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Applying Group Contingencies in Natural Settings. 2013 NASP symposium. Contributors Rachael Heisterkamp, Ed. S., NCSP Rebecca Parrish, M.S., CAGS. Discussant Robert Volpe, Ph.D., NCSP. Presenters David Hulac, Ph.D., NCSP Amy Briesch , Ph. D., NCSP Holly Pedersen, MTS

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applying group contingencies in natural settings

Applying Group Contingencies in Natural Settings

2013 NASP symposium


Rachael Heisterkamp, Ed. S., NCSP

Rebecca Parrish, M.S., CAGS


Robert Volpe, Ph.D., NCSP


David Hulac, Ph.D., NCSP

Amy Briesch, Ph. D., NCSP

Holly Pedersen, MTS

Danielle Dornbusch, B. A.

contingency parts1
Contingency parts.
  • During math, if George completes his assignment, George will get a Frisbee.
contingency parts2
Contingency parts.
  • During math, if Georgecompletes his assignment, George will get a Frisbee.
contingency parts3
Contingency parts.
  • During math, if George completes his assignment, George will get a Frisbee.
contingency parts4
Contingency parts.
  • During math, if George completes his assignment, George will get a Frisbee.
contingency parts5
Contingency parts.
  • During math, if George completes his assignment, Georgewill get a Frisbee.
contingency parts6
Contingency parts.
  • During math, if George completes his assignment, George will get a Frisbee.
what can we manipulate
What can we manipulate?
  • During math, if George completes his assignment, George will get a Frisbee.
the target task
The target task.
  • During math, if George completes some part of his assignment, George will get a Frisbee.
the target time
The target time.
  • During some subject, if George completes his assignment, George will get a Frisbee.
the reward
The reward.
  • During math, if George completes his assignment, George will get something.
the target individual
The target individual
  • During math, if someone in class completes his assignment, George will get a Frisbee.
contingency parts7
Contingency parts.
  • During math, if George completes his assignment, someone in the class will get a Frisbee.
group contingency definition
Group contingency definition
  • “…a class of interventions in which reinforcers are implemented to individuals or groups based on the performance of individual members or of all members of the group.”
group contingencies
Group contingencies …

…have the advantage of being easier for teachers to implement (Theodore, Bray, & Kehle, 2004) and can be utilized across multiple settings.

… meet the WWC standards of evidenced based intervention (Maggin, Johnson, Chafouleas, Ruberto, & Berggren, 2012).


In group contingencies, we place the focus on a group of people (either the criterion or the result).

three types
Three types
  • Independent
  • Dependent
  • Interdependent

Litow & Pumroy, 1975

types of group contingencies
Types of Group contingencies

Hulac & Benson, 2010

types of group contingencies1
Types of Group contingencies

Hulac & Benson, 2010

types of group contingencies2
Types of Group contingencies

Hulac & Benson, 2010

  • Group contingencies manipulate powerful forces in a classroom . . .
  • May subject a student to aggression.
  • Avoid as a means of punishment.
  • Avoid making other students aware of who is preventing them from access to rewards.
this symposium
This symposium . . .
  • Seeks to share three applications of group contingencies in natural – non-laboratory settings.
  • Variable control is much more difficult – calendars, fire alarms, absences, and no graduate students to terrify into following the procedure exactly!
  • Using group contingencies in a Special Education Classroom of high school students.
  • Presenter: Holly Pedersen, MTS
  • Contributor: Rachael Heisterkamp, Ed.S., NCSP
  • Applying group contingencies as part of a behavior plan to support the behavior of a first grade student.
  • Presenter: Danielle Dornbusch, B. A.
  • Applying group contingencies to a school lunchroom.
  • Presenter: Amy Briesch, Ph.D., NCSP
  • Contributor: Rebecca Parrish, M.S., CAGS

Gresham, F.M., & Gresham, G.N. (1982). Interdependent, dependent and independent group contingencies for controlling disruptive behavior. Journal of Special Education, 16, 101–110.

Hulac, D. M., & Benson, N. (2010). The use of group contingencies for preventing and managing disruptive behavior. Intervention in the School and Clinic 45(4), 257-262.

Kehle, T.J., Bray, M.A., & Theodore, L.A. (2000). A multi-component intervention designed to reduce disruptive classroom behavior. Psychology in the Schools, 37(5), 475-481.

