Rewards and motivation in the classroom.Abstract
Findings from meta-analyses on the effects of rewards on students' performance and motivation as well as a consideration of social cognitive theory Social Cognitive Theory utilized both in Psychology and Communications posits that portions of an individual's knowledge acquisition can be directly related to observing others within the context of social interactions, experiences, and outside media influences. suggest a set of strategies for using rewards in educational settings. In this article, we briefly describe the research literature on rewards, performance and motivation, and we discuss the importance of tying rewards to achievable challenging standards of performance. In addition, we provide guidelines guidelines,
n.pl a set of standards, criteria, or specifications to be used or followed in the performance of certain tasks. for setting up effective incentive programs in classroom settings.
The use of rewards in educational settings is an issue that has generated controversy. On one side of the debate are researchers and writers from the humanist hu·man·ist
1. A believer in the principles of humanism.
2. One who is concerned with the interests and welfare of humans.
a. A classical scholar.
b. A student of the liberal arts. tradition who argue that rewards are detrimental det·ri·men·tal
Causing damage or harm; injurious.
detri·men . (e.g., Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999; Kohn, 1993). From the humanist perspective, structured environments, interventions by teachers, and reward systems are seen as forms of external control that limit individual expression and freedom. Specifically, the concern is that rewards may entice students to perform an activity but, once the rewards are no longer available, students' intrinsic motivation to engage in activities is undermined. Researchers on the other side of the debate argue that negative effects of reward are limited and that the appropriate use of rewards can boost performance and lead to a personal sense of intrinsic motivation (e.g., Cameron, Banko & Pierce, 2001; Eisenberger & Cameron, 1996; Dickinson, 1989; Flora & Flora, 1999). Over the past few years, the Years, The
the seven decades of Eleanor Pargiter’s life. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 1109]
See : Time debate has moved beyond the question of whether rewards are inherently harmful or beneficial. Instead, researchers recognize that the effects of incentives and reward programs depend on the types of rewards used, how rewards are allocated, and the context in which rewards are administered. The purpose of this article is to describe research on the topic of rewards, performance, and motivation; to summarize sum·ma·rize
intr. & tr.v. sum·ma·rized, sum·ma·riz·ing, sum·ma·riz·es
To make a summary or make a summary of.
sum the research findings; and to discuss the implications of the findings for educational settings.
Research On Rewards, Performance And Motivation
Much of our understanding of the reward process comes from experimental research on the topic. Since the 1970's, numerous experiments, using a common set of procedures, have been conducted to investigate how rewards affect people's performance and motivation. The original experiments conducted by Deci (1971) and Lepper, Greene, & Nisbett (1973) established the typical protocol for investigating rewards and motivation. In a typical experiment, participants (children or college students) are presented with an interesting task (puzzle solving, drawing, word games, etc.). An experimental group is offered a reward (praise, money, gold stars, access to other activities, etc.) for doing the task; participants in a control condition engage in the activity without receiving a reward. Rewarded and non-rewarded participants are then observed during a free-choice period without reward in which they are free to continue performing the experimental task or to engage in an alternate activity (e.g., read magazines). The time participants spend on the target activity during the free-choice period, their performance on the task during the free-choice period, and ratings of task interest are used as measures of intrinsic motivation. If rewarded participants spend less free time on the activity, perform at a lower level, and express less task interest than non-rewarded participants, reward is said to undermine intrinsic motivation. An increase in intrinsic motivation is indicated when rewarded participants report greater task interest, spend more time on the task, or perform at a higher level than non rewarded participants.
Over the past ten years there have been a number of reviews and meta-analyses of the experimental studies. In the most recent meta-analysis of the literature, Cameron et al. (2001) reviewed 145 studies and identified several conditions under which rewards were found to decrease or increase people's performance and motivation. Negative effects of reward were detected in studies in which participants engaged in a task of high initial interest and the rewards signified sig·ni·fied
The concept that a signifier denotes.
[Translation of French signifié, past participle of signifier, to signify.]
Noun 1. failure or were loosely tied to behavior. Specifically, decreases in motivation and performance were found when rewards were not tied to meeting a specific performance standard, when the standards for receiving the reward were not clearly outlined, when participants were unable to meet the contingency required to obtain the reward, or when participants received less than maximal max·i·mal
1. Of, relating to, or consisting of a maximum.
2. Being the greatest or highest possible. reward. In another review of the literature, Deci et al. (1999) found that participants' motivation and performance decreased when rewards were offered in a controlling and authoritarian manner.
