If you have found your way to a special education classroom, chances are you have heard of Positive Behavior Supports (PBS). PBS is rooted in principles of applied behavior analysis. Its focus is on reinforcing positive behavior seen in the classroom.
Before we get into further discussion of reinforcement (see the first post here!), we must discuss the tools that can be used to help support both the student and teacher through the behavior change process.
There are behavioral supports for reinforcing individual’s behavior as well as group behavior.
Individual Behavior Supports
Individual behavior supports address one or many behaviors specific to one student.
Token economy is a widely used behavior support. For each occurrence of the target behavior, the student is presented with a token. This reinforces that behavior so that the student learns that this behavior is appropriate. The student needs to collect all of the tokens in order to “trade in” the tokens for a more highly desired reinforcer.
I like to use token boards so that my students are able to visually see how close they are to their desired reinforcer. This usually increases motivation but may also increase frustration. Some students benefit from seeing the token board consistently while others need it to be put away after reinforcement.
Token boards are a great tool to teach delayed reinforcement, as the student does not earn the desired reinforcer right away.
The tokens are themselves must be motivating so the student has the desire to earn the tokens. To ensure this, I create token boards that are specific to the student’s interests.
Some Free (fun) token boards available by signing here.
Similar to a token board, a power card uses a child’s favorite character, person or special interest. However, teachers use power cards to model appropriate behavior, understand expectations and/or teach appropriate consequences (responses).
Before moving to a token economy, your student first needs to learn the way a reinforcement contingency works. By using a first/then board, the student can visualize the steps that he/she needs to complete in order to reach reinforcement.
I like to pair a first/then board with a visual schedule.
I do this for two reasons:
1) the student always knows what to expect (ie. when they are receiving reinforcement, when they are doing certain activities) and
2) I can use the same visuals and get two behavior supports out of it! If you want to know more about visual schedules, read more here (this one talks more about first/then too!) and here! And if you haven’t already, opt into the Simply Free Library to access Alyssa’s free schedule visuals!
Behavior contracts outline exactly what the expectations are for the student. The contracts are made collaboratively with the student. . Rather than being told what to do or how to act, the students build understanding of the appropriate behaviors that are being asked of them.
The schedule of reinforcement and the chosen reinforcer are also included in the contract. Both the student and the teacher sign the contract, to make it “official”.
Group Behavior Supports
Group behavior supports meet the needs of a large group of students.
It is important to note that in a point system, each individual is responsible for their own behavior and earns points as an individual.
There are endless different ways to utilize point systems but the following steps show you how to set up this contingency.
First, set expectations for behavior.
In the classroom, we are respectful of our space and our peers.
Next, determine what behaviors you will be looking for (operationally define them)
Raising our hand before we speak, sharing, using kind words, being gentle with our friends and our belongings
Then, determine how many points each behavior is worth.
All behaviors earn one point.
Finally, decide how you want to track your points.
There are many different ways to track points. ClassDojo.com is a great example of an online points system. You can also use “behavior bucks”, “kindness coins”, “politeness pennies” or good ole tally marks. Once the students earn the set amount of points, they can trade points for the agreed upon reinforcer.
A word of warning with point systems: before implementing a point system, you must decide if you want to introduce response cost. This means, will you take away points if a student does not follow meet behavioral expectations?
A marble jar requires a class to work together to all reach one reinforcer. Follow the same steps to set up a marble jar, but instead of reinforcing one student, you are reinforcing a whole class. I like to put three different lines on my marble jar so that the students have three different goals to meet. When the marbles get to each line/meet the goal, they earn whatever the reinforcer is.
If you are currently teaching remotely, there are also ways to use a marble jar digitally. You can search the internet for a website to use, but I like to just draw it on a piece of paper. Just make sure that you are using the same size “marble”. Dot markers (affiliate link) work great for that!
There are SO many different ways to use behavior supports as they relate to reinforcement.