I have never been one who was known among my students to be generous with extrinsic rewards. I have fought against what B.F. Skinner (1938) had termed “token economy” in the classroom. I have never subscribed to the rewards of a tangible reward such as stickers and other gifts to motivate my students and here’s why:
- I refused to teach my students to equate amiable behavior/ performance to a small and a very impermanent joy such as a sticker; to me, it’s the equivalent of bribery.
- I want to instill in my students the rewards of learning in itself: better grades, knowledge that they can use sooner or later, a competitive edge among their peers if it suits them (my students are young children), possessing know how, general contributor to intelligence, usable abilities, among others;
- I want them to value more lasting trophies (knowledge) than disposable ones (tokens);
- I hope to shape their attitude towards good behavior does not always equate to immediate positive responses. Some things are cumulative and process- based and patience and long term hard work is sometimes necessary;
- I wish to help them adjust into the real world outside a token economy with realistic expectations that not every positive deed will be rewarded, and a positive deed is already a source of pride. (McLeod, 2007)
These reasons listed above are my personal feelings towards reinforcements and rewards. I respect the proponents of behaviorism as they have very solid arguments in most aspects, but perhaps I could be trying to teach and discipline from a more reformist bias.
Make no mistake on how I also subscribe and employ several tactics on conditioning (again, my students are at a very malleable age). As a matter of fact, I have come to trust the theories of behaviorism as highly effective and compatible in preschool education. But somehow, I cannot require myself to go beyond smiley stamps, verbal encouragement and a pat on the back (it’s a high-five nowadays).
Not to mention that I have to pay for the stickers myself.
McLeod, S. A. (2015). Skinner – Operant Conditioning. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html