In Cameron et al.'s (2001) review, a major finding across studies was that participants' motivation and performance increased when they were verbally praised for engaging in a task. Tangible rewards were found to increase motivation and performance on tasks that were of low initial interest. That is, in studies where rewards were offered to participants for engaging in a task that held little initial interest to them, motivation for that task increased. On high interest tasks, positive effects of tangible rewards were obtained when the rewards were offered and given for successfully achieving performance standards or goals and when the rewards signified competence at an activity. Since 2003, research has shown that simply tying rewards to achieving performance standards does not guarantee enhanced performance and motivation; the standard must not be too easy. Pierce, Cameron, Banko, and So (2003) showed that rewards linked to obtaining increasing challenging standards (or to mastery) led to high motivation and performance. Cameron, Pierce and So (2004) found that students' motivation and performance increased when the rewards were given for succeeding at a moderately difficult task. In contrast, rewards given for achievement on a task of low difficulty reduced students' performance and motivation (Pierce et al., 2003). Taken together, these findings suggest that when rewards are tied to achieving a performance standard, performance and motivation will increase when the standard is moderately difficult and challenging.
Social cognitive theory (Bandura ban`dur´a
n. 1. A traditional Ukrainian stringed musical instrument shaped like a lute, having many strings. , 1986) addresses how performance and motivation are affected by rewards tied to achieving challenging performance standards. The emphasis in social cognitive theory is on how rewards relate to a person's perceived competence or self-efficacy (the belief that one can cope and succeed at a given level of an activity, task, or problem). Reward contingencies that enhance perceived competence or self efficacy are expected to increase interest, motivation and performance.
Social cognitive theory distinguishes between non-competency and competency-based rewards. Non competency-based rewards include rewards given for trivial TRIVIAL. Of small importance. It is a rule in equity that a demurrer will lie to a bill on the ground of the triviality of the matter in dispute, as being below the dignity of the court. 4 Bouv. Inst. n. 4237. See Hopk. R. 112; 4 John. Ch. 183; 4 Paige, 364. or easy tasks or rewards given without regard to mastery of performance. According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Bandura (1986), non competency-based rewards impart little indications of competency COMPETENCY, evidence. The legal fitness or ability of a witness to be heard on the trial of a cause. This term is also applied to written or other evidence which may be legally given on such trial, as, depositions, letters, account-books, and the like.
2. and result in low motivation and performance. Rewards given for achievement of challenging performance standards are termed competency-based rewards. Social cognitive theory postulates that rewards tied to a challenging level of performance enhance competency and self-efficacy to the extent that a person is able to attain the performance standard (i.e., succeed). Greater self-efficacy and competence lead to higher task interest, performance, and motivation. From the perspective of social cognitive theory, perceptions of competence and self-efficacy mediate MEDIATE, POWERS. Those incident to primary powers, given by a principal to his agent. For example, the general authority given to collect, receive and pay debts due by or to the principal is a primary power. the effects of rewards on people's motivation and performance.
Effective Use of Rewards in the Classroom
In classroom settings, social cognitive theory suggests that rewards tied to achieving reasonable challenging standards increase students' performance and motivation. The effective use of rewards in classrooms can lead students to feel competent, efficacious ef·fi·ca·cious
Producing or capable of producing a desired effect. See Synonyms at effective.
[From Latin effic , interested, and highly motivated mo·ti·vate
tr.v. mo·ti·vat·ed, mo·ti·vat·ing, mo·ti·vates
To provide with an incentive; move to action; impel.
mo . Teachers and administrators need to consider the basis upon which they allocate rewards, recognition, and advancement and ensure that rewards are tied to attainable standards of achievement. Based on findings from meta-analyses, recent research on rewards and motivation (Cameron et al., 2004; Pierce et al., 2003), social cognitive theory, as well as tips from other researchers and writers (Brophy, 1981; Chance, 1992), we provide a set of guidelines to follow when using rewards in the classroom.
1. Reward students for performing tasks that they have not shown an interest in. On tasks of low initial interest, research has demonstrated that extrinsic EVIDENCE, EXTRINSIC. External evidence, or that which is not contained in the body of an agreement, contract, and the like.
2. It is a general rule that extrinsic evidence cannot be admitted to contradict, explain, vary or change the terms of a contract or of a rewards increase student motivation and performance. This finding suggests that rewards can be used to shape performance, build skills, and cultivate cul·ti·vate
tr.v. cul·ti·vat·ed, cul·ti·vat·ing, cul·ti·vates
a. To improve and prepare (land), as by plowing or fertilizing, for raising crops; till.
b. interest in an activity that students have not yet found appealing.
2. Use verbal praise. Sincere and spontaneous praise for student progress and accomplishments is a powerful motivator.
3. Attach rewards to progress and challenge. That is, reward improvement or progress toward a goal. Reward success and set the standard at a level that is achievable yet challenging for each student. Remember, rewards can have negative effects if they are given without regard to level or quality of performance or if students are given rewards for performing easy, trivial tasks.
4. Make sure students know the criteria for earning rewards. The criteria need to be laid out so that each student knows what is required and why he or she is receiving rewards.
