Effects of Reward and Punishment on Student Motivation

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Chapter 1
The Problem and Its Background

Rewards can serve as effective incentives—if the person is interested in the reward. (Marshall, Marvin) The prospect of receiving something worthwhile for an effort one has exerted causes a person to work even harder towards that certain goal. Some students find that the grades they receive are enough of a reward, some students however do not agree. Rewards can also serve as wonderful acknowledgements—ways of congratulating merit and demonstrating appreciation. Student of the week is an examples of such acknowledgements. But notice that these are awarded after the behavior—not as bribes beforehand. As opposed to using rewards as incentives and acknowledgements, giving rewards for expected standards of behavior is counterproductive. It is also based on the outmoded idea that all behavior is modified thorough external approaches, similar to the techniques used to train animals. Internal approaches—such as self-talk—have no place in this mindset. Marshall believed that it is a myth when it is said that rewards motivate young people to be responsible. He said that rewards do not help. The bribe, or reward, becomes the focus not the desired change. He argues that regardless of how much we may think that rewards lead toward internalizing the desired behavior of acting responsibly, there is no evidence that this ever occurs. In contrast, there is much research to suggest that an "external locus of control" (external motivation) does not transition to an "internal locus of control" (internal motivation). Students learn most of their behaviors by associating them with consequences. These consequences, especially when repeated over time, can lead to a behavior pattern. (Robb, 2003) Pleasant consequences (rewards) are usually more effective behavior modifiers than unpleasant consequences (punishment). It is not only the type of reward, but also how it is used that determines how effective it will be. Rewards can...
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