What is it?
'Mystery Motivators' is a strategy that randomly reinforces appropriate behaviour. On some days students' targeted behaviours will be specifically reinforced while other days they are not. Students will be unaware of what day this will take place. Reinforcing behaviour increases the likelihood of that behaviour occurring again. The anticipation and uncertainty about the delivery of the reinforcer helps to maintain student interest and excitement, as well as maintaining focus on the targeted behaviours. This strategy is usually conducted on a group or class level, however, it can also be done on an individual level.
How do I use it? Planning
- With the group/class develop a list of potential motivators.
- Identify the behaviour. Choose 2-3 behaviours e.g. completing worksheets, on task behaviour, asking for help. Consider sessions where you most want to see behaviours change e.g. maths.
- Write the behaviour in specific, observable terms. For example:
Create the Mystery Motivator chart. This includes:
- students will complete the maths worksheet by the end of the session
- when given the maths worksheet, students will begin work within one minute and remain on task for a minimum of 10 minutes
- when requiring assistance, the student will place their help symbol face up, and wait for assistance.
- a description of the behaviour/s and the time period the behaviour will be reported. For example, a weekly calendar could be used if the behaviour is recorded each day
- select 60% of the days the Mystery Motivator can be earned e.g. Monday, Tuesday, Friday. Write "M"or add symbol on these days. Cover all days on the calendar e.g. post-it notes, envelopes. See the 'Where Can I Learn More?' section below.
Mystery motivator chart goal/s
- At the beginning of the session tell the students they will be doing the Mystery Motivator. Remind the students of the goals for the session.
- Keep a record of the behaviour e.g. one minute x students have started on their worksheets.
- At the end of the session tell the students if they met the goals. If goals are met, uncover the day on the calendar to see if it is a mystery motivator day.
- If a mystery motivator day, students are reinforced with the mystery motivator. This is provided after the session. If it is not a mystery motivator, provide students with behaviour specific praise and encourage them to try again the next day.
Fading the use of reinforcers is important. Once students have demonstrated the behaviour on a regular basis reduce the occurrence of selected days from 60% to 50%. Continue reduction until the Mystery Motivator reinforcer is faded.
This strategy can be used with:
Where can I learn more?
Mystery motivators are a form of differential reinforcement. See the differential reinforcement factsheet for more detailed information about this approach.
Creating the mystery motivator boards