Abstract then is given the chance to recreate





analysis is the science of behaviour. Applied behaviour analysis is concerned
with actions, how people behave, and it is therefore important when looking at
controlling behaviour in classrooms. A token economy is a method of behaviour
controlling, one which aims to elicit positive behaviours through rewards. This
piece addresses applied behaviour analysis in educational settings and the
effectiveness of a token economy in controlling behaviour in a classroom.

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Challenging behaviour
in classrooms is an important topic as it can cause serious problems for all
students in the class. Behaviour analysis is the science of behaviour (Vargas,
2009) and applied behaviour analysis is concerned with socially important behaviours
and controlling them (Cooper, Heron, and Heward, 2007). Applied behaviour analysis
is used often in special needs education settings, but it can also be used
effectively in all school settings. There are various methods, for example a
token economy (a system for providing positive reinforcement through rewards)
or video modelling (a child watches a video a few times and then is given the
chance to recreate what they watch, and they are scored on how many steps they
get correct). This piece addresses what applied behaviour analysis and a token economy
is, and how effective token economies are in terms of controlling behaviour in
a classroom setting.


Analysis and Education


Science is
defined as a systematic approach to seeking and organising knowledge about the
world around us (Cooper, Heron, and Heward, 2007), it is the study of relations
between 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 of
behaviour, and in terms of applied behaviour analysis, this is socially
important behaviours (Cooper et Al., 2007). Behaviour is everything an
individual does, for example walking, talking, feeling, thinking and so on.
Behaviour analysis is the study of these behaviours (Vargas, 2009). Applied
behaviour analysis (ABA) is expanding fast in education, especially within
special education. ABA is derived from basic laboratory research, known as the
experimental analysis of behaviour (Cooper, 1982). Applied behaviour research
is concerned with the manipulation of environmental stimuli to help individuals
effectively emit specific responses that are important to society. This kind of
research is interested in what people do rather than say.


John B.
Watson argued that the objective study of behaviour should consist of direct
observation of the relationships between the environmental stimuli and the
responses evoked (Vargas, 2009). To gain a true understanding of behaviour
analysis, it is important to draw upon the work of B. F. Skinner, who
ultimately studied the behaviour of organisms, looking at the respondent and
operant. Respondent behaviour is reflexive behaviour; a response is elicited by
a stimulus in front of them. The antecedent stimulus and the response elicited
then form a unit known as a reflex. Respondent behaviours occur whenever the
eliciting stimulus is presented. However, most of the behaviour of organisms is
spontaneous and as respondent behaviours tend to only occur when the eliciting
stimulus is presented, the stimulus-response explanation therefore does not
explain much in terms of behaviour. As a result, Skinner founded a second type
called operant behaviour. Operant behaviours are not elicited by preceding
stimuli but instead they are influenced by stimulus changes that have already
followed previous behaviour (Vargas, 2009). From this, he formed an
understanding of behaviour and experimental analyses of the effects of
consequences on behaviour.


The applied
part of applied behaviour analysis signifies the commitment to improve people’s
behaviours to improve their lives (Cooper et Al., 2007). To do so, the
practitioner should therefore select appropriate behaviours to change that are
socially significant and will improve the daily experience of their
participants. 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 therefore
be of behaviour and not about to determine accurate research. Second, to ensure
that research of behaviour is reliable, it must be measurable. Lastly, when
observing changes in behaviour, it is important to determine whether it was the
behaviour of the participant or observer. This therefore allows for any
influence to be recorded. Applied behaviour analysis research is aimed at
discovering and clarifying functional relations between socially significant
behaviour and its controlling variables, with this the researchers can
contribute to further development of an effective technology of behaviour
change. (Cooper et Al., 2007). Applied behaviour analysis aims to make
meaningful improvements in behaviour and to produce analysis of the factors
responsible for this improvement and this can be done in many ways such as
token economy, video modelling and many more. For inclusion to be successful,
teachers require skills to be able to design lessons that are tailored to be
inclusive whilst still being able to manage the classroom. Behavioural issues
within the classroom can often hinder the class’ academic achievement (Vargas,
2009), therefore it is important to have a well-managed classroom to ensure
that children are getting the best educational experience possible.


