Class DoJo

The following request was sent me:

I would love to have your opinion on Class Dojo. It appears to be another carrot and stick approach that does NOT promote responsibility. As a resource teacher in my school board, I don’t feel comfortable telling other teachers what to do and how to teach; yet for the sake of the students, I know Class Dojo isn’t the answer. Could you please give me some advice on what to tell teachers?

Class Dojo is a classroom behavior management system where every student has his or her own avatar. All the avatars are public so that all students can see other students’ avatars. Teachers assign dojos (icons) to student avatars throughout a lesson. Teachers can also remove a dojo for misbehavior.

Since the avatars are available to all students, there is a natural tendency to compete for dojos. This approach, promotes competition rather than collaboration and focuses on behavior rather than on instruction. Also, awarding dojos is unfair. If a student does all that is expected but does not receive a dojo, that student is “punished by dojos.”

When a student has a dojo taken away, all the students can see it. I don’t see how this can be explained in any other way than public shaming.

Shaming students by removing dojos so all the students can see is an indication of how foolish the system is. With all that we now know about how cognition interacts with emotions, it is disgraceful that teachers are still prompting negative feelings in young people but expect them to do good when they feel bad.   

Rewarding students in attempts to control them is also counterproductive. Unfortunately, this approach is like so many others espoused by theorists. They relay on a behaviorist techniques by using external manipulative approaches to control. Manipulative techniques do not lead to developing responsible citizens.

Teachers and parents have the responsibility to instill moral character values in children, such as trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.

When adults use rewards such as dojos, candy, stickers, and movie passes to reinforce desired behaviors, they are using the values of children to motivate in HOPES that these characteristics will transfer to adult values. But they don’t. By using the things that children value, adults are merely reinforcing the values of children—NOT the values required to succeed in a democratic and free enterprise system.               

Behaviorists who promote giving rewards to control behavior are not interested in values. They are only interested in changing behavior, which is the reason that neuroscientists do not use behavioral approaches. Scientists realize that humans are not like dogs, pigeons, or rats, which were used by behaviorists who extrapolated that, since rewarding behavior worked on these types of creatures, it would also work on human beings.

Rewards change behavior. When a reward is offered as a bribe to motivate, the adult will never know whether the motivation becomes one of getting the reward or because doing so is the right thing to do. More importantly, these rewards to control do nothing towards creating mature values in children. Instead, they prompt the mindset of, “If you want me to do what you want, what will you give me?” This approach leads to narcissism, which is not a good social or personal value.

So, while most kids will do what adults want them to do to get the dojo, the young people haven’t moved one step further towards becoming more mature or learning the values necessary for success.

In former generations, young people were expected to do what parents asked, and grew up with adult values. Too many of today’s adults are rewarding young people gratuitously. The result may be a generation of immature and selfish people.

I am still optimistic that class dojo and other techniques based on external manipulations to control young people will go the way of the dodo.

Finally, consider sharing the Discipline Without Stress Teaching Model and Counterproductive Approaches