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Motivation From Within: Moving Beyond Rewards and Awards in Schools



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Keynote presentation given to educators at the 2017 Central Alberta Teachers Convention.
The vast majority of our students enter our schools in kindergarten with high motivation to learn but as they progress up through the grades, motivation and engagement tends to fade. Due to the many challenges facing our schools, educators often resort to a variety of incentives to try to motivate students to learn and improve behaviour to help create the optimal learning environment. Schools also try to encourage students to excel by offering certificates, plaques, and trophies to those who do better than others. The use of rewards can become part of a school culture and awards are generally steeped in tradition… but what if we have this extrinsic motivation strategy all wrong? What if these tactics work in the short term but cause problems in the long term? What if there are students that go through our schools with strengths that are not valued nor honoured? Is there a better way to create the conditions for long-term motivation? Is there a way to move away from awards so more students are honoured, more students feel connected, and there is a more positive, inclusive school culture?

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Motivation From Within: Moving Beyond Rewards and Awards in Schools

  1. 1. Motivation From Within: Moving Beyond Rewards and Awards in Schools Presentation for the 2017 Central Alberta Teachers Convention Chris Wejr @chriswejr CcimagefromMandias
  2. 2. Two Schools: No rewards system. No awards.
  3. 3. Picture a school… CC image from G. Grossmeier
  4. 4. What does this say about this school?
  5. 5. "I come to you humbly not to tell you what to do on your journey but to share with you what I have learned on mine” Wab Kinew cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Thompson Rivers University:
  6. 6. Rethinking REWARDS and AWARDS CC Image from
  7. 7. The need to reward and award… CC image from Vic.
  8. 8. So why NOT?
  9. 9. Learning from Joe Bower Friend and fellow educator. Critic of extrinsic motivators in education. 1978-2016
  10. 10. Be HARD on content… SOFT on people CC Image from Marin
  11. 11. Rethinking Awards: Not Everyone Agrees “he is just a socialist principal with a feminist agenda” “…no wonder kids these days are this way… me me me - so entitled” “So everybody gets an award – and nobody learns anything about the competitive real world” “this is why the children of today have become the lazy, uncaring adults of tomorrow.” “You can only get better by playing a better oponent (sic). By takeing (sic) away the motivation you end up with the disgruntled youth of today who sit around and do nothing.” “This is the same attitude that has principals puinishing (sic) bullying victims rather than the bully.”
  12. 12. How will being here today change what I do next week?
  13. 13. Rewards
  14. 14. 10 years ago, I LOVED using rewards
  15. 15. Are we talking about the same thing when we say “rewards”?
  16. 16. Intrinsic/Internal Extrinsic/External Image:
  17. 17. Reflecting on rewards…
  18. 18. The ‘Benefits’ of Rewards
  19. 19. A Difficult Job… Cartoon from Martin Doyle
  20. 20. Incentives Work… … in the short term CC Image from Judy Baxter
  21. 21. We slowly remove the rewards…
  22. 22. It’s easy…
  23. 23. Rewards help us focus on the positive
  24. 24. I get rewarded twice a month, so why not?
  25. 25. Motivation With Sheldon Big Bang Theory
  26. 26. 5 Reasons to Rethink Rewards in Schools
  27. 27. We rob students of intrinsic motivation
  28. 28. “We cannot motivate others… we can only work to create the conditions for people to motivate themselves.” -- Edward Deci and Richard RyanImage:
  29. 29. Edward Deci and Richard Ryan Using rewards to motivate children may indeed control their behavior in some immediate sense, but they are likely to have negative consequences in terms of the children’s subsequent interest, persistence, and preferences for challenge. (Deci and Ryan) Controlling people’s behavior with reward contingencies undermines their intrinsic motivation…(Deci and Ryan) Children who were rewarded for doing discrimination- learning tasks learned less well and made more errors than did children who were not rewarded (Spence & Dunton) …extrinsic incentives can, by undermining self-perceived altruism, decrease intrinsic motivation to help others. (Batson) Research From Sansome et al Image
  30. 30. The Overjustification Effect Shifting the appreciation from task to reward What about the student who is already doing the right thing?
  31. 31. We give too much credit to rewards and not enough to ourselves
  32. 32. Giving credit to the right factors
  33. 33. By offering a reward, we are assuming that kids know HOW to do the task… but they WILL NOT do the task. What if we are wrong?
  34. 34. We teach kids to get good at getting CAUGHT being good.
  35. 35. You caught me being good… Can I get my prize now? Image: Kids get good at getting caught… being good.
