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6 Steps to Empowerment: Using Behavior Contracts for Classroom Settings

Promoting positive behaviors among students is essential for creating a conducive learning environment. Behavior contracts are a powerful tool for achieving this goal. By addressing behaviors ranging from incomplete assignments to more severe actions like inappropriate language or physical disruptions, behavior contracts provide a structured approach to encouraging students to make positive choices. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the key elements of creating behavior contracts that work, focusing on individualization, student involvement, teamwork, goal concentration, clear guidelines, and data-driven progress monitoring.

1. Individualize contracts for each learner

Every student is unique, and their motivations, triggers, and needs vary. When designing behavior contracts, it’s crucial to consider the individual characteristics of each learner. Generic approaches might not resonate well with all students, so take the time to understand the student’s background, preferences, and challenges. Tailor the contract to align with YOUR student’s interests and aspirations. This individualized approach reflects to your learner that you value them, and increases the likelihood of their engagement.

2. Get the student involved in the process

One of the most effective ways to ensure the success of a behavior contract is to involve the student in its creation. When students actively participate in setting their own goals and defining the terms of the contract, they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility. This ‘buy-in’ significantly enhances their commitment to meeting the contract’s expectations. Encourage open communication during this process, allowing students to express their thoughts and concerns. Take the time to listen to each and every one, even if ultimately it is not something that you agree belongs in the contract. This collaborative approach empowers them to take charge of their behavior change journey.

You may be working with learners who are not able to easily express their feelings and concerns. If your learner is not able to take part in a collaborative conversation, consider giving them (or a caregiver) a more simplified preference survey that you can take into account when creating the contract. Click here to grab a free student preference interview form.

pref survey 6 Steps to Empowerment: Using Behavior Contracts for Classroom Settings

3. Include all team Members

Successful behavior contracts require a collaborative effort involving teachers, parents or guardians, and other relevant team members. Establish a strong partnership with family members to maintain consistency in behavior expectations between school and home. Regular communication helps everyone stay on the same page and reinforces the importance of the behavior contract. When communicating with families, remember that parents or guardians may have strong reactions to their child’s behaviors at times. We can validate their concerns while at the same time maintaining a professional and compassionate demeanor. This collaborative approach creates a comprehensive support system that maximizes the chances of positive behavior change.

4. Focusing on 1-2 Goals at a time

To avoid overwhelming students, concentrate on a small number of specific goals at a time. Attempting to address too many behaviors simultaneously can lead to frustration and disengagement from all team members! Prioritize the most critical behaviors that are interfering with safety, and/ or the student’s academic and social progress. Remember that we can always add in more goals as our learners reach success. This focused approach allows students to channel their efforts effectively and experience a sense of accomplishment as they successfully improve their behavior!

5. Clearly Define Behaviors and Expectations

Ambiguous language can lead to confusion and frustration. Clearly define the desired behaviors, rules, and expectations in the behavior contract. Use specific and measurable language to describe what success looks like. For instance, instead of using a vague term like “participate in class,” specify the expected behaviors, such as “raising hand to ask questions.” When possible, try to focus on what your student should be doing, rather than what they should not be doing. This clarity can help your students to understand exactly what is expected of them.

6. Collect frequent data to monitor progress

Data-driven decision-making is essential for tracking the effectiveness of behavior contracts. Establish a method to collect and analyze data related to the targeted behaviors. Regularly review the progress with the student and involve them in the data analysis process! Celebrate small victories and adjust the contract as needed to address any challenges that arise. Remember that any behavior change takes time, but if you are not seeing any progress within a few weeks, you may need to re-visit the contract with your entire team and revise things as needed. Data provides valuable insights into what strategies are working and specifically where adjustments are required.


Creating behavior contracts for students is a thoughtful and strategic process that involves personalization, collaboration, and clarity. By tailoring the contracts to the individual, engaging students in the process, involving all relevant team members, focusing on specific goals, setting clear expectations, and utilizing data to monitor progress, educators can foster a positive learning environment that supports students in making positive behavior choices. These contracts not only facilitate behavior change but also empower students to feel more in control of their positive choices!


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