Punished by rewards by alfie kohn, my reflections

by Yadvinder


My reflections

The main reflections I am now having is that maybe when I focus on rewarding and punishing students I am treating the students like a pet animal, though I might be thinking that this student has earned this right, priviledge or reward by doing, learning, or obeying my command, then I give them a sticker, group point or prize is in fact leading them to see that the reason for learning is to get a prize or reward; where as, I think kohn is saying we should help students find learning to be intrinsically valuable. This reminds me of when as a child I did anything that I could to get the sticker, be on the honor roll and get A's on my report card because that would please my parents and as a result I would be rewarded with video games and toys. Also,Kohn (1999) mentions the "book it!" Program where Pizza Hut would reward coupons for pan pizzas depending on the number of books read. This motivated me to read a lot, for the purpose of getting pizza coupons and eating pizza. And as I recall, I would hardly ever pick up a book after that unless I was assigned by a teacher to read it.It was only around grade ten when I learned that a musician that I respected read a lot of books, did I get passionate about following in his footsteps as I realized that the more one reads, the better skills one has at expressing one's ideas through words. thus, I think Kohn is saying let's take the time to explain the rationale for doing certain actions which takes a lot of time, effort and patience and helping them in the long term develop key skills like social responsibility versus the easier decision of rewarding students with a reinforcer for learning or doing what we want.

What would happen if we took away rewards?

I just starated reading this part and it seems like Kohn (1999) is suggesting that the reason why this pattern of rewarding learners for earning or Deserving it and punishing or withholding reinforcers for those who do not earn it is that there is a fear of what would happen if rewards were all takeN away.  I wonder what would have happened in school had I not been given stickers, praised, rewarded with awards or given approval by teachers such as Great Job! 

Alternatives to rewarding?

While reading some more I like how he says that instead of seeking to control children 100% why not instead work through problems with them? Also, seek to explain the logic behind what is being asked of them and instead of seeking to control their behavior, aim to provide guidance and structure to them and seek to be one who trusts the child and encourages them to think for themselves as well, love these ideas! 

What's up with giving rewards for doing something?

Kohn is suggesting that when you provide someone with a reward for doing something, it impacts how they do it and their attitude towards it. This is so true, I remember in school how I would only study or read if it would be on the TEST; however, now I understand the value of it, thanks to the explanations of its benefits, and now I feel like reading.

Lasting change after the rewards run out

A great point was mentioned by kohn that yes rewards can give short term changes especially when you are dealing with people that are 1- already dependent on you 2- are feeling a need such as hunger. However, I think he is arguing that there should be a way to creating lasting changes in an individual such as having the desire to read without having to constantly reward someone. For instance let's say you were using candy to reinforce a child to read or cleanup, what happens when they want more candy, or different candy or you run out of candy?

What rewards and punishments really do...

I am learning from reading Kohn (1999) is that rewards and punishments work if your intention is to get others to comply to what you want them to do; in other words, if you want them to obey what you want them to do. Kohn gives the example of having people show up on time. He is suggesting that these things are short term and surface changes. His real emphasis is how do we treat others so that long lasting changes happen in an individual so that they start making choices and decisions that are healthy and helpful and how they can embody positive values in the long run versus temporary compliance. Reflecting on this, I need to stop my practice as a teacher of using a program called Class Dojo which lets me reward individual students for doing what I want, such as sitting quietly or listening. Instead I need to find a way to help them make their own choices which might be to explain and give reasons and provide knowledge that will influence them to make better choices.

Instead of promising rewards, why not provide info on how they are doing?

As I am reading these studies presented by Kohn (1999) it seems like promising a reward for doing an activity is not helpful so I am wondering if another approach might be better such as providing the student with information about how they are doing such as at my part-time workplace in the warehouse the new manager prints out a report each week to show us our results and this has drastically improved my performance partly because he is tracking how many times I am below the target and is following the hierarchy of consequences so in a way I am being manipulated to obey with a fear of punishment that I will lose my job; however, this technique has made me work harder than I have in the years previous to this new manager. 

Should Tutors get Paid?

Kohn (1999) goes on to mention studies where students were promised rewards such as movie tickets for tutoring/helping younger students learn how to play a game, the result? They did a lousy job, so why is it that we pay people to tutor children? Should they not then tutor out of the love of it or just because they enjoy the process instead of expecting a reward such as money? 

Just Enjoy The Process Vs. What Will I Get?

Also, when participants/students expected a reward or got rewarded, or even if they were promised money, what happened was that the quantity and quality of the work was decreased. Is it then better to have students enjoy the processes to reach an outcome and just want to do it for intrinsic reasons?

How Can I Return To Being An Intrinsically Motivated Supply Teacher?

“Rewards killed creativity” (P. 45)  he cited another study citing also that it wasn’t helpful if artists were promised a certain amount of money ahead of time for certain output, thus it makes me think, how can I do my job as a supply teacher without thinking of the rewards of money and just enjoy the process itself. I remember when I first started out supplying, I was doing it for the joy of helping others, now as I am married and have a mortgage and other expenses to pay I am more extrinsically focused as I see going to the classroom to supply teach as a way to get the rewards/financial rewards so that I can survive. I wish I could find a way to enjoy the process of teaching again, without having to focus so much on the extrinsic rewards of money, is there a way?