How To Implement ABA Techniques In The Classroom

by | Mar 5, 2024

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) strategies are commonly known for their effectiveness in managing behavior across settings, most specifically they are known for their effectiveness in supporting individuals with autism. However, ABA techniques and strategies can also be used for day-to-day classroom management. Whether you’re dealing with challenging behaviors from students or just want to make your classroom run smoother, ABA can help!

While the terminology used may sound a bit complex and daunting, it’s actually pretty simple! At its core, ABA is all about learning why people behave the way they do and how we can help to teach and encourage different behaviors. In the classroom, we have techniques that can help teachers determine what may trigger certain behaviors, how to respond to those behaviors, and how the consequences that follow may affect behavior in the future. Think of it as decoding behavior—it’s like unlocking the secret behind why students act the way they do. Once we understand why behavior is happening, we can come up with effective ways to support that student.

How To Implement ABA Techniques In The Classroom

The ABCs of ABA

To better understand behavior and why it happens, it is important to understand the events surrounding the behavior. We can conceptualize this by looking at the ABCs of behavior or the Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence model of behavior. The main goal of this approach is to understand why the behavior is happening, by looking at what happens before and after a specific behavior occurs.


The antecedent is what happens before the behavior—what triggered the behavior. Understanding what trigger caused the behavior is key. To help determine what trigger occurred, we should ask questions like, what happened directly before the challenging behavior? Where were we located? What time of day did this behavior occur? An antecedent could be a specific event or a combination of events. For example, adding something to the environment—asking the student to do something, or handing a worksheet out to students is an addition to the environment that could trigger challenging behavior. Similarly, removing something from the environment (such as taking away the tablet the student is using) could trigger challenging behavior.


Behavior is the student’s response to the antecedent, specifically, what is the exact behavior we are concerned about. This can vary from a spectrum of visible actions to more subtle behaviors. By understanding the relationship between antecedents and specific behaviors, the teacher can understand what led to the particular behavior and what reaction the student wanted to gain from the interaction.


Consequences are powerful tools in the classroom! Consequences can either encourage a behavior to happen more often in the future (reinforcement!) or discourage a behavior from happening more often in the future (if at all!). When students demonstrate desirable behaviors like raising their hands or helping a classmate, they might receive consequences like praise or a small reward. If a student engages in disruptive behavior, they may face consequences like being told ‘no’ or being asked to leave the room. It’s all about teaching students the connection between their actions and the outcomes that follow.

Visual Supports

Visual supports can play a crucial role in creating an inclusive learning environment where all students can thrive. Incorporating visual aids throughout the classroom, such as educational posters or instructional displays, reinforces lesson concepts and helps maintain student focus. Beyond aiding those with diverse learning needs, visual supports benefit the entire classroom by enhancing communication and comprehension. Visual schedules act as roadmaps for students with attention-related challenges, offering predictability and structure throughout the day. Behavior charts serve as visual reminders of expectations, encourage students to self-monitor their progress, and help them achieve behavioral goals. Prominently displaying classroom rules reinforces a positive learning culture, provides a reminder of agreed-upon expectations, and creates a place where everyone can be held accountable and respected by their classmates. Overall, integrating visual support fosters a cohesive classroom community and promotes student engagement and independence.


A classroom environment can be tailored to accommodate students’ needs and enhance their focus during instructional sessions. A well-thought-out seating chart can serve as a powerful tool for managing the classroom environment by strategically placing some students closer to instruction areas and moving some away from potential distractions like other peers, windows, doors, or computers. Teachers can use the seating chart to optimize focus and engagement among students and their peers. The ability to adjust the seating arrangement based on individual needs and learning styles throughout the school year can further enhance student attention and participation. Creating open spaces between desks facilitates easy movement around the classroom, promoting a dynamic and interactive learning environment. Controlling sensory stimulation—such as dimming harsh lighting, brightening lights or adjusting noise levels—can create a more comfortable and conducive atmosphere for learning. By proactively managing the classroom environment and making adjustments as needed, teachers can cultivate a space where students feel supported, engaged, and ready to learn.

Communication Within the Classroom

Actively listening to students allows teachers to understand their needs and concerns, while also paying attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues. Treating students with dignity and respect, using polite language, and actively engaging all help us to promote positive communication within the classroom. For those in classroom settings, it’s important to check in to ensure we are responding appropriately to the way students are communicating with others. In part, this can be done by asking some insightful questions such as: How are we responding to student’s body language? What does our body language look like to students? What words are we choosing to use? What does our tone or voice volume communicate? Raising questions like these provides insight into better-supporting students and gives students a better opportunity to get their communication heard. By listening we can validate students’ emotions, offer support, and reassure them that their feelings are being acknowledged and valued. By asking questions, communicating effectively, and providing assistance, teachers help to empower students to address challenges and develop effective coping strategies. Early intervention and offering choices enable students to navigate difficulties and frustrations. Through these communication strategies, teachers create a nurturing learning environment where every student’s voice can be heard and respected.


Consistency is key when it comes to implementing any of the above-shared techniques in the classroom. By consistently applying strategies and expectations, teachers create predictability and stability for their students. This consistency helps students understand what is expected of them, reinforces positive behaviors, provides consistent consequences, helps to foster good decision-making, and creates an environment of growth. Reinforcement involves providing consequences that students like based on a student’s behavior, with the goal of increasing desirable behaviors. Consistent reinforcement helps students make connections between their actions and the outcomes that follow; strengthening the likelihood of desired behaviors occurring again in the future. Through a combination of consistency and reinforcement, teachers can create an environment that supports positive behavior and fosters a culture of learning and growth in the classroom.


This is just a small sample of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) strateties that can be used in the classroom to help improve student behavior, engagement, support, and create a positive learning environment. Understanding ABA supports helps teachers and other school staff to effectively decode student behavior and implement targeted interventions.

About the author

Ashley graduated with her bachelors from Penn State University in Rehabilitation and Human Services. She obtained her masters in Applied Behavior Analysis from Florida Institute of Technology in 2019. Ashley has provided care in a variety of settings using Applied Behavior Analysis including group homes, clinics, schools, and family homes. Currently, Ashley lives in Florida. In her free time she enjoys reading, visiting various theme parks, and traveling.


Timothy J. Landrum, James M. Kauffman. 25 Jan 2006, Behavioral Approaches to Classroom Management from: Handbook of Classroom Management,Research, Practice, and Contemporary Issues Routledge. Accessed on: 13 Dec 2016 https~//www.routledgehandbnoks_com/doi/10.4324/97fi0203fi747~i3_ch3

Polirstok, S. (2015) Classroom Management Strategies for Inclusive Classrooms. Creative Education, 6, 927-933. doi: 10.4236/ce.2015.610094.

Quinn, Kathleen, et al. “Application of Applied Behavior Analysis to Classroom Management.” Student- Centered Classrooms, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland, 2022.

Let’s Connect

Interested in learning more about our evidence-based, behavioral safety and crisis prevention training programs?

We’d love to learn about your organization’s unique challenges and needs. Simply fill out the form with your information, and a member of our team will be in touch.