Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Managing Behaviour for Learning. Join the course to learn more.

Debating the dangers of rewards

The debate rages about whether schools should be using extrinsic rewards for students in school. One approach taken in many schools to the importance of recognising positive behaviour is the creation of a reward system which might include house points, stickers or certificates.

These systems are based on the theory of behaviourism proposed by Skinner nearly hundred years ago and which continues to have an impact in both mental health settings where it has been used to treat conditions as diverse as anorexia, phobias and substance abuse, as well as in education.
The theory is appealing as our common sense ideas of what motivates people suggests that systematic rewards will have a positive effect upon people’s behaviour.

However, what you may be looking to implement is a way of working that involves encouragement and sincere praise that recognises and acknowledges appropriate behaviours. Have a read of these two short articles by Alfie Kohn:

Do his beliefs resonate with you?


Consider the pros and cons of choosing to give students either rewards or recognition. Are there any situations in which recognition would be better than rewards?

Conversely, are there any situations in which rewarding would be better than giving recognition?

You can use this thinking grid [Word] to shape your thoughts.

Share you conclusions below.

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Managing Behaviour for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre