Making Interdependent Group Contingencies Work in the Classroom

A big part of my job is working as a consultant in different school districts. More times than none, I will observe in a classroom filled with students who could use a little extra motivation to do the “right” thing. Here’s an easy fix for that, based off the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis!

According to Cooper, Heron, & Heward (2007), an interdependent group contingency is “a contingency in which reinforcement for all members of a group is dependent on each member of the group meeting a performance criterion that is in effect for all members of the group.”

Cooper, J. H., Heron, T.E., & Heward, W.L. (2007). Applied behavior analysis: Second edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.

Often times, teachers are already applying this contingency in different ways (i.e. filling a jar up with marbles). What I like to do, is inspire the teacher to get a little more creative. In turn this motivates the students EVEN MORE!

Cotton “snow” balls will be given upon instances of targeted group behavior. When the snow hill is filled, the students will earn a hot chocolate and movie party!
Star stickers will be given upon instances of targeted group behavior. When the night sky is filled, the students will earn a space party!
Gold “sand” stickers will be given upon instances of targeted group behavior. When the beach is filled, the students will earn a double recess day!

Here are some easy steps to follow:

  1. Have your students get together and pick a reward to work for
  2. Create a simple design based off what they are working for *see above designs & descriptions*
  3. Hang the blank design in your classroom [have “tokens” nearby]
  4. Discuss the goal(s) with your students and define the behavior(s) you want to see [i.e. the entire class walks quietly in the hall or the entire class follows directions without having to be told twice]
  5. Encourage your students & begin

Here are some important reminders:

  • There is no deadline on how long it takes for the students to reach their goal
  • Hang this front and center in the classroom
  • Once a goal is reached, you can start another
  • Give “tokens” immediately after targeted group behavior occurs
  • Verbal reminders, behavioral priming, and specific praise all pair nicely with interdependent group contingencies

With this, the possibilities are endless… Now, go out and motivate your kiddos!

Thanks for reading! ~E~

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