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A contingency is a relationship between a behavior and a consequence. It describes the probability that if a particular behavior occurs under certain conditions, a specific consequence will occur. Admittedly, that's quite a mouthful but it just means that a contingency states what will happen if a certain behavior occurs: "If you do this (the behavior), you will get that (the consequence)." For example, if you submit your homework on the day that it is due, it will be accepted.

Rules also can be stated in negative ways: "If you do not do this…" If you do not submit your homework on the day it is due, it will not be accepted.

Remember, however, that the essential element of rules is that they communicate to students what they can do to be reinforced or to avoid punishment before the student ever does anything. If you think about it, so much of teaching involves communicating rules to students; it's like distributing recipes for doing a myriad of things. Want to know how many lemons are left if you take away three of them? Just do the following steps called subtraction.


(C) 2001 J. Tyler Fovel, All Rights Reserved