Student Awards and Rewards: What Works and What Doesn’t

I often say that doling out student awards and rewards is counterproductive. However, I must also say that I don’t condemn ALL student awards and rewards. Allow me to explain.

As a former instructional coordinator, I have come to the conclusion that awards ceremonies are counterproductive for LEARNING—especially when so many young people never find themselves in the winner’s circle and would therefore prefer to drop out rather than compete.

When it comes to learning, collaboration is much more effective. When people collaborate, they do not compete.

However, as a former high school athletic coordinator, I do believe in award ceremonies for athletics and other competitive activities such as spelling bees, high school band competitions, and academic decathlons THAT ARE BASED ON PERFORMANCE.

In some scenarios, student awards are great incentives. For example, there is no way I would have invested thousands of hours learning piobaireachd (the classical music pronounced pibroch) on the Great Highland Bagpipes if I would not have competed. The competitive spirit drove me to improve my PERFORMANCE.

In sum, student awards and rewards are counterproductive for LEARNING but are appropriate when it comes to improving PERFORMANCE. Teams competing in classrooms are appropriate. But LEARNING is more effective between individuals when they collaborate—rather than compete.


Live Without Stress

Teaching, parenting, and simply living can be stressful at times. That’s why I wrote my newest book Live Without Stress: How to Enjoy the Journey. If you’re looking for stress management advice, check it out. The book is available as a print book (Buy one and get a second copy free to give as a gift), as an eBook, and as an audio book at