Do Whole Class Reward Systems Actually Work?

Do Whole Class Reward Systems Actually Work?

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In this episode, we dig into the questions: do whole class reward systems actually make any difference? Do they act as a motivatorâ€Ã or are they quietly demotivating the students in our classroom?

By the end of this episode, you†ll have all the information you need to assess the effectiveness of the systems in your classroom - and the key advantages (and limitations) of using class-wide extrinsic rewards.

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Show notes / transcription

Simon Currigan  0:52  

This is the school behaviour secrets podcast. And welcome to episode five of the school behaviour secrets podcast. In this podcast, we share actionable tips, tricks and strategies to support with behaviour in schools, whether that's individual students whole classes or whole school strategy. I'm here with my co host, Emma Shackleton. Hi,

Emma Shackleton  1:11  

Emma. Hi there.

Simon Currigan  1:12  

And before we go any further with today's episode, I want you to remind us about our competition.

Emma Shackleton  1:17  

Oh yes, we've got a really exciting competition to tell you about where you can win over 100 pounds worth of behaviour goodies. And I'll let you know more about that later in the programme. So keep on listening. In this episode, today, we're going to be looking at the question do whole class reward actually work? So by the end of this episode, you should have the knowledge you need to assess the effectiveness of the whole class rewards in your classroom.

Simon Currigan  1:44  

This is a question a lot of people ask us do whole class reward systems actually work? I think people ask is maybe they haven't had the success they were looking for. Or perhaps they want to know how to tune their reward system in their classroom to get the maximum impact with their kids. We're going to set up our own court, the Court of education, and he's going to present the case for the defence, the case for using whole class rewards. And I'm going to present the case against whole class rewards. Emma, you have the floor. 

Emma Shackleton  2:14  

Brilliant. Thank you. So my first argument in whether or not to use whole class rewards. The reason I think that they do work is because I've seen it with my own eyes. So I've been into lots of classrooms. And I've noticed children sitting up smartly looking at the teacher waiting to get noticed because they are desperate to be moved up the zone board or given house points or whatever that whole class system is going on

Simon Currigan  2:43  

either really doing it because they want the reward, or are they doing it because they would have done it anyway, without the reward system while they're doing it. Because they care about how they behave in school, and they want to make the adults around them proud.

Emma Shackleton  2:54  

Okay, so yeah, they could be doing it anyway. But once children know that there is a reward in it for them, I see them sitting up smartly waiting to get the teachers attention looking to get noticed. They do want that status, they do want to be seen to be moving up in the class, they do want recognition for doing those good things.

Simon Currigan  3:14  

Okay, then present your next point.

Emma Shackleton  3:16  

So my next point is that children respond to them enthusiastically and want them so children will sometimes ask what the rewards are. They want to know that they're going to get something tangible for showing the right behaviours. So they seem to me to be bought in, they seem to me to be doing the right thing, because they know that they're going to get noticed, and they know that they're going to get rewarded.

Simon Currigan  3:39  

But isn't this a distraction from the learning? Isn't this distracting them for wanting to do it for the right reasons? It makes you a good person. But you know, wanting to be your best in the classroom? Isn't that the real reason for being enthusiastic about your learning and being polite to each other and being polite to the grown ups and succeeding at school?

Emma Shackleton  3:59  

I agree. Of course, all of those morally virtuous reasons are good reasons to do that. But is every child at the stage where they are intrinsically motivated in that way? Have they all got to that point? Yeah, I would say no, some of them haven't. And they need that tangible rewards to give them the motivation to do the right thing and make those good choices. My next point is that parents love them parents like to know In fact, I've noticed when children are dismissed at the end of the day from primary schools, for example, I will overhear parents asking their child Where did you finish on his own board? Did you get any house points today? Did the teacher notice you doing the right thing? So I think parents like this kind of system,

Simon Currigan  4:43  

but just because parents like them? Does that mean it's worthwhile doing it? Is it worthwhile skewing why children are doing the right thing parents might like us to send home cash. parents might like us to send home laptops as prizes at the end of the week. But just because a parent likes something doesn't mean it's necessary. Got educational value, we're doing it for the right reasons

Emma Shackleton  5:03  

I hear you. But isn't it always better to get the parents on side, so much of what we talk about in education is about encouraging that partnership between parents and school, everybody working together and being on Team child if you like. So anything that helps the parents to invest in the system and invest in their children's education, it's good for me, my next point is that I've said understand system. So if an inspector walks into your classroom, and they see that you are moving children of the zone board, or your issuing house points, or you're giving table points, they understand immediately what's going on. And it helps them to recognise that you are looking for those behaviours and praising those behaviours.

