Mystery Motivator: Classroom Wide

Mystery motivator is a classroom-wide intervention for dealing with problem behavior. All students contribute to the reward, and the element of surprise creates uncertainty. As Kowalewicz & Coffee (2014) described it, “the Mystery Motivator is a contingency contract in that it is framed around a written description of dependent relationships involving student performance, teacher performance, and reinforcing consequences” (p.2).

Steps, simplified (more information at the link below):

  1. Develop a MM chart with days of week/month.
  2. Randomly select days students can earn reward, mark chart accordingly (e.g. covering the chart with post-its, using invisible ink)
  3. Set behavioral goals (2-4) for the class.
  4. Determine a cut-off number of target behaviors (e.g. talking out of turn) for the class to become eligible the reward.
  5. Monitor during the class, keeping track of target behaviors throughout (e.g. tallys)
  6.  Lift chart at end of day/period and see if students earned the reward.
  7. Either: a) provide the reward immediately if goal reached and eligible, b) praise the class but remind that don’t win every day (if reached but ineligible), c) review expected behavior and encourage class (if below target but eligible).

Positive reinforcement and consistency are crucial to this intervention.

An entire description of this intervention is available from InterventionCentral’s Behavior Interventions: Schoolwide Classroom Mgmt page, or specifically at


Kowalewicz, E. A., & Coffee, G. (2014). Mystery motivator: A tier 1 classroom behavioral intervention. School Psychology Quarterly, 29(2), 138-156.



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