Sunday, April 5, 2009

Reward Systems

As a teacher, I have used extrinsic reward systems within my classroom, weening as the year progress, to help foster intrinsic motivation. This year, in my son's school, a school-wide reward/consequence system was put in place. As a parent/observer here is what I have noticed:

~The entire building has a set of expectations that are reinforced and expected everywhere.

~There are opportunities for children to earn individual "dollars" for displays of good behavior and choices.

~The dollars can be spent on school supplies and also on intangibles, such as extra recess and lunch with the teacher. Dollars can be "banked" and used for larger events called "Monthly Blowouts."

~Children earn bracelets/bands each month for displaying good behavior.

After three marking periods with this system, here is what I noticed, again, as a parent:

~My child strives to earn the "dollars."
~He has a very clear understanding of "saving" as he only spends a small amount of dollars, while saving up for the monthly blow-outs.
~The kid can make change (in dollars) like a pro.
~Obviously, money talks to my child.
~The bracelets are a great sense of pride. They are worn for a day then stashed together in his backpack.

This last month, my child did not earn his bracelet and he was quite upset. It offered his teacher and I an opportunity to talk with him about good behavior choices that he obviously not taking. In other words, it was a teachable moment.

In the many discussions that followed, my son commented on one particular child... she has never earned a bracelet. He empathized with her and thought that was not fair. As a parent/teacher I really gave this some thought. What about the child dealing with behavioral issues that are not always in his/her control? What about the child that shows improvement, but not enough to earn a bracelet? Are we showing some sort of discrimination against that child. Let's face it, that child already knows that he/she is different from the others. Are the bands just an "in your face" way of highlighting that? I am not sure. Thoughts?


Louise Maine said...

That is tough and wonderful that your son notices the other child. Sometimes we don't encourage those who are close. I wonder if they have a way of working with the girl and encouraging her/working on parts that will get the bracelet? Sometimes they feel they can never get there and that would be so sad.

Lori said...


I think your point is well taken. Focus on one target behavior, not everything all at once.

Mrs. D said...

Expecting all of the children to reach the exact same standards for behavior is setting some up to fail.... each student should be handled individually. If a student has issues sitting still... and does a good job that month at controling themselves, that improvement should be recognized...

Sounds like, overall, the program is working. Just needs to be tweeked for thoses special students... IMO