  36. 36. Kids who grow up being regularly bribed and rewarded grow up overly dependent on approval and recognition. Deci and Ryan What’s in it for me? How much is this worth? Did you see me do that?
  37. 37. We lose the chance to teach responsibility to do the right thing… just because it is the RIGHT thing to do.
  38. 38. "Extrinsic rewards have a negative impact [on learning] because they undermine people’s taking responsibility for motivating and regulating themselves" Edward Deci CC Image from Sarah Sosiak
  39. 39. We assign an external value to tasks, behaviour, and learning
  40. 40. By offering a reward, we are stating that the task is not worth doing... Without a reward.
  41. 41. Reward Inflation: What is this action worth?
  42. 42. CC Image from Bill Ferriter
  43. 43. Motivation With Dwight The Office
  44. 44. The driving question: How do we create the conditions for students to motivate themselves?
  45. 45. CC Image from c_ambler How???
  46. 46. Strengths & Interests
  47. 47. Tap into Strengths and Interests
  48. 48. Purpose
  49. 49. Where are we going? Why? CC Image from BMcIvr
  50. 50. Students do not want learning made easy, they want it to mean something. They want to feel something, to be moved by what they learn. They want to connect deeply with things that matter and they want the chance to make a difference. State of FLOW. Canadian Education Association
  51. 51. Voice & Choice
  52. 52. CHOICES Passion Projects Innovation Days Inquiry Project-Based Learning Genius Hour Outdoor Education Blended Learning MakerEd
  53. 53. Relationships
  54. 54. Connection is why we are here. We are hardwired to connect with others -- Brene Brown cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by Andrew:
  55. 55. Can every learner name at least two adults in the building who believe he or she will be a success in life? Judy Halbert, Linda Kaser
  56. 56. Growth Mindset
  57. 57. Praise effort rather than ability. Use the power of YET.
  58. 58. Growth Through Challenge and Support
  59. 59. Leadership
  60. 60. How can we create opportunities for students to lead?
  61. 61. Criteria & Feedback
  62. 62. Clear Criteria Do our students know “what good looks like”? CC image from Simply CVR
  63. 63. Image:
  64. 64. Talk to your students… Share the WHY CC Image from S. Mannion
  65. 65. A Culture of Reading Without Points, Prizes, or Pizza Parties
  66. 66. EXPECT students to do the right thing... just because it is the right thing to do.
  67. 67. Awards Ceremonies
  68. 68. In Support of Awards
  69. 69. Showcasing excellence
  70. 70. Motivation and Effort
  71. 71. Preparation for the “Real World” CC image from K. Decker
  72. 72. A Lengthy Tradition CC image from brendangates
  73. 73. 5 Reasons to Rethink Awards in Schools
  74. 74. But first…
  75. 75. Rethinking awards… does NOT mean awards for everyone CCImagefromVPohjanheimo
  76. 76. This is NOT just about self-esteem
  77. 77. Awards shift the focus from process (learning) to the result (award).
  78. 78. Demotivating Learning
  79. 79. Inhibiting risk-taking
  80. 80. Defining value and worth based on awards
  81. 81. You love me…
  82. 82. Awards are not always about excellence. They are mostly about simply being better than those around you.
  83. 83. Awards are all Relative Image:
  84. 84. Creating a false sense of excellence
  85. 85. If awards were so crucial to excellence and success, why do we not have family awards for best child? Parent awards? Staff awards?
  86. 86. Awards encourage a culture of competition and inhibit a culture of collaboration.
  87. 87. Success in a Competitive Culture
  88. 88. The only person motivated by competition is the person who believes he/she has a chance of winning. Rick Lavoie CC image from Jayneandd
  89. 89. I am better than you.
  90. 90. Awards prepare our kids for the big bad, scary, competitive real world… Really???
  91. 91. “REAL World” Research CC Image from K Hoeppner
  92. 92. Kids need to learn how to lose be resilient.
  93. 93. There are two kinds of winning. Some can only win when others lose. Others seek to win by helping others succeed. One of these approaches scales far better than the other. Seth Godin
  94. 94. Education should not be a zero-sum game. CC image from S. Tell
  95. 95. Competitions are ALL or NONE
  96. 96. Awards assume that ALL students learn at the same rate and have the same opportunities.