Kelshaw-Levering, K., Sterling-Turner, H. E., Henry, J. R., & Skinner, C. H. (2000). Randomized interdependent group contingencies: Group reinforcement with a twist. Psychology in the Schools, 37, 523–533.


Litow, L., & Pumroy, D. K. (1975). A brief review of classroom group oriented contingencies. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 8(3), 341–347.

Maggin, D. M., Johnson, A. H., Chafouleas, S. M., Ruberto, L. M., & Berggren, M. (2012). A systematic evidence review of school-based group contingency interventions for students with challenging behavior. Journal of School Psychology, 50(5), 625-654.

Theodore, L. A., Bray, M. A., & Kehle, T. J. (2004). A comparative study of group contingencies and randomized reinforcers to reduce disruptive classroom behavior. School Psychology Quarterly, 19(3), 253-271.

the mystery motivator disruptive behavior

The Mystery Motivator & Disruptive Behavior

Conducted by Rachael Heisterkamp

Presented by Holly Pedersen

mystery motivator
Mystery Motivator
  • Uses unknown rewards and interdependent group contingency to shape behavior
  • Anticipation and interest maintained with variable ratio reinforcement and the variety of possible reinforcers

(Moor, Waguespack, Wickstron, & Witt, 1994)

  • Shown to be effective in reducing disruptive behaviors in classroom settings (Kehle, Bray, & Theodore, 2010)
  • Mostly with preschool and elementary age students (Murphy et al., 2007)
  • Schanding & Sterling-Turner (2010) examined its use with in secondary general education and found it to be effective on both an individual and classroom level

To determine if the Mystery Motivator alongside a group contingency could effectively reduce disruptive behaviors for students in a 9th grade math resource classroom.

  • 5 students in 9th grade
  • Junior/Senior High School in Upper Midwest
  • Special education resource math classroom
  • Referred by classroom teacher for off-task and disruptive behavior
  • 4 males, 1 female
  • All Caucasian
  • 3 identified with SLD
  • 2 identified with ADHD
abab design
ABAB Design
  • Chosen because it provides stronger evidence for causality than simple AB designs (Riley-Tillman & Burns, 2009)
  • Each phase of the intervention lasted one class week
dependent variable disruptive classroom b ehavior
Operationally defined by three behaviors:

off-task behaviors, out-of-seat behaviors, and inappropriate language

Dependent Variable:Disruptive Classroom Behavior
operational definitions
Operational Definitions
  • Off-task behavior: being oriented in a direction other than the teacher or the assignment for more than 10 seconds
  • Out-of-seat behavior: being out of seat without permission
  • Inappropriate Language: using profanity, making sexual references, or talking about drugs and alcohol
baseline a1
Baseline (A1)
  • Both school psychologist and teacher observed the frequency of DVs
  • 50 minute class broken into three 15-minute sessions
  • Class assigned a “+” or “–” for each session
  • “+” given if class was on-task, in their seats, and demonstrating appropriate language for more than 7 ½ minutes of the session
criteria for a
Criteria for a “+”

Earning a “+” requires students to refrain from displaying off-task behaviors, out-of-seat behaviors, or inappropriate language for at least 7 ½ minutes in a given 15 minute session

baseline a11
Baseline (A1)
  • During baseline:
    • Compared ratings after each class period
    • Agreed on ratings before recording
    • Students not aware of the data collection or rewards
  • After baseline – school psychologist was not present everyday – only for inter-rater reliability checks
intervention b1
Intervention (B1)
  • Students given a preference assessment
  • Teacher explained:
    • Students would have a chance to earn prizes for demonstrating expected classroom behavior
    • Must all demonstrate expected behavior
    • What expected behavior looked like
    • Three 15- minute sessions and “+” “-” system
  • Teacher told class how many “+’s” they earned
intervention b11
Intervention (B1)
  • Class had to get 3 “+’s” in order to draw
  • One student draws from two envelops
    • Reward envelope – listed the reward the students could have
    • Chance envelope – contained papers with “X’s” and “M’s”
      • M = reward drawn from envelope
      • X = verbal praise for getting 3 “+’s”
withdrawal a2
Withdrawal (A2)
  • Student informed that they would not play Mystery Motivator game or earn prizes
  • Students not aware their teacher would continue to collect data
intervention reinstated b2
Intervention Reinstated (B2)
  • Teacher informed class that they would have an opportunity to play the mystery motivator game to earn prizes again
  • Continued to collect data

