Student X, is an 8 year old student in the 3rd year of elementary school, has been throwing things off their desk, everytime they were asked to complete a task by their teacher. A token economy system was implemented in order to target this behaviour – “throwing things off her desk”, and replace it with a desired behaviour, that of “completing tasks” instead. The function behind the target behaviour was that the student wanted to avoid completing the task that was assigned by the teacher.


Once the function of the behaviour was identified, the replacement behaviour was defined and the rationale behind it was explained clearly to the student. The student would earn a laminated star everytime they completed a task (successfully or unsuccessfully). After earning all the 5 tokens, the student would be rewarded with 20 minutes of playing with play doh at the end of each week – an activity that the teacher realised that the student enjoyed after observing them (backup reinforcer).


The teacher ignored the target behaviour (throwing things off the desk) and focused all their attention on the replacement behaviour (completing tasks). The teacher and the student chose a token  board (with 5 boxes) that the student liked to work on. Given that the teacher had worked before with a token economy system in the specific classroom, the student already knew the value of tokens, therefore the teacher started implementing the token economy system directly.


By the end of the first 2 weeks of the token economy system implementation, the student exhibited the target behaviour a decreased number of times (than the previous weeks) and was given a star each time they completed a task assigned by the teacher. The student completed a total of 4 tasks successfully and 6 tasks unsuccessfully, and exhibited the target behaviour a total of 5 times. During the second week, the student completed a total of 5 tasks successfully and 5 unsuccessfully, and exhibited the target behaviour 4 times.


The teacher noticed that the student was satiated by the backup reinforcer (the student was not as excited to earn a 20 minute time slot playing with play dough at the end of the week as they were before the implementation of the token economy system). Therefore, teacher and student agreed to change the backup reinforcer for the student to something related to another interest (fidget-spinner) each time they earned 5 stars. The token economy system continued, and by the end of the first month, the student had decreased the target behaviour to zero.