I’ve posted before about how rewards can damage intrinsic motivation (My Thoughts On A Very Intriguing Video On Motivation & Incentives) and how I try to achieve a balance in my own classroom (Have You Ever Taught A Class That Got “Out Of Control”?)

I’ve just found a short and simple post that doesn’t really contribute a whole lot new to the discussion, but does a very good job of summarizing the research. It’s called “How Rewards Can Backfire And Reduce Motivation.”

I was intrigued by a finding in one study that showed that receiving an “unexpected” reward (I would compare it to end-of-year student recognition) did not damage intrinsic motivation. In fact, and I don’t really understand how this would work & how this could be measured, those who received unexpected rewards actually appeared to have increased intrinsic motivation.

The graph showed the results of children drawing. Those who received rewards drew for the least time. Those who didn’t receive any reward drew for the second-longest time. Those who received a reward after the activity was completed drew for the longest time. Those who received an unexpected reward wouldn’t know that they were getting a reward, so how would that have any effect on them?

I would be grateful if anyone could check out the article and can explain to me how this would be possible…