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Exploring Rewards In The Classroom Undergraduate Essay

2180 words - 9 pages

“The table group with the most points will get a treat for behaving so nicely today.”
Well that ought to teach every student to follow the classroom rules…or does it? Reward
strategies are an everyday occurrence in our classrooms. Nationwide, teachers have
succumbed to using stars, stickers and smiley faces to help motivate students. More than
ever, a myriad of incentive programs and systems have been created to help schools and
teachers manage behaviour, motivate learners and encourage engagement. There is no
doubt that rewarding students may result in initial compliance or short-term gains; however,
Children that have grown used to expecting rewards can feel discouraged when they stop
coming. In the end, this can diminish their determination and curiosity.
To further explore the use of rewards in the classroom we must first look at rewards
and motivation and the delicate balance between both. Woolfolk & Margetts (2007)
describe a reward as “An attractive object or event supplied as a consequence of a
behaviour” (p.377). We begin to get rewards for learning at a very early age, our mothers+
or fathers approval when we say our first words will often result in verbal praise, a form of
reward (Hidi & Harackiewicz, 2000). Rewards are part of everyday life. We receive rewards
for effort in a variety of ways; a smile returned from a stranger or flowers from a loved one
but there is strong debate over whether rewards should be given for learning.
Woolfolk and Margetts (2007) show two opposing views of the effects of rewards for
learning, providing an interesting debate in their point/counterpoint (p.248) on the use of
rewards in the classroom referring the reader to several debates publicly voiced in the
respected journals, Review of Educational Research, Phi Delta Kappan and Psychological
Bulletin. On one hand, Kohn (1993) describes the behaviourist approach to rewards as a
technique for controlling people, “Do this and you will get that” and believes rewards are
ineffective because once the reward stops so too does the behaviour. It is argued that
rewards are used as a controlling technique, doing things to children rather than working
with them to constructively develop a positive attitude (Deci, Koestner & Ryan, 1999; Kohn,
1993). By offering students incentives i.e. external rewards, for doing tasks that they already
enjoy or are motivated to do, their willingness or motivation to perform that task may
actually decrease (Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999). On the other hand, Chance (1993) argues
that when teachers reinforce at a high rate students’ get more enjoyment from their
learning, while Cameron and Pierce (1994) believe that performance contingent rewards,
delivered unexpectedly, do not harm intrinsic motivation for tasks. Cameron and Pierce
(1994) enthusiastically support the use of rewards to control behaviour or support learning.
There are many different types of rewards, tangible rewards including task non-
contingent (rewards not requiring...

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