Transitioning Students with EBD to and from Self-Contained Behavioral Settings: Processes and Perceptions

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


Psychology and Special Education

Date of Award

Fall 2021


The education of students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) in less restrictive environments (LRE) continues to be a focus and challenge for administrators and educators. This population of students often exhibit maladaptive behaviors severe enough to warrant change of placement to a restrictive environment. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 1997 and reauthorization in 2004 provide stakeholders with policy that mandates use of a continuum of placements to educate students with disabilities, research-based programs and processes, and functional behavioral assessments (FBAs) and behavior intervention plans (BIPs). A review of literature indicated only four processes used with students with EBD and a more restrictive environment (MRE). Identified were level systems, although they are often implemented inconsistently and without fidelity (Cancio & Johnson, 2007); goals and objectives (Swan et al., 1987); transenvironmental programming (Anderson-Inman, 1981); and decision trees (Hunsaker, 2018). However, there is a dearth of research using these processes in a consistent manner with students with EBD, as they transition along the continuum of placements. Additionally, there is a lack of research on policy adherence of BIPs, and effectiveness of processes, related to transitions. This exploratory study describes the gaps in research and the need for research-based processes for students with EBD. Using a nationwide survey and follow-up focus groups, special education educators in self-contained classrooms and separate schools provided information on the processes used in their MRE, their perceptions of policy adherence regarding the use of FBAs and BIPs, and their perceptions on the effectiveness of their processes. The findings indicated level systems and mastery of goals and objectives were frequently used in transitioning students with EBD out of the MRE, along with many other processes. Perceptions of policy adherence remained inconclusive, although educators reported that students transitioned to the MRE with BIPs. Lastly, perceptions of effectiveness differed between survey responses and focus group results, as well as between educators in self-contained classrooms and educators in separate schools. One unintended finding of importance was the frequent use of the MRE, by students with EBD, when there was access on their home campus. Further research in these areas was recommended.


Kelly M. Carrero

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Psychology