The Value of a Reward System

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How to motivate students is a question every teacher has asked themselves at one point in their career. You want to make learning exciting and find new ways to make students want to try their very best. Giving your students rewards for doing well sounds like a simple and effective idea on paper, but there are some things you should consider first. This guide will take a critical look at the value of motivating students through a reward system. A reward system works best for younger students in pre-school through to primary school. Reward systems can still work in secondary school settings, but rewards need to be appropriate and worth their while.

The Pros

1) Good behaviour - When they know their reward may be at stake, students will be more willing to behave or conform to the rules set in your classroom.

2) Motivation boost – Students will show higher interest, participate more, take more responsibility for meeting deadlines and doing better work with a tangible goal in mind.

3) Morale boost – When receiving a reward for their work, students will feel a greater sense of pride in their achievements and will feel like their efforts are appreciated and noticed leading to an increase in class morale.

4) Great self-esteem – Every success story helps students become more self-confident and more motivated to achieve another rewarding success.

5) Homework improvements – The USA’s National Association of School Psychologists suggest that a reward system motivates students to not only complete their homework on time but put extra effort into doing it well.

6) Better results – Rewarding students makes them want to push themselves and when implemented properly can lead to an improvement in the outcomes of student work.

The Cons

All the above-mentioned pros may make a reward system seem like a guaranteed success. That’s not always the case. These cons need to be considered and accounted for to truly get the most out of an effective reward system.

1) Greed or Dependence – Students may rely on the reward system too much and refuse to work without a reward waiting for them. This can cause problems in your class and other classes that don’t offer a reward system.

2) Decreased value – This is one of the biggest threats to a reward system. After a while reward can lose their novelty or motivational value. There are a number of things that can lead to this such as giving out too many, weaker students not getting as many and when goals are too hard to achieve. This balance is what makes or breaks a reward system as a success or a failure. This TED talk by Dan Pink on motivation explores this point in great detail.

3) Missing the point – Students may accomplish tasks purely for the sake of getting a reward and completely miss what they need to learn or why what they are doing is important.

4) Manipulation or control – The reward system is not a tool to control students or to directly manage their behaviour. Students can feel manipulated by a reward system and it’s important for them to know that this is not being used to manipulate only motivate. A bad reward system might teach students to manipulate others which must be avoided.

5) Additional pressure – Students must not feel like they are under more pressure to perform or do things they are incapable of doing or going at a pace they cannot keep up with. If students feel they cannot live up to the praise and expectations set by a reward system, their self-confidence can drastically fall.

6) Bribery – The line between bribes and rewards is surprisingly thin. Rewards must not be used to control students and you as a teacher must never use them to bribe students into behaving or handing in their work.

Reward Ideas:

Give students a list of ideas for how the reward system works and what will be working for. This adds value to the rewards and makes them feel part of the process. Students can earn tickets which are used in exchange for rewards that can be given out once a month or at the end of a semester, etc. Here is a list of rewards to consider:

1) Choosing a game to play

2) Sit with a friend or change the seating arrangement

3) Teach the class their favourite game

4) Take a homework pass

5) Be the teacher’s helper for a day

6) Get a custom-made bookmark or desk decoration

7) Choose a class job for the week

8) Take home a class game or book for the night

9) Choose who they work with on an assignment

10) Rewards for the whole class, like an extra 5 minutes at lunchtime

When it comes to teaching there are no simple answers. The way you reach your class and get the most out of your students depends on them and your teaching strategies. Simply Education knows this which is why we offer a wide range of CPD courses and online seminars to all of our registered candidates. Find the education job of your dreams and hone your skills at the same time with us. Gain access to a dedicated consultant and our CPD library by registering with us at

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