Rewards and the Raise Responsibility System


I recently read your education book and I plan to try the approach with my 3rd graders.

Previously, I taught 6th grade and used an assertive discipline system. I teach in a Success for All school which requires teachers to award team points for appropriate behavior. Students are rewarded based on the number of points their team earns each week. How do you think the Raise Responsibility System will work if I have to give rewards for expected behaviors?


First, a comment about assertive discipline: As you may have discovered, a fundamental characteristic of this coercive approach is to overpower when a student does not obey. The RAISE RESPONSIBILITY SYSTEM is 180 degrees in the opposite direction. It sets up expectations and then prompts youngsters to reflect. It separates a good person from inappropriate behavior. Because of the separation, the person does not have to self-defend and therefore creates a safe atmosphere. Because students understand that the objective is to have them become more responsible, rather than to change them, it is easy for a student to admit to an inappropriate behavior—and change it.

The system is based on the simple truth that you cannot change another person. People change themselves, and the most effective way to influence a person to change behavior is to get them to WANT to change. The most effective way to do this is though a noncoercive approach.


Regarding “Success for All,” continue to do what the program asks for.

Once you explain the difference between Level C, external motivation, and Level D, internal motivation, students quickly realize that external rewards are used to reinforce desired behavior—and they begin to realize that it is manipulative. No one likes being manipulated—not even young kids.

Once students reach this realization, often lose interest in the external reward. They realize that the feelings of success leading to increased self-esteem are more satisfying than any external reinforcer.

Let the students decide. For those who want to continue receiving rewards, give it to them. For those students who tell you not to, follow their wishes.


Regarding working in teams, once you have established the synergy of students working in collaboration—rather than in competition—quality of learning will dramatically increase. Friendly rivalry for short periods is fun. If learning is based on individual competition on a regular basis, however, it is counterproductive.

The epilogue in my book shows how educational leaders have lost faith in their own leadership and have been led by business and government leaders to use an inappropriate business model for learning.

Using a model of accountability and inducing competition for learning by comparing test scores (as if all learning can be quantified) is counterproductive. The comic strip character, Dagwood Bumstead, eloquently described this approach when he said, “You know, that makes a lot of sense if you don’t think about it.”

You will be amazed at how your youngsters will do what you want if you have good classroom management (teach procedures for everything you want them to do) and then teach the hierarchy of social development, Parts I and III of the teaching model.