  97. 97. Variables affecting achievement (beyond a child’s control): • Family and home life • Mental health • Date of birth • Genetics • Parent education • Socioeconomics • Income and educational opportunities • Language • Parent social and cultural capital
  98. 98. Who are awards REALLY for? Do we want the best for our child or for our child to be the best? These are not often the same thing. Martin Seligman
  99. 99. - Original quote from George Carlin
  100. 100. At what age is it acceptable to offer awards?
  101. 101. Awards offer a narrow criteria of success.
  102. 102. Deciding the WINNER
  103. 103. Do we believe… ALL students have strengths and ALL students can learn?
  104. 104. We know kids are so different – so why are we ok with ranking them based on narrowly defined criteria?
  105. 105. We ALL have a ‘Jagged Profile’ Todd Rose Image: Todd Rose, The End of Average
  106. 106. Do your awards ceremonies align with your school vision?
  107. 107. Schools Without Awards
  108. 108. CC Image: pennstatelive
  109. 109. Celebrating Our Strengths
  110. 110. Moving From Honour Roll to Honour All
  111. 111. No awards. No student of the month. No honour roll. 5 years later.
  112. 112. Pride in Who We Are
  113. 113. Honouring Assemblies Strengths Talents Interests
  114. 114. Ongoing acknowledgement helps everyone CC image from D. Krebbs
  115. 115. Highlighting growth and excellence in NEW ways.
  116. 116. Starting the conversation on moving away from awards ceremonies
  117. 117. Driving question: How do we honour our kids in a way that brings out the best in ALL kids, aligns with our school vision, mission and values, and highlights a broader definition of growth and excellence?
  118. 118. Give Students a CHOICE to Compete CC image from Kentucky Country Day
  119. 119. Set the Bar – Use Clear Criteria With a possibility of multiple winners
  120. 120. Move from a focus on celebrating THE best… …to a focus on celebrating Personal Best Rick Lavoie
  121. 121. Celebrations of Growth & Learning
  122. 122. CC Image From Tony Baldasaro CC Image from Terry Priest Find the Fireflies Create the conditions for ALL kids to shine. Rachel Macy Stafford
  123. 123. WHY We Need to Rethink Rewards Awards 1. We rob students of intrinsic motivation 2. We give too much credit to rewards and not enough to ourselves. 3. We teach kids to get good at getting caught being good. 4. We lose the chance to teach kids responsibility and independence. 5. We assign an external value to tasks, behaviour, and learning. 1. We shift the focus from process to result. 2. We award for simply being better than those around you. 3. We promote a culture of competition and inhibit a culture of collaboration. 4. We assume that ALL students learn at the same rate and have the same opportunities 5. We offer a narrow criteria of success.
  124. 124. “Rewards and recognition are important, but as the research has so clearly shown, when rewards and awards are used as a means of motivating people, they are likely to backfire.” Edward Deci
  125. 125. Change is hard… start the conversation Is an awards ceremony at the end of the year the BEST we can do? CCimagefromUSDE
  126. 126. Go ahead. Take a risk.
  127. 127. Picture a school…
  128. 128. Motivation Honour Excellence Pride Inclusion
  129. 129. Connect With Me @chriswejr

Editor's Notes

  • Positive, inclusive culture
    Motivated students
    Excellence is showcased in many ways.
  • Elem or Middle school - As you walk in – trophy case – academic and athletic award winners – select few
    Honour roll – scroll of students who are achieving excellence based on grades
    Near the office, student of the month award – explaining all the awesome attributes of the student… leader, high grades, involved in sports and arts, volunteer – a picture of excellence
    Walk through the halls – you can see a few teachers giving out gotchas and students looking over their shoulder doing great things… proudly displaying their large stack of tickets on their desk.
    Another calls out 100 points for the first team to clean up.
    An announcement comes on reminding students who had enough gotcha tickets and those who were on the honour roll for term 2 to come to the gym for an exciting pizza party.
    While leaving so many behind.

  • What are the values?
    What is the vision?
    WHO is valued?
    Is it inclusive?
    Who are the awards and rewards working for?
    Is excellence being shared and promoted? What kind of excellence?
    Is this the kind of school we want for ALL our kids?
  • I have to tell you.. I am no expert.
    I am hear to share a bit of my learning with you.

  • Today I am going to share with you some reasons to rethink a school culture that depends on rewards and awards.
    I will share with you research and questions to get you to challenge the use of extrinsic motivators in schools.
    I will also share with you a few ideas on how to move towards a culture that creates the conditions for students to motivate themselves as well as a culture that values excellence while honouring the strengths of all learners.
    This is about moving toward a positive culture that does not require awards and rewards.
    You will have some work to do to come up with ideas that work for YOUR school/classroom and YOUR culture.
