Modifying Behavior Through Extrinsic
Rewards in Elementary School Age
Kayla Tillotson

SE 5181 Collaborative Action Research in Special

notepad. pencil grip.e.). Rewards are often used as a way for teacher to motivate students to act appropriately within the classroom. bouncy ball. . pencil. Students can visually see themselves being rewarded for their behaviors. She uses a “Marble Jar” to regulate positive or desirable student behaviors. But do they actually work? Further examining the use of extrinsic rewards will help to answer this question. Students work towards certain levels in the jar and when these levels are met they receive an extrinsic reward (i. 2 Modifying Behavior Through Extrinsic Rewards Abstract Within this research proposal the author will take an in depth look at the relationship between extrinsic rewards and behavior modification. etc. The research will determine whether or not the extrinsic rewards motivate children to exhibit positive behaviors within the classroom setting.

. But how do we get each student to do that? After talking with several regular education and special education teachers. The research will focus on her unwanted behaviors which include: failure to initiate tasks independently and excessive excuses to avoid work. If a student cannot behave appropriately within a classroom setting they may struggle with inappropriate behaviors within the community setting. it was determined that obtaining the desired behaviors from students is not always easy. This student has been diagnosed with ADD and currently takes medication each morning when she gets to school. This study will determine whether the extrinsic rewards are enough to transform this student’s negative behaviors into more desirable behaviors. Our goal as educators is to guide children to become contributing members of society. they have to first behave in an appropriate manner. When the jar is filled to certain levels the student will be awarded an extrinsic reward. What rewards will students work for? Are rewards too much like bribes? Do rewards actually work? Many elementary school teachers find themselves asking these questions every day. The student will earn marble for positive behaviors and lose marbles for unwanted behaviors. The research will look at the frequency of these behaviors before any interventions are introduced and the frequency after a “Marble Jar” reward system is in place. This study will research that final question: do rewards actually work? More specifically do extrinsic rewards work in modifying unwanted student behaviors? The following study will focus on one female second grade student. Rewards are often used as a way for teachers to motivate students to act appropriately within the classroom. 3 Modifying Behavior Through Extrinsic Rewards Modifying Behavior Through Extrinsic Rewards in Elementary School Age Children In order for any student to be successful within the classroom setting.

The research showed that the extrinsic rewards motivated students to come to class prepared with their Accelerated Reading book. Another study focusing on extrinsic rewards was conducted with eighth grade language arts students. 2012) looked at the work of a college professor. There does not seem to be one strong consensus regarding the effectiveness of extrinsic rewards and their influence of behavior modification. cautioned individuals who are looking to use extrinsic rewards. This study also showed that when students know there is a reward they will attempt to take the shortest means to get to that reward. Guinee found that students were more apt to participate during class discussion simply because they were receiving “bonus points” for their contributions. He decided to reward empty “bonus points” to his college students whenever they made interesting or well thought-out contributions to class discussions. Student motivation to participate increased. These bonus points had zero influence on the students’ class grade. We want the behavior to become internalized. which in turn increased the value and quality of class discussion. It was expressed that behaviors will only last the duration in which the rewards last. One study (Guinee. The research showed that once the extrinsic rewards stops one should expect the desired behavior to stop as well. . 4 Modifying Behavior Through Extrinsic Rewards Review of the Literature Several studies have been conducted in the past looking at the idea of extrinsic rewards and how they affect student behaviors. While looking further into this study the author. Data was collected for this action research to determine the value of an extrinsic reward as a self-management tool for motivating eighth grade language arts students. Rejholec (2002). As educators this is not the goal when modifying behavior. However. These studies have been conducted on various different age groups using various different rewards.

The research showed growth in all areas of behavior concern due to the note system. Haywood. He found that the key to changing a student’s behavior is to teach appropriate behaviors and acknowledging those good behaviors when they occur. Fields (2012) conducted a study on children in their early school years who exhibit oppositional defiant behaviors. Fields (2012) expressed the importance of making the shift from only recognizing the bad. The authors also expressed the importance of using multiple types of reinforcers including social. Instead. and tangibles. but then students reverted back to their old behaviors. This study proved that using extrinsic rewards as a reinforcer can at times become costly for the teachers. Sanders. and then rewarded. Smith. This study proved that extrinsic rewards should not just be implemented. My question to fields would be can extrinsic rewards help in reinforcing these good behaviors? . practiced. West. Kuespert. public postings. behaviors should be taught. The research found that the extrinsic rewards worked for a period of time. to recognizing and reinforcing the good. Charlton. 5 Modifying Behavior Through Extrinsic Rewards A study conducted by Wheatley. and Taylor (2009) examined the use of a “Praise Note System” where students where praised for behaving appropriately. It was also stated that “give-away” rewards were not cost effective for the teachers. group rewards. The study showed that educators tend to only catch the bad. Madecky. and Nor (2008) conducted the following study examining strategies to motivate elementary and high school students from extrinsically rewarding behaviors to intrinsically motivating behaviors. The action research was conducted in two different schools by four different teacher researchers within the same district.

