Case 2: The Case of Mrs. Riley

This is Mrs. Riley. She has just been asked to take over a class of third graders who are very energetic and have tried the patience of many teachers. In fact, Mrs. Riley is the third teacher to take over the class this year and it is only November! These students are not only unruly but most of them did not earn passing marks on their most recent state administered exam of basic skills. Mrs. Riley thinks these poor scores were due to class time lost to constant disruption. The major behavior challenges in the class are, fighting, yelling out answers/questions, not staying seated during work time, and failure to complete in class assignments. Mrs. Riley contacted an ABA professional to design some effective behavior modification methods that would help the children settle down and be able to better focus on learning. The behaviorist recommended a token economy system in which Mrs. Riley would contract with the students on desired behaviors. Each student that makes it through the day without any behavior incidents will get a penny. Friday afternoons will be “store” time. The students will be able to trade their pennies in for different prizes. Some will be tangible items such as pieces of candy. Others will be privileges such as a week without homework. Students can “spend” their pennies each week or save up to buy bigger items like a day with early dismissal from school.

1. Discuss the rationale for the behaviorist’s recommendation of a token economy system to help Mrs. Riley with her class.
2. Explain the six steps in forming a token economy and the rationale for each step. 3. Discuss the role of tokens and back-up reinforcers in the token economy system. How does each work to modify behavior? Using the case study, identify the token and back-up reinforcer.

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