Good Behavior Game
By Jack Komer
Edited by Claire Murphy, 9/2022
What is the Good Behavior Game?
The Good Behavior Game (GBG) is a class-wide Tier 2 behavioral intervention that targets school-aged children from pre-k-twelfth grade. The intervention is designed to target classrooms that may be experiencing negative behaviors such as being off-task, disruptive, or disrespectful. The Good Behavior Game is a group contingency intervention that rewards positive behaviors and seeks to squelch out negative behaviors in groups. Groups are given tallies if they engage in negative behaviors, and the group at the end of the day who receives the least amount of tallies will be designated the winners and will receive a reward. The GBG can be done over varying periods, but this period should be made clear upon introduction.
Components of the Good Behavior Game
A list of expectations must be made prior to the implementation of the intervention. A short list of “Do-Not” rules should be made and displayed in the classroom to represent the behaviors that a group could receive tallies for. Teachers can make this list independently or compose the list with the students, either way the rules must be explicitly discussed and agreed upon by the group.
Groups need to be made prior to the start of the GBG. These groups need to be made with intentionality, for example, an even amount of students on each side that typically present with negative behaviors. Make sure students are made aware of their teams, this could mean writing the teams up on the board.
Criterion for winning the reward needs to be established prior to the intervention. For example, both teams may be able to win the reward if they both score below a certain amount of tallies.
Find a reward that is relevant and motivating for your students. You may find it appropriate to come up with ideas as a group or offer a list of rewards and vote on the best one.
Record the data collected and analyze it at the end of the intervention period. Use this data to inform decisions and modify the intervention if necessary.
Students need skills such as communication, emotion-regulation, impulse control, conflict resolution, and comprehension to participate in this intervention.
The facilitator must be cautious of student saboteurs. Those individual students for whom the potential of winning a reward is outweighed by their desire to sabotage their team (and potentially get attention). Nolan and colleagues found in their literature review that removing these students from the game (or not counting their behavior against the team) can be effective at reducing sabotage.
Cost: This intervention can be implemented for no cost! However, if you wish to incorporate rewards with a monetary value than that cost will be included. Free rewards such as game-time, lunch with the teacher, or extra recess can be utilized.
Evidence of the Good Behavior Game Effectiveness
The first article introducing intervention of the “Good Behavior Game” was published in 1969 and found that the game both significantly and reliably changed the disruptive behavior of the subject students. (Barrish et al., 1969). In the last decade, several researchers have sought to quantify the evidence of the GBG’s effectiveness in supporting students with behavioral challenges and its effectiveness among different groups of students. In 2014, Flowers and colleagues found that the GBG had a moderate to large effect on student challenging behaviors, with the analysis finding that at baseline students had a high amount of challenging behavior which was met by an immediate and significant change (a reduction) after implementation of the GBG. (Flowers et al., 2014). In 2020, Troncoso and Humphrey examined the impact of early intervention using the GBG (in Kindergarten) and its long-term impact on student development. The researchers found a general trend of reductions in concentrative problems after initial implementation of the GBG, which was observed over a 4-year period. (Troncoso & Humphrey, 2020). In 2013, Nolan and colleagues conducted a literature review to investigate the use of the GBG and its effectiveness with a diverse range of populations. Below are some examples from their article. Studies have bee conducted in the following countries worldwide across languages and
cultures. Belgium, Belize, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Chile, Mexico, Canada and Sudan, and the United States. One study conducted in a developing country where few teachers or staff were trained in dealing with student behaviors and the schools had limited resources found that the GBG had a significant impact in reducing disruptive behaviors. In the United States research has shown that the GBG can be an effective intervention with urban youth, with students who are ELLs and students who are socio-economically advantaged.
Alberto, P., & Troutman, A. C. (2013). Applied behavior analysis for teachers. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Barrish, H. H., Saunders, M., & Wolf, M. M. (1969). Good behavior game: effects of individual contingencies for group consequences on disruptive behavior in a classroom. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 2(2), 119–124. https://doi.org/10.1901/jaba.1969.2-119
Brooks, S. (2021) Good Behavior Game [Intervention Brief] Evidence Based Intervention Network. University of Missouri.
Groves, E. A., & Austin, J. L. (2017). An evaluation of interdependent and independent group contingencies during the good behavior game. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 50(3), 552–566. https://doi-org.proxyiub.uits.iu.edu/10.1002/jaba.393
Flower, A., McKenna, J. W., Bunuan, R. L., Muething, C. S., & Vega, R. (2014). Effects of the good behavior game on challenging behaviors in school settings. Review of Educational Research, 84(4), 546–571.
Nolan, J. D., Houlihan, D., Wanzek, M., & Jenson, W. R. (2014). The good behavior game: A classroom-behavior intervention effective across cultures. School Psychology International, 35(2), 191–205. https://doi-org.proxyiub.uits.iu.edu/10.1177/0143034312471473
Troncoso, P., & Humphrey, N. (2021). Playing the long game: A multivariate multilevel non-linear growth curve model of long-term effects in a randomized trial of the Good Behavior Game. Journal of School Psychology, 88, 68–84. https://doi-org.proxyiub.uits.iu.edu/10.1016/j.jsp.2021.08.002