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


As an aspiring primary school teacher, and having had experience with day-care settings, I foresee that I would be facing much classroom management problems in future. As I reflect on my past classroom experiences (which can be somewhat traumatic) and future encounters, I am very heartened to be equipped with the knowledge of ABA. These adorable yet very mischievous children need to be tackled head-on! As with any energetic and curious children, I expect disruptive behaviours in class. In particular, interrupting the class by calling out their answers inappropriately (target behaviour). To which, I have in mind some ABA strategies to decrease the frequency of this behaviour.
I intend to use a three-prong approach to reduce the frequency of this undesirable behaviour – punishment, differential reinforcement of alternate behaviour (DRA), and positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviour. Punishment is the process of giving consequences for the target behaviour that would decrease its frequency. Alberto and Troutman (2003) have identified reprimand as an effective strategy in decreasing the likelihood of inappropriate behaviour in future. In this case, verbal reprimand such as “No, do not interrupt in class”, can be given as disapproval of the interruptive behaviour.
Punishment just teaches us what not to do (Smith, 2009). Differential reinforcement could be used in conjunct with punishment to encourage positive, appropriate behaviours (Alberto & Troutman, 2003). This second approach combines reinforcement and extinction to decrease the frequency of the student calling out answers in the midst of class. Specifically differential reinforcement of alternate behaviour (DRA) allows for the reinforcing of a different behaviour instead of the target behaviour. For example, attention used to be given to the student when he interrupted class loudly with the answer, would now be given for appropriate, alternate behaviours such as raising his hands.
Finally, positive reinforcers can be incorporated when the student chooses to raise his hands. Positive reinforcement increases the probability that the desirable behaviour will be performed again in a similar situation. Several types of reinforcers can function as rewards, including social, activity/ privilege, and tangible reinforcers (Alberto & Troutman, 2003). In this example, a social reinforcer would be to acknowledge and provide praises when the student raises his hand to answer a question (Simonsen, Fairbanks, Briesch, Myers & Sugai, 2008).
After consistent intervention, if all goes well, I should expect to see the frequency of this disruptive behaviour decreases and that of ‘raising hands’ increase.

Alberto, P. A., & Troutman, A. C. (2003). Applied behavior analysis for teachers (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice-Hall.
Simonsen, B., Fairbanks, S., Briesch, A., Myers, D., & Sugai, G. (2008). Evidence-based practices in classroom management: Considerations for research to practice. Education & Treatment of Children, 31(3), 351-380. doi:
Smith, J. (2009). Blending effective behavior management and literacy strategies for preschoolers exhibiting negative behavior. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37(2), 147-151. doi:

Li Ying Fong

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