PNDs for A1 and B1 is 0% for points below the baseline and 60% for points above the baseline

  • Overall – results indicate that the intervention reduced students’ problematic behaviors when implemented at the high school level
  • Increase in average behavior rating seen for both B1 and B2
  • Decrease in average behavior rating when intervention was withdrawn
  • Subjective nature of data collection

(No strict observational criteria)

  • Withdrawal period average higher than baseline average – suggesting carryover effects
  • Limited sample size
  • Ceiling effects
  • Kehle, T.J., Bray, M.A., & Theodore, L.A. (2000). A multi-component intervention designed to reduce disruptive classroom behavior. Psychology in the Schools, 37(5), 475-481. Retrieved from EBSCO MegaFile database.
  • Moore, L., Waguespack, A., Wickstrom, K., & Witt, J. (1994). Mystery motivator: An effective and efficient intervention. School Psychology Review, 23, 106-118.
  • Murphy, K. A., Theodore, L. A., Aloiso, D., Alric-Edwards, J. M., & Hughes, T. L. (2007). Interdependent Group Contingency and Mystery Motivators to Reduce Preschool Disruptive Behavior. Psychology In The Schools, 44(1), 53-63.
  • Schanding, G. R., & Sterling-Turner, H. E. (2010). Use of the Mystery Motivator for a High School Class. Journal Of Applied School Psychology, 26(1), 38-53.
group contingency as a component of an individual behavior support plan

Group contingency as a component of an individual behavior support plan

Danielle Dornbusch, Ph D student

  • Private school in the upper midwest
  • SAT team identified 1st grader (Randy)
    • Recess transition noncompliance
      • Takes too long
problem identification
Problem Identification
  • After the classroom teacher gave the directive for recess, Randy did not put on temperature appropriate clothing, line up at the door, walk down the hall with his class, or make a complete exit for recess with his peers.
  • Behavior 3-5 times a week, but sometimes occurred multiple times during the same day
data collection
Data Collection
  • Indirect measures
    • Principal, parent, and teacher interviews
    • Review of Student Record System (SRS) database
    • Functional Analysis Screening Tool (F.A.S.T.) (adapted from the Florida Center on Self-Injury)
  • Direct measures
    • Classroom observations
    • Functional Behavior Assessment Observation Form (FBAOF) (Steege, Watson, & Gresham, 2010)
    • Whole interval recording procedure (Tieghi-Benet et al., 2003)
hypothesized functions
Hypothesized functions
  • 1. Positive external reinforcement
    • A. Adult attention
    • B. Access to preferred activity
  • 2. Escape
    • A. Distressing/confusing situations, i.e. unclear expectations
fban function verification
FBAn- Function verification
  • 1A. Adult attention
    • Teacher will dismiss her class to recess and then go to her desk, sit down, and ignore Randy in entirety if he displays recess transition noncompliance
  • 1B. Access to preferred activity
    • Principal will provide supplies on request to make paper airplanes
    • Teacher will provide supplies and then request for Randy to exit for recess
  • 2A. Escape
    • Teacher will provide Randy with clear instruction . She will also include appropriate times to complete “extra” activities..i.e. homework, make airplanes
  • Attention
    • Randy sat in classroom and proceeded to gather materials to build paper airplane
  • Preferred activity
    • Randy declined recess and instead, desired to make paper airplanes. Randy received assistance in gathering supplies and stayed in classroom to make airplanes
    • Teacher allowed Randy to gather his own supplies. After initially resisting his teacher’s directive to exit to recess, he walked next to his teacher, carried his supplies , and exited for recess.
  • Escape
    • Randy complied and exited with his class to recess
fba results
FBA Results
  • Randy was escaping the confusing transition by refusing to comply with expectations.
dependent variable
Dependent variable
  • Direct Behavior Rating form (DBR) (Chafouleas, Riley-Tillman, & Christ, 2009)
    • Natural environment setting
    • Quick and efficient for intervention purposes
purpose of intervention
Purpose of intervention
  • Making transition period less aversive by making rules and expectation clear, and by making the transition period a time for positive peer attention.
what the plan included
What the plan included?
  • Social Skills training
  • Environmental structure and supports
    • Visual schedule
    • Peer mediation (direct cooperative learning groups)
  • Interdependent group contingency
    • Buddy board
  • Trainings
  • Integrity checks
why an interdependent group contingency
Why an interdependent group contingency?
    • Good fit with the additional components of the intervention
  • Low cost, minimal time required
  • Fit in to daily routine
  • Peer dependent
    • Increase levels of social interaction and cooperative behaviors among students
    • Build cohesion among classmates as they work together to try to achieve a common goal

