Things to Think About When Developing Acknowledgement Systems:
- Acknowledgements should outnumber corrections five to one.
- Acknowledgement should be specific, not random. Connect the acknowledgement to a behavior at the time of the behavior with a description of the behavior.
- Acknowledgements can reinforce a student practicing appropriate behavior but cannot alone correct inappropriate behavior. Having the desired behavior described, modeled, and practiced with feedback given are required to establish a positive behavior.
- Take care using contingency rewards. Offering a reward when a goal is reached is better than offering the reward only if they reach the goal within a time limit – nothing if they don’t. Rewards denied can be seen as punishers.
- Not all rewards have to be costly or tangible – a pat on the back, a smile, a friendly word is often the perfect acknowledgement. Most students understand that the value of the reward is more symbolic than real and appreciate the recognition.
- Tangible rewards do not have to escalate in value for most students – in fact it is often possible to fade them. For some students (usually those who need individual system supports) though, tangible rewards are a necessary component of a behavior plan that is to be successful. (Illustrated in Rob Bressi’s Positive Reinforcement Triangle).
- Appropriate behavior tickets can be part of a good school-wide acknowledgement system but they are not required and should not be the only way students are recognized.
- Cooperative acknowledgement can be as effective as competitive – often more so. The whole group, class or school working for a common reward gets everyone pulling together. Note: although it may seem that students who do not help meet the goal should be excluded from the reward, leaving students out reduces class cooperation. Other corrections (rule school, loss of privileges, etc.) should be considered as alternatives to exclusion.
- As with individual rewards, group rewards don’t have to be tangible. A simple example of a non-tangible group reward: walking down the hall appropriately earns the right to go to the library or computer lab.
- Natural reinforcement can help wean students from extrinsic rewards – instead of offering praise, help students see the positive effects of their behaviors on themselves and others. (Note: natural reinforcement only works when the behavior yields a pleasant outcome for the student.)
- For some students (especially in middle school) public acknowledgement can feel like a punisher. Non-public recognition of general good behavior or improvement that can be helpful include: a note to the student or parent, a call home, mention in a report card, a private conversation telling the student that you’ve noticed and appreciate her/his efforts.
- Consider that some appropriate behaviors might contain their own intrinsic rewards in which case acknowledgement is unnecessary or even undesirable.
- Reward success and progress toward success. As students are learning a skill (academic or social) that is hard or not preferred, trying should be rewarded until the effort becomes rewarding in itself and then faded.
- The goal: develop an acknowledgement system that makes support for positive behaviors convenient enough to become habitual and frequent. Keep it simple, inexpensive and genuine.
PBIS Acknowledgement Slips:
Slips are often used to acknowledge students behaving as expected. The slips can be tied into reward goals, random drawings, token economies, etc. Staff members giving slips should be sure to let the student know what they did to receive it.
PBIS Reward Examples:
Rewarding students for meeting behavior expectations, done right, is simply a thank you for helping make the school a safe, pleasant place to learn and be. Most students appreciate such acknowledgement unless it is cheapened by gushy lavishness, heaping rewards on deserving and undeserving alike, or insincerity. Reward presentations should be fun for those who do not receive them as well as those who do. Group rewards for meeting group goals should be considered. Many schools use assemblies to recognize student behavior.