Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Classroom Issues/Rewards
This is one of the many questions that teachers ask themselves when trying to design their own classroom. Rewards are normally used as a type of motivational strategy designed to encourage students to complete a task efficiently. However, with this notion comes a debate over two different types of rewards, intrinsic and extrinsic. This article will take a look at both of these types of rewards and some of the issues that surround them. In addition, guidelines in designing rewards will be discussed, and examples of common rewards will be given.
In order to apply a reward system to a classroom, a teacher must first understand what a reward system is and what the advantages and disadvantages are when using it. The term reward is broadly defined as a tool that teachers use to try and reinforce a desired behavior (Witzel & Mercer, 2003). The elements that determine the effectiveness of a reward are how it is delivered by the teacher and how it is perceived by the student (Witzel & Mercer). If a teacher delivers a reward for good behavior, the student must make the connection between the right behavior and the reward. If students think they were rewarded for a different behavior, then the given reward will not be effective, and the student will associate getting a reward with the wrong behavior (Witzel & Mercer). So, teachers need to make sure that when giving rewards, students understand why they received them.
Rewards can be broken down into two categories, intrinsic and extrinsic. When a student receives an intrinsic reward, it is because they have completed an assignment or task due to internal motivation (Williams & Stockdale, 2004). Some common intrinsic rewards are “task completion, feedback or result, acquisition of knowledge or skills, and a sense of mastery” (Witzel & Mercer). In some cases, intrinsic rewards can be beneficial compared to extrinsic rewards, because they do not require an external stimulus, such as the teacher. The student will stay on task because they are motivated by their own determination (Williams & Stockdale). However, intrinsic rewards will not always be satisfactory for students, since they may not have any internal motivation to complete a task. If a student does not find sentence diagramming or multiplication tables satisfying, then they may never have the motivation to do them, in which case an extrinsic motivator or reward would be necessary to encourage them to complete the task. This is where the advantages of extrinsic rewards are present.
Teachers or instructional assistants don't need to look far for ideas on motivating students in their classrooms. The Internet has many resources available that can aid teachers to aid their students. As stated previously, a student, at times, may have no motivation in a lesson; therefore, the intrinsic reward is meaningless. But, what about the students who just need a little push? One school in Canada created a page on their website solely dedicated to motivation and how to motivate students. On this site, http://members.shaw.ca/priscillatheroux/motivation.html, teachers can find 21 strategies, as well as other links, that can help enhance motivation.
Extrinsic rewards are rewards given by someone outside of the individual, such as a teacher (Witzel & Mercer). Some common extrinsic rewards are “primary objects, tangible objects, token systems, social approval, and project activities” (Witzel & Mercer). In 1991, Newby found that new teachers use extrinsic rewards and motivation more than any other classroom strategy (Witzel & Mercer). Extrinsic rewards may motivate students to complete tasks that they would otherwise disregard. However, extrinsic rewards can have a negative effect, where students grow dependent on them for motivation in completing their assignments (Williams & Stockdale).
In the classroom, most rewards will be a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic factors. For instance, students may engage in an activity both because of what they will learn, and to earn a good grade (Williams & Stockdale). The information that they will learn will be the intrinsic reward, while the grade that they receive will be the extrinsic reward.
Once again, the world wide web is a wonderful tool for teachers. Just typing in the words "extrinsic rewards" returned over 400,000 hits on Google. Of course, many people don't search past the first 10 pages, and it is also likely that the other thousands of returns have nothing to do with what the teacher was originally searching for. One site from California State University's Department of Curriculum and Instruction Charter College of Education offers great feedback on extrinsic rewards. Extrinsic rewards are a slightly more delicate subject than intrinsic rewards. Extrinsic rewards have the possibility of getting out of hand. When extrinsic rewards get out of control the original purpose of the reward is gone and students will loose belief in any other future rewards. The website from Cal State, http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/jshindl/cm/ExtrinsicRewards.htm, explains how to use "extrinsic rewards more effectively and why to avoid them when you can." It also offers other possible solutions when extrinsic rewards hit a bump.
So, what are some guidelines for new teachers in designing their own reward systems? According to The Savvy Teacher’s Guide: Selected Ideas for Behavioral Intervention, there are three tests to determine if a reward will be effective.
The first test is the “Acceptability Test.” In this test, a teacher should answer the following questions, “Does the teacher approve of using the reinforcer [reward] with this child? Are parent(s) likely to approve the use of the reinforcer with their child” (Wright)? If the reward passes this test, then it should move on to the “Availability Test.”
In the "Availability Test," a teacher should ask, “Is the reinforcer typically available in a school setting? If not, can it be obtained with little inconvenience and at a cost affordable to staff or parents” (Wright). If the reward also passes this test, then it should move on to the final test, the “Motivation Test.”
During the "Motivation Test," teachers only have one question to answer, “Does the child find the reinforcer to be motivating” (Wright). If a reward passes all three of these tests, it should be successful in the classroom in reinforcing positive behavior. An alternative method for determining whether or not a reward is effective is one that was developed by Kohn in 1999. Here Kohn suggests that “teachers need to (a) decide on the purpose of their activities, (b) put themselves in the shoes of the student, (c) determine if the reward drives the action, and (d) opt for more intrinsically motivating means over rewards” (Witzel & Mercer). Both of these reward tests are effective methods for determining whether or not a reward should be used.
