Rewarding Students

This one’s for you teachers!

There is a raging debate in the education circles around the world, whether, rewards for students work or backfire. One comes across a wide spectrum of rewards – from timely verbal praise to cash-based rewards – in different schools in different places. With regard to my beliefs and use of rewards for recognising and motivating students, I find myself cushioned somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.

Rewarding students for performance/achievement serves two purposes; acknowledgement and recognition of their achievement as well as a motivational tool to spur them on. It begins as an extrinsic motivational tool but like a lot of other things in their environment, children internalise it in no time and then it becomes, for most, an intrinsic motivation mechanism. Anyway, research shows that intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are not opposite constructs. A teacher needs to be very careful about the choice and use of rewards; it should not be at cross-purpose with positive classroom management, ethics and equity. The thumb rule for an effective reward is that it should be deemed of value by the student.

Here’s a list of a few rewards that, generally speaking, work very well in classrooms. They might need modifications and/or differentiation; to be adapted to the needs of a particular class/student:

* Allow the student to pick his/her own seating. (You would be surprised how much most students value an opportunity of this sort)

* Create a menu of rewards and let the student choose one

* Allow him/her, with your assistance, design his/her own test/assignment

* Allow students who finish their work well and early to play a board game/ music (with earphones)

* Start a token/point system for exemplary behaviour or effort or achievement

* Send a positive note home (teachers send negative notes all the time, why not positive notes with similar intensity)

* Extra computer or library time

* Work release rewards like homework passes

* Certificates/Stickers

* Then there are the ingenious ones created by innovative teachers like The Ladder Plan, The Mystery Envelope, Class Compliments chart, etc

A word of caution here, some rewards that may seem motivational for one student, may actually be embarrassing for another. Teachers need to use them judiciously and appropriately.

These rewards have worked wonders for me and for the students in my classrooms across different education systems and three very diverse countries.

Hope that they are of some use in empowering you and your students.