(Hulac & Benson, 2001; Lo & Cartledge, 2004; Skinner, Cashwell, & Dunn, 1996; Slavin, 1991)



  • Follow instructions
  • Ask questions when something is not understood
  • Share
  • Be trained in essentials of social skills
direct cooperative learning groups
Direct cooperative learning groups
  • Positive interdependence
  • Group accountability
  • Promotive interaction
  • Teach students the required interpersonal and small group skills
  • Group processing

(Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 2008)

training and implementation
Training and implementation
  • Initial meeting
    • Teacher (60 min)
    • Classroom (30 min)
      • Buddy system / visual schedule
      • Discipline with a Purpose
      • Buddy checkerboard
      • Modeling/Student role plays
      • Immediate feedback and praise

15 min

15 min

integrity checks
Integrity Checks
  • How collected
    • Principal, interventionist
  • Results
    • 100% compliance
  • Teacher buy-in
  • Intervention fit with classroom environment
  • Collaboration
  • Targeted the student’s individual needs
  • Positive environment for success to occur
  • Cost-effective
  • AB design
  • Length of intervention/follow up
  • Reliability of DBRNo objective observation of behavior for dependent variable
  • Integrity checks only conducted first week
  • Difficult to establish strict research control because multiple interventions were in place
  • Cashwell, T. H., Skinner, C. H., & Smith, E. S. (2001). Increasing Second-Grade Students' Reports of Peers' Prosocial Behaviors Via Direct Instruction, Group Reinforcement and Progress Feedback: A Replication and Extension. Education & Treatment Of Children (ETC), 24(2), 161.
  • Hulac, D. M., & Benson, N. (2010). The use of group contingencies for preventing and managing disruptive behaviors. Intervention in School and Clinic, 45(4), 257-262. 
  • Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R., & Holubec, E. (2008). Cooperation in the classroom (8th ed.). Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company
  • Ling, S., Hawkins, R., & Weber, D. (2011). Effects of a Classwide Interdependent Group Contingency Designed to Improve the Behavior of an At-Risk Student. Journal Of Behavioral Education, 20(2), 103-116.
  • Lo, Y., & Cartledge, G. (2004). Total Class Peer Tutoring and Interdependent Group Oriented Contingency: Improving the Academic and Task Related Behaviors of Fourth Grade. Education & Treatment Of Children, 27(3), 235-262.
references cont
References cont.
  • Morrison, L., Kamps, D., Garcia, J., Parker, D., & Dunlap, G. (2001). Peer Mediation and Monitoring Strategies to Improve Initiation and Social Skills for Students with Autism. Journal Of Positive Behavior Interventions, 3(4), 237.
  • Quill, K. (1995). Visually-cued instruction for children with autism and pervasive developmental disorders. Focus on Autistic Behavior, 10, 10-20.
  • Skinner, C. H., Cashwell, C. S., & Dunn, M. S. (1996). Independent and interdependent group contingencies: Smoothing the rough waters. Special Services in the Schools, 12, 61-78.
  • Slavin, R. E. (1991). Cooperative learning and group contingencies. Journal Of Behavioral Education, 1(1), 105-115. 
  • Thorne, S., & Kamps, D. (2008). The effects of a group contingency intervention on academic engagement and problem behavior of at-risk students. Behavior Analysis In Practice, 1(2), 12-18
examining changes in disruptive behavior during school lunch using the lunchtime behavior game

Examining Changes in Disruptive Behavior During School Lunch Using the Lunchtime Behavior Game

Becca Parrish, M.S., CAGS

Jessica Hoffman, Ph.D., NCSP

Amy Briesch, Ph.D., NCSP

Louis Kruger, PsyD

  • Approximately 50% of problem behaviors in schools occur in non-classroom settings (Astor & Meyer, 2001; Colvin, Sugai, Good, & Lee, 1997)
  • Lunchrooms particularly problematic because monitors typically not trained in behavior management
    • Tend to respond to student misbehavior while ignoring pro-social and positive student behavior (Imich & Jefferies, 1989)
    • More likely to use punitive discipline (MacPherson, Candee, & Hohman, 1974)
    • Unresolved problems threaten to reduce instructional class time (Lassen, Steele, & Sailor, 2006)
lunchroom behavior game mccurdy et al 2009
Lunchroom Behavior Game (McCurdy et al., 2009)