    Hopefully you can discuss this tomorrow
  • We have a tough gig as educators.
    Kids not trying hard enough
    Kids not behaving well enough
    We want to honour excellence
    We work hard to create intricate systems of rewards and awards to get kids to do their best.
  • So what is the problem with this? Why not use rewards and awards?
    We are doing a great job. One of the top countries in the world.
    What kind of human are we creating?
    We want caring, collaborative, Independent, responsible humans – doing the right thing and thinking and learning not because there is a prize but because it is the right thing to do.
    I will share with you today a number of concerns about the use of rewards and awards in schools.
    A lot of my experience and knowledge that I am sharing today was inspired but someone many of you knew…
  • Joe was one of my closest social media friends. I spoke to him more than I spoke to many of my friends whom I grew up with.
    He was a champion to me as our conversations had a significant impact on the changes that were made at my schools. My students benefited from Joe.
    We planned a number of times to connect face to face… but never had that chance.
    It is a real honour to be here sharing a topic that Joe was so passionate about.
    I just wish he was here to see it.
    You see, this is a topic that not everyone see eye-eye on… and Joe had many debates.
  • It is important to remember
    Education is rarely black and white.
    Go to the grey… get uncomfortable so we can reflect and grow.
    And if you completely disagree with me, that’s ok…
  • I just hope that in the coming days, you pause to reflect on the use of rewards and awards in schools.
    Not everyone agrees
  • Vancouver Sun, other blogs from east, radio shows
    So let’s focus on the ideas… go to the grey… and ask ourselves…
  • I used to love giving our rewards.
    As a high school teacher I created these Bobcat Bucks that I gave to kids for doing well on a variety of tasks… I also had a currency system that they could use the bucks for bonus marks.
    Looking back now… I remember kids with large stacks on their desk. The kids that were already doing well.
    Assessment? Sheesh… bonus marks, marking homework…. If only I could go back.
    So this is one example of a reward but I think we need to make sure I define what I mean by rewards… if we are talkin about different things, it can lead to problems…
  • Sp what do we mean by rewards?
  • Rewards  incentives… prizes, tickets, etc that are withheld until someone does what we want them to do.
    Not talking about things like positive feedback, acknowledgement and simple thank yous.
    We often see the transactional relationship in schools – do this and you get this?
    Grades can even be used as bribes… and punishment.
    Are we ok with this?
  • I don’t like to polarize the 2… think of it more as a CONTINUUM of motivation in people.
    Praise, feedback, etc – all external depends on the purpose and how it is used and perceived by the student

    So what does this look like in a classroom? Class Dojo at one time was a digital reward system for behaviour (it has grown since then) and this was shared by people to show its use.
    Watch and reflect. Remember to focus on content and ideas rather than the teacher
  • This is not about the teacher. I don’t know him and he likely is a great teacher. He was confident to share this when Class Dojo first came out as a way to use it to benefit behaviour in his class. I have no idea how his classes behaved before class dojo so this might have been an attempt to merely survive…
    Take a minute to share what you noticed.
    Immediate feedback, extrinsic points, prizes for more points (reward for a reward), public score sheet (like a digital sticker chart) – an absolute no-no.
  • The teacher mentioned a number of benefits to rewards
    Compliance, behaviour, extrinsic motivation
    I understand WHY we use rewards…
  • We need to just get through the day… and through this year with this group of kids.
    Complex class composition
    High class size
    We need some level of control and we want to make it fun
  • In the short term – for rudimentary tasks
    If our goal is to get people to do what they might not want to do…
    If our goal is to put a short term smile on others’ faces and ours
    Rewards feel good
    There is pleasure in giving and receiving incentives…
    Pleasure doesn’t last (like a drug). Joy lasts.
  • We struggle with complex behaviours and students not doing their work so we plan on using them and then slowly removing them.
    I have yet to hear of schools that actually do this.
    They say that they are just going to use the rewards to jump start but then it becomes a bit of an addiction as the comment then goes… well, they won’t do it if I take the reward away
  • It’s easy to catch kids being good and give out tickets
    It’s easy to bribe kids to do what we want them to do…
    We have so much work to do that we want to make this work for us.
    This helps us survive.
  • Rewards DO help us look for positive behaviour.
    Our goal becomes catching kids being good so it helps shift our focus.
  • incentives are a part of life.
    Why not?

    It is interesting to compare to adult life though… what if we did to adults what we do to kids???
  • Big Bang Theory
    Seems so silly when we use this with adults… so we should at least have the conversation about rethinking rewards.
