What are the effects of rewards on students?
A student’s poor performance is often attributed to a lack of motivation. In an effort to increase the motivation on student achievement, rewards are given.
Does this work? What exactly are the effects of rewards on students? Let’s find out.
Dangling rewards in front of students has become common. The reasoning behind this is that if the students will work harder if they got an extra something out of it.
Threats don’t work with kids; threats only build resentment and cover any desire to advance in a cloud of negativity. Threats don’t engage, they disengage and form the basis for rebellion.
Yes, of course, systems still need to be in place for patently bad behaviour and those systems still include the word ‘punishment’ –most likely in the form of detention.
But really the only way to get the best from students is to offer them ways to want to get the best from themselves.
Kids don’t know what they want yet
Well, most of the really young ones and a few too many of the older ones don’t know what they want. So it’s hard for a six year old to say “I’m going to really knuckle down in math so I can be an accountant when I grow up.” And chances are they want to be a fire fighter or lion tamer anyway. Or think they do.
But young kids aren’t even remotely conscious of the end goal; all they know is that Mum and Dad sent them to a place with way more crayons than they have at home.
So, particularly, with your early learners, a rewards system can do wonders to focus their attention.
Rewards systems build a learning habit
Even if your students are too young to understand why they’re learning, they want the reward, whatever that might be. And the more they seek the reward, the more they develop a healthy learning habit without even knowing it.
Rewards generate interest which leads to effort and results.
What’s a good rewards system?
Well, clearly you can’t go handing out candy bars for every little milestone.
Yes, for large assignments you can create a one-off reward, but, generally, you want a rewards system that fosters consistent behaviour and learning over an extended period.
Develop an individual points system
Kids love getting gold stars for good work and it can be as simple as that; it’s a reward for good work and a motivation to seek even more stars.
But why not create something more substantial; a system where students accrue points over the course of a term or the entire school year? With nice little rewards along the way and a more major one at year end, you can create healthy competition amongst students.
Just make sure your points system recognises achievement across all facets of school life, be it academic, art, sport, persistence, organisation, confidence, resilience, social skills and compassion. That way, everyone gets a chance to shine, not just your bright sparks and sporting heroes.
Develop a ‘House’ system
The ‘House’ system works wonders for motivating most individuals because those individuals aren’t working for themselves; they’re working for the ‘house’.
You can call it a team if you like – Team Green, Team Blue, Team Badger, Team Frog, whatever you like – but each house or team has group goals for the term or year.
A team approach to rewards does two things: one, it teaches kids how to collaborate and work effectively with others; and two, it teaches kids to think for others, not just themselves.