How Do You Reward 3 Year Olds For Good Behavior Rewards in the Classroom: Pros and Cons of Tangible Rewards

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Rewards in the Classroom: Pros and Cons of Tangible Rewards

Are rewards in the classroom an effective teaching tool or do their negative consequences outweigh any benefits? This is a hotly debated issue in educational circles and the debate is not going to end anytime soon. Why do teachers use tangible rewards? Because they work, at least for the short term.

This article will look at the pros and cons of using tangible rewards (candy, food stamps, trinkets) to manipulate student behavior.

Advantages:

  • These items can quickly change student behavior. Start giving candy to kids who answer a question and your participation rates will go up.
  • This is an easy system for students to understand. Do what the teacher wants, get a prize.
  • Reinforcement is frequent and immediate. Students do not have to wait to receive it.
  • Rewards provide short-term motivation to behave or work hard.
  • Rewards can encourage participation from students who are normally disengaged.
  • Students can gradually be weaned off tangible rewards using intermittent reinforcement.

Disadvantages:

  • Rewards make students work for the wrong reasons.
  • They only create a temporary change.
  • Rather than rewards, they are often actually a bribe.
  • Since the teacher usually pays for his own rewards, it can get expensive.
  • Not all students are motivated by the reward you offer.
  • They can actually be a deterrent. If the reward is given to the first person with the correct answer, many students may not even try.
  • Food rewards are risky and should be avoided. Your class may contain diabetics and students with many types of allergies.
  • If you stop giving the rewards, the desired behaviors may stop because they are tied to the reward.
  • Rewards encourage external focus. Students learn because they will get something physical for it. The teaching goal is to move students to the level of working for internal rewards, such as the sense of pride achieved by doing a good job. Tangibles does not advertise this.

I have used tangible rewards on occasion and see nothing wrong with that. Sometimes I would pick a random name from homework papers and give a little prize. It did tend to increase the percentage of homework for a while. And sometimes I gave bonus points to bands that won review contests. To me this just adds a fun element to the class. As long as it’s not expected by the kids, it’s just another tool.

Trying to implement a reward system on a class wide level is however time-intensive, expensive and ultimately – not very effective. It also has a negative impact on student participation and cooperation in class. Soon when you ask students to do something, you’ll get a chorus of “What are we getting?” This is going to get old really fast!

The best approach is not to rely on physical rewards. However, if you are already implementing a reward behavior system, begin to slowly wean the children away from it. Instead of getting something for everything, give rewards at the end of the week. As you do this, increase the amount of verbal praise and encourage them to feel proud of their accomplishments. Hopefully, they will soon stop expecting tangible rewards.

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