Strategy: Using Group Contingencies

Check-Up Menu > Using Group Contingencies

Using group contingencies in the classroom involves setting a common behavioral expectation for an entire class or groups of students and then providing a common positive outcome when the students engage in the expected behavior. This is often paired with the use of token economies, where students earn tokens (e.g., points, stickers, marbles) that can be redeemed for a reinforcing experience of some kind (e.g., desired item, preferred activity).
Using group contingencies and token economies can increase student attention and positive behaviors and decrease disruptive behavior in classrooms. Planned group contingencies also assist teachers with increasing the use of praise with students.
How Using Group Contingencies Relates to CARES
When students work together for a common goal, this can help build a sense of community and belonging. When students are supporting each other, they can become more engaged with the learning and the task at hand. This increased engagement connects students to the curriculum and the classroom, especially if you are cognizant of the types of rewards that students deem as valuable. You can survey your students to find out what types of extrinsic motivators will encourage them to work with their group to earn a reward or a token toward a prize. If some of your students don’t seem to be motivated by group contingencies, then it might prove valuable to reflect on why a student might not be responding in the intended way. Consider what you know about the student and their culture. Is group membership valued in their home? Is there some other way to reward the student that will still make them feel they’re a part of the classroom community? Consider the relationships they have with other students and reflect on ways to promote positive relationships with and between students.
Some key elements to creating an effective group contingency:
1) Determine problem behaviors using baseline data.
2) Teach behavioral expectations that can be used in the place of problem behaviors and how these behaviors will earn rewards (reinforcers).
3) Determine appropriate and effective reinforcers.
4) Provide reinforcers to student groups for displaying appropriate behaviors.
5) Continue to implement the contingency, changing reinforcers as necessary, until behavior improvement goals are met.

How To

How to Plan and Implement a Group Contingency

  1. First, gather baseline information about the number and types of misbehaviors that occur regularly in your classroom. You will use these data to determine which behaviors you want to work on and to set goals.
  2. Second, decide which behaviors you wish to reinforce and the method you’ll use to do so. You can choose to “catch” students exhibiting the chosen behavior and then reinforce it, or you can reinforce for the absence of chosen misbehaviors. It is often more effective to praise the behaviors you observe and want to see rather than pointing out misbehaviors, even if you are acknowledging that you are not observing those unwanted behaviors.
  3. Third, determine reinforcers that will be effective for your class. See the “Identifying Reinforcers for the Classroom” strategy for more information. You should stick to the categories of “edibles, tangibles, and activities” for whole-class reinforcers.
  4. Fourth, teach the students the behavioral expectations and the “rules” of the contingency.
  5. Finally, implement the contingency, making sure to provide plenty of feedback to students.

Example Video:

The Good Behavior Game: Rule – No Talking

Video Prompts: 

  • Notice how the teacher introduces the game to the class and breaks them into groups.
  • The Good Behavior Game helps teach student self-regulation by having them inhibit or not display misbehavior. If misbehavior occurs, the team earns a point.
  • Notice how the teacher explains the rule for that day.
  • The teacher also lets the student know how long the game will occur and what the reward will be for the team with the fewest points.
  • Notice that the teacher allows the students to ask questions before the game begins.
  • Notice that the teacher provides the reward immediately at the end of the game.
  • What did you like about how this teacher used the Good Behavior Game?
  • How might you use the Good Behavior Game in your classroom?

Strategy Tool

Using Group Contingencies - Strategy Tool
Use the Good Behavior Game strategy tool to plan the implementation of a group contingency for your classroom.


Using Group Contingencies - Reflection
Take a moment to make sure your plan for using the group contingency is going to work.

Goal Setting

Using Group Contingencies - Goal Setting
Use the following form to set your group contingency goals.

References to Other Relevant Resources:

Bowman-Perrott, L., Burke, M. D., Zaini, S., Zhang, N., & Vannest, K. (2016). Promoting positive behavior using the Good Behavior Game: A meta-analysis of single-case research. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 18(3), 180-190.

