Let’s talk about an easy proactive behavior management strategy. By providing noncontingent reinforcement you can prevent many behaviors BEFORE they ever even occur.
What is noncontingent reinforcement?
It means providing some sort of reinforcement not attached to any behavior, whether it be positive or problem behavior.
For example, if a student engages in a problem behavior, to obtain your attention, you could provide noncontingent reinforcement throughout the day prior to that problem behavior occurring. You could walk by their desk and give them a high five or fist bump or you could spend several minutes at different parts of the day talking with them.
When you are providing this reinforcement, the motivation to engage in those problem behaviors will decrease and therefore will occur less often.
When do I give noncontingent reinforcement?
You want to plan for some sort of schedule. In the classroom, it is easiest to do a this proactive behavior management strategy on a variable time schedule which just means you pick an amount of time (ex. 15 minutes) and about every 15 minutes you provide some type of praise.
Examples of noncontingent reinforcement
Function: Gaining access to tangible
A student brings a stuffed animal to school. This has happened before, you try to put it away in their backpack but it results in crying and then they are constantly out of their seat trying to get to their stuffed animal.
Throughout the day place the stuffed animal on their desk so they have access to it. This will decrease the motivation to get out of their seat to get it and increase on task behavior.
You have a long day of professional development. There are no breaks, and it is something you have learned before. You need a break so you check your phone, talk to your colleague and use the restroom.
The presenter could have changed your behavior by providing noncontingent reinforcement throughout the session. This could have looked like breaks for the entire group or different activities to get you up and moving to provide that escape from the professional development.
What are the drawbacks of noncontingent reinforcement?
Depending on how you set the schedule, you can possible reinforce problem behavior. If you plan for a fixed time schedule, so every 15 minutes on the dot you provide reinforcement- it could come at a time of problem behavior. That is why the variable schedule works best.
Others may be confused when they see you providing the reinforcement. This can be a hard concept for some people to understand. It may seem like you are reinforcing nothing. Be sure to talk to the entire team about the principles behind what you are doing as well.