Type: Evaluation Essays
Sample donated: Seth Foster
Last updated: August 15, 2019
Abstract Behaviouranalysis is the science of behaviour. Applied behaviour analysis is concernedwith actions, how people behave, and it is therefore important when looking atcontrolling behaviour in classrooms. A token economy is a method of behaviourcontrolling, one which aims to elicit positive behaviours through rewards. Thispiece addresses applied behaviour analysis in educational settings and theeffectiveness of a token economy in controlling behaviour in a classroom. Introduction Challenging behaviourin classrooms is an important topic as it can cause serious problems for allstudents in the class.
Behaviour analysis is the science of behaviour (Vargas,2009) and applied behaviour analysis is concerned with socially important behavioursand controlling them (Cooper, Heron, and Heward, 2007). Applied behaviour analysisis used often in special needs education settings, but it can also be usedeffectively in all school settings. There are various methods, for example atoken economy (a system for providing positive reinforcement through rewards)or video modelling (a child watches a video a few times and then is given thechance to recreate what they watch, and they are scored on how many steps theyget correct). This piece addresses what applied behaviour analysis and a token economyis, and how effective token economies are in terms of controlling behaviour ina classroom setting. BehaviourAnalysis and Education Science isdefined as a systematic approach to seeking and organising knowledge about theworld around us (Cooper, Heron, and Heward, 2007), it is the study of relationsbetween phenomena and the formulation of those relations into scientific laws;these laws explain when and why events occur (Vargas, 2009). Behaviour analysis is the science ofbehaviour, and in terms of applied behaviour analysis, this is sociallyimportant behaviours (Cooper et Al., 2007). Behaviour is everything anindividual does, for example walking, talking, feeling, thinking and so on.
Behaviour analysis is the study of these behaviours (Vargas, 2009). Appliedbehaviour analysis (ABA) is expanding fast in education, especially withinspecial education. ABA is derived from basic laboratory research, known as theexperimental analysis of behaviour (Cooper, 1982). Applied behaviour researchis concerned with the manipulation of environmental stimuli to help individualseffectively emit specific responses that are important to society.
This kind ofresearch is interested in what people do rather than say. John B.Watson argued that the objective study of behaviour should consist of directobservation of the relationships between the environmental stimuli and theresponses evoked (Vargas, 2009). To gain a true understanding of behaviouranalysis, it is important to draw upon the work of B. F.
Skinner, whoultimately studied the behaviour of organisms, looking at the respondent andoperant. Respondent behaviour is reflexive behaviour; a response is elicited bya stimulus in front of them. The antecedent stimulus and the response elicitedthen form a unit known as a reflex. Respondent behaviours occur whenever theeliciting stimulus is presented. However, most of the behaviour of organisms isspontaneous and as respondent behaviours tend to only occur when the elicitingstimulus is presented, the stimulus-response explanation therefore does notexplain much in terms of behaviour. As a result, Skinner founded a second typecalled operant behaviour. Operant behaviours are not elicited by precedingstimuli but instead they are influenced by stimulus changes that have alreadyfollowed previous behaviour (Vargas, 2009). From this, he formed anunderstanding of behaviour and experimental analyses of the effects ofconsequences on behaviour.
The appliedpart of applied behaviour analysis signifies the commitment to improve people’sbehaviours to improve their lives (Cooper et Al., 2007). To do so, thepractitioner should therefore select appropriate behaviours to change that aresocially significant and will improve the daily experience of theirparticipants. Baer, Wolf and Risley (1968) emphasised three points of interest,first that the behaviour chosen must be one which needs improvement (for example,disrupting the class by calling out or hitting people), studies must thereforebe of behaviour and not about to determine accurate research. Second, to ensurethat research of behaviour is reliable, it must be measurable. Lastly, whenobserving changes in behaviour, it is important to determine whether it was thebehaviour of the participant or observer. This therefore allows for anyinfluence to be recorded. Applied behaviour analysis research is aimed atdiscovering and clarifying functional relations between socially significantbehaviour and its controlling variables, with this the researchers cancontribute to further development of an effective technology of behaviourchange.
(Cooper et Al., 2007). Applied behaviour analysis aims to makemeaningful improvements in behaviour and to produce analysis of the factorsresponsible for this improvement and this can be done in many ways such astoken economy, video modelling and many more. For inclusion to be successful,teachers require skills to be able to design lessons that are tailored to beinclusive whilst still being able to manage the classroom.
Behavioural issueswithin the classroom can often hinder the class’ academic achievement (Vargas,2009), therefore it is important to have a well-managed classroom to ensurethat children are getting the best educational experience possible. Token Economy Focusing onjust one method in an educational setting, a token economy is a system forproviding positive reinforcement to children by rewarding them with tokens forthe completion of tasks or desired behaviours (respondent behaviour). Tokeneconomies are used as a method of strengthening or increasing the frequency ofbehaviours as the tokens become ways of rewarding the children for completingtasks or behaviours, they are then able to use the tokens to buy activitiesthey wish to partake in or items they want (Miltenberger, 2008). Targetbehaviours vary from child to child depending upon how they behave, and tokeneconomies can be used to either increase a child’s desire to behave well or itcan also be used to decrease a child’s negative behaviour; for example, itcould involve reinforcing them to say good morning to their teacher as theyenter the classroom or not disrupting the class etc.
Tokeneconomies act as backup reinforces, for example they can be an activity or anitem that a child enjoys, and the token economy therefore becomes paired withthe earning of this (Miltenberger, 2008). Token economy charts can vary, somemay have images of the reward on for the children to see, some may have a spacefor the child to write themselves what they want to earn, and others may nothave any reminders but simply just keep count of how many tokens the childrenhave earned. Token economies in schools can be compared to the real world,people go to work to earn money and then spend this on things they want or need.
