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The Use of Rewards in Education: Opposing Views. Positive Behavioral Intervention Support (PBIS) Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation. Intrinsic Motivation.

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the use of rewards in education opposing views

The Use of Rewards in Education: Opposing Views

Positive Behavioral Intervention Support (PBIS)

Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation

intrinsic motivation
Intrinsic Motivation
  • Learners who are intrinsically motivated may engage in an activity because it gives them pleasure, helps them develop a skill they think is important, or seems to be the ethically and morally right thing to do. Some learners with high levels of intrinsic motivation become so focused on and absorbed in an activity that they lose track of time and completely ignore other tasks—a phenomenon known as flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, 1996; Schweinle, Turner, & Meyer, 2006).
  • Learners are most likely to show the beneficial effects of motivation when they are intrinsically motivated to engage in classroom activities. Intrinsically motivated learners tackle assigned tasks willingly and are eager to learn classroom material, more likely to process information in effective ways (e.g., by engaging in meaningful learning), and more likely to achieve at high levels. In contrast, extrinsically motivated learners may have to be enticed or prodded, may process information only superficially, and are often interested in performing only easy tasks and meeting minimal classroom requirements (A. E. Gottfried, Fleming, & Gottfried, 2001; Reeve, 2006; Schiefele, 1991; Tobias, 1994). -

extrinsic motivation
Extrinsic Motivation
  • “…our research team has conducted a series of reviews and analysis of (the reward) literature; our conclusion is that there is no inherent negative property of reward. Our analyses indicate that the argument against the use of rewards is an overgeneralization based on a narrow set of circumstances.” Judy Cameron, 2002
    • Cameron, 2002
    • Cameron & Pierce, 1994, 2002
    • Cameron, Banko & Pierce, 2001
  • “The undermining effect of extrinsic reward on intrinsic motivation remains unproven” Steven Reiss, 2005
  • Akin-Little, K. A., Eckert, T. L., Lovett, B. J., & Little, S. G. (2004). Extrinsic reinforcement in the classroom: Bribery or best practices. School Psychology Review, 33, 344-362
key features pbis
Key Features: (PBIS)


Define and teach positive social expectations

Acknowledge positive behavior

Arrange consistent consequences for problem behavior

rationale pbis
Rationale: (PBIS)

Focuses staff and student attention on desired behaviors

Increases the likelihood that desired behaviors will be repeated

Fosters a positive school climate

Reduces the need for time consuming disciplinary measures, increasing student time on-task

guidelines pbis
Guidelines: (PBIS)

Keep it simple

The system should be for all students

Make sure that rewards reflect the interests of the students (ask them!)

Students should be eligible to earn rewards throughout the day contingent upon appropriate behavior

Increase reinforcement before difficult times

Deliver reinforcement unpredictably (you never know when you will get a surprise!) – but consistently

Refrain from using the loss of rewards as a strategy for motivating desired behaviors…earned = kept

Provide staff with opportunities to recognize students in common areas who are not in their classes

Encourage staff to reinforce students and students to earn the rewards

Share data with staff

Teach principles of reinforcement to all staff

principles of reinforcement pbis
Principles of Reinforcement: (PBIS)

Effective and evidence-based

Teaches new skills

Punishment alone is ineffective

Leads to long term/lasting change

Motivates and engages youth, staff and families

More positive environment

rewards reinforcers pbis
Rewards / Reinforcers: (PBIS)
  • Rewards/Reinforcers are technically defined as any consequence (e.g. event, activity, object) delivered contingent upon the likelihood of a creating a similar behavioral response in future similar conditions.
  • The key component of this definition assumes a reward, or reinforcer exists only after demonstration that (a) the object/event was delivered contingent upon the performance of a behavior, and (b) the behavior became more likely to occur under similar conditions in the future.
  • In practice, teachers and parents seek immediate return for the reward or reinforcer and fail to see the effect of the consequence on future occurrences of the behavior.

main message pbis
Main Message: (PBIS)

Formal & frequent use of positive rewards/reinforcers for appropriate student behavior contributes to development of environments that are described as positive, caring, safe, facilitating, etc.

