This simple game reduces disruptive classroom behavior significantly.

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor, bSci21

Donaldson, et al. published a study in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis evaluating the effects of The Good Behavior Game (GBG) on the reduction of disruptive behavior across five kindergarten classrooms.

The GBG is a behavior management technique developed in the late 1960s by Barrish, Saunders, and Wolf (1969).  The strategy achieves success through the use of group contingencies — if a group of students meet behavioral goals, the whole group receives reinforcers such as snacks or extra recess.  Due to it’s simplicity and effectiveness, the GBG is recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General, according to the authors.

Donaldson and Vollmer’s study was unique in it’s focus on children of such a young age. Below are some of the highlights:

  • Five kindergarten classrooms ranging from 15-22 students participated in the study.
  • Responses targeted were out of seat behavior, talking out of turn, and touching other students.
  • GBG: Teachers divided each class into two teams and explained the rules of the game before each session.  If a team exhibited any of the three targeted responses, the teacher would place a hash mark on the board. The team with the fewest marks won.  Or, if both teams saw a reduction of disruptive behavior by 80%, then both teams won.
  • Winning teams gained access to a variety of preferred snacks, toys, and activities.

Results indicated that disruptive behavior averaged 8 responses per minute in each classroom before the GBG was implemented.  After implementation, disruptive behavior fell to 1-2 responses per minute across all classrooms.  The authors noted that teachers easily implemented the GBG in their classrooms while maintaining the effectiveness of the program.

Be sure to read the full article and let us know your experiences with the GBG in the comments below!  Also, don’t forget to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!


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  1. One thing I’ve wondered… for teachers who tend to attend more to problem behavior than expected behavior, does providing hashmarks for problem behavior ever result in more problem behavior? I wonder if this ever becomes differential reinforcement of problem behavior?

    • Excellent question! This is an issue of form vs function. It is important to always monitor how what you are doing is actually functioning with respect to the behavior you are trying to change. For example, many parents or teachers might think saying “no!” might serve to reduce the behavior of concern, when it might actually make the behavior occur more frequently in the future.

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