one can theoretically evoke good behavior from the students.

Rewarding worthy behavior is also known as positive reinforcement, which can be a very powerful tool when dealing with students. By rewarding upright behavior, individuals learn to continue that behavior. Conversely, implementing appropriate consequences can be just as important as a reward when it comes to making a desired response more likely. The key, of course, is to be consistent with the consequence. If an officer is erratic when it comes to correcting maladaptive behavior at the school, it can send a mixed message as to what the rules actually are.

A Few Techniques Used in Behavior Analysis

  • Chaining is a behavior technique that involves breaking a large task down into smaller tasks. The first step of the task is typically taught to the subject first. Once the subject has successfully learned that step, the next one can be taught. This sequence continues until the entire task is learned. Teaching students the proper steps to take during "lock down" situations or in the event of a fight are just a couple examples where the chaining method can be used by school resource officers to make schools safer. By teaching each step and its importance to a more large-scale scenario, an officer can make a defined protocol easier for each student to understand.
  • Prompting is a method that involves using a command or cue to get a desired response out of a subject. For example, a school resource officer may use a whistle or horn to prompt students to get to class, or simply to get their attention. If used correctly, this can be a very effective tool when working with students, especially in a situation where a desired response is required from several students at once.
  • Shaping is a method where one gradually changes a behavior by rewarding close approximations of that desired behavior. Small steps within the bigger picture can be rewarded until finally the whole procedure is achieved. It is commonly used to teach new skills that are not already in an individual’s repertoire (although it does have application to society in general). This technique is especially useful in working with students who have learning disabilities.

Why Behavior Analysis is Important

Behavior Analysis can be an important tool for school resource officers for two main reasons:

  • First, understanding role of the environment can help an officer have a better understanding of what is happening with the students under their care by being able to identify certain patterns with their behavior.
  • Second, after identifying patterns, learning the techniques involved in applied behavior analysis can help an officer know how to better deal with students in both desired and undesired situations.

Working with students is not always easy, but being able to identify patterns in behavior - and the best way to react to them - can go a long way in promoting socially acceptable behaviors and ensuring school safety.

A concentration in Behavior Analysis from Saint Joseph’s University Online can provide valuable insight and essential competencies of this very important field.

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