At the VDOE's T/TAC at VCU, our mission is to increase the capacities of school personnel and service providers to meet the behavioral needs of children and youth with disabilities.

Understanding behavior

Behavior always serves a purpose. It is an action that is observable and measurable, reactionary, and functional.  Often our attempts to change student behavior fail because of our misunderstanding of the behavior and its underlying function.

Behavior can result as a reaction to numerous factors, such as: 

  • Outside influences
  • The immediate surrounding environment
  • Current or previous emotions being felt from previous interactions or experiences
  • Current health status 
  • Stressors

Additionally, rapport and relationships play a significant role in how people respond in any given situation.  Developing positive relationships with students and within the classroom and school often produces the largest effect on student behavior.  

Understanding the importance of identifying how each of these factors play a role in the behavior being demonstrated is a key step in attempting to reshape behaviors.

Resources to assist in furthering your understanding of behavior are listed below:

Behavior in an educational context

Behavior is an action that is observable and measurable, reactionary and functional — it serves a purpose.

The behaviors we choose to engage in result from numerous factors such as outside influences: the environment we are in at the time, emotions we may still be feeling from previous interactions or experiences, our current health, and any stress we are under. 

Rapport and relationships with those around us often gauge the behaviors we choose to demonstrate, along with previous experiences and cultural expectations. Numerous factors are involved in shaping behaviors. Understanding the importance of identifying how each of these factors play a role in the behavior being demonstrated is a key step in attempting to reshape behaviors.

We know that different disabilities can impact how individuals communicate. This list serves as additional information to assist in understanding how disabilities may impact behavior.

Positive behavioral intervention and supports

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports is an implementation framework that includes the selection and use of evidence-based practices along a multi-tiered continuum of academic, social, emotional and behavioral supports for all students.

The multi-tiered model includes:

  • A decision-making process that considers data, outcomes, practices and systems.
  • A continuum of selected, evidence-based practices matched to student need and cultural context. There are three levels of support along the continuum: Tier 1 (universal), Tier 2 (targeted) and Tier 3 (intensive).*


Are you having to deal with challenging behaviors in the classroom? What positive and preventive techniques can you utilize in the classroom? Resources on behavior best practices and research are provided below.  If you are looking for specific resources for young children between the ages of birth to five years old, click here.

Behavior resources
Classroom management

*OSEP National Technical Assistance Center on PBIS. (2018). Brief introduction and frequently asked questions about PBIS. Retrieved from 

Social-emotional learning

Virginia Department of Education’s Social Emotional Learning (VDOE SEL)

Each title below is available from our T/TAC lending library

  • Benson, J. (2021). Improve every lesson plan with SEL. ASCD.
  • Hannigan, J.D. (2020). SEL from a distance: Tools and processes for anytime, anywhere. Corwin.
  • Frey, N. (2019). All learning is social and emotional: Helping students develop essential skills for the classroom and beyond. ASCD.
  • Merrell, K.W. (2010). Social and emotional learning in the classroom: Promoting mental health and academic success. Guilford Press.
  • Tantillo Philibert, C. (2017). Everyday SEL in early childhood: Integrating social-emotional learning and mindfulness into your classroom. Routledge.

Crisis resources