Before You Hand Out Those Rewards – 4 Questions to Ask Yourself

Pernille Ripp reminds us why external rewards aren’t worth the trouble.

  1. They create a division of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’.
  2. External rewards weaken intrinsic motivation in the long run.
  3. External rewards take the focus away from the work
  4. If the value of the reward is undermined, so is the effort.

He then goes on to suggest rewards should be abandoned altogether. He is not the first to suggest this. I’m not sure who is, to be honest. Alfie Kohn goes into this a lot in his book titled “Punished by Rewards”. Dan Pink also talks about this indirectly in his book, “Drive”. And there’s a handful of teachers who are doing this and blog about it (google it). So it does seem like this idea is picking up steam.

I have been reward and punishment free for 5 years in my classroom.  I have loved it and yet rewards seem to still crop up every year, typically through school-wide initiatives or team decisions.  Because I try to be a team player, I go with it as much as I can, and yet, the voice inside of me still screams that for most students, extrinsic rewards do not help.  Sure there are a few kids who may become more motivated because of a reward, but I have yet to see a child really change their behavior because of an extrinsic reward system.  So if you are not quite sure whether to give up rewards or not, please ask yourself the following questions.

1.  Will the rewards only go to certain kids?

Rewards have always, in my opinion, been the surest way to create a divided community within a classroom.  A…

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