Check to ensure that your behavior contract includes these five, best practice components:
- The student should be included in the development of the contract. This allows the student to buy-in, which is a critical step. Your best practice behavior contract is a negotiated agreement, not a contract that the adult(s) write on behalf of the student. An evidenced based behavior contract does NOT include having the adults bring the student into a meeting to tell him/her all the things they have done wrong, the consequences for continued behavior and then ask them to sign on the dotted line.
- The contract explicitly states the positive behaviors or social skills we want the student to exhibit. Ineffective behavior contracts often describe the problem behaviors educators don’t want to see. This approach doesn’t teach the student the positive behaviors or social skills they need to perform to be more successful.
- The behavior contract always includes a reinforcement component so the student receives some sort of pay off when he satisfies his part of the contract by meeting the goal.
- The contract consists of giving signed copies of the contract to all parties involved, including the teacher, parents, administrators, and students themselves.
- The contract requires that the teacher implement precorrection and prompting tactics to follow through with implementing the contract. This means the teacher is cuing the student about the positive behavior they want to see, especially prior to events that the student finds difficult or stressful.
“When all of these [five] features are carried out, then you have implemented a best practice behavior contract system that is likely to produce desirable changes in a students’ emotional and behavioral functioning in school” (Clayton R. Cook, PhD, University of Washington).
So which students will benefit most from a best practice behavior contract system? Behavioral contracts can be effective for students who act out, are disruptive and/or aggressive or for students who withdraw, have limited class participation, limited social interactions with peers and have excessive somatic complaints. Because the contract specifies the positive behaviors or skills the student should exhibit it can be effective in addressing many forms of behavior challenges.
1. Arrange a behavior contract meeting between the student and adults.
2. Hold the meeting to negotiate and develop the behavior contract:
- Describe the alternative appropriate behaviors or social skills you would like the student to demonstrate.
- Gain the student’s input and commitment.
- Make sure the student is actually capable of exhibiting the appropriate behaviors, if the student can’t exhibit the appropriate behaviors or social skills due to lagging skills then decide how the skills will be taught and by whom. Provide time for the teaching of these skills to take place.
- Help the student identify rewards, activities, or privileges to be earned if he/she meets the goal (the student selects preferred items, activities or rewards that he will earn based on good behavior).
- Consider how frequently the reward will be earned. How long can the student delay gratification? The younger the student, the more often they will need to be able to earn the reward.
4. Teacher implementation of precorrection and prompting:
Teacher pre-corrects the student prior to all situations in which the behavior is likely to occur, provides a subtle cue when the student displays inappropriate behavior, and reminds the student about what he is working for. If the behavior problem continues despite providing a few prompts, then the teacher should carry out the typical progressive discipline plan (for example, removal of privileges, reprimands, in-class time-out, office referral).
5. Follow-up to ensure fidelity of implementation
Problems to troubleshoot:
- Student isn’t interested in the reward: experiment with other reinforcers, ask the student to identify another reinforcer, or have the student sample the reinforcer
- Student has to wait too long to get access to reinforcer: allow the student to access reinforcers in shorter periods of time or deliver tokens that can be periodically given and exchanged for desired items/privileges
- Teacher does not implement precorrection and prompting: provide performance-based feedback
Click here for a Behavior Contract template that meets the criteria recommended in this post: SCSD Behavior Contract.
Cook, C.R. (n.d.). Best practice Behavior Contract System: Brokering a Deal with the Student to Get Better Behavior. University of Washington.