Sunday, November 15, 2009

Britain: Classroom rewards 'do not work'

Bribing pupils to work hard and behave in the classroom can backfire, according to research. The use of rewards such as points, stickers and treats causes pupils to lose motivation and has little effect on overall school performance, it was claimed.

A study said that incentives rarely produced long-term results because it reduced the perception that pupils were “doing that task of their own free will”. It comes despite claims from Ofsted that prizes were a “powerful incentive” for students who struggled at school.

Last year, the Telegraph told how some of the Government’s academy schools were spending up to £30,000 a year on extravagant reward schemes to improve discipline, attendance and pupils’ work. In some cases, children could win plasma televisions, games consoles, iPods, lap-tops and even flights abroad for turning up on time and working hard.

But Emma Dunmore, head of psychology at Harrogate Grammar School, North Yorkshire, who carried out the latest study, said reward schemes “reduced intrinsic motivation”. “Receiving the reward may reduce the individual’s sense that they were doing the task because they chose to,” she said. “Instead, they felt that they were doing it for a reward and so were being controlled by someone else.”

The study – quoted in the Times Educational Supplement – was compiled following a review of research into school reward schemes. Dr Dunmore said that even verbal praise such as “excellent, keep up the good work” could reduce children’s motivation. She said some messages could prompt children believe "this task pleases the teacher" rather than "this task pleases me".

"Rewards may strengthen behaviour in the short term but... they can undermine motivation in the long run because they reduce the individual's perception that they are doing that task of their own free will," the study said.


Great Moments in Public Education

"A middle school in North Carolina is selling test scores to students in a bid to raise money," the Associated Press reports from Goldsboro:
The News & Observer of Raleigh reported [Wednesday] that a parent advisory council at Rosewood Middle School in Goldsboro come up with the fund-raising plan after last year's chocolate sale flopped.

The school will sell 20 test points to students for $20. Students can add 10 extra points to each of two tests of their choice. The extra points could take a student from a "B" to an "A" on those tests or from a failing grade to a passing grade.

Principal Susie Shepherd says it's not enough of an impact to change a student's overall grades.

Officials at the state Department of Public Instruction say exchanging grades for money teaches children the wrong lesson.

We see the state's point. If, as the principal claims, passing a test or getting a B instead of an A isn't worth 20 bucks, how could it possibly be worth the effort?


Australia: Happy, illiterate kids won't do -- says Federal education boss

EDUCATION Minister Julia Gillard has remained defiant in the face of criticism that comparative school performance results only measure children on an academic basis. Ms Gillard this week gave principals from around the country their first look at a soon-to-be launched website which will compare nearby schools, or those that share a similar socio-economic profile, against each other. Schools will have a profile page that includes details such as student-teacher ratios, attendance rates and what happens to high school leavers.

But the website's main section will compare results attained from National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy tests, which are taken by Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 students. Teachers are worried the profiles unfairly pin student achievement solely on academic results.

In a speech to public policy think tank the Eidos Institute in Brisbane yesterday, Ms Gillard agreed the website didn't measure every element of a child's development. "But I actually don't believe our aim is to have schools full of happy, illiterate, innumerate children," she said. "Our aim is to have happy, confident children who are getting the skills they need for work and life like reading, writing and maths."

Ms Gillard said these weren't the only measures of educational progress. "But I do not believe it is controversial to expect that every child in this country should master literacy and numeracy," she said.

The website will also include general data about students' backgrounds and a value reflecting the cohort's average socio-economic status. Ms Gillard said this information would help identify why certain schools did better or worse than others. "Background characteristics such as parental occupation, family income or indigeneity may help to explain the educational challenge facing those schools and those children," she said. "But they still do not excuse poor performance or low expectations in those schools - demography is not destiny."


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