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Using Data to Guide Effective Tier 2 and Tier 3 SEB Interventions

September 01, 2023 7 min read
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In a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) framework, educators are guided to provide whole child supports with an initial focus on addressing any Tier 1 needs present in the district, school, grade, or class. Once any needed Tier 1 intensifications are put in place, teams can then turn their attention to identifying students who may need Tier 2 or Tier 3 supports in order to succeed.

When analyzing whole child data to identify students in need of Tier 2 or Tier 3 interventions—including social-emotional behavior (SEB) supports—teams should first ask:

  • Do we have enough data to determine a need?
  • Are the data reliable?
  • Are the data valid?
  • Could there be any biases in the data?

Ensuring high-quality data is essential to impactful decision making. This includes using research-based, valid, and reliable assessment tools and ensuring reliable, accurate, and unbiased recording of office- and classroom-managed behaviors—the latter of which is typically predicated by appropriate professional development and establishing a common language around SEB data and supports.

Teams should also be able to triangulate SEB data alongside academic and other whole child data to determine if a need in one area is potentially causing a need in another.

If these analyses determine that a Tier 2 or Tier 3 intervention is needed, the next step is to use data to identify an appropriate intervention aligned to the student’s need. Data should be used to unpack whether the “target behavior” is:

  • Due to a missing SEB skill, requiring instruction to help build that skill; or
  • Serving a purpose or fueled by a motivation.

Knowing this is essential to aligning an appropriate, research-based intervention that’s likely to help the student succeed.

Screening for SEB skill needs

Just as universal screening data can be used to guide Tier 1 interventions for SEB (and academics), they can also be used to group students for Tier 2 SEB supports and inform Tier 3 SEB individualized interventions.

Conducting SEB screening with a research-based, valid, and reliable assessment tool, such as SAEBRS and mySAEBRS from Renaissance, provides data around both the absence of problematic behaviors and presence of positive SEB skills among students. Analyzing subscore data helps educators more deeply understand specific skill needs.

With visibility into any SEB skill gaps being demonstrated by their students, targeted skill instruction can be aligned to help students develop the SEB skills they need to succeed.

It’s important to note that, especially when aligning Tier 3 individual supports, additional data from targeted skill assessments and other whole child data should be analyzed to ensure appropriate alignment.

Understanding motivations

Other students may demonstrate a problematic behavior despite knowing how to display an appropriate one, indicating that the target behavior is not rooted in a skill gap. Rather, the target behavior may be serving a function. In this case, teams can analyze trends in antecedent and function of behavior data to best match an SEB intervention.


Antecedents are the events or situations that occur immediately before a behavior, according to the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII). As an example, an educator asks a student to read aloud, and the student then leaves the classroom because the learner doesn’t like peer attention. Here, the antecedent is the educator asking the student to read aloud.

When educators know where students’ strengths lie and where they need support, they can better predict the antecedents of target behaviors and alter the learning environment to promote positive outcomes. For example, if the student demonstrates positive behavior during peer interactions, an educator can incorporate more group activities within instruction and be strategic in the peer groupings. But in order to use antecedents to inform supports, those data need to be collected.

Adjusting behavior incident data entry forms to record antecedents can clue Tier 2 and Tier 3 teams into the triggers that lead to a target behavior. Using a selection list in the data entry form codifies the data and makes them easier to chart and analyze in a data platform that supports whole child data analysis, such as eduCLIMBER—as opposed to trying to extract the information from open-ended descriptions in text fields.

Something as simple as the following would suffice:

  • Educator request: Academic
  • Educator request: SEB
  • Peer request: Academic
  • Peer request: SEB
  • Educator request: Other
  • Peer request: Other

To reiterate, the value of observed behavior data, such as antecedents, begins with ensuring that educators are recording data that is accurate, consistent, and unbiased. Recording unbiased behavior incident data requires educator training and coaching to ensure they feel confident in (and equipped to) accurately recognize antecedents and identify functions of behavior, examined in the next section.

Function of behavior

With an understanding of the antecedent, the next important component of understanding the target behavior is identifying the function of behavior, also referred to as the motivation. The function of behavior is the reason why the behavior occurs and may be the reason why a behavior persists. Functions typically serve a motivation to either obtain or avoid sensory stimulation, escape, attention, or access to tangibles.

Just like recording the antecedent helps inform appropriate supports, recording and analyzing trends in the function of behavior helps inform intervention selection as well. Adding a minimal list to record the function of a behavior is a great start. However, Tier 2 and Tier 3 teams benefit when more detail on the function is provided, such as:

  • Obtain sensory stimulation
  • Avoid sensory stimulation
  • Avoid work; work is too difficult
  • Avoid peer group work
  • Avoid individual work
  • Obtain adult attention
  • Obtain peer attention
  • Avoid adult attention
  • Avoid peer attention
  • Obtain tangible item

The more precisely the function of behavior can be pinpointed, the more accurately data teams can assign a Tier 2 or Tier 3 intervention aligned to the function.

When a behavior is motivation-driven, a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) can also be used to determine the student’s motivation. An FBA is an assessment that guides educators in understanding the environmental factors that potentially lead to a student’s target behavior. Research shows that interventions informed by an FBA are more effective than those that are not.

It is critical that teams have access to many valid, reliable, and unbiased data points to guide their decision making—including valid and reliable SEB assessments and reliable and unbiased behavior incident data. These data-informed interventions are more likely to be effective because they’re aligned to the student’s specific need, whether that need is skill-based or motivation-driven. Data-informed interventions are also more likely to help the student find success more rapidly than will an intervention that requires continuous modification over time due to misalignment from the beginning.

Selecting Tier 2 and Tier 3 SEB interventions

A plethora of SEB interventions exist. It’s crucial for teams to be aware of various research-based SEB interventions so they have a menu of possible supports to match with the student’s need. Example SEB interventions include:

  • Check-In/Check-Out (CICO)
  • Academic Behavior CICO
  • Internalizing CICO
  • Social Skills Instruction
  • Homework, Organization, and Planning Skills (HOPS)
  • Resilience Education Product (REP)
  • Breaks Are Better
  • Cognitive Behavior Intervention for Trauma in School (CBITS)
  • Mentoring
  • Behavior Contract
  • Class Pass Intervention
  • Positive Peer Reporting
  • Self-Monitoring
  • School-Home Note

Each of these interventions is better suited to various SEB needs. For example, for students avoiding peer attention, mentoring may be most appropriate. For students who are seeking to escape tasks and activities, then Breaks Are Better may be appropriate.

Just as valid, reliable, and unbiased data should be used to identify which students are in need of Tier 2 or Tier 3 SEB interventions, those data should also be used to identify the appropriate intervention to provide. Using data to determine whether a target behavior is rooted in a skill need (and if so, which skill) or if the behavior serves a function (and if so, which function and what the antecedent is) helps educators implement an intervention that’s most likely to help the student succeed as quickly as possible.