Journal of Behavioral Education

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 11–27 | Cite as

Teacher-control versus student-control over choice of task and reinforcement for students with severe behavior problems

  • Merith Cosden
  • Christy Gannon
  • Thomas G. Haring
Tom Haring Memorial Issue: Part I


Increasing self-control for students with severe disabilities is an important step toward normalization. The classroom is one setting in which opportunities for self-control can be created. The effects of teacher-control versus student-control over academic task and reinforcement selection were evaluated for three 11-to 13-year-old males with severe behavior problems. Under student-control conditions students were able to select rewards and tasks from lists generated by the teacher; in the teacher-control conditions, the teacher selected rewards and tasks but attempted to make similar selections to those made by the students. An alternating treatments design was implemented. In Phase 1, task completion was the target behavior; in Phase 2 task accuracy was the target behavior. Task performance improved when the student, rather than the teacher, had control over task assignments and choice of reinforcement. While either student control of reinforcement or student control of task assignment resulted in higher performance than did teacher-control, the most effective instructional situation was the two procedures combined. This effect was apparent even when students and teachers selected the same tasks and the same reinforcers. Implications for increasing student-control over some classroom decisions are discussed.

Key words

self-control self-selection behavior disorder reinforcers curriculum 


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Merith Cosden
    • 2
  • Christy Gannon
    • 1
  • Thomas G. Haring
    • 2
  1. 1.Intensive Treatment UnitBellefaire/Jewish Children's BureauCleveland
  2. 2.Department of EducationUniversity of California at SantaBarbara

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