SHESPEAKS Your Power to Influence

For A Job Well Done

SS Member Image By drodriguez 03.04.09
For A Job Well Done
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The concept of rewarding a child for learning something new or performing well in school is very popular among parents and teachers.  From the time our children are babies many of us reward them with both small and large gifts for anything from behaving in a grocery store to bringing home a good report card.  There are some however who feel this type of reward system can be damaging to the way a person learns.  They believe it can make children work hard for the reward rather than the joy of learning and may even lead to cheating. 

A recent New York Times article discusses the effects of rewarding students within our education system. Dr. Barbara Marinak, assistant professor at Penn State opposes the idea of using prizes as incentives and told the New York Times that whether the reward system works or not "continues to be a raging debate."  As you can imagine, there is a lot of data in support of both sides of the issue. 

Many schools across the country offer incentives to students who perform well on tests as well as teachers who turn out higher scores overall for their class.  A school in Dallas, Texas has reported that students who were rewarded scored higher on their SAT and enrolled in college more than those who were not being rewarded.  Though this news sounds positive for reward programs, research has also shown that incentives may only work in the short term and have damaging effects in the long term.

A study conducted by Dr. Marinak and Linda B. Gambrell analyzed the effects of rewarding third graders with tokens like toys and candy for reading.  The study reported that the reward system actually diminished the amount of time the children spent reading.  Dr. Marinak said, "A number of the kids who received tokens didn't even return to reading at all."

With conflicting reports from both sides of the argument, the answer to whether a reward system is beneficial may lie somewhere in the middle.  Dr Mark Lepper from Stanford believes that what is being offered as a reward may be an indicator of a reward system's success.  Dr. Lepper points out that an incentive program may backfire if you give a child something arbitrary like bubble gum for passing a test.  If a system uses rewards that relate better to an activity, like getting to read more books after one book is read successfully, there may be more of a chance of it working.

What do you think of the benefits of reward systems in school and at home?

What kind of incentives do you offer your children for a job well done?

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  • Turintr By Turintr

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  • Turintr By Turintr

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  • Turintr By Turintr

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  • coldheartedt By coldheartedt

    rewards are needed but schools need to rethingk that types rewards are oppropraite for what age group. little kids are happy with "good job" older kids needs to lear that reward are in for of grands for college to get good grades. im not says unintelegent kids shouldn't try to go to college. but kids that keep there grades up should get more choices at grands vs. kids that slack off half the year & get good grades in the end; just to qualify for grands.

  • misriz1575 By misriz1575

    i so agree with reward systems esspeically for student who been doing well the whole shcool year not just the most improved student. when i was younger i failed classes on purpose the first marking term then im prove so that i could be invited to the pizza party at the end of the school year. when i was going to school rewards were not given tothe all around good students you would have to come from a problemed background in order to recieve rewards. to me that part was fair i didnt like working hard all year just to see some one who failed in the begining reap all the rewards.

  • ejansen By ejansen

    Reward systems can be effective, however when did we lose touch with the idea of intrinsic rewards. This seems to not be a motivator for the youth anymore. Is their self confidence already that elevated?

  • colleen_mouse By colleen_mouse

    I think reward systems work in part. I think that overrewarding tend to get in the way. Many people reward for everything, when sometimes, just giving the child attention or praise vs. tangible rewards would work just as well. Then save the rewards for big things or for things you have specifically worked on.


    I guess I am old fashion. I have some problems with the "rewarding system," While I do use it from time to time, what ever happened to the reward of self esteem for a job well done? And the reward of not being punished for doing something really wrong? I don;t know, I think it may work with some folks, but, over all it is a short term "honeymoon period." My nine year old asked me could he have ice cream money for doing what is excepted the other morning, getting dressed for school? Am I to reward for every correct move? This is the sum of the equation set by others who have given rewards so often. If it works great, if it doesn't ........

  • amylewisrn By amylewisrn

    I feel that reward programs in school are a great idea, however, I do not feel that kids should be rewarded for every small thing that they do. Growing up I was rewarded for the bigger things or a collection of small things. This taught me that not every little thing you do is going to be looked at and praised but if you combined all those little things together someone may notice and tell you about the good job you are doing. I do not currently have any children of my own but feel that I will continue to pass the idea of rewarding for the big and collection of little to my children.

  • rolliepollie By rolliepollie

    I do not have a problem with rewarding kids for success but at the same time I also think trying hard should be rewarded. I have heard of classes where all who passed an exam or whatever got some type of reward. You may have one or two who did not pass and therefore do not get to participate in the reward but they may have really tried. So I feel that can be damaging to the child's self esteem. There are those who can try really hard and still not make the grade and then you have those who never strike a lick at anything, they never study or don't even have to try and can make straight A's.

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