  • You cannot truly motivate….
    Will the actions continue once we are not there to offer the incentive?
    Researchers at the Uni of Rochester.
    This is the statement that drives the majority of the decisions at our school.
    This is hard work.
    Leadership, reading, learning… how do we create the conditions for kids to want to learn and grow?
  • We are creating reward junkies. The focus of a school/classroom and all the students can end up being the rewards system
    Exception – very basic and boring tasks where the intrinsic motivation is extremely low.
    Judy Cameron’s research.
    We want kids to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Intrinsic drive feels good.
    But what happens to people who are rewarded for doing something they were already doing
  • Pay someone to do something for a year… then ask them to do the same thing for free.
    If you want your kids to do chores… don’t pay them to do them.
    1999 Swiss research – pay volunteers… they spent LESS time doing the tasks. Paying people decreased their intrinsic motivation.
    Appreciation shifts from the task itself to the reward

    By rewarding students for behaviours they should be learning to do, we are robbing them of theiri ntrinsic drive to do a task… and robbing them the chance to GAIN this drive.
  • REWARDS DO NOT TEACH – teachers teach
    When we use rewards, we focus so much on the rewards and lost sight of the importance of teaching.
    Ex. PBIS
    Behaviour challenges (especially in elementary) are often a result of a lack of skill
    If we want to improve reading, we need to teach the needed skills.
    if we want to improve behaviour… we need to teach the needed skills.

  • Do we give rewards too much credit? Story of Brenda
  • If we are wrong… and often times we are… we make things a whole lot worse.
    We get kids who are now more stressed that they cannot get the reward.
    So the behaviour worsens… so then we try a new reward.
    Instead of coming up with complex reward systems and systems of currency… we need to spent the time teaching the needed skills. (Dr. Ross Greene)
  • Catching kids being good – look at me – surveillance – story of “Danielle”
    Kids get good at the game… get good at being caught being good.
    Is this what we want? Kids that will only do something when we are looking?
  • We hear all these concerns about “kids these days”… and I struggle with putting people in a box based on their years of birth.
    If we are concerned about kids being dependent on recognition, we need to stop rewarding kids for behaviours they should be doing because it is the right thing to do. The reward is the task itself.
  • Many schools have the word “responsible” in their values and mission statements.
    Responsibility is about taking ownership and not relying on others.
    If we reward students, we lose the chance for them to take responsibility for their actions.
  • Rewards and punishment often rob students of responsibility to motivate and regular themselves.
  • When we use rewards – the focus shifts from the process to the reward (Deci and Ryan)
    What is the VALUE of an action – extriniscally, what will I gain from this???
  • We teach there must be external value for people to get motivated to act.
    Just TRY to get someone to do something after they have been rewarded.
    Risk the overjustification effect and fail to teach the chance to experience intrinsic drive
  • It is a Token economy – how much are good things worth?
    We put a price on tasks.
    If you complete an assignment on task, how much is this worth? If you stand up for someone, how much is this worth? Who decides?
    Reward inflation occurs… when a student decides it is not worth it anymore.
    So then we are stuck trying to come up with a new carrot.
  • When one reward doesn’t work, we try another.. And another.
    Ex. merit pay. The idea that never works… and the idea that never dies.
    We spend more time developing intricate rewards systems than we do creating the condition to motivate
    Let’s check out what this one looks like with adults.
  • Why when we do this to adults does it seem so silly… yet, we do this in classrooms all over the world?
  • Very hard to create the conditions… always think long term. Think purpose. Think teaching.
    This is the key question – how do we do this?
  • As you can see… creating the conditions is much more difficult than giving rewards.
    Need to do this as a system… together.
  • Autonomy
  • Connect through strengths
    Character strengths and talents
    Bring in the strengths and interests into assignments and ways to demonstrate learning
    With connection and interest, comes engagement and motivation.
  • Autonomy
  • Relevant
    “You will need this in the real world” doesn’t work so well
    Ex. homework
  • the work students undertake also needs to be relevant, meaningful and authentic
    worthy of their time and attention.
    Students don’t always know their needs yet
    Balance of needs and wants…
  • Autonomy
  • Provide CHOICE and Tap into strengths and interests of teachers and students
    Slow down – take the time
    Go through each off the ideas
    CHOICES - Canoe building, CSI, Glee club, flag football, stop motion video, readers theatre, lego architects, bird watching
    A quote from a parent… I know on Wednesdays I don’t have to ask “what did you do in school?... They just tell me”
    Passion projects at LSS – Christa Barberis
    PBL - answer a question, solve a problem, reflect learning in world outside the classroom.

  • Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser - 3 caring adults
  • Connection is a human need.
    How many of your students believe this. Ask them!
    Do we know who our students are? Do they feel worthy when they walk through our doors?

  • Carol Dweck –
    Fixed = cannot change, born athletic/academic/artistic, focused on result – when failure occurs, it is because of ability so often give up
    Growth = learners, willing to take risks, when failure occurs – try another route or put in more effort
    Praising effort vs ability “You are so smart” = encouraging fixed.
    It’s ok, you are not good at math… you have strengths in other areas. Fixed.
    Mindset has a huge impact on how we perceive feedback.

    Focus on process… feedback that drives learning forward. Power of YET
  • Need both
    We want kids to fall
  • What is your leadership program?
    Autonomy, purpose – a contagious culture
    Responisibility, Integrity, teachable moments.
    Monitors, buddies, hot lunch helpers, referees, working with struggling students (ex. Trysten)
    Often students who struggle flourish when put in a leadership role… especially in an area of strength
    Every child can be a leader.
  • PBIS is good for this…
    Feedback based on criteria is one of the most powerful things we can use in learning
  • You likely already do some of these.
    Continue to do this and then work on others.
    When we look at these keys… they lead in to a positive culture without both reward and awards.
  • Try… stop giving your rewards system so much credit.
  • Take small steps…
    Drop the prizes and go from there.
    The more you use the extrinsic, the harder it is to encourage extrinsic
  • Students of poverty need incentives to get them to read.
    Promote a love of books… read anywhere, tap into interests, DEAR, read alouds, teacher-librarian, flexible library schedule, literacy rich environments
    Literacy events – book trailers, book swaps, author visits
  • We expect students to do the right thing... Not for any reward but because it is the right thing.
    Build independence, responsibility, kindness, empathy…
    Set the bar with modeling and leadership.
  • Many people do support awards
    Things like Excellence, Competition, motivation, real world
  • Showcasing excellence
    How do we define success? If I asked you to define success right now, there would be a different definition from most of you.
    Yet… as schools, we try to define who is successful and who is not!
    Why are we limiting the ways to achieve excellence... There are endless paths to excellence.
    Instead of looking for the same ones each year... Let's create the conditions for more and different ways to excel
  • We want to honour those who work hard…
    Some people are motivated to work towards awards… for that extra push. (will share an option for those who seem to be motivated by awards)
    Need to be careful
    Kasser and Ryan - those people with predominantly extrinsic aspirations had poorer mental health - increased risk of anxiety, depression… and even narcisism. Significantly less healthy than those with more intrinisc aspirations.
  • There is a competitive real world out there that we need to prepare kids these days for…
    Chew you up and spit you out.
    Kids need to learn how to lose.
  • High school
    “don’t you dare question the awards”
    The academy
  • “We strive to be like everyone else… only better.” Todd Rose
  • Stop polarizing… go to the grey. Engage in the dialogue
    We don’t need MORE awards… we need to RETHINK awards.
    We don’t need to be Oprah
  • This is not about contingent self-esteem.
    Not about making everybody feel good.  
    This is not about simply telling people they are awesome and kids believing they are successful when they are not.
    We want to continually provide feedback - honest, authentic feedback based on criteria of success... But this criteria is not simply being better than the people around you. Self esteem movement missed the point.
    We want kids to experience success... Not think they are successful when they are not. 
    Far too much empty praise out there…
    Want kids to be confident? Pitch it to where they can hit and grow from there… get em on a winning streak where they actually experience success.
  • Whenever we offer a reward or an award.. We risk shifting the focus.
    A huge warning offered by social scientists in this area.
    50 years of research
  • Students focus on doing what it takes to get the top ranking.. Skills needed to win the award
    Which may not be about being a strong learner
    By focusing on compliance, getting noticed, and winning… we risk losing a motivation in learning itself. Taking on challenges!
    Who is the easiest marker?
  • So many doors can lead us to actual success beyond school.
    Awards focus on the wrong thing and makes kids choose certain doors to give them the best chance to win. We reward compliance.
    If the goal is to win at a young age, we miss out on the journey and risk gaming the system.
    Do well in the stuff that gets awards and don't worry about the stuff that isn't awarded.
    The goal in grade 5 should not be to be the best... it should be to develop the skills needed to be successful throughout life.
