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How do you reward students?

If we understand the rewards that students really want then we are better placed to be able to use them to motivate, cajole and manipulate!
© National STEM Learning Centre

If we understand the rewards that students really want then we are better placed to be able to use them to motivate, cajole and manipulate! It is too easy to assume that they want money, material goods or everlasting fame. The truth is that we all want to feel important, valued and like we belong. Anything else might just be unnecessary.

Which rewards do you think the students will value most? Try to predict what rewards your students would choose.

Have a look at the list of rewards below:

  • Responsibility/job in the lab/teaching space
  • Selection from a goody bag of pencils, rubbers, pencil sharpeners etc.
  • Time on the computer
  • Cup of tea and biscuit at breaktime
  • Praise postcard or letter home to parents
  • Mention in assembly
  • ‘Free time’ at the end of a lesson
  • Stars on a chart for a weekly award
  • Fun experiment or other exciting activity (relating to your subject) at the end of the week
Put the list in the order that you think they would like to receive them. i.e. Put the reward you think will be the most wanted/valued at the top of the list. Save your ordered list somewhere so that you can refer to it later.
Now ask your students which of the rewards they would prefer to receive, i.e. which rewards hold most value to them. Ask each student to select their top three rewards. For each first choice, give three points; second choices receive two points; third choice rewards are given one point.
Do this with several classes over the next few days.
Then collate the results. Did you predict correctly which rewards have most value for the students? Has anything surprised you?
© National STEM Learning Centre
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