Good Behavior Game

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Overview

The Good Behavior Game (GBG) is a classroom-based behaviour management strategy for elementary school that teachers use along with a school’s standard instructional curricula. GBG uses a classroom-wide game format using teams and rewards to socialize children to the role of student. GBG is used to reduce aggressive, disruptive classroom behaviour, which is a risk factor for adolescent and adult illicit drug abuse, alcohol abuse, cigarette smoking, antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), and violent and criminal behaviour.

In GBG classrooms, the teacher assigns all children to teams, balanced with regard to gender; aggressive, disruptive behaviour; and shy, socially isolated behaviour. Basic classroom rules of student behaviour are posted and reviewed. When GBG is played, each team is rewarded if team members commit a total of four or fewer infractions of the classroom rules during game periods. During the first weeks of the intervention, GBG is played three times a week for 10 minutes each time during periods of the day when the classroom environment is less structured and the students are working independently of the teacher. Game periods are increased in length and frequency at regular intervals; by mid-year the game may be played every day. Initially, the teacher announces the start of a game period and gives rewards at the conclusion of the game. Later, the teacher defers rewards until the end of the school day or week. Over time, GBG is played at different times of the day, during different activities, and in different locations, so the game evolves from being highly predictable in timing and occurrence with immediate reinforcement to being unpredictable, with delayed reinforcement so that children learn that good behaviour is expected at all times and in all places.

GBG was tested in first- and second-grade classrooms in Baltimore beginning in the 1985–1986 school year. Follow-up at ages 19–21 found significantly lower rates of drug and alcohol use disorders, regular smoking, antisocial personality disorder, delinquency and incarceration for violent crimes, suicide ideation, and use of school-based services among students who had played the GBG. Several replications with shorter follow-up periods have provided similar short-term results. GBG has been found to be most effective for males with higher levels of aggressive, disruptive behaviour.

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