Simon Currigan  5:44  

Okay, in all fairness, I do get this point because if you've got an inspector in the room, and there is something obvious, that's understood, that's clear something like a zoning board inspectors know about those systems. So what you're not having to do is start off on the backfoot, you don't have to try and explain a system to them. But it

Emma Shackleton  5:59  

is a fairly universal system. And I do think as well as inspectors, it helps if you're having performance management observation, or being observed by anybody actually, if they can see that you're referring to those systems, they get it straight away, they can see what's happening in the room, moving away from Ofsted, and other people who might be in the room. My next point is if they didn't work, then why are they so popular? Why is almost every class that I go into using some kind of rewards and recognition system

Simon Currigan  6:30  

in the 50s? We used to put asbestos in our houses, you know, and everyone said, What's the matter with that asbestos works? 150 years ago, women used to put arsenic on their faces, you know, what's the problem with using arsenic? Everyone's putting arsenic on their face? Just because everyone's doing it doesn't necessarily mean it's a good thing.

Emma Shackleton  6:47  

final point that in the case for using whole class reward systems, doesn't everyone love a sticker? Doesn't everybody want to be recognised when they're getting it by? Doesn't everybody like that little bit of praise and attention? Because after all, we can't make children do the right thing. We can only encourage them to make good choices.

Simon Currigan  7:07  

I appreciate that, especially with younger kids. They do like getting stickers, and they do find it a little bit motivating. I question whether it's going to have the long term motivation that we want kids to develop grit and resilience. Often there's the case in class where you just have to wait your turn to get a stick. If you wait long enough, you'll get the class reward doesn't really mean anything.

Emma Shackleton  7:25  

Okay, cool. I take your point, Simon, would you like to present the case against using whole class reward them?

Simon Currigan  7:31  

So this is the flip side of the point that you made earlier, really, our whole class rewards really a case of the Emperor's New Clothes. Everyone else is saying something works, but deep down, they really suspect that if they took the whole class rewards away, it wouldn't really make that much of a difference. Isn't it time that a few brave people stood up and actually said whole class rewards? Actually, they don't make that much of a difference.

Emma Shackleton  7:56  

Oh, I think if you took away the whole class rewards in a lot of classrooms, behaviour management would crumble. I think lots of teachers use this as their prop for managing behaviour. And if you took that away and didn't replace it with something else, I think behaviour would go downhill.

Simon Currigan  8:12  

Okay, so what we're talking about then is not holding on to whole class rewards because they work but actually, we might need to train teachers in another form of behaviour management that might be more effective. 

I just want to take a moment to tell you about act competition where you could get your hands on over 130 pounds worth of school behaviour goodies. We've got a stack of books by authors like Paul Dix, Tom Bennett, Stuart Shanker, Lee concept, and Carol Dweck up for grabs. Plus, a three month subscription to our exclusive inner circle online programme packed with hours and hours of video training about all aspects of managing behaviour in school. To win these prizes. All you have to do is leave an honest review and rating for a show on Apple podcasts, grab a screenshot on your phone, and email it to me at Simon at beacon school support code on UK entries are limited to one per person, and no purchase is necessary. It's completely free to enter. But I must have received your email before February the 28th 2021. Remember, we can only accept screenshots from Apple podcasts will draw the winner at random at the start of March 2021. You can find more details at beacon score support slash podcast competition dot php. So what have you got to lose rate review and send me your screenshot today. And you'll be in with a chance of winning that fantastic prize pot. And now it's back to the podcast. 

Okay, let's move on to my next point. And my point is whole class rewards tend to be an extrinsic form of reward to an extrinsic form. A reward is something that's done to To encourage you to behave in a certain way to motivate you in a certain way, all extrinsic rewards have a short term impact. So they're very, very exciting for a while I accepted that they can be motivating in the short term, if you want to set up a system of rewards in class to encourage kids to put their hand up or be polite to each other, I accept that in the short term that is going to work. But the novelty of whole class reward wears off very, very quickly. And sooner or later, the kids just don't care one way or the other.