They are therefore performing tasks to be rewarded. The money is not whatanyone wants because it is what that money can buy for you, it in fact is justa means to an end. Just like money, for children getting these tokens meansgetting things you want e.g. sweets, chocolate, play time. Eventually, as theintervention decreases they should start to produce these behaviours withoutthe need for the stimulus to be present (operant behaviour). Effectivenessof Token Economies Matson andBoisjoli (2009) believe that the token economy has been one of the most”important technologies of behaviour modifiers and applied behaviour analysts”over the last 40 years. Teachers face a variety of challenges regarding studentbehaviour as this can lead to a negative impact on the educational experienceof others.
To effectively address challenging behaviours, teachers areencouraged to employ behaviour management strategies that are backed up bysubstantial evidence (Maggin, Robertson, Oliver, Hollo, and Moore Partin,2010). There are many methods that have been founded to address behaviourproblems, one of them being Token Economies. Token economies have beenidentified as one of 20 evidence-based classroom management practices(Simonsen, Fairbanks, Briesch, Myers and Sugai, 2008). In this review conductedby Simonsen (2008), the strategies were deemed evidence-based if 3 experimentalstudies indicated an overall effectiveness.
However, although this was animportant step in determining whether or not they have sufficient evidence towarrant the use of token economies in classrooms, a more in-depth evaluation ofthe evidence is still needed. Further research (Carnett,Raulston, Lang, Tostanoski, Lee, Sigafoos, and Machalicek, 2014; Cavalier,Ferretti, and Hodges, 1997) compared the effects of a token economyintervention that either did or did not include the interests of theparticipants with autism. It was found during a literacy task that the tokenswith the interest of the participants were more effective at decreasingchallenging behaviour and they were effective at increasing positive behaviour.These effects were then replicated in their classrooms to control theirbehaviour.
These results therefore suggest that perseverative interest-basedtoken may enhance the effectiveness of interventions based on token economiesand that they prove to be effective in special educational needs situations. Someresearch (McKee and Witt, 1990) has shown that children do not always respondto incentives that are classroom-based such as grades or attention from the teacher,so it may be necessary to look at individual based token economies, as thefindings of Carnett et Al. (2014) show, interest-based tokens are effective. Inaddition to this, Frederiksen and Frederiksen (1975) looked at the long-termeffectiveness of both teacher-determined and self-determined tokenreinforcement in the control of negative (disruptive) and positive (desired)behaviours in a classroom. It was found that the teacher-determined tokenreinforcement was successful in controlling both the disruptive and desiredbehaviours over a period of 14 weeks. The self-determined reinforcementfollowed straight after the teacher’s and it was found that this was alsoeffective over a period of 11 weeks.
Furthermore, the children’sself-assessments highly correlated with the teacher assessments, however it wasfound that the children tended to be more lenient. This therefore demonstratesthat token economies are effective through both teacher and self-led incontrolling student’s behaviours in a classroom. However, it would beinteresting to see how effective these token reinforcements are in controllingthe behaviours over a longer period. Furthermore, Magginet Al. (2011) conducted a two-part systematic review to evaluate the strengthof evidence supporting the use of token economies designed to increaseappropriate behaviours in classrooms. Following a general overview of samplecharacteristics and intervention features, the degree of evidence was assessedby firstly applying the ‘What Works Clearinghouse’ (WWC) standards forevaluating single-case research and secondly by conducting a quantitativesynthesis across all cases by estimating 4 different summary effect indices.The results suggest that there is a lack of support for token economies as anevidence-based practice due to the failure of meeting the basic designstandards needed to ensure methodological rigor.
Only a few of the cases wereeligible for evidence evaluation with most providing sufficient visual evidencein order to be classified as effective. As a result, they decided to includeall cases within the subsequent quantitative synthesis which provided somesupport for the use of token economies. Three of the four effect sizesindicated that this intervention was effective in a classroom.
However, consideringthe methodological weakness found across the studies, these conclusions must betaken lightly. When considering this small body of research, it appears that tokeneconomies appear to be highly effective in improving social behaviour andacademic achievement for the children that do not behave well in classroomenvironments. In conclusion, the topic of challenging behaviour in classrooms is important, as isthe methods to control it.
Through looking at how behaviour and education arelinked, it becomes apparent that the behaviours learnt in the classroom areimportant to wider society, these can be simple things such as how we talk orthink. Behaviour analysis is concerned with socially important behaviour, andapplied behaviour analysis is concerned with helping individuals effectivelyemit specific socially desirable behaviours. Token economy, a system for providing positive reinforcement throughrewards is important in education as you’re able to elicit desirable behavioursfrom children that are deemed as socially important but are also necessary fortheir educational experience and personal development. The research (Carnett et Al., 2014; Cavalier, Ferretti, andHodges, 1997) shows that whilst ABA proves to be effective in all classroomsettings, token economies are most effective when used in special educationalneed settings as the behaviours and rewards can be tailored to individual needsand wants. Although the findings of someresearch seem mixed in how they come to their conclusions, the majority (Cavalier, Ferretti, and Hodges, 1997; Maggin et Al.
,2011; Carnett etAl., 2014) seem to agree that token economiesare very effective when used in classrooms. ReferencesBaer, D., Wolf, M.
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, Sigafoos, J., and Machalicek, W. (2014) ‘Effects of aPerseverative Interest-Based Token Economy on Challenging and On-Task Behaviorin a Child with Autism’, Journal of Applied Behavioral Education, 23(3),pp. 368-377.Cavalier, A., Ferretti, R., andHodges, A. (1997) ‘Self-management within a classroom token economy forstudents with learning disabilities’, Research in Developmental Disabilities, 18(3), pp.
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