The Reward System: Bribing And Students Getting Paid For Good Grades

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Should teachers bribe their students to do their homework? When a person hears the word ‘threat’, we think about something bad, therefore correspond to that threat with a good act. But more than threatening, teachers use the technique of bribery. Bribery is the promise of something in return for doing something. We might see that bribery has a negative implication whereas the reward for that bribe is a positive response.

Many teachers are aware that punishments and threats are counterproductive. Making children suffer to alter their future behavior can often obtain temporary complicity. This strategy does not help them to become people who make their decisions ethically and compassionately. Punishment tends to generate anger, defiance, and a desire for revenge. Moreover, it provides a model of the use of power instead breaks the important relationship between the teacher and the child.

From the group of teachers who make a commitment not to punish children, a significant proportion leans towards the use of bribes and rewards. The way in which rewards and bribes are used, as well as the values that are considered important, differ between each culture. As with punishments, the offering of rewards can cause temporary complicity in many cases. Unfortunately, there is no specific method to help children become careful people, responsible or people who learn by themselves for the rest of their lives.

As a result of these techniques, when rewards and bribes stop, students generally return to the way they acted before, for example of not doing their homework. It could turn out that children whose teachers make frequent use of rewards and bribes tend to be less generous than their classmates. Effectively, the motivations do not alter the emotional or cognitive commitments that are behind the behavior. A child who has been promised something in return for learning or acting responsibly has been given every reason to stop doing this when there is no longer a reward to obtain.

We could suggest that punishments and rewards are not really opposed, they are two sides of the same coin. Both strategies become ways of trying to manipulate someone’s behavior, in this case of the students. Students can ask questions such as, what do my teachers want me to do, and what will happen to me if I do not do it, and on the other side, what do they want me to do and what will I get for doing it? These strategies could help the student to solve their problems, since they will be forced and think that they will have consequences or a prize when doing it or not doing it.

Rewards are more useful to incentivize achievements and do not promote good values. Studies have shown that people who expect to receive a reward for completing a task or doing it successfully just do not do it as well as those who do not expect anything. This effect is strong in young children, older children, and adults; for men and women; for rewards of all types; and for tasks that range from memorizing facts to solving problems. In general, the more thought with cognitive sophistication and open end required to do a task, the worse tends to act people, when they have been led to perform the task in exchange for a reward.

There are several explanations for this act that ultimately comes from adults. The most convincing of these is that the rewards produce the loss of interest of people in whatever they are rewarded for doing. This phenomenon makes sense since ‘motivation’ is not a singular characteristic that an individual possesses to a greater or lesser degree. On the contrary, motivation as the interest in the task for its own satisfaction is qualitatively different from the motivation in which the fulfillment of the task is seen above all as a prerequisite for obtaining something more. Therefore, the question that teachers need to ask themselves is not how motivated their students are, but how their students are motivated.

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If we do an experiment with two groups of children, for example, a group of children we ask them to eat one type of food without any reason and the other group we promise them gifts if they eat the food. It could be predicted that the children who received the reward would eat more food than the other children. If we substitute eating or drinking for reading or doing mathematics, we begin to observe the destructive power of rewards. People suggest that when we want more children to want to do something, the more counterproductive it will be to reward them for doing it.

Some people may describe the use of rewards as control through seduction. Control, whether through threats or bribes, leads to doing things to children instead of working with them. This ultimately weakens relationships, both between students (leading to reduced interest in working with classmates) and between students and adults (to the extent that asking for help can reduce the probability of receiving a reward). Furthermore, students who are encouraged to think of grades, stickers, or other gifts become less inclined to explore ideas, think creatively, and take risks. I asked a teacher about his students and he responded by saying, ‘During my career, I have noticed that students who have been offered a reward usually choose the easiest homework. In the absence of rewards, on the contrary, children are inclined to choose homework that is just within their skill level.’

The implications of this analysis are worrisome. If the question is ‘rewards motivate to the students?’, The answer is yes. They motivate students to get rewards. Unfortunately, that kind of motivation usually comes at the expense of interest and excellence in whatever they are doing. What is needed is a transformation of our schools.

The management of class programs based on rewards and consequences should be avoided by any teacher who wants their students to take responsibility for their own behavior. The alternative to bribes and threats is to work and create a community of solidarity, whose members solve their problems by collaborating and deciding together on how they want their class to be.

It has been seen that particularly grades have a detrimental effect on creative thinking, long-term retention, interest in learning, and preference for challenging tasks. These detrimental effects are not the result of many poor grades or many good grades, or the wrong formula for calculating grades. On the contrary, they are the result of the practice of evaluating itself, and the orientation that is promoted. The use of rewards or consequences by parents to induce children to perform well in school has a similarly negative effect on the pleasure of learning and, ultimately, on performance. Avoiding these effects requires evaluation practices aimed at helping students experience success and failure not as a reward or punishment, but as information.

The technique between reward and information could also be applied to positive feedback. Although it may be useful to hear about the success of oneself, and it is very desirable to receive support and encouragement from adults, most praise is equivalent to a verbal reward. Instead of helping children develop their own criteria for effective learning or desired behavior, compliments can create an increasing dependence on securing approval from someone else. Instead of offering unconditional support, flattery makes the positive response conditioned to do what the adult demands. Instead of increasing interest in an activity, learning is devalued as far as it comes to be seen as a prerequisite to receiving teacher approval.

Children are born and grow from home, that is why parents must instill good values. Children always have curiosities to learn, so teachers should exploit all their energies to instill positive things. As children grow, they see the need to learn for life and not need a threat or a bribe. And when they do something for themselves and do it perfectly, they feel proud of themselves. That is why in this case bribes or threats are not necessary, and on the contrary, they become negative effects for children. 

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