ELIMINATING EXTERNAL REWARDS from Bob Sullo’sThe Motivated Student
- Immediately give up as many external rewards for learning as possible.
- Move from rewarding to affirming. Have students identify the positive feelings they experience when they are successful. The natural desire to learn will be strengthened when students realize how good they feel when they succeed. Once students identify that achievement feels good, affirm their success. Never dilute this powerful discovery with the presentation of a tangible external reward.
- Talk with students about the kind of learners they want to be. When they discover that they want to be successful students who work hard, learning will become its own reward.
- Distinguish between rewards and celebrations. I supervised teachers who created a reward program that required students to read a certain number of pages in two weeks in order to earn the right to watch a movie. The students grudgingly complied, but reading was reduced to a “hoop” that needed to be jumped through. With my encouragement, the following year the teachers abandoned the reward program. They told the students they were going to chart how much reading they completed during a two-week period because they were curious how much the students read. At the conclusion of the two weeks, the students watched a movie, but it was not something they earned based on how much reading they had done. The results? Students read as much the second year and made more positive comments about the reading they had completed instead of complaining that they “had to read.” Maintain your celebrations, but give up reward programs that diminish the joy and value of learning.
- If you insist on giving rewards to your students, don’t give things like a “homework pass” which communicates to them that it is desirable to avoid working hard and learning.