5. Be consistent. If rewards are offered for achieving standards, make sure students get the rewards when they meet the criteria.
6 Set individual standards for each student. Findings from the research literature on rewards and motivation are concerned with individual success and apply to situations in which students work at their own pace and receive rewards for successfully mastering units of the course material.
7. Set up the reward system for the benefit of the students. The purpose of a reward system is to improve student motivation and learning, not to minimize trouble or to improve the status of the teacher. One problem with some reward systems is that the rewards are given to get students to do what teachers want; what teachers want may change from day to day. Under such conditions, rewards are not positive motivators. From the point of view of students, such a reward system is seen as controlling, unfair, and coercive co·er·cive
Characterized by or inclined to coercion.
co·ercive·ly adv. . What is seen as good today may not be good tomorrow. A result is that those in supervisory positions can withhold with·hold
v. with·held , with·hold·ing, with·holds
1. To keep in check; restrain.
2. To refrain from giving, granting, or permitting. See Synonyms at keep.
3. the rewards that are currently being given for acceptable performance and require better and better levels of accomplishment. Reward systems arranged in this manner are programmed to backfire; students eventually show willful Intentional; not accidental; voluntary; designed.
There is no precise definition of the term willful because its meaning largely depends on the context in which it appears. noncompliance noncompliance
failure of the owner to follow instructions, particularly in administering medication as prescribed; a cause of a less than expected response to treatment.
noncompliance , escape, avoidance and, in some cases, rebellion.
8. Find out what are effective rewards for each student. What is an effective reward for one student may not be for another. Praise, gold stars, and teacher attention may work well for some students but not for others.
9. Involve students in the system. In addition to clearly defining the goals and procedures of the reward program to the students, ask for input regarding types of rewards to be used and standards to be met. When evaluating the effectiveness of the reward system, find out how students have reacted to the program.
10. Use rewards frequently at the beginning of the program. As student learning and proficiency pro·fi·cien·cy
n. pl. pro·fi·cien·cies
The state or quality of being proficient; competence.
Noun 1. proficiency - the quality of having great facility and competence increase, the rewards can be gradually faded out. The ultimate goal of a reward program is to enable students to contact other sources of reward (e.g., praise from parents; admiration from peers; feelings of competence, skill, ability, and satisfaction that come about from becoming proficient pro·fi·cient
Having or marked by an advanced degree of competence, as in an art, vocation, profession, or branch of learning.
An expert; an adept. at an activity).
Designing an effective incentive program is not an easy task. In this article, we have presented research evidence and provided a set of guidelines for setting up a reward program that leads to high student performance and motivation. However, even the best-intentioned plans may not work as expected. When faced with evidence that a reward system is not producing the desired effects The damage or casualties to the enemy or materiel that a commander desires to achieve from a nuclear weapon detonation. Damage effects on materiel are classified as light, moderate, or severe. Casualty effects on personnel may be immediate, prompt, or delayed. , it is tempting to give up. But, it is important to recognize that it is not possible to foresee fore·see
tr.v. fore·saw , fore·seen , fore·see·ing, fore·sees
To see or know beforehand: foresaw the rapid increase in unemployment. every problem that may arise. Every program will require follow up and monitoring. Based upon an analysis of the reward plan, new procedures can be implemented and tested for effectiveness. Overall, it is best to adopt an experimental attitude and be ready to make changes as necessary.
Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought & action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Prentice Hall is a leading educational publisher. It is an imprint of Pearson Education, Inc., based in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, USA. Prentice Hall publishes print and digital content for the 6-12 and higher education market. History
In 1913, law professor Dr. .
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works hard to prepare for winter while grasshopper plays. [Gk. Lit.: Aesop’s Fables, “The Ant and the Grasshopper”]
perpetually and eagerly active. theory. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 50 (3), 316-319.
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v. me·di·at·ed, me·di·at·ing, me·di·ates
1. To resolve or settle (differences) by working with all the conflicting parties: rewards on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (often referred to as JPSP) is a monthly psychology journal of the American Psychological Association. It is considered one of the top journals in the fields of social and personality psychology. , 18, 105-115.
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v. pun·ished, pun·ish·ing, pun·ish·es
1. To subject to a penalty for an offense, sin, or fault.
2. To inflict a penalty for (an offense).
3. by rewards. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Houghton Mifflin Company is a leading educational publisher in the United States. The company's headquarters is located in Boston's Back Bay. It publishes textbooks, instructional technology materials, assessments, reference works, and fiction and non-fiction for both young readers .
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Judy Cameron, University of Alberta, Canada
W. David Pierce, University of Alberta, Canada
Judy Cameron, Ph.D., is Professor of Educational Psychology, and W. David Pierce, Ph.D., is Professor of Experimental Sociology.