Last week I wrote about 5 reasons why you should be using token boards in your self contained classroom. If you missed it, you can check out that post here.
One of the great reasons to use token boards is that you can fade them away, while still maintaining stimulus control (ie. the appropriate behavior). When you first introduce a token board to a student, they are probably exhibiting a lot of escape maintained behavior. In this instance, you want to start the student on a thick schedule of reinforcement. This means, you want to provide some sort of reinforcement after EACH response and token earned. This can be a simple verbal praise or this can also be a small piece of candy as the student puts a new token on their board. Pairing an edible with a token will help the student realize that tokens are a good thing! This is sometimes called continuous reinforcement because the student is getting some sort of reinforcement after each and every appropriate behavior they emit. So, if the student is using a 5 token board, they will only need to emit 5 responses to earn their 5 tokens. Learning time should be quick; therefore their break will come quick, too. Students will start to see this and become more “cooperative.” When they see that they get a break every time they earn those 5 tokens, they will be more willing to work.
Once the student has the idea of the token board and is demonstrating success with a thick schedule of reinforcement. It is time to thin the schedule of reinforcement. This can be done in A LOT of different ways.
- fixed ratio schedule– Student will get reinforcement after a fixed interval of 2, 3, 4, or 5 responses. For example, let’s say I want to go with a fixed ratio schedule of 3. After every 3 successful responses from the student, they will earn a token paired with social praise. If the student is using a 5 token board, this means they will need to emit a total of 15 responses before earning a break. The ratio of reinforcement can continue to be thinned to a ratio of 4, 5, 6, etc….
- variable ratio schedule– Students will get reinforcement after a variable number of responses. For example, a variable ratio of 5 means the student will earn a token after an AVERAGE number of 5 responses. This is done so that the student doesn’t exactly know when they’ll be reinforced with a token. I might give the child a token after 2 responses one time, but after 3 responses the next time. As long as it averages out to every 5 times.
- fixed interval schedule– this type of reinforcement schedule is used when you want to give the student a token based on the amount of time, instead of the number of responses. This type of schedule is best used for behaviors such as sitting nicely in a chair or playing appropriately with toys. The student may need to sit for story time. A silent timer is set and the student earns a token after 1 minute of sitting nicely. If they are using a 5 token board, they will need to sit for a total of 5 minutes before they can have a break. You may slowly increase the amount of time the student needs to sit before they earn each token.
- variable interval schedule– By now you can probably guess what this schedule of reinforcement is. This is still working with the amount of time, rather than the number of responses. The student is given a token after a variable rate of time (ie. an average of every 5 mins). This means the student will not know exactly when they will receive their token.
With each of these options, you can continue to thin the schedule of reinforcement! The end goal is to totally fade out the token board. Let’s be real, we won’t be around the rest of the student’s life with a token board for them!