Nikki Sabiston, of the Teaching in Progress blog explains why she does not use behavior charts for 5 main reasons:
- They track behavior, but they do not change it.
- For kids who are not able to adhere to the cultural expectations of school, the chart can be absolutely demoralizing. And this seems to be mostly boys
- The chart makes the assumption, before the kid ever crosses the threshold of the classroom door, that he is going to misbehave.
- As much as we try to make that chart seem like a 'reminder' and not a negative thing, it is still embarrassing to many children.
- Even kids who always stay on 'green', often feel stress and worry as they watch some of their classmates repeatedly move on the chart.
Personally I find the idea of behavior charts a bit contradictory. I never call out grades because a student's grades are private. I share them one-on-one or written on a rubric they can read. Just as I don't want the cashier at the pharmacy to call out my medications before I pay for them, calling out grades can be traumatic for some kids. Behavior charts put the behavior of all out in the open.
How would I feel if the administration had behavior charts in the faculty rooms noting lateness, time I may have been on youtube instead of lesson planning, how many meetings I have attended or ditched, or the personal days I have taken versus medical. In this light you can see it's not a kind nor a fair thing to do.
The Authentic Parenting blog defines three potential problems with using bribes:
No self- discipline: Children that receive bribes to brush teeth, hang up their towels, buckle their seat belts and so on, don’t create any sense of responsibility for self, they also don’t feel in charge of their own self. It could so easily lead to an attitude of “why bother until the carrot is dangling?”
“What’s in it for me!” Some children quickly realize that they can get a lot more for a little more drama. Clench those teeth just a little longer, maybe I can get even more coins! Refuse to buckle up, last time I got a bouncy ball, maybe this time I can get a Barbie!
Sweet Misery -Too often children are bribed when they are crying, upset or having a tantrum except that instead of having their needs met with empathy and having a chance to go through all the emotions and feel better, children are hushed with a lolly or a cookie or the promise of a new toy. Unfortunately for many children this means they learn to simply push their feelings away instead of processing and feeling which is so important to develop self-regulation. The bit of candy here to drive away the tears unfortunately has the potential to lead to a whole slew of poor coping methods like comfort eating, smoking, drinking to name a few.
Edutopia agrees and offers 6 reasons why rewards don't work:
1) Satiation; That more of something is required to get the same effect.
2) Addiction; Satiation leads to addiction. Many children become addicted to rewards and will not work without them. When children expect them, they become dependent on them.
3) Finishing; Bribes tend to produce "finishers" rather than "learners." Children are more interested in finishing their work and getting the reward than actually learning what the lesson is designed to teach.
4) Manipulation; We do not like it when children try to manipulate us. Yet when we manipulate them, we teach them how to be master manipulators.
5) Increased Pressure; The more we tell children how good they are, the greater the fall if they cannot live up to all that praise. Pressure leads to insecurity. It is far better to build confidence from the inside by designing activities that challenge children than it is to simply reward them.
6) Bribes; Reduce choices and the skill of making them. When we offer an incentive for a child to do something, then we are deciding for that child what we want him to do. Bribes are threats in disguise. Withholding rewards can be used as a threat hammer very easily. The truth is that threats and bribes are two sides of the same coin: control.
Smart Classroom Management points out the perils of rewarding students for good behavior, echoing some of the sentiments above:
1. Rewards turn good behavior into work, effectively makes good behavior less desirable… and more like an effort your students deserve to be paid for.
2. Rewards lead to entitlement and if they’re getting a reward for it, there must not be anything in it for them.
3. Rewards cheapen the intrinsic motivation to behave. it puts a price tag on the priceless.
4. Rewards lead to more and more and more. What is exciting and fun at first, becomes boring and not a big deal after awhile. Therefore, you have to continue to increase the payment or the frequency of the reward.
What should be done instead?
Edutopia offers three suggestions:
1) Show Appreciation
I believe we have a responsibility and obligation as teachers to evaluate students' academic performance and behavior. When we have positive things to say, there is a great difference between manipulating students to behave in a certain way by giving them things when they comply, and expressing true feelings of appreciation for something well done.
I will add that it is important that all praise be clear, direct, and helpful. Instead of saying "good job!" offer specific praise like, "I love the way you are blending your colors to create the illusion of shadow." Or "You did very well on your exam, I see that you really understand the art elements!" Or for behavior you want to encourage, "Jane, I wanted to say you have really stayed focused on your work today and didn't get out of your seat even once, I want you to know I noticed, and I appreciate the effort." I have more on focused praise on THIS POST.
2) Introduce Appropriate Challenge
Providing appropriate challenge to students beats any form of reward in motivating students. The trick is to find the most appropriate level of challenge. Too easy builds little pride, and too hard leads to frustration. The best way to do this is to offer various levels of challenge and let the student choose, like a video game with various difficulty levels.
This challenge in the art room can take the form of making sure EVERY project has some personal connection. If students can have input then they will care and focus more. I have more on that in THIS POST.
3) Get to Know Your Students and Show Genuine Care
Think of the best teachers you ever had from kindergarten through graduate school. They all had one thing in common; they genuinely cared about your welfare. They talked with you about your feelings around school issues, your successes, failures and needs. They laughed with you, encouraged you and, most importantly, touched your heart. How many teachers' names can you still remember, visualizing their faces in your mind? No doubt it's those who made you feel part of something bigger than yourself, like a family does. Can any reward or bribe come close to these feelings as motivators?
I began to do this myself by making a concerted effort to sit with my students while we were focused on our work-time. This gave me a chance to learn about their interests, goals, issues, and thought. It has even spurred on some new lessons because of what I learned from listening to their desires. More on that HERE.
Whole books have been written on the topic but I have more on these two links, HERE and HERE. This poster below that I made can be a nice start to a conversation about participation in art class and what your student motivations are. If you click it, you will be taken to a page with more posters like this one.
No. I am not including those end of the year awards for "Best This & Best That," and that may be how you use rewards, but I do not use gift/food rewards for behaviors or work in my class for many of the reasons I described above. There are two exceptions for me.
#1. I DO bring in food at the very end of the year to "pay" students for helping me organize and close out my room for the year. (This is not regular cleaning they do daily when they use supplies, but deep organization of cabinets, etc) These are made available during my "off periods" and available to them if they have a study hall or lunch during those periods. It is my way of paying them for their non-class related work without handing out cash.
#2. The other thing I do is order some bulk fun items from Naeir and give one to students on their birthday regardless of their grades, behavior, participation, etc. They get it from me because it's their birthday. Summer birthdays get theirs the last day of school.
Those who say they do stickers or candy for elementary kids and insist it's necessary, have not dug very deep into their "bag of tricks" as teacher, I'd argue in return. Rewards for doing what you're supposed to do, behaving like you're supposed to, etc, to me, is a band-aid at best, and destructive at worst.
I fully understand that EVERY situation is unique, and you must do what you need to do to survive your unique situation. In that case I offer this up as an ideal to strive for, not a measurement of your teaching success.