Questions About Rewards

Here are a few of the most common questions I receive from teachers regarding rewards. Some of them may resonate with you.

Question 1: “I am aware of your stance on giving students rewards. However, when students do their work and get good grades, isn’t the grade a reward?”

My reply:
Yes, the good grade is a reward, and there is nothing wrong with this reward. Neither is anything wrong with rewards as acknowledgments.

What I object to is giving rewards for expected, appropriate behavior. Grades are an incentive and they work to motivate only if the person is interested in a good grade. Many students are. But some could care less about the grade given them by a teacher.

Question 2: “When I go to work each day, I receive a paycheck, isn’t that a reward?

My reply:
Your paycheck is compensation. Compensation is a contractual agreement between two parties. It is not a reward in the sense of manipulating or bribing someone to do something.

Question 3: “I put my students in teams and use points to help them quickly learn my management system. The team with the most points gets to leave first. Is this a reward?”

My reply:
Yes, and there is nothing the matter with this. The teams are competing—a very successful approach to improve PERFORMANCE. Unfortunately, this is often confused with improving LEARNING. For example, if a student never feels in the winner’s circle, do you think that young person will continue to compete, or will the desire be to drop out and preserve whatever self-esteem the young person still has?

Please understand that I am in no way against all competition. But if the goal is to improve learning, I am suggesting that there is a better approach that will save you time, effort, and not create a WIN-LOSE SITUATION (something endemic to competition). I refer to sharing your expectations and teaching procedures. This approach builds a collaborative community—something competition cannot do.