What a fascinating thing. Total control of a living organism! - B.F.Skinner (1983)
Rewards in education – Who benefits?
Some questions to consider. Rewards. Who really benefits? Are rewards distributed fairly?
A widely held premise are that rewards should go to those who deserve them. We should carefully think about who decides the distribution of those rewards. Who decides that one individual is more deserving than another?
Behind rewards is the idea of control. Rewards are given by a rewarder—someone who has power— to the rewardee (an individual who does not have power).
Therefore, rewards indicate an imbalance of power. Rewards are an act by the rewarder to try and influence a behaviour or outcome of the rewardee. This is where the imbalance of power via control occurs.
When rewards are used to control the completion of a task, the task performed by the individual is now constrained. The task is no longer performed due to natural interest and curiosity. It is now completed for reasons of control and compliance.
Use of rewards in education
There may be a genuine reason for the use of rewards—the improvement of students’ learning and educational outcomes—however, do we really know the outcome of the intended effects of the rewards? When rewards are used, what is really at stake? Is the benefit for the student or the teacher?
These are important questions to consider when using rewards connected to student learning. The effect of the reward may be compliance rather than actual learning for the sake of interest and curiosity. When rewarding students, the context in which the reward is given needs to be carefully considered. The reward should benefit the student’s learning.
© iteachpiano 2018