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Behavior Contracting

  • By: Daniel E. Olympia, Hollie Pettersson & Elizabeth Christiansen
  • In: Encyclopedia of School Psychology
  • Edited by: Steven W. Lee
  • Subject:School/Educational Psychology (general), School Psychology, Educational Psychology

Contracts are a familiar and accepted part of everyday life, and vary from formal employment agreements (describing job responsibilities, compensation, and even access to performance bonuses/goals) to sales contracts (for buying a house or a car). Behavior contracts (also known as “contingency” contracts) are written documents describing a relationship between the completion of a specific behavior and access to a reward (Heward, 1987; Jenson & Reavis, 1996). Behavior contracts can effectively improve student motivation and academic performance, school attendance, classroom behavior, compliance, adherence to classroom rules, and many other behaviors (BesalelAzrin and colleagues, 1977).

There are several reasons why behavior contracts are effective. In addition to generally accepted principles of reinforcement, contracts have been described as a type of rule-governed behavior, where the contract serves ...

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