    Like trying to win in grade 8 vball. Focus should be skill development as a focus on winning creates bad habits and short cuts. Less risk taking. Playing it safe. 
  • Just about being better than others in the room. Smartest person is the room? Collaboration?
    Is there criteria? Standards? Can there be more than one winner? No winners?
    What do we gain by telling kids they are the best in the room? Is it mostly about being better than others? What if the others are not so hot?
    When are awards ok? A class of 5? A class of 50? 200?
    Awards are not about reaching a standard… just about being better than classmates. It’s all relative! 99% of Harvard students are not in the top 1%
  • Math 11 and Math 12 award in high school.
    1st year.
    Had no idea what the prof was saying… thought, I am good at math, I will figure it out before the midterm.
    Midterm – lowest mark in my education career.
    Felt that I had no chance of passing. Dropped the course. Took math for non-math students the next year.
    I wasn’t a top math student… I had figure out the game to know what the teacher was going to assess. I didn’t truly understand upper level math.
    I wasn’t the best… I was just better than those around me at figuring out what was going to be on the test.
  • Staff awards – we do not do this because we know how hard it is to measure success in education. How do you compare teachers with such different strengths…
    What does this do to culture?
    Then why do we do this with kids?
  • Cynical/satirical post but wanted to make a point.
    If awards are so necessary to success, why do we not see this in families? Do we pick our “best child” and highlight their strengths or do we support all kids?
  • I am not opposed to competition
    I play sports, I have coached sports for a number of years.
    I hate to lose even at monopoly.
    But we need to be careful when we add competition into learning and education.
  • Defeating others
    We teach kids that success can be accomplished by surrounding yourself with people who are less successful than you.
    We shouldn’t be hoping our peers do worse than us.
    Leadership in the real world is often about surround yourself with people whose strengths are different than yours.
    We learn from surround ourselves with people who are better than us in certain areas.
  • So awards are not about motivating ALL our students… only our top students that have a chance of winning.
    But there is a risk of also demotivating
    What do we do to motivate those that know they do not have a chance to win?
    How often do the same people win each year?
  • A culture of superiority
    Certain students are held in high regard. Their strengths are recognized and valued on a regular basis
    Think they are better than others.
    What does this do for culture? For society?
  • Competition – we, as adults, CHOOSE to enter competitions.
    There are times when it is ok, and even important to be competitive... But to say that LIFE IS COMPETITIVE IS FALSE. we need to be able to compete when we need to and support/collaborate when we need to... And know when and where to do this. Cite examples 
    Real world? Whose reality? And a 2 hour ceremony at the end of the year is what is preparing our kids for the real world? I think what they mean is that kids need to know how to compete for jobs..
  • In the world outside, there is often competition between organizations… and this can be healthy.
    Competition within organizations can be harmful.
    Johnson and Dickinson did research on employee of the month awards… they found that
    “employee of the month awards are an ineffective motivational tool and has other detrimental effects as a result of unhealthy competition”
    Gubler, Larkin, and Pierce found that when employee awards were used, employees were more likely to try to game the system and those who already had a high level of performance… got worse.
  • I have lost a lot… I still suck at losing.
    No matter how much I practice, I am not very good at losing.
    But I do not disagree that we don’t always get what we want.
    We need resliliency… and this happens every day when we challenge people.
    But is an award at the end of the year, after school is over, the best tool to teach resiliency???
  • Entrepreneur and author…
    Which one does awards favour? Win when others lose…
    by helping others succeed, you might lose an award - is this what we want to have in school?
  • Win-win is how we ALL flourish as a society. This is not possible ALL the time but learning should not be a win/loss, zero-sum game.
    Scarcity vs abundance
    In a system of scarcity – we have to compete as resources run out. Learning does not run out. Learning opps should be Abundant.
    Go for the win-win
  • You either win or you lose. Period.
    The second place person could be a top performer… but still walks away with a loss.
  • Knowing this, are we ok at saying that it a particular child on a particular day is better than everyone else?
    Are we ok saying to all the kids that do not have the same opportunities that you are not as good as that person? This will motivate you to try harder!
  • Proud parent of an honour roll student.
    Social media posts
    Still proud when they miss the honour roll? Still proud when they don’t win that award?
  • At what point is it ok to “prepare kids for life beyond high school”?
    If preparing for the real world is the argument, why the heck do we have awards in elementary and middle schools? We don’t give 10 year-olds keys to our car because they will apparently have to learn this skill in “the real world”.
    We want kids to fail… and get back up. We need to challenge and support them every day… awards are not the time to do this when 1 kid is labelled the winner and everyone else has to “learn a lesson”.
