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effects of rewards and incentives on intrinsic motivation of students. Action Research Project by Cassandra Caceres 7021T Fall 2010. Table of Contents. Abstract Introduction - Statement of the Problem 4

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effects of rewards and incentives on intrinsic motivation of students

Action Research Project by Cassandra Caceres 7021T Fall 2010

Table of Contents

  • Abstract

  • Introduction

  • - Statement of the Problem 4

  • - Review of Related Literature 6-10

  • - Statement of the Hypothesis 11

  • Method

  • - Participants (N)

  • - Instruments

  • - Experimental Design

  • - Procedure

  • Results

  • Discussion

  • Implications

  • References 12-14

  • Appendices


  • Importance of Eliminating Contingent Rewards

    Educators must not just inform children about the world, teach them to read, to write, and to do arithmetic. They must also help equip children with the skills needed to participate in adult interactions. This is not done by doling out response-contingent awards. In fact rewards do just the opposite. Response –contingent rewards establish a power hierarchy. Teachers have the power and they use it to get children to comply with their expectations in order to get rewards. Subservience does not develop responsible adults.

    (Hall, 2009; Marshall 2005)

Statement of the Problem

  • In Queens Public School X, the use of external incentives is a frequent strategy used by teachers to attain the cooperation of students during instruction and throughout the day. Excessive use of such rewards reduces intrinsic motivation and desire to learn as students become blinded by a material reward. Teachers may find it more beneficial to alternate strategies of motivation and praise that do not include contingent rewards.

Review of Related Literature


Alfie Kohn : Punished by Rewards

Albert Bandura : Self Efficay

“Rewards are every bit as controlling as punishments, even if they control by seduction. If reward recipients feel controlled it is likely that the experience will assume a punitive quality over the long run even though obtaining a reward itself is usually pleasurable (Kohn 1995).”

Self efficacy is defined as peoples beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influences that affect their lives. A strong sense of self efficacy enhances human accomplishment and personal well being ( Bandura 1994).”

Review of Related Literature: PROS

  • Students when required to take certain classes often bring an unmotivated and negative attitude .However, teachers who can facilitate interestingdiscussions and involve their students in activities may be able to motivate them to learn.(Docan, 2006; Lepper. Corpus, & Iyenger 2005).

  • “Since the use of Coercion engenders negative feelings, such external approaches are counterproductive to good relationships and are only effective temporarily.” (Marshall, 2005)

  • Extrinsic motivation is that which prompts students to complete activities in lesson s as they are inspired by some form of a tangible reward. (Angeleque, Eckert, Lovett, & Little 2004; Mader 2009)

  • External motivators like treasure boxes, point systems, and other behavior tracking programs cannot be used. Children are motivated by: Caring, connection, contribution, and the empowerment of conflict resolution.” (Hoffman, Hutchinson, & Reiss, 2009)

  • “The behavior approach fails to allow for the responsibility that one act/event can signify in multiply ways, hugely complicating the response it will elicit in a particular child.” ( Woods, 2008).

Review of Related Literature: PROS

  • “External motivators like treasure boxes, point systems, and other behavior tracking programs cannot be used. Children are motivated by: Caring, connection, contribution, and the empowerment of conflict resolution.” (Hoffman, Hutchinson, & Reiss, 2009)

  • “The behavior approach fails to allow for the responsibility that one act/event can signify in multiply ways, hugely complicating the response it will elicit in a particular child.” ( Woods, 2008).

  • Verbal rewards are delivered immediately after the target behavior occurs, thereby increasing the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated. Tangible rewards are often delivered days or weeks after treatment, virtually ensuring a decrease in the occurrence of the targeted behavior. “( Arkin-Little, Eckert, Lovett, & Little 2004).

  • “The more teachers can experience what motivates their students-or what fails to-the more they may recognize the constraints of traditional accountability and incentives systems.” ( Mader, 2009)

Review of Related Literature: PROS

  • Simple verbal praise ifrom both teachers and peers s shown to have a more lasting effect than tangible rewards which have become very popular (Gable, Hester, Rock & Hughes 2009; Storemont, Smith & Lewis 2007; Peterson-Nelson, Caldarella, Young & Webb 2008).

  • OTR allows children to voice their thoughts about a lesson during and after the lesson occurs. So that the teacher has a better way to tailor to their interests ( Moore,- Partin, Robertson, Maggin, Oliver, & Wheby, 2010).

  • Confusing the student who is already motivated or even worse motivated to learn by cultural/social norms may damage the intrinsic drive ( Wang & Guthrie 2004; Gratier, Greenfield, & Isaac 2009).

  • Positive Reinforcement and Praise shows a child that their actions are valued and meaningful. It keeps them from becoming solely dependent on immediate gratification . (Sigler,& Aamidor 2005; Trolinder, Choi, & Proctor 2004; Lannie & McCurdy 2007; Morrison & Jones 2006).