Emma Shackleton  10:31  

Yeah, I do kind of agree with that. If you have the same rewards for a year, day, after day, after day, there'll be a small portion of the class who was still motivated to work towards those rewards. But I think the most effective whole class reward systems are those where you change it up a little bit, keep it fresh, doing the same job in dangling the carrot, if you like and trying to get them motivated and get them interested. But you're making the carrot look a little bit different so that it doesn't lose its novelty in its appeal, because it's just the same old carrot day after day after day.

Simon Currigan  11:04  

How about this, then, all right, we become habituated to the reward, and we learn to expect it. So what do I mean by that? So if every time I hold open a door for the teacher, initially, the teacher gives me a dojo or a sticker or a house point or something. And to start with that is motivating. But after a while, every time I open the door, if I get that house by I just expected, it's kind of like when you get a wage increase at the end of the year to start with, you see the difference in your wages, you see your wages going up. And yeah, that has a motivating impact. But it doesn't take long for that wage increase just to become part of your normal salary that you learn to expect it loses that motivating impact. So we've got our child there holding open the door, she becomes habituated, she becomes used to getting a house want every time she does it. So it loses its impact. And then to have the same impact in the future, we have to up the reward. So now we have to offer to Harris points to someone who holds open the door.

Emma Shackleton  11:58  

Yeah, I do take your point there. But I think there's an easy way to combat that, there's a couple of things you can do. One is be really specific about what you're rewarding four, but the other is to be quite sporadic in rewards. So you wouldn't necessarily give a house point or something tangible every single time somebody held the door open for you. But you might drop that in randomly here and there. So when somebody opens the door on Monday morning, you might say thank you, Sarah for opening the door. So the whole class can hear what the expectation is. And you might give Sarah house points, she was the first one that did that the next couple of people might just get a thank you or a smile and not a house point. And then when the behaviour starts to wane, you might throw a house points in again, also keeping an eye and an overview and making sure that you're not just rewarding the same few children all of the time, or looking out for what are children doing that's above and beyond that is worth recognising and worth giving something tangible for remember, there are lots and lots of ways to reward children it doesn't have to be a house point or a dojo or moving up the zone board interaction is a reward as well a smile is reward a thank you is reward, all of that positive human interaction is also worthwhile.

Simon Currigan  13:12  

On a whole class rewards then impossible to issue fairly. So actually, they become de motivating. And I'm not bitter about something that happened into my childhood. But going off on a tangent for a minute, we used to have something called the red book in our middle school that I went to every week, the teacher would choose someone who had put in lots of effort to go in the red book and have their effort read out in class. Now, I never received that entry in the red book. And this was literally a reward that you just had to wait your turn for? Isn't it impossible for a class teacher to complete to leave fairly administer a whole class reward if you're giving out rewards for kids who are working quietly? How can you do that for 30? Kids? How can you administer a system like that fairly, because if you can't, it's going to be demotivating

Emma Shackleton  13:58  

I think you have to be realistic. And I think you have to be open and honest and transparent with the pupils and you have to let them know that they are getting noticed and they are being appreciated lots of the time, even the times when they don't specifically get that tangible reward when they don't get that house point. So letting children know say things like I like it when you all or I notice you when using that kinds of vocabulary. Lots of children can cope with being recognised and rewarded without necessarily having the tangible reward as long as they feel like they are getting noticed your teacher back in school there just needed a class list. If you are going to go down that route. I know I used to do star of the week and if you're going down the route of wanting everybody to achieve the reward at their turn then do keep an accurate record because as Simon has clearly demonstrated his childhood has been scarred by being that pupil who was overlooked and not getting their recognition

Simon Currigan  15:00  

years of therapy,

Emma Shackleton  15:02  

if that's the type of reward that you're going for where you want everybody to achieve it, and you're going to engineer the situation to make sure that everybody shines in their own way, I do think that has got some merits because every child can do something good and something right and something worthwhile. But make sure that your system is robust, have a little system might be classless and you just take that off,

