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[Drug and Alcohol Findings] (2012) Effectiveness Bank Bulletin. [The good behavour game; classroom management technique]. Drug and Alcohol Findings. Drug and Alcohol Findings, 15 Mar

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The Good Behavior Game and the future of prevention and treatment.
Kellam S.G., Mackenzie A.C.L., Brown H.C. et al. Addiction Science and Clinical Practice: July 2011, p. 73–84.

From the researchers involved in the trials, a practitioner-friendly account of research on the classroom management technique implemented in the first years of schooling which has led to remarkably strong and persistent impacts on substance use and other problems in later life.

Summary From the researchers involved in the trials, a practitioner-friendly account of the first long-term randomised trial of the Good Behavior Game classroom management technique, a brief review of findings to date of ongoing replication trials, and the implications of this work for researchers, practitioners, advocates, and policymakers. As analysed in greater details by Findings, the main trial in the US city of Baltimore recorded some of the most substantial effects ever recorded from a school-based prevention programme. Unusually, it was able to test whether effects persisted through to young adulthood.

The game is not a lesson as such, but a way of managing whole classes during lessons. It aims to socialise children to the role of being a school pupil and to reduce aggression or disruptive behaviour, known to be related to later substance use problems and dependence and antisocial behaviour. Children are divided into teams which can win prizes depending on the good behaviour of the team as a whole. In the Baltimore study, teams did not compete against each other; each could independently gain rewards. Class teachers used the research team's assessments of their pupils (themselves largely based on the teachers' ratings) to assign them to three teams with the same numbers of boys and girls, and of aggressive/disruptive or shy, socially isolated children. The good behaviour rules teams had to adhere to win prizes were displayed to the class. During a game period, a mark was placed on the chalkboard next to the name of a team whenever one of its members broke a rule. Teams won if they chalked up no more than four marks by the end of the game period.

At first teachers announced the start of game periods, which occurred at no set time but initially for 10 minutes three times a week. Praise plus tangible rewards such as such as colourful stickers or rubbers were awarded immediately after the game. As the year continued, the game was played for longer periods and when pupils were working individually. In this way, it facilitated learning without competing for instructional time. As the school year progressed, the rewards changed from tangible and immediate to more abstract and deferred, such as gold stars and more time for enjoyable activities.

The game treats the classroom as a community. The teacher is central, because he or she sets the rules for becoming a successful pupil and member of the community and determines whether each child succeeds or fails. It improves the precision with which the teacher conveys and the child receives these rules, and by doing so improves teacher-child interaction and the child's chances for success. In addition, in trials better behaved children were seen to influence and socially integrate children who behaved less well.

The very first mandatory school year is a key a setting for preventive interventions because it represents a major transition for the child and the family, and is generally the first where children at all levels of risk can be found. In some US states, apart from registering the birth, it is the first required contact between children and any official system. It is for many children the first setting outside the home where they learn the social and behavioral skills they will need to succeed in school.

Improved social adaptation to the classroom due to the way teachers socialise the children is expected to lead to better adaptation to other social fields later in life, which in turn will improve the child's psychological health in a mutually reinforcing cycle.


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