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Masters of Special Education with Academic Instruction Certification

Token Economy - Topic 41

What is it?

In a token economy students are offered an explicit reward for demonstrated behaviors.  A teacher selects the behaviors to be rewarded and informs the students of the reward system.  For instance, a teacher could offer a gold coin to the first student to answer the question (Boniecki & Moore, 2003).  The student could later exchange the coins he or she has earned for a tangible reward (i.e. a toy, points toward a grade, food).  The purpose of the token economy is to reinforce the selected behaviors.


Token economies are more effective with a younger population; however, this method has been used in education, medicine, psychology, and a variety of other fields (Breyer & Allen, 1975).  

Why is it important?

A token economy can be a simple, but effective way of managing classroom behavior.  It can also assist in minimizing or improving disruptive behavior.  It is essential that an educator be consistent with the reward and reinforcement aspect of the system to see prolonged benefits.  A token economy may also be utilized school wide to increase specific behaviors, like reading, across an entire school.  The larger the system; however, the more room inconsistencies.  This will prevent consistent increases in the selected behaviors.  


Boniecki, K. A. & Moore, S.  (2003).  Breaking the silence:  Using a token economy to reinforce

classroom participation.  Teaching of Psychology, 30(3), 224-227.

Breyer, N. L. & Allen, G. J. (1975).  Effects of implementing a token economy on teacher attending

behavior.  Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 8(4), 373-380.  

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