Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology


Educational Psychology and Methodology

Content Description

1 online resource (xx, 299 pages) : PDF files, illustrations (some color), charts, forms

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Kevin Quinn

Committee Members

Frank Vellutino, Melinda Tanzman


Behavior Support Plan, Challenging Behavior, Early Childhood, Head Start, Positive Behavior Support, Teacher Behavior, Preschool children, Teachers of problem children, Problem children, Head Start programs

Subject Categories

Educational Psychology


This embedded case study focused on the behavior and attitudes of four members of an early childhood teaching team carrying out a Behavior Support Plan (BSP) in a Head Start classroom. The investigator examined the extent to which teachers implemented the BSP, the relationship between teacher behaviors and changes in child behaviors, the extent to which teacher fidelity changed after coaching, teachers' views on the feasibility and value of the behavior strategies they were asked to carry out, and to what extent professional development supports for teachers were considered helpful. Research and experiences in the field have demonstrated that young children who present with problem behaviors are more likely to be at risk for long term negative outcomes, including emotional behavior disorder, school failure, and difficulties with relationships and community life. These are serious consequences and therefore in recent years much attention has been given to a set of evidence-based strategies that address children's behavioral needs known collectively as Positive Behavior Support (PBS). Implementing effective PBS, including behavior support strategies, is complex and time-consuming, requiring a level of expertise that is not typically part of the background and training of early childhood staff. Previous studies have examined implementation and found that teachers lack fidelity when carrying out behavior support plans. Research has also indicated that professional development supports may improve teacher fidelity when carrying out new interventions. The purpose of this embedded case study was to examine teacher behaviors when implementing a BSP for a preschooler with challenging behaviors at Head Start when they received additional professional development support in the form of coaching. Findings indicated that, as expected, teachers only partially implemented BSP strategies. What was not predicted, however, was the wide range of fidelity levels across teachers. Teachers were very different in the degree to which they initially carried out the BSP and in their responses to coaching. Several factors appeared be associated with varied implementation levels, including the teachers' roles on the classroom team, teachers' attitudes towards the child and the BSP strategies, and their relationships with the child. Implications for practice and research are discussed.