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Will Token Economy Be an Effective Technique Used by Teachers to Improve Student Behaviour in Classrooms?

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Will token economy be an effective technique used by teachers to improve student behaviour in classrooms?

Navena C. Segar

PSY1011 Critical Thinking Assignment 2

Student Name: Navena C. Segar

Student Number: 27360490

Tutor: Ashima Soni

Word Count: 1072

Token economy has been seen to be effective in modifying classroom behaviour, as it is a learning strategy which is used by many teachers all over the world. This is a method created by B.F Skinner (1948) and it was based on Edward Thorndike’s (1905) theory known as “Law of Effect”. This was a method which students earn token for specific behaviour. It is mostly used in classrooms to modify students’ behaviour. It is one of the behavioral management techniques that is used more frequently to encourage students to participate more in classroom discussion and to allow teachers to maintain a healthy learning environment where they are able to handle disruptive behaviour.

Recently there has been a problem when the instructor poses a question there is an apparent “silence” as no one responds. (Boniecki and Moore, 2003). According to Jalongo et al (1998 recited in Nelson, 2010) classroom participation has decreased severely with only 10 percent of students that will voluntarily participate in class. A study by Boniecki and Moore (2003) have been performed to increase the participation of students in classroom by having an assistant observe the level of participation prior and during token economy as an extra credit for their final grade. In comparison to Nelson (2010) and Hodge’s (1991 recited in Boniecki and Moore, 2003) study which was to evaluate the student’s participation by asking them questions on their beliefs and opinions. Boniecki and Moore’s (2003) results suggested the amount of participation increased during token economy but decreased when token economy was removed whereas, Nelson’s (2015) suggested that students slightly increased their participation with and without the aid of token economy which was parallel to the results presented by Junn (1994 cited in Nelson, 2010). As students with a “focus mastery approach” seem to ask more questions, which highlights that some students in Boniecki and Moore’s (2003) study wasn’t focused hence the decrease after token economy was removed. (Scepansky & Bjornesen, 2003).

Although some studies focused on the aspect of increasing participation, many other studies investigated the different strategies including token economy to modify disruptive behaviour. There has been an increase in a number of children displaying disruptive behaviour in classrooms, which can be difficult for teachers to control the class. (Reitman et al, 2004).  Mottram et al (2002) and Tiano et al (2005) all investigated similar objectives in improving behaviour as they attempted to token economy alongside other techniques, in hoping to find the most accurate technique that would also be easy to implement. Mottram et al (2002) used token economy, response cost and a mystery motivator, whereas Tiano et al (2005), used the level system which was compromised of the token economy and response cost. According to Humphrey et al (1978 recited in Mottram et al) and Tiano et al (2005), both of their results highlighted that response cost was effective but it only worked if token economy was presented at the same time. However the results had some discrepancies as inappropriate behaviour continues to decrease whether the techniques were implemented or not. This brought upon that through the reflection of student data there was no conclusion that could have been made about treatment efficacy.

One of the factors that could have skewed Tiano et al’s (2005) results was that the level system may have impacted the teacher’s behaviour as she either used a great number of praises or fewer critical statements ( Filcheck, 2003). McGoey and Du Paul (2000) exemplified that in Mottram et al’s study (2002), the teachers chose not to use the techniques because it required too much time and effort from the teacher, hence making it harder to implement in large classrooms. There are a few researchers that are against the use of token economy as some children will not be able to comprehend why they receive tokens and the amount they require to receive an award. It can also be time consuming for the teacher as it takes effort to think of a reward system and plan a class surrounding it. (Miltenberger 1997). Although some researchers are against token economy in younger children Filcheck et al (2004) has proven that token economy has resulted in more of a positive classroom environment, as it decreased inappropriate behaviour. Thus, suggesting that token economy is able to produce better results with or without the aid of other techniques.

Currently, recent studies showed that token economy might help children with autism or other learning disabilities. While maintaining the use of token economy, Hackenberg (2009) and Matson and Boisjoli (2009) have demonstrated that the behaviour can be decreased. Carnett et al’s (2014) study was to compare the effects of token economy, whether it would change the individual’s social behaviour allowing him to interact with other students. This was an extension to Charlo-Christy and Hayme’s (1989) study. In comparison to Gilley and Ringdahl’s (2014) study, which was to investigate if token economy would increase independent sharing in children with autistic spectrum disorder. Results from Carnett et al’s (2014) illustrated, that the token economy intervention resulted decreased challenging behaviour and increased the on task and social behaviour in children with autism. Even though, Gilley and Ringdahl’s (2014) results were similar to the other study, but it wasn’t accurate as they weren’t able to systematically identify the conditions under which sharing behaviour was likely to happen. Many studies have assessed the efficiency of a token economy based interventions by children with a learning disorder, and have shown that it does increase appropriate behaviour and social interactions between peers and adults (McDonald and Hemmes 2003 & Tarbox et al 2006). Ultimately, this shows that token economy is able to help children with and without a learning disability.



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