The use of rewards in the classroom has generated serious debate among scholars and practitioners. Some Scholars and practitioners believe it is useful in getting students motivated to do an activity or behavior. But others believe that it is just like bribing students to perform an activity and can crash students’ motivation in the long run.
To make matters worse, there are mixed findings in the literature regarding the effectiveness of using rewards in the classroom. The disagreements between the two groups are great, especially when the issue of intrinsic motivation is mentioned.
I think rewards can be useful if applied appropriately. I mean, there must be necessary pre-planning and considerations before the implementation of reward systems in the class or school.
Are Rewards Bribes to Get Students to Behave Well?
There are some Scholars and practitioners who think rewarding students for good behavior is a form of bribe. It is important to try to see whether it is appropriate to compare the two. First, I would like us to define the two terms:
Bribe (noun) from Cambridge Dictionary:
Reward (noun) from Cambridge Dictionary:
From the definitions above, two things are clear:
1. Bribe is paid for the commission of an illegal act, while or award is given what is service or good work.
2. Bribe is paid usually before the performance of the act, while rewards always follow the completion of the desired behavior.
Why Use Rewards in Class?
Rewards are used to motivate students to put up good behavior. Students’ motivation is important because less motivated students would likely put up a problem behavior in the classroom.
Unfortunately, most students are not self-actualized or self-motivated to engage in learning. This presents us with challenges on how to get them motivated for the classroom work.
There are two forms of motivation which we should know. They are intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. The ideal motivation will work for will be intrinsic or internal motivation. People are motivated differently with different incentives. Now let’s define the two forms of motivations:
Extrinsic motivation refers to a motivation where an individual performs or avoids activity with the purpose of winning a reward or avoiding punishment.
Intrinsic motivation refers to a motivation where a person performs or avoids an activity because he or she finds it rewarding. In this case, he or she is doing the activity for the sake of the activity.
From the definitions above, we can classify rewards into intrinsic and extrinsic. Which was our main goal is to get our students to put up with good behavior for the sake of it be rewarding. If we achieve that, our classrooms will be full of well-behaved students and the levels of stress and burnout on us will reduce.
The Reward Hierarchy And How It Works
There are no universal rewards, just like there are no universal motivators. What may influence one person’s behavior may not work on other people. For example, praise at school assembly can do wonders for some students, but it may not be enough to motivate other students.
In the reward hierarchy, rewards are categorized into two main classes- internal and external. External rewards are further categorized into tangibles, activities, and social. The internal reward is made up of self-motivators. The diagram below shows the hierarchy of rewards:
1. Physical objects that are given to students for putting up or avoiding a behavior we desire. This includes chips, stickers, posters, badges, and food.
2. Activities refer to benefits and privileges offered to students for performing or avoiding the desired behavior. For example, computer time, being first to go for recess, helping in teaching, etc.
3. Social rewards are motivators used to show appreciation, approval, and recognition. These are praise, applause, awards, standing ovations, certificates of merit, etc.
4. Self rewards are on top of the hierarchy and arise from within the person. It’s autonomous. For instance, meeting one’s goals, success, self-improvement, self-satisfaction, learning, etc.
Does A Reward Crush Students Motivation?
This topic of curry was in the classroom has been a source of debates among scholars and practitioners. It is a difficult task to choose between its proponents and opponents.
Opponents of rewards argue that it demotivates students in the long run. They argued that extrinsic rewards crash the motivation of people in performing a behavior or otherwise.
For example, Baumeister and Showers (1986) found that people become worse off in their performance when they are offered extrinsic rewards. Ariely et al. (2009) also found similar results, noting that excessive rewards sometimes yield poor performance.
On the other hand, proponents of reward also argued that extrinsic Rewards or rewards systems can include ways of triggering intrinsic motivation of people. In that sense, rewards are still useful in the classroom.
For example, Cameron and Pierce (2002) found support for the use of rewards including praise and others through a systematic review of the literature. This refuted the argument that rewards stifle students’ intrinsic motivation.
We can see that there are mixed results on the usage of rewards in the classroom. I think rewards are useful in the classroom. However, it must be used with care and many skills. In the next session, I am going to give you the 10 critical research-based tips on using rewards in your class.
Tips On Using Rewards Or Positive Reinforcement In The Classroom
To get the better of rewards in your classroom, the following tips can be useful. They will guide you to put in place reward systems that are effective. These tips are:
1. Your goal is to get your students to perform desired behavior intrinsically. In this case, make sure to use the highest level of reinforcement for students. Remember some students will be intrinsically motivated to do the desired behaviors so if you lower your Rewards they will end up being demotivated.
2. Use rewards to promote positive behaviors in the classroom. Rewards should be crafted in the form of positive behaviors. One way of promoting positive behavior is catching students doing a good thing and recognizing it. Never ignore positive behavior, reward students for them.
3. Try to use group rewards to promote target behaviors. For example, you can say that “if we all stop interrupting the teacher and other students, we will get computer time.” This will allow the whole class to work towards earning the reward. Group rewards sometimes work whenever individual rewards fail.
4. Using one reward system for even one academic year can be ineffective. This is because students will learn to get used to the rewards and its denial may mean nothing to them. With this, try to vary your rewards to make them effective.
5. Rewards should be immediate to be effective. If you delay given it, some students will forget the behavior their word is supposed to reinforce. This means they will not be able to link the reward to the target behavior.
6. When issuing the reward, remind students about why you are rewarding them. Emphasize the importance of the targeted behavior in question.
7. When making the reward system, engage the students, especially in choosing acceptable rewards. Even though you will have the final word in the process, let them help you choose what is valuable to them.
8. Be fair when issuing rewards. This is critical for it to be effective. A failure to do so will lead to the failure of the entire reward system.
9. Use different reward systems for different age groups. For example, what works in the case of 3rd-grade students will not work for 7th-grade students.
10. Give random rewards. As part of your reward system, give surprise rewards once in a while. Here, students must not be able to predict the reward and when you will issue it. In that case, they will be alert and that will put them on their toes to exhibit good behavior.
It can be concluded from the above that there are debates around the use of rewards in the classroom. We assessed whether rewards are bribes to students. Finally, we looked at the 10 tips that will help us create and use rewards in our classrooms and schools. In all, we think rewards are still useful in the classroom, even though some studies have proven otherwise. Thank you for following through. Please, share with your friends so that they can also benefit from that.