kitchen table math, the sequel: incentivizing, charting & kids in differentiated instruction classrooms

Friday, May 29, 2009

incentivizing, charting & kids in differentiated instruction classrooms

re: Allison's post "How to Incentivize Them," I'm digging out from under & have just come across a study of coaches using self-charting to incentivize a swim team. The kids on the team were ages 16 to 19.
The present study was composed of two experiments aimed at solving the problems of competitive swimming coaches who described their team's attendance and work rates as poor and irregular. ...All behavioral applications were conducted in the on-going environment by the coaches themselves.

Attendance at training was poor and irregular. Apart from not attending, swimmers sometimes arrived late and left early and in some instances did not enter the water. ...The coaches had attempted to enforce rules of attendance and participation in training. These were implemented by simply stating the rule conditions. ...These attempts failed to improve swim-practice attendance.

The coaches were also concerned with the effect and amount of swimming being done in practices where traditional coaching methods were employed. For the most part, swimmers followed identical programs of work and were directed and encouraged in their efforts by the verbal commands of the coaches. Quite often, swimmers were subjected to arbitrary delays while they waited for further direction. These delays severely reduced the swimmers' work loads and gave them time to behave inappropriately by leaving the water, interfering with others, etc. These behaviors further reduced the productivity of the training session.

The traditional coaching procedures also seemed to reduce the effectiveness of the coaches. They were required to function as directors and supervisors who regulated the swimmers' pool usage. Attempts were made to control inappropriate behaviors. As a result, the coaches were forced to spend less time in more suitable roles, such as improving stroke techniques and attending to individual demands.

Self-administered reinforcing systems appear to possess behavior maintenance possibilities (Glynn, 1970; Malott, 1971). Self-recording techniques modified classroom studying and talking-out behaviors (Broden, Hall, and Mitts, 1971) and academic achievement (Glynn, 1970). In normal subject applications, self-reinforcement procedures have generally been shown to be as effective as experimenter-determined contingencies (Bandura and Perloff, 1967; Kanfer and Duerfeldt, 1967; Marston, 1967). Two studies appear to have direct bearing on the problems involved in this investigation. Hall, Christler, Cranston, and Tucker (1970) demonstrated that being on time for class contingent upon the posting of names on the classroom bulletin board effectively reduced the number of late arrivals in a required classroom situation to almost zero. Rushall and Pettinger (1969) reported that self-recording on "program boards" increased the work output of competitive swimmers in training as much as did deliberate coaching procedures aimed at inspiring greater productivity.

Santogrossi, O'Leary, Romanczyk, and Kaufman (1973) reported that self-evaluation procedures failed to reduce disruptive behaviors in adolescent boys from a psychiatric hospital school. They indicated that the supportive studies for the value of self-reinforcing contingencies generally have used normal subjects and have been conducted only over brief periods of time. Their investigation was undertaken over a longer period than the above referenced studies, and they cautioned about generalizing the evidenced short-term effects of self-reinforcement to longer-term situations. Since the present study attempted to provide permanent solutions to two behavior problems, this caution could be clarified by the evidenced outcomes.


This study involved the use of publicly self-recording attendance to reduce attendance problems in a competitive swimming team.


The members of the Shannon Heights Sharks competitive swimming team from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada served as subjects. The team, composed of 16 boys and 16 girls, whose ages ranged between 9 and 16 yr, practised eight times per week in a 25-yard pool.


A large waterproof display board was constructed, on which each swimmer could indicate his/her cumulative attendance at practice. Spaces were also provided for the recording of each swimmer's present and best attendance records. Prominent spaces were reserved for the posting of the names of those who had the best records. During the experimental conditions, each swimmer indicated attendance at practice by entering a check-mark in the appropriate space. A swimmer who did not satisfy the conditions for attendance had his/her total accumulated checkmarks removed.


The measurements were the number of absentees, number of late arrivals, and the number of swimmers leaving early. All interobserver reliabilities were 100%.


Under attendance board conditions, the number of absentees was reduced by 45%,. Late arrivals were reduced by 63%, and early departures were completely suppressed. Post checks indicated that the attendance board remained effective in controlling the problems of attendance.



The attendance board conditions were effective in the overall reduction of the problem behaviors associated with attending swimming training. The group as a whole was enthusiastic about the use of the boards. Many swimmers who had valid excuses for being absent attempted to arrange substitute practices on Sundays and early mornings. After 11 months of use, the record number of consecutive attendances was in excess of 130.


The swimmers recorded their own attendance. Two senior squad members supervised the board and its use. Apart from the initial introduction of each experimental condition, the coaches were required to do little in the experiment. Occasionally, after practice they remarked on the progress of individuals. They were relieved of the bothersome task of checking attendance. The procedures demanded that the swimmer focus his/her attention on the task of self-recording. This served as a form of knowledge of progress as the number of consecutive attendances accumulated. The recording procedure was always undertaken with the team in close proximity. The possibility for vicarious reinforcement existed. The various performances of individuals drew a number of reactions from the gathered members. Peer and coach reactions were primarily positive approval and recognition. It was not possible to locate one single event as the reinforcer in this situation.



This study involved the use of publicly self recording training-unit completion to increase work output in a competitive swimming team.


A number of reactions to the program boards were gathered. Most of the swimmers in the club appeared to prefer the use of the program boards to the previous coach-directed form of control. One girl, however, stated: "I don't like them. They make me work too hard." A striking incident demonstrated another girl's preference for using the boards. During the reversal procedure, when the board had been removed from her pool lane, she demanded to swim where there was one. When this request was refused, she left practice and did not return for two days.


After 12 months, the contingencies were still in effect and the behaviors generated in the study still evident. It would seem that the characteristics of publicly self-recording performance progress in both work output and attendance is a durable reinforcing process.

1974, 73,199-206 NUMBER 2 (SUMMER 1974)

The little girl who went on strike because they took away the charts raises a question for me.

Do kids in differentiated instruction classrooms get enough feedback / positive reinforcement?

applications of behavior analysis to human performance in various sports

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My child's swim team was large enough that there were 3 junior-level practice groups and 3 senior ones. Entry into the top two groups at each level was contingent upon certain time standards, agreement to do the required number of weekly practices and agreement to enter the meets/events the coaches chose.

At the junior levels, the coaches kept attendance, but the top senior group used a sign-in board like the one discussed here, but since everyone had to do the minimum practices or be dropped from the group, it was really for rewards. Those kids who had exceeded their weekly requirement were allowed to choose what they wanted to do on Friday afternoons: specific stroke, start or turn work (including videos), specific events or distances etc. It worked, too, since almost everyone made more than the mins. Of course, everyone was working toward national times or they wouldn't have committed to the group. I think the middle senior group did something similar.