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On Rewards & Classroom Management

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I’ve written before about Daniel Pink and his description of research that shows extrinsic rewards do work — for mechanical work that doesn’t require much higher-order thinking. But it will not work for anything that requires higher-order thinking skills and creativity.

A new study has just come out reinforcing that finding:

Some participants were asked to use cognitive skills (adding numbers); others performed only a mechanical task (tapping a key as fast as possible). On the latter, higher bonuses worked. But when tasks included rudimentary cognitive skills, results mirrored the Indian study. Dangling a very big carrot led to poorer performance.

This is just another reminder to me that a reward system can be very effective in getting a class under control, but that it’s essential to wean them off the system as quickly as possible.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

3 Comments

  1. I agree. When it becomes more about the reward, i.e. “Are we going to get — if we are quiet, good, clean up, whatever, then the reward has become a bargaining chip. This I found was especially true if the kids asked what the reward was going to be BEFORE they did what was asked of them.

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