Token Economy


Focusing on
just one method in an educational setting, a token economy is a system for
providing positive reinforcement to children by rewarding them with tokens for
the completion of tasks or desired behaviours (respondent behaviour). Token
economies are used as a method of strengthening or increasing the frequency of
behaviours as the tokens become ways of rewarding the children for completing
tasks or behaviours, they are then able to use the tokens to buy activities
they wish to partake in or items they want (Miltenberger, 2008). Target
behaviours vary from child to child depending upon how they behave, and token
economies can be used to either increase a child’s desire to behave well or it
can also be used to decrease a child’s negative behaviour; for example, it
could involve reinforcing them to say good morning to their teacher as they
enter the classroom or not disrupting the class etc.


economies act as backup reinforces, for example they can be an activity or an
item that a child enjoys, and the token economy therefore becomes paired with
the earning of this (Miltenberger, 2008). Token economy charts can vary, some
may have images of the reward on for the children to see, some may have a space
for the child to write themselves what they want to earn, and others may not
have any reminders but simply just keep count of how many tokens the children
have 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 what
anyone wants because it is what that money can buy for you, it in fact is just
a means to an end. Just like money, for children getting these tokens means
getting things you want e.g. sweets, chocolate, play time. Eventually, as the
intervention decreases they should start to produce these behaviours without
the need for the stimulus to be present (operant behaviour).


of Token Economies


Matson and
Boisjoli (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 student
behaviour as this can lead to a negative impact on the educational experience
of others. To effectively address challenging behaviours, teachers are
encouraged to employ behaviour management strategies that are backed up by
substantial evidence (Maggin, Robertson, Oliver, Hollo, and Moore Partin,
2010). There are many methods that have been founded to address behaviour
problems, one of them being Token Economies. Token economies have been
identified as one of 20 evidence-based classroom management practices
(Simonsen, Fairbanks, Briesch, Myers and Sugai, 2008). In this review conducted
by Simonsen (2008), the strategies were deemed evidence-based if 3 experimental
studies indicated an overall effectiveness. However, although this was an
important step in determining whether or not they have sufficient evidence to
warrant the use of token economies in classrooms, a more in-depth evaluation of
the 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 economy
intervention that either did or did not include the interests of the
participants with autism. It was found during a literacy task that the tokens
with the interest of the participants were more effective at decreasing
challenging behaviour and they were effective at increasing positive behaviour.
These effects were then replicated in their classrooms to control their
behaviour. These results therefore suggest that perseverative interest-based
token may enhance the effectiveness of interventions based on token economies
and that they prove to be effective in special educational needs situations. Some
research (McKee and Witt, 1990) has shown that children do not always respond
to 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 the
findings of Carnett et Al. (2014) show, interest-based tokens are effective. In
addition to this, Frederiksen and Frederiksen (1975) looked at the long-term
effectiveness of both teacher-determined and self-determined token
reinforcement in the control of negative (disruptive) and positive (desired)
behaviours in a classroom. It was found that the teacher-determined token
reinforcement was successful in controlling both the disruptive and desired
behaviours over a period of 14 weeks. The self-determined reinforcement
followed straight after the teacher’s and it was found that this was also
effective over a period of 11 weeks. Furthermore, the children’s
self-assessments highly correlated with the teacher assessments, however it was
found that the children tended to be more lenient. This therefore demonstrates
that token economies are effective through both teacher and self-led in
controlling student’s behaviours in a classroom. However, it would be
interesting to see how effective these token reinforcements are in controlling
the behaviours over a longer period.