Review of Related Literature CONS

  • ‘ “I have learned that assertive discipline is very effective when used consistently..I implemented a new discipline plan, reward system, and class-wide reward with much success. …..my mentor was completely supportive. …I was keeping very detailed documentations…I was constantly checking myself for consistency.” ‘ (Desiderio and Mullennix 2005)

  • “..Research has demonstrated that DRO paired with edible reinforcement has reduced inappropriate behavior in children.” ( Daddario, Anhalt & Barton 2007)

  • “ To merely suppose or expect academic behaviors, while failing to reward academic behaviors when they occur, sends a mixed message that assigned academic behavior is important but not important enough to reward. ( Skinner, Williams & Neddenriep, 2004)

  • Gifted classes and well performing students are not swayed by material reward in fact they participation and performance only is enhanced as long as the lessons are interesting and elements such as competition are present ( Cropper 1998; Vansteenkiste, Timmerman & Lens 2008; DeVahl, King & Williamson 2005).

Statement of the Hypothesis (Hr)

Will administer the same three day Unit ( 3 lessons) to 2 general education Kindergarten classes at Public School X. Class A will receive the promise of a reward in advance as an incentive to cooperate with and participate in the lessons. Class B will receive no promise of a reward or prize only praise and acknowledgement and other non contingent rewards for will be shown for their cooperation. At the end of each lesson Class A will receive the reward which they are to be promised. At the end of the Unit both classes will be assigned a student centered assessment. At this time we will measure and compare the difference in the amount of cooperation received from Class and Class B.


Woods, R. (2008) When rewards and sanctions fail: a case study of a primary school rule-breaker. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education. Vol.21. 181-196. Doi: 10.1080/09518390701868979.

Docan, T. (2006) Positive and negative incentives in the classroom: an analysis of grading systems and student motivation. Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Vol. 6. October 2006. 21-40.

Hoffman, L.L, Hutchinson, C.J., Reiss, E. (2009). On improving school climate: reducing reliance on rewards and punishment. International Journal of whole schooling. Vol. 5

Desiderio, M.F., Mullennix, C. (2005). Two behavior management systems, one classroom: can elementary students adapt? The Educational Forum. Vol. 69.383-391.

Marshall, M. (2005). Discipline without stress, punishments, or rewards. The Clearing House. Vol. 79. 51-54.

Angeleque Akin-Little. K., Eckert. T.L., Lovett, B.J., Little, S.G. (2004) Extrinsic reinforcement in the classroom: bribery or best practice. School Psychology Review. Vol. 33. 322-362.


Mader, Cynthia E. (2009). “I will never teach the old way again” :classroom management and external incentives. Theory Into Practice.v 48.


Hall, P.S. (2009) Beyond Rewards. Reclaiming Children and Youth. Vol. 18. 49-53.

Daddario, R., Anhalt, K., Barton, L.E. (2007). Differential reinforcement of other behavior applied classwide in a child care setting. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy. Vol. 3. 342-348.

Skinner, C.H., Williams, R.L., Neddenriep, C.E. (2004). School Psychology Review. Vol.33. Retrieved from ERIC Database.

 Gable, R.A., Hester, P.H., Rock, M.L., Hughes, K.G. (2009). Back to basics: rules, praise,

ignoring, and reprimands revisited. Intervention in school and clinic. Vol.44. no.4. 195-205. Doi: 10.1177/105345120832883

Kohn, A. Punished by rewards. 1993. New York,NY. Houghton Mifflin Company.

Peterson-Nelson, J.A., Caldarella, P., Young, K.R., Webb, N. (2008). Using peer praise

notes to increase the social involvements of withdrawn adolescents. Teaching

exceptional children. Vol. 41. No. 2. pp 6-13.

Moore-Partin, T.C., Robertson, R.E., Maggin, D. M., Oliver, R. M., Wheby, J.H. (2010).

Using teacher praise and opportunities to respond to promote appropriate student

behavior. Preventing school failure. Vol. 54. pp 172-178. Doi 1080/10459880903493179.

Storemont, M.A., Smith, S.C., Lewis, T.J. (2007). Teacher implementation of precorrection and praise statements in head start classrooms as a component of a program-wide system of positive behavior support. J Behavioral Educatio. Vol. 16. pp 280- 290. Doi: 10.1007/s10864-007 9040-3.

Trolinder, D.M, Choi, H., Proctor, T.B. (2004). Using delayed praise as a directive and its

effectiveness on on-task behavior. Journal of applied school psychology. Vol.

20 no.2 .pp 61-83.

Lannie, A. L., McCurdy, B. L.(2007) Preventing disruptive behavior in the urban

classroom: effects of the good behavior game on student and teacher

behavior. Education and Treatment of Children. v30. No 1 pp85-98.


Bandura, A. (1994) Self Efficay. Encyclopedia of human behavior. Vol. 4 pp 71-81.

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