Maryland teachers may want to re-think how and when they reward student achievement in the classroom, according to the findings of a study released this summer on educational incentives.
Rewards systems, such as gold stars or prizes for good behavior, are a traditional classroom approach for motivating students, but a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research published in June found that students responded better to a penalty system than a reward system. Incentives programs where students could lose a reward due to bad performance were more effective than programs where students could gain a reward for good performance.
The report was based on a series of field experiments involving primary and secondary students in three Chicago-area school districts.
The report also stated that non-financial incentives were considerably more cost-effective than financial incentives for younger students, but were not effective with older students.
The study also found that if there was a delay in the students receiving the reward, the incentive lost nearly all of its motivating power.