The Science Behind PAX

In the late 1960s, researchers at the University of Kansas thought disruptive, disagreeable behaviors by students might be being reinforced by peers and others in school settings. Perhaps the smiles, giggles, laughs and even pointed taunting from other students were encouraging the behaviors that teachers found so difficult to handle and that were harmful to the learning process. In this context, the scientists reasoned that some kind of group-based reward for inhibiting negative behavior might be a boon for classrooms. The idea for the Good Behavior Game was born after they saw a teacher using this basic idea in her classroom.

The Good Behavior Game can be a valuable tool for reducing student misbehavior, thereby increasing time for learning — and its positive effects can stay with students long past the early grades. Longitudinal studies of the Good Behavior Game conducted by scientists at Johns Hopkins and in the Netherlands have demonstrated that participation in this set of practices during first or second grade can help to reduce the incidence of disciplinary problems, and even of juvenile delinquency and substance abuse, later in students’ lives.

Child and developmental psychologist Dr. Dennis Embry and others drew on these studies, on educational best practices, and on recent findings in brain research to further develop the game concept into an accessible, easy-to-implement set of practices that every elementary school teacher can use.

The PAX Good Behavior Game has now been used in several thousand classrooms—in inner city and suburban schools, with elementary students and secondary students, and in special education and regular classrooms. PAX GBG brings improvements in virtually every setting in which it has been tried —because when students help to define their own wonderful classrooms, they become active, invested agents in making the changes necessary to create those classrooms.


Over the years, schools and classrooms that have used the Good Behavior Game have reported a variety of positive outcomes, including:

• A 50 to 90% reduction in disruptive or disorderly behaviors in the classroom, hallways, and other school settings

• Up to 25% more time for teaching and learning, amounting to the equivalent of another month or more of school

• A 20 to 50% increase in the number of children being fully engaged in learning

• A 10 to 30% reduction in the need for special education services

• A 30 to 60% reduction in referrals, suspensions, or expulsions

• A major reduction in teacher stress levels

To read more about PAX GBG research, go to and search “PeaceBuilders” (Dr. Embry’s  former youth violence prevention program whose successes have informed PAX GBG), “Good Behavior Game,” and “evidence-based kernels.”