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Literature Review of Token Economy System in the Classroom

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Teaching
Wordcount: 1295 words Published: 19th Mar 2021

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Literature Review

Teachers encounter an assortment of difficulties related to student conduct. Students exhibiting behavioral struggles within the education setting often adversely influence numerous aspects of the academic and social climate of the classroom (Lane et al., 2010).  Maggin et al. (2011) suggest that in or to effectively tackle demanding classroom behaviors, educators must utilize research based behavioral management strategies.  As such, research supports that token economies systems may serve as an option to address behavior concerns.

Classroom management has been shown to directly affect student success.  A study by Korpershoek et al. (2016) was performed to establish the relationship between the use of classroom management strategies and the academic and behavioral outcomes of students. Overall, the authors determined that effective classroom management significantly reduces problematic behavior, thereby increasing academic success.

Educators can efficiently and successfully foster academic engagement.  In order to do so, educators should implement research-based classroom management (Partin et al., 2010).  Research based supports, like positive behavioral interventions, are meaningful methods to avert and remedy problem behaviors in addition to bolstering and sustaining school-wide efforts (Mathews et al., 2014).

Token economy systems are representative of a Positive Behavior Support (PBS) system.  PBS is a “set of research-based strategies used to increase desired performance and decrease problem behavior by teaching new skills and making changes in a person's environment” (Carr et al., 2002).   PBS can be implemented throughout the school or for a specific student to promote positive student behavior and bolster academic achievement (Hoyle et al., 2011).   Educators have indicated that there is evidence to support a decrease in disruptive behavior after implementation of a PBS system (MacDonald & McGill, 2013).

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My research proposal focuses on the implementation of a token economy system.  A token economy system provides an avenue to identify, support and reinforce positive behaviors (Kraemer et al., 2012). This form of token system is intended to provide motivation in anticipation of improved academic performance using preferred reinforcements (Moore & Waguespack, 1994). Typically, when students can select their own reinforcements, they are more apt to be engaged in the intervention (Robichaux & Gresham, 2014).

Token economy systems are a form of extrinsic motivation used when students have complied with teacher requests over a preestablished period of time (Musser et al., 2001). Using token economy, students are checked at random intervals in order to encourage them to behave appropriately. With the incentive of getting a prize by doing what the students have been asked, they will, in theory, be more likely to accomplish academic tasks and self-regulate their own behavior

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According to Musser et al., (2001), findings suggested that implementation of a token economy intervention successfully lessened the level of disruptive and off-task behavior study participants.  Specifically, data from this study indicated that during the intervention phase off-task behavior of a disruptive nature decreased from a baseline of 37% in observed intervals to an average of 10% per interval.  Providing further support was a study authored by Kowalewicz & Coffee, 2014.  In this study, the authors implemented a token economy intervention in eight diverse elementary school classrooms across seven different schools.  In their findings the authors state “data reflect significant decreases of disruptive behavior in each classroom during intervention implementation”.

The review of pertinent literature supports using a token economies system to increase on-task behavior while decreasing off-task and/or disruptive behavior.  Most of the literature reviewed, demonstrated a gain in student on-task behavior during implementation of a token economics system.   Although implementation of a token economy system can require a significant amount of time to prepare and a broad understanding of what type of reinforcements will be successful, in the end the token economy system promotes on-task behavior and task completion which leads to a more effective  and positive teaching environment.


  • Carr, E.G., Dunlap, G., Horner, R.H., Koegel, R.L., Turnbull, A., Sailor, W., Anderson, J., Albin, R., Koegel, L.K., & Fox, L. (2002). Positive behavior support: evolution of an applied science.   Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 4(1), 4-16.
  • Hoyle, C.G., Marshall, K.J., &Yell, M.L. (2011). Positive behavior supports: Tier 2 interventions in middle schools. Preventing School Failure, 55(3), 164-170. https://doi: 10.1080/1045988X.2010.503975.
  • Kowalewicz, E. A. & Coffee, G (2014).  Mystery motivator: A tier 1 classroom behavioral intervention.  School Psychology Quarterly, 29(2), 138-156.  https://doi:10.1037/spq0000030.
  • Korpershoek H., Harms T., de Boer H., van Kuijk M., Doolaard S. (2016). A meta-analysis of the effects of classroom management strategies and classroom management programs on students’ academic, behavioral, emotional, and motivational outcomes. Review of Educational Research, 86, 643–680. http://doi:10.3102/0034654315626799
  • Kraemer, E.E., Davies, S.C., Arndt, K.J., & Hunley, S. (2012). A comparison of the mystery motivator and the get em’ on task interventions for off-task behaviors. Psychology in Schools, 49(2). https://doi 10.1002/pits.20627.
  • Lane, K.L., Little, A., Menzies, H., Lambert, W., & Wehby, J.H. (2010).  A comparison of students with behavior challenges in suburban and rural settings: Academic, social, and behavioral outcomes.  Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 18, 131-134.
  • MacDonald, A. & McGill, P. (2013). Outcomes of staff training in positive behaviour support: a systematic review. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 25(1), 17-33. https://doi: 10.1007/s10882-012-9327-8.
  • Maggin, D.M., Chafouleas, S.M., Goddard, K.M., & Johnson, A.H. (2011).  A systematic evaluation of token economies as a classroom management tool for students with challenging behavior.  Journal of School Psychology, 49(5), 529-554.
  • Mathews, S., McIntosh, K., Frank, J. L., & May, S. L. (2014). Critical features predicting sustained implementation of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 16, 168–178.   http://doi:10.1177/1098300713484065
  • Moore, L.A., & Waguespack, A. (1994). Mystery motivator: An effective and time efficient intervention. School Phycology Review, 23(1), 106.  
  • Musser, E.H., Bray, M.A., Kehle, T.J., & Jensen, W.R. (2001).  Reducing disruptive behaviors in students with serious emotional disturbance.  School Psychology Review, 30(2), 294. 
  • Partin, T. C. M., Robertson, R. E., Maggin, D. M., Oliver, R. M., & Wehby, J. H. (2010). Using teacher praise and opportunities to respond to promote appropriate student behavior. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 54(3), 172–178. http://doi:10.1080/10459880903493179
  • Robichaux, N.M., & Gresham, F.M. (2014). Differential effects of the mystery motivator intervention using student-selected and mystery rewards. School Psychology Review, 43(3), 286-298.


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