Rewards are a core feature of building a positive school culture.

Rewards make a difference

Initial behavior change

Sustained behavior change (Doolittle, 2006)

Rewards can be used badly

But they do NOT inhibit intrinsic motivation

Rewards can be used effectively in all school contexts.

support for rewards
Support for Rewards

“Rewards are effective when used to build new skills or sustain desired skills, with contingent delivery of rewards for specific behavior, and are gradually faded over time.” Akin-Little, Eckert, Lovett, Little, 2004

“In terms of the overall effects of reward, our meta-analysis indicates no evidence for detrimental effects of reward on measures of intrinsic motivation.” Cameron, Banko & Pierce, 2001 p.21

“Negative effects of rewards are produced when rewards signify failure or are loosely tied to behavior.” Cameron, Banko & Pierce, 2001

These findings indicate that negative effects of rewards do not persist over time when task performance is rewarded on repeated occasions.

Davidson & Bucher, 1978

Feingold & Mahoney, 1975

Mawhinney, Dickinson & Taylor, 1989

Vasta, Andrews, McLaughlin & Stirpe, 1978

“For high-interest tasks, verbal rewards are found to increase free choice and task interest. This finding replicates” Cameron and Pierce, 1994; Deci et al., 1999).

“When tasks … are of low initial interest, rewards increase free-choice, and intrinsic motivation…” (Cameron, Banko & Pierce, 2001 p.21)

the challenge
The Challenge

The use of rewards will damage “intrinsic motivation” and actually result in reduction of desired behaviors.

“…although rewards can control people’s behavior …the primary negative effect of rewards is that they tend to forestall self-regulation.” Deci et al., 1999 p. 659

“The expectation of reward can actually undermine intrinsic motivation and creativity of performance…A wide variety of rewards have now been tested, and everything from good-player awards to marshmallows produces the expected decrements in intrinsic motivation and creative performance… Tegano et al., 1991 p. 119

rewards and discipline
Rewards and Discipline
  • Rewards motivate young people to be responsible.
    • They don't. The bribe becomes the focus, not responsibility. In addition, we are not honest with young people when we give them rewards for expected behavior. Society does not give such rewards. When was the last time you were rewarded for stopping at a red light?
  • Punishments are necessary to change young people's behavior.
    • Punishments satisfy the punisher but have little lasting effect on the punished. If punishments worked, why are they so often repeated? Once the punishment is over, the person has served the time and has relinquished responsibility. Punishments engender enmity, not responsibility.
  • Young people need to be constantly told what to do.
    • Complete this sentence: If I have told you once, I have told you. . . . If telling worked, you would not have to repeat yourself. In fact, telling is often interpreted as criticism and promotes defensiveness, not responsibility. -

a personal experience
A Personal Experience
  • “But more importantly, I wanted to impact the course of public education positively. Catching kids doing something good and then reinforcing those acts by positive rewards is a component of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) that I experienced firsthand. As a matter of fact, I was delighted to spend my first two years in administration implementing a Positive Behavior Support (PBS) model in a Pennsylvania school district that was designated as one of only three districts in the state to field such a model with grant money for that specific purpose. I soon realized that any system of external manipulation or extrinsic positive rewards in a school utilizing the PBS model becomes outdated and ineffective. I discovered how some of the rewards can become negatives.
  • “Research certainly indicates that rewards or extrinsic motivations (as I write on page 73 of my dissertation– using “A’s,” praise, and other rewards) were ineffective over an extended period of time. These methods were counterproductive to the desired educational goals. Change should come from internal motivation. No artificial incentive can match the power of intrinsic motivation.”

–from a dissertation presented to the faculty of the School of Human Services Professions, Widener University, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Education by Joseph F. Cortese, February, 2008 -