Incentives have been a topic kicked around in education classes for years. The question of whether incentives for children should be intrinsic or extrinsic will cause much debate in the future; as in the past, there is no finite answer. People on both sides of the debate feel strongly about their position, and there is always research evidence to support both sides.
I believe a good teacher delivers on both sides of this debate. Individual children have different needs and respond to incentives which meet their own particular needs at the time. The difficult tasks for the teacher include: correctly pairing the child and the incentive; affording to purchase external incentives which he/she can afford; and not crossing the line with parental wishes about rewards for their children.
When a parent confronts me about giving a lollypop reward to a child, I point out that I have never had a child tell me he/she prefers an apple slice instead. I do ask those parents with food preferences to send something agreeable for a reward for their child when it would be appropriate. I find this prevents near disasters, such as the time I accidently gave a child an orange piece of candy. I was told to never give her red dye…and I faithfully followed her advice. Yet, the child often took candy rewards of other colors…one being orange. We soon found out that the orange candy contained the red dye which caused her to have an allergic reaction.
I often ask parents if they work for the fun of it, or do they work for the monetary reward for their effort. Of course, they tell me, “That’s different.” But is it? The children in my classroom are doing a full day of work each day. Why shouldn’t they receive a reward of some kind? Yes, there are times and things which are to be done because it helps everyone to function properly, but those chores add to the happiness of the environment. So, everyone must do his/her part.
I have tried both” team” awards and “individual” awards. It appears that most children perform better for the individual rewards. My use of scholar dollars for rewards allows the children to work for pay. They are then allowed to use that money in auctions of donated games, toys, etc. It also allows me to give the children experience in banking, check writing, budgeting and saving.
Yes, even I am looking forward to a special award. I am about to turn 74 years old. I realize my earthly time is getting shorter. I long to hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” from my Savior, Jesus.