Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Improving Behavior through Differential Reinforcement: A Praise Note System for Elementary School Students

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Improving Behavior through Differential Reinforcement: A Praise Note System for Elementary School Students

Article excerpt


Schools are often in need of low-cost, high-impact strategies to improve student behavior in school common areas. While many behavior management programs exist, there are few resources available to guide the implementation of these programs and ensure they are grounded in evidence-based strategies. Therefore, the current study had two primary purposes: first, to demonstrate the effectiveness of a simple behavior management system, and second, to begin the process of providing some guidance for the application of similar systems. The study used a differential reinforcement of incompatible behavior (DRI) procedure in a multiple-baseline design across three target behaviors to decrease inappropriate and increase appropriate behaviors in an elementary school lunchroom. The intervention consisted of 1) teaching specific appropriate behaviors 2) providing opportunities for students to practice skills, and 3) implementing a Praise Note system to reward students for behaving appropriately. Students were taught appropriate behaviors, and the school staff was trained to recognize and reward students who kept the lunchroom clean, sat appropriately in their seats, and walked in the lunchroom. Data show significant decreases for each of three target behaviors. The average amount of litter left in the lunchroom decreased by 96%, the average number of instances of sitting inappropriately decreased by 64%, and the average number of instances of running in the lunchroom decreased by 75%. Beyond contributing to the effective intervention strategies available to reduce problem behaviors in common areas, this research also provide much needed guidance for effectively implementing the necessary components of a Praise Note system, namely, program intensity, and delivery.


Behavior problems are a well-documented and an ever-increasing challenge facing educators (Mayer, 2001; Walker & Horner, 1996) and effective behavior management strategies that meet these challenges and promote safety for students and adults are of significant interest for educators nationally (Scott, 2001; Turnbull, Edmonson, Griggs, Wickham, Sailor, Freeman, Guess, Lassen, McCart, Park, Riffel, Turnbull, & Warren, 2002). To confront these problems, many administrators have already successfully adopted school-wide intervention strategies to address concerns throughout the school environment (Lewis & Sugai, 1999; Oswald, Safran, & Johanson, 2005).

Most traditional behavior management programs have focused on teaching and rewarding appropriate student behaviors that typically occur in the classroom setting. While these strategies may be effective within the classroom, they often fail to address concerns associated with misbehavior in school common areas. School "common areas," can be described as places where relatively few adults supervise large groups of students, and little or no formalized instruction occurs. School common areas may include hallways, lunchrooms, playgrounds, and buses or bus lines.

Previous research suggests that misbehavior in school common areas accounts for approximately one-half of all problem behaviors in many schools (Colvin, Sugai, Good, & Lee, 1997). In an assessment of office discipline referral (ODR) frequency by location, 47% of all office-managed discipline referrals collected throughout the school year resulted from problems arising in common areas (Todd, A., Haugen, L., Anderson, K., & Spriggs, M., 2002). The average elementary school student with a thirty-minute lunch break, two ten-minute recesses, and occasional trips to and from the library or other areas of the school, may spend up to one hour or more of a typical school day in common areas (this number is increased for students who ride the school bus or participate in resource or special education programs). Therefore, given the amount of time students spend in common areas and the number of overall problem behaviors that reportedly occur there, it is estimated that problem behavior is six times more likely to occur in common areas than in the classroom. …

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