Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Classroom Management

Being a teacher is probably one of the most challenging jobs you can have.  The teacher in a classroom is responsible for the management of desirable and undesirable behaviours of children. This involves imposing rules, regulating desirable behaviour and reducing or extinguishing undesirable behaviours.  As a result, it can be argued that Applied Behaviour Analysis is most present in institutes such as schools or even in prisons. I am considering a career as a primary school teacher. 

One of the most used behaviour modification program that I have seen is the token system.  The token system is based on the behavioural approach. Skinner (1938) and Thorndike (1927) put forward theoretical assumptions that the likelihood of repeating a particular behaviour is mainly based on the consequences that are followed.  Positive reinforcement is the act of adding a reward as a consequence of the emitted behaviour. Positive reinforcement increases the likelihood of repeating this behaviour. On the other hand a negative reinforcement is where you add an aversive factor to the situation, which then leads to a decreased likelihood of repeating that particular behaviour. The token system involves a reward system, and which follows the principles of positive reinforcement.

One way of how the token system could be applied in a classroom setting, is to reward high achieving children who complete their homework successfully.  Children will be rewarded with stickers and once they have collected a specific amount of stickers, they could then exchange these stickers for a toy of their choice.  Stickers will be given alongside the feedback for their homework. This should then increase the likelihood of repeating the hard working behaviour.

Robinson, Newby and Ganzell (2013) applied behavioural analysis design to hyperactive children who were underachieving. The aim of the experiment was to increase their overall academic performance. They used the token system to change the hyperactive children’s behaviours. The token system acts as positive reinforcement in which a person receives a reward that increases the likelihood of the behaviour being repeated. In this particular study, children were provided with 4 different tokens, which could then be exchanged for 15 minutes to play video games. However these tokens were only given to those who completed their reading task successfully. The intervention showed that academic performance increased by the use of the token system. The implications of using the token system was that, children were highly motivated to work hard in the classroom.

Robinson, P. W., Newby, T. J., & Ganzell, S. L. (1981). A token system for a class of underachieving hyperactive children.  Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 14, 307-315.

Skinner, B. F. (1938). The Behavior of Organisms: An Experimental Analysis. New York: Appleton-Century.

Thorndike, E. L. (1927). The Law of Effect. The American Journal of Psychology, 39, 212-222.

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