Simon Currigan  15:25  

but shouldn't reward for doing the right thing. But the feeling of having done the right thing in my old school if I'd been brought up to appreciate putting in effort into a piece of work has its own value. And the result of that is feeling proud wouldn't have that been more effective. Let me just give you an example of how giving rewards excuse why we're doing the right thing. I remember going out with my kids one Christmas when they were younger, whether it's snow outside and outside one of the houses, we saw an envelope, it looked like a Christmas card in it. And so my my little girl picked it up, and she went running off down the path, knock on the door, and my little son went trudging off after so they were both knocking on the door and the door opened, this guy answered. And he was surprised to see something like a five and a seven year old standing at his door. My daughter said, we found this at the end of your path. And she handed over the card. And the man smiled. And he took the card, put his hand in his pocket and took out a couple of pound coins and gave one to my daughter. And he gave a pound coin to my son. And as they came skipping down the path, what should have been a conversation about you know, what a lovely thing you've done. Don't you feel so proud doing it? Because it's the right thing? The conversation was let's find more Christmas cards and let's get more cash. We should be doing the right thing because it's the right thing. Should we

Emma Shackleton  16:35  

Yes, but hi many young children are motivated by doing the right thing all of the time. I think your reward system needs to be a prop. I do think the long term goal is to build up that intrinsic motivation so that they feel that when they do the right thing, it feels good, and they're motivated to do it again.

Simon Currigan  16:54  

Okay, then. So let's move on to our conclusion. extrinsic motivators, things like whole class systems do have their advantages and disadvantages. And hopefully, we've highlighted some of them today, there's no perfect system for getting kids to be motivated. If you're after a short term boost towards one type of behaviour after a short term impact. If you want to change something in your class, go for it. But you do need to accept that that system is going to kind of run out of steam in a relatively short amount of time. And that's going to involve you either scrapping the system or replacing the system with something else or adapting that system and evolve and get over time. If you want to get sustained effort. If you want to develop kids resilience and grit, what we need to do is look at ways of increasing your student's intrinsic motivation. And that's doing it for your own internal reasons, do it because you want to feel proud of yourself or you want to make the people around you proud or you care about how you behave doing it, because it's the right thing. And if we're going to use extrinsic rewards, we need to be really specific about why we're giving the rewards to the students and present the reward as close to the behaviour as possible, the longer the reward is away from the behaviour, the less effective it's going to be.

Emma Shackleton  18:08  

Yeah, I definitely agree there, we're looking for a short feedback loop, aren't we, if the child gets the reward, and they don't know what it's for, then what was the point of that the reward is supposed to motivate them to replicate and repeat the behaviours that we want more off. But if they don't even know what they got it for, that's just not gonna happen. 

Okay, so that was a bit of fun there then, and we were playing devil's advocate by just presenting both sides of the argument just out of interest, Simon, and I do really believe that intrinsic motivations are best, but you might need a little bit of external motivation to help you get there. 

If you want to know more about improving your classroom management, we've got a completely free download that goes together with this episode, and it's called the classroom management score sheet. Inside the score sheet, you'll find a list of about 37 factors that have an impact on classroom management. The score sheet has a list of items that you are clearly either doing or not doing. Think of it as a roadmap to how you motivate children in your classroom. And it's based on 1000s of real life observations that Simon and I have conducted between us. So you know, it's grounded in sound classroom practice. And if you're supporting a colleague with their classroom management, it can help to make your feedback and action points even more clear and objective. Get it now by going to be can school clicking on the free resources option in the menu, and you'll find it near the top of the page. It's completely free so you can get that today.

Simon Currigan  19:38  

And of course, don't forget to enter our competition. It's almost over. We've got just shy of 100 pounds worth of books about behaviour in schools to give away including running the room by Tom Bennett assertive discipline by Lee canter when the adults change by Paul Dix. We're also going to throw in a three month subscription of our own inner circle online programme containing over 20 videos and resources. About two successful behaviour management in schools, and that's worth over 40 pounds. If you want to win, all you've got to do is give this podcast an honest rating and review on Apple podcasts and email as screenshot to me at Simon at beacon school support We're going to pick one lucky winner at random one entry per person, no purchase necessary. You can't enter if you're one of our family members, or sorry, ma'am, get your entries in before February the 28th 2021. If you're listening in the future, we can't take entries from the future. And remember, we can only accept screenshots from Apple podcasts.

Emma Shackleton  20:36  

Finally, if you like what you've heard today, and you don't want to miss the next episode, open your podcast app now and hit the subscribe button. That's going to make sure that the next episode of school behaviour secrets arrives in your podcast app without you even having to think about it. So all that's left for me to say if thanks for listening to school with ABC. Have a great week and we look forward to talking to you again in the next episode.

Simon Currigan  21:01  

Bye now.

(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)