EVALUATING INCENTIVE PROGRAMS

Many educational researchers have studied the effects of reward systems in schools.

Susan Black, a research consultant and professor at the University of Maine in Orono, recently culled some of the findings from this research for a school district in New York.

In the March issue of American School Board Journal, she offers highlights from her study of research findings on incentive programs:

* Students who do an activity, such as reading library books, without a reward believe the activity is worth doing; students who receive a reward for doing an activity believe it must not be worth doing without the reward.

* Students whose behavior changes as a result of token rewards do not continue the behavior change once the rewards are removed.

* A system of random rewards is ineffective.

* In some situations, rewards can actually inhibit learning. Long-range consequences include: a decrease in student interest, persistence, involvement, and motivation.

* Once token rewards are introduced, programs become more complicated to administer. Teachers may spend their time monitoring or running programs rather than teaching lessons.

* What adults value as rewards might not be what students value.

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