Behavior isn't something to manipulate, it's something to understand.
flickr photo via kokichuelo
I have spent the better part of my teaching career to date working with kids who manifest very adverse behavior. I have received hundreds of hours of professional development related to helping these kids improve their behaviour, some of which was considered to be severe. I've been trained in behaviour management techniques designed to manage behavior, corrective techniques to correct behaviour and modification techniques to modify behaviour. What nobody ever trained me to do however, was understand behaviour.
Behaviourism is a well known school of thought relative to working with kids who display challenging behavioural tendencies. According to Wikipedia, behaviourism, sometimes referred to as the learning perspective (where any physical action is a behaviour), is a philosophy of psychology based on the proposition that all things that organisms do — including acting, thinking and feeling — can and should be regarded as behaviours. Applied Behaviour Analysis is a term used commonly in education to describe how we analyse the behaviours we see in schools. In my role as an educator working exclusively with severely behaviourally challenged kids I have participated in many functional behaviour analysis (FBA) that are designed to provide hypotheses about the relationships between specific environmental events and observed behaviours in students. I must admit, the FBA process is as close as I've ever been to actually understanding behaviour, but even this process has left me wondering, "do I really know the story behind what I'm observing when I witness adverse behavior?"