After determining if a single reward would be effective, then a teacher should start to develop a list of multiple rewards that can be used in the classroom. One option for creating this list is using a technique known as a “Reward Deck.” A “Reward Deck” is simply a stack of index cards with rewards that a teacher has approved of for their classroom. Teachers can allow students to pick their own reward from this stack, making an individual reward list for each student in their class (Wright). This technique will allow students to pick rewards that will motivate them to complete their work, which may help produce results that are more positive.
|A-to-Z Teacher Stuff is a link to a teacher discussion forum, that specifically focuses on different rewards to use in the classroom. Go here to see what current teachers have to say.|
What exactly are some rewards that can be used in the classroom? Some common rewards that teachers can consider are allowing students to, “be the line leader, pick a game at recess, take a homework pass, have the teacher make a positive phone call home, be the teacher’s helper for the day, sit at the teacher’s desk for the day, and use the teacher’s chair” (Bafile, 2003). These are just a few of the many ideas for rewards that exist. In order to encourage students to start taking responsibility for their own behavior, teachers often begin to increase the amount of work needed to earn a reward (Bafile, 2000). This will help them see the link between doing their work, behaving, and getting good grades (Bafile, 2000). Hopefully, students will carry the work ethics that they learn from reward systems with them as they progress through their education.
Rewards and Bullying
There is no evidence to prove that the use of praise and reward systems in a school will help reduce the level of bullying. However, most victims of bullying and some bullies suffer from low self-esteem (Mellor, 2000). It is reasonable to assume that any system which helps young people feel better about themselves is likely to help prevent bullying behavior. Bullying is often a hidden activity so evidence can be difficult to gather (Mellor, 2000). It may be difficult to determine if an incident is actually bullying, since there is a fine dividing line between unacceptable name-calling and social teasing.
Problems With Rewards
Studies over many years have found that behavior modification programs are rarely successful at producing lasting changes in attitudes or even behavior (Kohn, 1994). When the rewards stop, people usually return to the way they acted before the program began. A child promised a treat for learning or acting responsibly has been given every reason to stop doing so when there is no longer a reward to be gained. If the question is "Do rewards motivate students?", the answer is, "Absolutely: they motivate students to get rewards." Unfortunately, that sort of motivation often comes at the expense of interest in, and excellence at, whatever they are doing. At least ten studies have shown that people offered a reward generally choose the easiest possible task (Kohn, 1993). In the absence of rewards, by contrast, children are inclined to pick tasks that are just beyond their current level of ability.
Good values have to be grown from the inside out. Attempts to short-circuit this process by dangling rewards in front of children are at best ineffective, and at worst counterproductive (Kohn, 1994). Children are likely to become enthusiastic, lifelong learners as a result of being provided with an engaging curriculum; a safe, caring community in which to discover and create; and a significant degree of choice about what (and how and why) they are learning. Rewards become unnecessary when these things are present (Kohn, 1994).
Culturally Sensitive Rewards
Rewards and their value vary from culture to culture. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 1/5 of our students come from language minority households. Of that 20 percent, 10 to 15 percent is of an Asian descent. Additionally, it is proven that language minority students have a higher drop out rate and take fewer courses. Therefore, it is essential that the rewards that are used on native English speakers are not counterproductive to the Non-native speakers.
Most Asian cultures do not value nor appreciate being singled out for a job well done. They prefer to remain autonomous and part of the group. If a Japanese student, for example, performs very well on a class assignment, presenting their work to the class or commenting on how well they did may not be received with the enthusiasm that a student from Mexico would. Of course this depends upon the student and their length of time in the classroom. However, there are certain cultural norms that a teacher needs to be aware of before distributing their rewards. The significance of rewards in the classroom is great; however, all students' needs and values need to be taken into consideration before those rewards are given. Especially concerning different cultures and customs.
Schools have identified several issues which need to be addressed if praise and reward systems are to be effective: (Mellor, 2000)
- The need for consistency among teachers in their use of sanctions and awards.
- Regular monitoring of how the system is working, looking at patterns of positive and negative referrals, investigating variation amongst departments or stages and taking steps to ensure consistency.
- Avoiding rewards which have monetary value or which signal that school work is not valued. (ex. being allowed to arrive late or being excused from homework)
- Ensuring that praise is genuine and deserved and not routine and meaningless.
- Keeping the system fresh and meaningful.
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- Bafile, Cara. (2000). Classroom Rewards Reap Dividends for Teachers and Students. Retrieved September 18, 2006, from http://www.education-world.com/a_curr/curr300.shtml.
- Bafile, Cara. (2003). Reward Systems That Work: What to Give and When to Give It! Retrieved September 18, 2006, from http://www.education-world.com/a_curr/curr301.shtml.
- Kohn, Alfie. (1993). PUNISHED BY REWARDS: THE TROUBLE WITH GOLD STARS, INCENTIVE PLANS, A'S, PRAISE, AND OTHER BRIBES. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- Kohn, Alfie. (1994). The Risk of Rewards. Retrieved April, 12, 2007, from http://www.vtaide.com/png/ERIC/Risks-of-Rewards.htm
- Mellor, Andrew. (2000). Information on Praise and Reward Systems. Retrieved March 26, 2007 from http://www.antibullying.net/praiserewardinfo3.htm.
- United States Department of Education. School Reform and Diversity. September 1995. http://www.ed.gov/pubs/SER/Diversity/acknow.html
- Williams, Robert L. & Stockdale, Susan L. (2004). Classroom Motivation Strategies for Prospective Teachers. The Teacher Educator, 39. Retrieved September 16, 2006, from Wilson Web (Item 0436000449005).
- Witzel, Bradley S. & Mercer, Cecil D. (2003). Using Rewards to Teach Students with Disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 24. Retrieved September 16, 2006, from Wilson Web (Item 0306000961003).
- Wright, Jim. Creating Reward Menus That Motivate: Tips for Teachers. The Savvy Teacher’s Guide: Selected Ideas for Behavioral Intervention. Retrieved September 16, 2006, from http://www.interventioncentral.org.