Sunday, May 26, 2013

Token Economies: Should Students Be Paid To Behave?

Student teachers practice teaching kindergarte...
A disciplined classroom? (Wikipedia)
by Dr. Genola Johnson

I struggled with my behavior intervention plan in my last year of teaching.

It was not that I could not manage the behaviors in the classroom.

I was able to manage the behaviors, but my struggle was with the token economy part of the behavior management system.

This was my dilemma.

I was furloughed for 3 days that school year.

Normally I taught 190 days a school year; that year I taught 187. I know 3 days may not seem like much. But, when your spouse is also an educator and is furloughed, that is a total of 6 days worth of income not coming in.

The total amount of furlough days were about $250.00/day that was not coming into my household budget. That being said, my struggle was, "Do I want to 'PAY' students to behave in my class?" Do I want to purchase candy, ice cream, pizza, etc. for exchange for their "good" behavior so I could teach?

I believe behavior should be intrinsic. A student should want to behave in class so they can learn. Learning is their job. My job was to teach.

I do agree, however, that it is also my responsibility to make my lessons fun and engaging. It is the student's responsibility to want to learn to become better citizens of society. I do understand, also, that is often not the case.

Behavior intervention plans are created to encourage a student to behave properly in school. These plans are used to intervene/change a student's bad behavior.

A team of teachers, the parent and the student usually create the plan. There are rules for the student; consequences if the rules are broken and consequences if the rules are followed, such as a token economy.

A token economy is sometimes used in behavior intervention plans. The token economy is used to try to alter misbehavior actions by the student. For example, if the student does not yell out in class for a particular time period, the student receives a reward.

The reward is usually a sticker, special privilege, or food, i.e., candy, chips, ice cream, etc. The token economy system often requires the teacher to purchase items for the exchange for the appropriate behavior in class. Purchased items from teachers household budget.

I did not want to "BUY" my student's good behavior. Again I state, the student should WANT to behave in order to learn. And, from my experience, this management system did not last long and made my classroom management more difficult.

These behavior modification plans do not provide the student with self-efficacy and a sense of accomplishments.

According to, "The Psycho-Educational Teacher: Helping Students With Recurrent Behavior Problems, " the student believes, "I can do ____, so that I can get ___," as a control of their behavior outwardly and not controlling the behavior inwardly. This makes the intrinsic motivation to behave devalued.

Students should have a say in what motivates them. Children should follow good behavior rules in making appropriate behavior choices.

Good behavior should be its own reward. The student's feeling of belonging to a classroom to learn and feeling appreciated is the self-efficacy the student should bring to the table. This behavior management technique will last longer than a day.

Dr. Genola Johnson has 21 years in education and has tried behavior contracts to token economies. For more information on behavior management, visit,

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