Examples Of Individual Reinforcement Systems (page 2)
Individual token boards are commonly used with very young students or students with limited cognitive abilities (Figure 11.5). Many teachers use poker chips, pennies, or star tokens on Velcro that are then attached to a strip that visually shows progress toward a picture of a reinforcer or a general picture that represents their reinforcement menu. Tokens are given at frequent intervals paired with behavior-specific praise, and when all the tokens are earned, the student gets a short break when he or she has access to a reinforcer of his or her choice. This type of system can easily travel with the student to various environments and provides a consistent way of providing reinforcement for all adults who work with him or her.
Contracts are an effective way to negotiate with students in a way that mirrors real life. A contract in the adult world is a written agreement between two or more parties that stipulates the responsibilities of each party. Contracting with students is much the same in that it clearly communicates exactly what both the teacher and the student are expected to do. It combines operationally defining and directly teaching the desired target behavior and outlining the consequences (both positive and negative) for choosing or not choosing this behavior.
One way to make contracts more effective is to have the students write their own contract, choosing the behaviors to work on, criteria, and consequences contingent on the stipulations of the contract and then negotiate the fine points with them to develop the final product (Figure 11.6). This is yet another way of embedding choices and giving the student some appropriate control, automatically leading to student buy-in that you may not have gotten if you had outlined the entire contract. Students can work on their self-management skills by helping to choose their criteria for success with teacher guidance, starting by examining their current level of functioning. This can be done by showing them their target behavior sheet graph (which we discuss in detail in Chapter Fifteen) that visually depicts at what percentage they are performing now and asking them what they think would be a reasonable goal.
Contracts should outline both the positive reinforcement students will experience by choosing to perform the goal at the set criteria and undesirable consequences they will experience if they choose not to. This mirrors real life: adult contracts have positive and negative ramifications for abiding or not abiding by the contract. They also leave no room for arguments or power struggles. Letting students know exactly what will happen if they choose the desired behavior or not is another way to communicate that they are charge of the things that happen to them, and consequences, both positive and negative, are not something handed out by teachers to make their life difficult.
The contract itself can act as a visual prompt. Many times we let the student choose a place to post the contract. Some want the contract in a place visible to all, and some like to post it in a private place like inside their desk or in their binder. It is helpful to include a task record on the contract itself by including a mini-calendar on the contract with the days it covers. At the end of the day, the student consults with the teacher and marks whether the criteria were met. Depending on the age and preferences of the student, this can be done with a sticker, smiley face, star, stamp, or a simple check mark. An example of this is provided in Figure 11.7.
Punch cards are especially effective when the function of the behavior is escape or avoidance because it allows the student to minimize the undesired task by actually doing it. For example, a student who hates to do homework (and what student doesn't?) can be allowed to get out of homework on Fridays by completing all homework assignments for Monday through Thursday. Every day the homework is completed, he or she gets a punch on the card to track progress toward the goal (Figure 11.8).
We have also typically used a punch card system for finishing work on time (earning a free assignment coupon) and for silent reading (earning the choice of an alternative activity on the fifth day during the time scheduled for silent reading).
Positive Attention Trackers
A positive attention tracker is a good intervention to use when the function of the student's problem behavior is clearly attention. The student chooses an icon of a favorite character or special interest, and rows of this are put on a target behavior sheet for each time interval (Figure 11.9). The numbers 1, 2, and 3 are also included at the end of the row for each time interval to record the number of redirections given. Every time the teacher or another adult gives the student behavior-specific praise, he or she also circles an icon. When a certain number of icons are circled, the student chooses a reinforcer from his or her menu. This provides a way to check that adults are meeting that four-to-one positive-to-negative ratio in a visual way that also provides additional reinforcement for the student.
Key Points to Remember
- Target behavior sheets come in many different formats and are used for identifying behaviors to be targeted and a schedule for how often these behaviors are monitored.
- Target sheets raise the student's awareness of behaviors targeted, are a good source of data for functional behavior assessments, and can be used to track progress over time.
- When designing target behavior sheets, teachers should let the student participate, use positive language, limit the number of skills, and embed visuals and special interests.
- When target behavior sheets are in place, allow the student to keep it throughout the day if they want to, review it regularly with the student, use turnaround and bonus points, allow the student to self-monitor when he is ready, and communicate to adults at home what constitutes a successful day.
- Point and level systems are designed to be an organizational framework for managing student behavior where students earn more privileges and responsibilities as they demonstrate more control over their behavior.
- Point and level systems mirror real life due to the fact that in our society, privileges are given or removed based on our behavior.
- Teachers should be careful to design point and level systems to accommodate the individual needs and specific goals of each student with regard to initial level placement, use of reinforcement and undesirable consequences, and criteria for progressing through the system.
- Individual token boards can be used to reinforce students on specified behaviors and can travel with them across school settings.
- One way to make contracts more effective is to have the students write their own contract, choosing the behaviors to work on, criteria, and consequences contingent on the stipulations of the contract, and then negotiate the fine points with them to develop the final product.
- When contracting, make sure you can deliver the reinforcement contracted for at the contracted time and with the contracted people involved.
- Punch cards are especially effective when the function of the behavior is escape or avoidance because they allow the student to minimize the undesired task by actually doing it.
- A positive attention tracker is a good intervention to use when the function of the student's problem behavior is clearly attention.
Discussion Questions and Activities
- Think of a student you teach who has challenging behaviors. Using the guidelines provided in this chapter (use positive language, limit the number of skills, have specific target skill individualized to each student's needs, and let the student give input on what skills to target), make a list of targeted behavioral skills for this student.
- Setting realistic criteria for reinforcement of desired behaviors is important. If Jamal averages 38 percent on a baseline target behavior sheet monitoring the skill "Complete Your Work on Time," what would be realistic criteria for earning a reinforcer?
- List the reinforcers available in your classroom. Separate them into three levels based on what the students in your class want the most.