Adaptation of Good Behavior Game (GBG; Barrish et al., 1969)

  • Lunchroom rules explicitly taught
  • Class receives tick mark for rule infraction
  • Total # of infractions recorded at end of lunch
  • Criterion announced on Monday and classes below criterion received prize
limitations of previous research purpose of current study
Limitations of Previous Research & Purpose of Current Study
  • Although giving points to students for breaking rules has been effective in reducing disruptive behavior, possibility of negative effects (e.g., reduced self-esteem, stigmatization, negative/aggressive reactions)
  • Purpose of current study to evaluate the effectiveness of a modified LBG, in which students were rewarded for rule following behaviors, in reducing disruptive behavior in the cafeteria
setting and participants
Setting and Participants
  • Cafeteria of a public elementary school in a suburban community
    • School did not have SW-PBS in place
  • All 373 students grades one through five
    • Five lunch periods
    • Students ate by grade
  • All school lunch monitors and grade-based teaching assistants
  • MB across classes
  • Baseline = standard practice
    • reprimanding students for misbehavior
    • taking away recess time
    • sending students to the principal’s office
    • turning off the lights
    • yelling
    • lecturing
    • reporting behaviors to classroom teachers
modified lbg intervention
Modified LBG Intervention
  • Classes earned points and verbal reinforcement for positive, rule-following behavior
  • Classes awarded points for following each of the three cafeteria rules (Safe Body, Respect Others, Talk Quietly)
    • 2 points = all of the class followed this rule
    • 1 point = most of the class followed this rule
    • 0 points = only a few members of the class followed this rule
  • Points publicly posted in cafeteria
  • Mystery criterion drawn at end of week
  • Teachers were notified and responsible for administering the reinforcement within one week
training adults
Training: Adults
  • Meetings with lunch monitors and administration to develop rules
  • 30-min lunch monitor training in behavior management (e.g., active supervision, positive reinforcement) and intervention components (e.g., awarding points, addressing rule violations)
training students
Training: Students
  • 20-min classroom lessons to introduce cafeteria rules and LBG to students using direct instruction, visual aides, choral responding, and role-playing
  • Students helped create menu of small, low-cost, easily implemented rewards
    • five minutes of extra recess
    • recess on the school’s restricted playground
    • special recess activities
dependent variable1
Dependent variable
  • Disruptive Behavior (DB) measured using the Behavioral Assessment of Students in the Lunchroom (BASiL; Volpe, Hoffman, & Parrish, 2009)
    • 15-sec partial interval sampling
    • Observe each student for 15 sec, then move to next student at table
    • 12 min observation  48 students observed
  • IOA calculated across 23% of observations
  • Kappa ranged from 0.86 to 0.87, reflecting “almost perfect” agreement (Landis & Koch, 1977)
treatment integrity
Treatment integrity
  • Corrective feedback (78%) used more consistently than positive reinforcement (53%)
    • Consistent w/ results of previous studies (e.g., Hoffman et al., 2011; Jeffrey, 2005)
    • How do we change interaction styles to include higher levels of praise and positive comments for rule-following behavior?


  • M = 14.6%
  • (range = 0% - 31.6%)
  • Intervention
  • M = 9.7%
  • (range = 0% - 20.8%)
  • Effect Size = -0.7 (range = -1.1 – 0.1)
  • PAND = 75% (d = 1.84)

Integrity above 80% for 2, 3, 4

38% for 5th

50% for 1st

  • Treatment integrity
    • More information (acceptability, self-efficacy) about lunch monitors’ experience implementing the LBG
  • Data collection (4 days in Lunchroom B)
  • Cannot separate out effect of training in active supervision and behavior management from effect of LBG specifically
future directions
Future Directions
  • Strategies to change interaction styles of lunch monitors (i.e. include higher levels of praise and positive comments)
  • Variable integrity and use of multi-component intervention suggests need for identification of critical components
  • Positive reinforcement observed 0% of time in Grade 1 but used corrective feedback and points 100% of time (ES = -1.0)

Contact Becca Parrish: