The behaviour contract is an agreement between the student and his/her school, teacher or home. The contract states the behaviour expected by the student and the teacher’s or parents’ obligations once the student has met his/her agreement. Behaviour contracts are useful when behaviours of concern are persistent and the student is not responding to previous strategies. When students are involved in the creation of the contract they are more likely to be invested in meeting the agreement.
Using the contract
- Identify 1 or 2 behaviour/s of concern, e.g. getting out of his/her seat without permission, arriving late to class. If the behaviours occur frequently throughout the day choose one behaviour.
- Take a discrete tally of how often the behaviour occurs over a period of time, e.g. 10 x per day, 4 out of 5 days. This assists you in determining what a realistic target is for the student (discussed further under setting targets).
Meeting with the student
This occurs following a comprehensive discussion with the student’s support team and parents.
- Meet with the student to discuss the behavioural contract. ‘This is a contract between you and me. The contract will say what you are required to do and will say what will happen when you do this.’
- Together discuss what you want the student to do. Work through examples deciding what is/is not an example of the behaviour until both parties agree.
- Write an agreed description of the behaviour into the contract. Describe the target behaviour in clear, observable, positive terms, e.g. ‘Tom will put his hand up to answer or ask a question’.
- Identify when the behaviour occurs, e.g. the behaviour of concern might occur in specific classes or specific times of the day.
- Identify an achievable goal. Ask the student how often they think they can do this. The student may say every time. This is unrealistic and setting them up to fail. Alternatively they may set the goal too low, e.g. 1 x day. Based on knowledge (tally collected) come to an agreement on the goal. Set the goal so the student can experience success in the first week.
- Identify a method of recording and who is going to record the behaviour. For younger students the recording might be broken down into time periods across the day, e.g. morning, mid and afternoon class sessions. Recording may be using stickers or stamps on a chart.
- Discuss with the student what happens when they reach the goal.
- Discuss with the student what happens if they don’t fulfil the contract. Ask the student what they think will happen if they don’t keep their agreement. Clarify with the student what will happen i.e. they do not get the stated reinforcer.
- The preferred reinforcer is provided as soon as the student meets the goal.
- Contracts can be reviewed as soon as the student meets the target goal. If the student is not meeting the goal (e.g. end of week) a review is recommended.
Appropriate for school aged students with adjustments made for age and ability.
- Preschool: Unlikely
- P–2: Yes, with simplification
- 3–6: Yes
- High school: Yes
Selecting a format
Many schools will have a template available for behavioural contracts. There are also numerous examples of behaviour (behavior) contracts on Google images. The template will depend on personal preference and age of the student. There are key elements that are included in any contract. Below is a checklist of minimum requirements for a contract.
|1. Who will perform the behaviour?|
|2. What is the behaviour?|
|3. When does the behaviour occur?|
|4. Where does the behaviour occur?|
|5. How often does the behaviour occur?|
|6. What does the student get when he/she achieves the contract?|
|7. Signature of teacher and student?|