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Applied Behavior Analysis in the School Setting

New teacher, new lessons, new friends and new experiences. It’s back to school season and we are excited! As an organization that works closely with schools, we get excited about the impact we will have on children this year.

As science continues to grow and evolve, various disciplines across the board have seen an explosion of knowledge. Medicine, technology, business, and social sciences have all seen unprecedented developments in their application to society in recent years. Today, we take a look at the area of psychology and talk about a very relevant and growing application which is being used in schools and private practices worldwide.

Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, is a branch of psychology which has its own subset of theories, principles and procedures. It is a popular field which is resorted to when treating various issues such as autism, behavioral problems within the school setting as well as substance abusers. ABA within the school setting has received significant attention in the last decade, as teachers, psychologists, parents and education policy makers have seen that traditional methods of discipline and punishment are not effective in creating behavior change. In addition, these methods which usually include corporal punishment have been labelled abusive and aversive.

ABA as an individual science, the science of behavior, assumes that behavior happens either because of an event within the environment before the behavior of interest, or because of an event or consequence which occurs after the behavior of interest. This science also holds fast to the principle of measuring and defining behavior based on scientific elements such as duration, frequency, latency and rate. Professionals who work in this field do not accept explanations for behavior which are based on issues which cannot be physically observed, such as thoughts and feelings.

Below are some applications and procedures of ABA used in the school setting:

Token Economy

Token Economies are often used in the school setting to encourage multiple instances of rule governed behavior. For example, many classes have a list of classroom rules. A teacher may implement a token economy for his or her class to encourage the students to continuously strive to obey these rules. As such, various points and rewards are assigned to each rule. The teacher will keep a score sheet of the number of times a student follows a rule and assign points to them. Once the points meet a certain criteria, a reward is given.

Behavior Contract

Behavior Contracts are used to outline an agreement in relation to a particular school-based intervention for a student exhibiting problem behavior. The contract outlines expected behavior goals, the reinforcement or rewards that will follow for compliance, and the consequences for non-compliance. It is signed usually by the child, their parents, the school’s guidance counsellor and the class teacher.


The Say-All-Fast-A Minute-Every-Day cards are an ABA application used in schools to foster fluency in certain subject areas such as spelling, math and science. The students are challenged to memorize corresponding facts on both sides of a small flash card and repeat them quickly as they race through the deck. The more correct answers which are given per minute, the higher the grade. Usually the SAFMEDS method is used as an official test and students are given ample time in the number of weeks to prepare to score total fluency.

And those are just a few. There are so many more methods used in the field, such as shaping, chaining, fading, prompting, Positive Behavior Supports and IEPs.

The world of ABA is fascinating, and so we hoped you enjoyed hearing about it!

We will be back with another article soon. In the meantime, stay connected with us on our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter account (@sensorytuneco_)!

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