Furthermore, Maggin
et Al. (2011) conducted a two-part systematic review to evaluate the strength
of evidence supporting the use of token economies designed to increase
appropriate behaviours in classrooms. Following a general overview of sample
characteristics and intervention features, the degree of evidence was assessed
by firstly applying the ‘What Works Clearinghouse’ (WWC) standards for
evaluating single-case research and secondly by conducting a quantitative
synthesis across all cases by estimating 4 different summary effect indices.
The results suggest that there is a lack of support for token economies as an
evidence-based practice due to the failure of meeting the basic design
standards needed to ensure methodological rigor. Only a few of the cases were
eligible for evidence evaluation with most providing sufficient visual evidence
in order to be classified as effective. As a result, they decided to include
all cases within the subsequent quantitative synthesis which provided some
support for the use of token economies. Three of the four effect sizes
indicated that this intervention was effective in a classroom. However, considering
the methodological weakness found across the studies, these conclusions must be
taken lightly. When considering this small body of research, it appears that token
economies appear to be highly effective in improving social behaviour and
academic achievement for the children that do not behave well in classroom


In conclusion, the topic of challenging behaviour in classrooms is important, as is
the methods to control it. Through looking at how behaviour and education are
linked, it becomes apparent that the behaviours learnt in the classroom are
important to wider society, these can be simple things such as how we talk or
think. Behaviour analysis is concerned with socially important behaviour, and
applied behaviour analysis is concerned with helping individuals effectively
emit specific socially desirable behaviours. Token economy, a system for providing positive reinforcement through
rewards is important in education as you’re able to elicit desirable behaviours
from children that are deemed as socially important but are also necessary for
their educational experience and personal development. The research (Carnett et Al., 2014; Cavalier, Ferretti, and
Hodges, 1997) shows that whilst ABA proves to be effective in all classroom
settings, token economies are most effective when used in special educational
need settings as the behaviours and rewards can be tailored to individual needs
and wants. Although the findings of some
research seem mixed in how they come to their conclusions, the majority (Cavalier, Ferretti, and Hodges, 1997; Maggin et Al.,2011; Carnett et
Al., 2014) seem to agree that token economies
are very effective when used in classrooms. 









Baer, D., Wolf, M., and Risley, T.
(1968) ‘Some Current Dimensions of Applied Behaviour Analysis’, Journal
of Applied Behaviour Analysis, 1(1), pp. 91-97.

Carnett, A., Raulston, T., Lang, R.,
Tostanoski, A., Lee, A., Sigafoos, J., and Machalicek, W. (2014) ‘Effects of a
Perseverative Interest-Based Token Economy on Challenging and On-Task Behavior
in a Child with Autism’, Journal of Applied Behavioral Education, 23(3),
pp. 368-377.

Cavalier, A., Ferretti, R., and
Hodges, A. (1997) ‘Self-management within a classroom token economy for
students with learning disabilities’, Research in Developmental Disabilities, 18(3), pp. 167-178.

Cooper, J (1982) ‘Applied Behaviour
Analysis in Education’, Theory into Practice, 21(2), pp.

Cooper, J., Heron, T., and Heward, E
(2007) Instructor’s Manual with Test Items to accompany: Applied
Behavior Analysis, Second edn., New Jersey: Pearson Education.

Frederiksen, L., and Frederiksen, C.
(1975) ‘Teacher-determined and self-determined token reinforcement in a special
education classroom’, Behaviour Therapy, 6(3), pp. 310-314.

Maggin, D., Robertson, R., Oliver, R. M., Hollo, A.,
& Moore Partin, T. C. (2010). Integrating research, policy, and practice to
bring science to the classroom: New leaders’ perspectives on the field of
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Maggin, D., Chafouleas, S., Goddard,
K., and Johnson, A. (2011) ‘A systematic evaluation of token economies as a
classroom management tool for students with challenging behavior’, Journal
of School Psychology, 49(), pp. 529-554.

Matson, J., and Boisjoli, J. (2009)
‘The token economy for children with intellectual disability and/or autism: A
review’, Research in Developmental Disabilities, 30(2), pp.

McKee, T., and Witt, J. (1990)
‘Effective teaching: a review of instructional and environmental variables’, in
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Miltenberger, R. (2008) Behaviour Modification, Belmont, CA:

Simonsen, B., Fairbanks, S., Briesch, A., Myers, D.,
& Sugai, G. (2008). Evidenced-based practices in classroom management:
Considerations for research to practice. Education and Treatment of Children,
31, 351–380.

Vargas, J (2009) Applied
Behaviour Analysis for Effective Teaching, New York


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