Group Reinforcement Systems (page 3)
School and class wide reinforcement systems often take the form of group-oriented contingencies: an entire class is reinforced based on the behavior of one student, a number of students, or the entire class.1 There are three types of group-oriented contingencies: independent, dependent, and interdependent.2 Interdependent and independent group-oriented contingencies are discussed in this chapter and dependent group-oriented contingencies in the next chapter on individual reinforcement systems.
Interdependent Group-Oriented Contingencies
In interdependent group-oriented contingences, the reinforcement of the group is based on the behavior of the group as a whole. The positive aspect of this is that peer pressure, which occurs naturally in the classroom, is used to encourage positive behavior. However, it can be negative if peers continually blame one student for not earning the reinforcement or a saboteur emerges who intentionally tries to keep the group from earning the reinforcement.
We have found that using interdependent group-oriented contingencies is usually highly effective and mirrors structures that exist in many corporations, businesses, and other organizations, so using them will help develop life skills that will serve students well in their adult life. Students learn to work together, monitor each other, and productively handle conflicts and problems to the benefit of the group.
Dividing a class into teams is a common and simple way of forming an interdependent group-oriented contingency. Teams are given names often based on academic content being covered (colors, shapes, continents, Native American tribes, and so on). The number of teams can vary, and the name variations are unlimited. Points are awarded to teams based on various positive behaviors exhibited—for example, the first team to line up, the first team showing the teacher they are ready for math, the first team where everyone is demonstrating appropriate listening skills. Then either the teams can work to simply "win" or the winning team can earn various reinforcers. The options are truly endless for creative educators.
Interdependent Group-Oriented Contingency Games
A classic example of an interdependent group oriented contingency is the good behavior game. We have seen various variations of this idea in the research literature and used in classrooms. Procedures for setting up a group-oriented contingency good behavior game are outlined in Table 10.1, and various examples follow.
The Good Behavior Game
The original good behavior game divided a class into teams and gave them tally marks on a chalkboard whenever a member of the team broke one of the rules.4 Any team with fewer than five marks won reinforcers at the end of the day. Although the basic idea has been shown to be effective, many recommend (and we agree) modifying the game procedure so that students are recognized for positive rather than problem behaviors. Maag described a positive version of the game with the teacher posting both appropriate and inappropriate classroom behaviors and a random beep tone cuing the teacher to monitor the class. If only positive behaviors are being exhibited at the time of the beep, the class is given three marbles in a jar. If any students are engaging in negative behaviors at the time of the beep, one marble is taken out of the jar. Reinforcers are earned at the end of the school day, and there is a predetermined number of marbles set for earning various reinforcers from a group menu.5
The Red/Green Game
In the red/green game, the teacher makes a large card that is green on one side and red on the other.6 When the cue is given, the teacher monitors the class to determine if they are exhibiting appropriate behaviors. If they are, they get a green point, and if they are not, they get a red point. At the end of the designated time, if the class has more green points than red points, they earn a group reinforcer.
We recommend using this system if the class has free time at the end of the designated period. Green points minus red points could equal the number of minutes of free time they earn. This uses the common and logical reinforcer of free time and is similar to what may happen to adults in a similar situation (they have to work longer if they waste time during the day, and they get more free time if they stay on task).
The Class wide Peer-Assisted Self-Management (CWPASM) Program
Most interventions used to modify student behavior are traditionally teacher designed and implemented. In peer-mediated interventions, the teacher designs an intervention but trains students to deliver needed social cues and reinforcement to each other. Many peer-mediated interventions use self-monitoring interventions to help students reach the ultimate goal of self-management. Such is the case with the class wide peer-assisted self management program (CWPASM). In this program, the teacher trains all students in a self and peer monitoring intervention.
Students are asked to choose three students in the class with whom they would like to be partnered, and the teacher assigns pairs based on these preferences. Each partnership is then assigned to one of two teams at the beginning of each day. Each student evaluates and marks both his or her own behavior and partner's behavior on a point card at the end of every marking period. Students earn points for appropriate behavior as well as a bonus point for having matching marks with their partner. Each pair earns points for their team, with daily team winners being announced at the end of each day.7 An example of aCWPASM program card is shown in Figure 10.1.
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