Tip Sheet: Behavior Contract
A written agreement between a teacher and student that outlines specific academic or behavioral goals
and specific contingencies for reinforcement in “if-then” statements (Kerr & Nelson, 2010).
According to behavioral theory, consequences control behavior. Developing and implementing a
behavioral contract is one method to provide predictable consequences to students. Teachers can
effectively shape appropriate behavior and minimize problem behavior (Kerr & Nelson, 2010).
Goal setting has been linked to behavioral and academic improvements (Schunk, 1985).
A Behavior contract can be used with a whole-class or for individual students.
Steps (Kerr & Nelson, 2010)
Meet with student:
1) Explain contract.
2) Show examples.
3) Decide together on target behaviors for contract.
4) Determine rewards.
5) Negotiate how student will earn reinforcer; identify student performance criterion.
Bonus and penalty clauses are optional
6) Decide when contract will be reviewed.
7) Teacher and students sign the document.
Note: The wording of the contract will depend on the age and level of the student. For more
information and for multiple examples of contract templates, see Jenson & Reavis (1997) and Jenson
et al. (1994).
Considerations (Alberto & Troutman, 2009)
The student must receive the “pay off” immediately after meeting the terms of the contract.
Make initial contracts short term. Begin with smaller goals than gradually move the student
towards the preferred target behavior (i.e., shaping the student’s behavior).
Review the contract to make sure it is fair. Make sure that the behavior/goal is appropriate and that
the reward is sensible in terms of the effort for the goal.
Make sure the terms of the contract are clear.
State the target behaviors in positive (“do”) language instead of negative (“don’t”) language.
Note: Many teachers combine behavioral contracts with self-monitoring.
Example (also see Downing, 2002)
Sammy is a 10-year old boy with ADHD. He has consistently demonstrated challenges in completing
class assignments and homework. His grades are falling, especially in math. Assessment information
indicates that, although Sammy has some math deficits, his skills are between 4
Sammy and his teacher meet to talk about the issue of Sammy not completing his math class work.
Sammy states that he would like to do better, but he is easily distracted and just doesn’t like math.