Ebry, D. (2002). The Good Behavior Game: A best practice candidate as a universal behavioral vaccine. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 5, 273-297.

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.

Reinke, W. M., Herman, K. C., & Sprick, R. (2011). Motivational interviewing for effective classroom management: The classroom check-up. New York, NY: Guilford Press.


Concentration Areas: Connection to the Curriculum; Authentic Relationships; Reflective Thinking About Cultural, Racial/Ethnic, and Class Differences; Effective Communication; Sensitivity to Students’ Culture

What is CARES?

CARES is an acronym for the five domains that research has found to be successful in engaging students of culturally diverse backgrounds at school. Each letter refers to a significant element of interaction within the classroom. Applying all five domains of CARES works because it promotes a better understanding of students and ourselves by using strategies that deepen those relationships every day.

There is no single element that works independently of the others. All five CARES domains, together with the Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate elements, support one another and need to be applied in the classroom to be successful.

Why is it important?

Research has shown that each of the five CARES domains has a significant impact on students and their behavior when used regularly and over time. Students who are known and understood by their teachers as individuals in the classroom report deeper connections academically and to their school. When teachers understand their own cultural heritage, they better understand the differences between themselves and their students and report higher levels of mutual respect with students. This also helps teachers to recognize the similarities they share with their students as well as recognize ways in which they are different. Students are more connected and engaged in classrooms where teachers welcome exploration; invite, acknowledge, and celebrate cultural differences; make relevant connections to the curriculum; listen attentively to understand how each student is approaching the concepts; and use humor and other effective communication tools.

Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate

Concentration Areas: Smooth Transitions, Pacing of Instruction, Student Engagement, Clear Expectations, Use of Praise, Use of Reprimands, Level of Disruptive Behavior

What is Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate?

Positive Behavior Supports refers to the proactive ways that teachers work with their students, as well as the ways that teachers respond to challenging situations with students. The focus is on recognizing and affirming student strengths rather than punishing them or taking something away from them. A positive approach to the classroom will promote a classroom climate that is welcoming to all students and is a place where students want to engage with the teacher, each other, and the curriculum. All individuals, students and teachers, and the interactions between and amongst all classroom members play a role in the climate.

There is no single element that works independently of the others. All Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate elements, together with the CARES domains, support one another and need to be applied to the classroom to be successful.

Why is it important?

In a classroom climate that is positive and welcoming to all members, the classroom becomes a safe place where culture and diversity can be openly discussed. A supportive climate is one that promotes student engagement and success. Students feel supported and motivated to be an active member of the classroom community. The teacher taking a positive and proactive approach creates a climate of care and respect and promotes desired student behaviors. This classroom is also a place that provides consistency to students, which is especially important for students who may experience stress and uncertainty outside of the school building. Teachers who have positive and proactive classrooms report fewer disruptive behaviors from their students, an increase in student achievement, and better overall perceptions of school climate.

Using Group Contingencies

CARES Overview

Greeting Students at the Door

Using Journals to Build Relationships

Identifying Reinforcers for the Classroom

Using Social and Emotional Coaching

Using Behavior-specific Praise

Using Active Supervision

Using Precorrection

Teaching Behavior Expectations

Providing Academic Feedback

Increasing Opportunities to Respond

Developing and Using Clear Academic Objectives

Posting and Using a Schedule

Coaching Process – Menu of Options

Coaching Process – Providing Feedback

Coaching Process – Introduction and Overview

Observation Practice 4

Observation Practice 3

Observation Practice 2

Observation Practice 1

Using an Attention Signal

Teaching Classroom Routines

Physical Classroom Structure

Values Card Sort – Example

Card Sort Introduction

Coaching – Interview Guide

Opening the Meeting

Defining and Teaching Classroom Rules

Mrs. James

Miss Faber

Double Check Classroom Check-Up Overview