  • How do we decide the winner? Percent? Popularity?
    Percents? Is this the best way to choose???
    Teachers advocating? How many are missed?
  • Our goal is not to get more people above average... But instead to raise the entire average - Shawn Achor
  • How many strengths are missed?
    What are we stating to those people who have strengths that we do not value through awards?
    The real difficulty is not finding new ways to distinguish talent - it is getting rid of the one dimensional blinders from seeing it all along. - Todd Rose
  • Is your vision and mission about the top few in select categories?
    Is it about ALL students… then how does it align?
  • If each child has their own strengths and challenges, we believe in the power of a growth mindset… how do awards fit?
    Change started before I was at the school with parents and staff. Changed in 2010
    Why? Alignment with school goals
    Hierarchy of skills, same students win and beat out others each year
    Students come with advantages and disadvantages – environment and factors beyond control
    What do we focus on – do we honour just a select few?
    If awards are the only motivator, what does that say?
    We force kids into a game that was never meant to be played as a game.. .then we decide (and argue about) the winners and losers
    Interesting concept... If everyone else loses... You win.
  • Assemblies and sharing strengths of every child. 1 assembly per month. 2-3 kids per class per month.
    Give every child a moment. Extrinsic, yes.
    But showed each child that we knew them and they were valued.
  • Not about award winners for all. Moving the focus from grades to process of learning –ongoing, no endpoint, no select “club”, why do we need to all arrive at the same time?
    What do we do now? Gr. 5 honouring assemblies – 2-3 strengths and/or interests of each child – focus on effort feedback (growth mindset), video of positives at school
    We DO NOT want to take away from those who would have been award winners... We continue to challenge and honour them but we ALSO challenge and honour those with skills in different areas.
    Not the answer but it is a start
  • We still have typical problems but Discipline way down
    Achievement leveled for 3 years and now on rise.
    “top students still doing very well”
    School culture way up.
    Last year was first group of students to never experience an awards ceremony at school.
    HS says this is the best class of leaders they have seen in a very long time.
    Guests to our school always comment on the naturally welcome, positive, respectful climate we have.
  • Story of the cousin who spoke up at our honouring ceremony.
  • Moving from awards and class act… staff did not believe it aligned with our values.
    To honouring each grade 5
    Students absolutely love it. Parents love it.
  • Post on my blog.
    10 questions
  • Go bigger
  • Smaller change
    Make it a choice
    Apply – this way students who are interested in competing can and will apply
    Need to provide kids with the chance to be challenged in areas of talent... compete if by choice (argument that is often used by people pro awards - why are athletes the only ones that are encouraged to Compete?). Offer opportunities for kids to shine in areas of choice  - challenges (Odyssey of the mind, math challenges, trades challenges, art showcases, music and dance festivals, writing contests, etc) while also providing oops for each student to shine in some way (learning showcase)
  • Small step
    Norm referenced vs criteria referenced
    If you happen to have a number of kids excelling… whey not honour them all? Why do we feel the need to choose ONE?
    Don’t give one to EVERYONE so maybe this is a small step.
  • Take a page out of the arts
  • In the end… we not only need to see the butterflies
    We also need to find the fireflies…
    We see kids soaring in school – the ones that are excelling in that narrow criteria – easy to see
    Challenge is to find the fireflies – only shine in certain conditions
    Create the conditions for these students to shine more often.
    For many of our students – an awards ceremony at the end of the year is not the best chance to shine.
  • Have realized the link through many of the areas of interest for me
  • Start the conversation
    Parents, students, staff
    People will oppose… but all good ideas start with resistance.
    Take a risk
  • Create space, take a risk.
    As you likely have heard, students like Dom and Amy have had a huge impact on me as an educator.
    Amy’s advice to slow down, be interested, be interesting, and more random has stuck with me for 2 years now.
    Amy is still in school with similar struggles… but something changed a few months ago.
  • Pictures of students learning and growing together
    Kids collaborating
    Kids celebrating their personal best
    All students are included, valued and honoured.
    Student learning is on display for ALL kids.
  • Picture a school in which students have intrinsic drive
    Where all students are valued and honoured
    Where a wide variety of excellence is shared beyond the school walls
    Where kids are proud of who they are and what they bring to schools…
    Where all kids feel a sense of belonging
    This is a school I strive for…
    This is a school that we are on our way to becoming…
    This is a school that has a positive culture that does not rely on rewards and awards…
    And this is the types of school our students need.
  • Slides will be up on my website.
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