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BCBA In General Ed Classrooms

Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) are trained to work with both children and adults, some of whom may be labeled as having a disability or mental health diagnosis. Using a range of behavior analytic concepts and applied behavior analytic applications, BCBAs are able to develop plans and strategies for teaching and promoting positive skills and abilities, as well as decreasing less desired challenging problematic behaviors.  Such services may be provided in educational or home environments, residential or vocational programs, or various community settings.

The College of Education offers a program to prepare future BCBAs, which began in 2012. The program involves faculty and classes from the Departments of Special Education and Educational Psychology.  Dr. Rob O’Neill, a BCBA and faculty member in Special Education, is the BCBA Program Director. The impact that graduates of the BCBA Program have after leaving the University of Utah is transformative for the individuals and communities they serve, and also for the students themselves. One example of this impact is that two of the program’s BCBA graduates recently reached out to Dr. O’Neill to involve him in researching the impact that the BCBAs were having in supporting teachers and students in general education classrooms.  

The Granite School District has made the innovative choice to hire BCBAs to support teachers and students in general education classrooms. This is somewhat unique in that many BCBAs are instead typically working with special education students in a variety of settings. Thus, the two BCBA graduates teamed up with O’Neill to study exactly how behavior analytic concepts and applied behavior analytic applications can improve learning and behavior in general education classrooms.

O’Neill has worked with the program graduates to develop a research plan and work with the district to get the appropriate research approvals. The project is based on the Prevent-Teach-Reinforce (PTR) model, a well-proven behavior analytic methodology, which has served as the foundation for the group research effort.  

The team will be assessing the impact of the PTR approach on teacher and student behavior in the classroom. In addition, they will assess the social validity of the process; that is, did the teacher, student, and parents find it helpful and worthwhile to implement. The research team is planning to report their results in academic journals and make presentations at local, national, and international conferences to advance knowledge and practices in the field. In addition, the team will submit a report to the district on the efficacy of PTR and having BCBA support in general education classrooms.

 Dr. O’Neill is confident having BCBAs providing support in general education classrooms will be helpful and beneficial for students, educators, and parents alike. He said, “I think the findings have the definite potential to add to the knowledge base in the field and provide additional evidence of the effectiveness of implementing behavioral strategies in general education settings.” O’Neill is positive that the BCBA program is as transformative for his students as it is for the constituents they will serve after graduation. He is excited about the unique opportunity to continue to work with program graduates who have a desire to conduct research!

Dr. Rob O'Neill

Dr. Rob O'Neill

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Last Updated: 12/12/23