but extrinsic rewards may diminish this inclination. This motivation will in turn change the student’s unwanted behaviors to more desirable behaviors. I would like to further investigate whether or not extrinsic rewards decrease unwanted student behavior? Based on the literature I expect to see that extrinsic rewards will improve the student’s motivation to perform well in the classroom setting to a certain degree. . It seems that there are mixed reviews on the use and effectiveness of extrinsic rewards. Their research determined that these infants were more likely to help during one of their tests if they had not been previously rewarded. His results supported his previous findings that money decreases intrinsic motivation while verbal reinforcements tend to enhance it. Deci believes that verbal reinforcement from the teacher will yield greater results than an extrinsic reward. in this case money. Lastly. They found that the infants who had been rewarded were less likely to help others. 6 Modifying Behavior Through Extrinsic Rewards Another study conducted by Warneken and Tomasello (2008) focused on 20-month-olds and their altruistic tendencies. They concluded that the rewards were the reason in which these infants were no longer willing to help. rather creating intrinsically interesting situations where the person is then supported through verbal and interpersonal praise should be the focus. Deci (1972) conducted a study on 96 undergraduate students. Many different variables come into play. He expressed that rewards should not be the focus. This study shows that young children have an inclination to help others.

How often are they occurring over a 30 minute period? Once the baseline data has been collected. This is a small group setting of 3 students. In this study the student would take too much time to initiate tasks and would constantly complain. Have a conversation with the student to explain what the “Marble Jar” is and what they will be working for. She takes her medication when she gets to school at 8:30 am. Once you begin the intervention. 7 Modifying Behavior Through Extrinsic Rewards Methods Participants This study will focus on one second grade girl (8 years old). collect baseline data of these behaviors. The student will earn a marble . The student will continue to work for marbles and extrinsic rewards. Next. This particular child is diagnosed with ADD. instructional data will be collected using the same checklists used to collect baseline data. Setting This study will take place in the special education classroom during the participants 30 minute reading intervention period. These are the two behaviors to be changed. Independent Variable Extrinsic rewards will be used to motivate the student and modify her behavior. introduce the intervention to the student. When the student meets the first level on the jar they will choose one extrinsic rewards from the rewards bag. Procedure The first step in the research process will be to define the behaviors to be modified. Set a day to start the intervention. Instructional data should continue to be collected for the duration of the study. A marble jar will be used to determine when the student has earned a reward.

The behaviors to be observed include the following: time to initiate task (can she beat the timer) and complaints. pencil grip. Dependent Variables: The student will exhibit more desirable behaviors. notepad. She will stay positive and no longer complain or make excuses. Every time the student beats the timer and check will be made. 1 minute. Each time she reaches a level she will earn an extrinsic reward of her choosing. Data will be collected on the change and growth of these two behaviors. bouncy ball. bracelet. Timeline January 13-31: Literature Review February 3: Conference with student to explain intervention . Rewards include the following: pencil. Data Analysis Data Collection Data will be collected through checklists and teacher observation. There are different levels designated on the jar. A checklist with clearly defined behaviors will be used each day to collect baseline data and instructional data after the intervention has been implemented. 8 Modifying Behavior Through Extrinsic Rewards every time she initiates work in a timely manner (determined by teacher) for example. The student can also loose marbles if she fails to initiate a task in the time given or if she complains throughout the 30 minute lesson. She will earn marbles when she does not complain and also for staying on task. or bean bag. She will initiate tasks independently and in a timely manner. along with every complaint that is made.

Thursday. the other Wednesday. Based on growth or regression it will be determined whether or not the use of extrinsic rewards was successful in modifying the student’s behavior. The other teacher and I will conference on Tuesdays to debrief about Friday of the . Increasing Validity Peer debriefing The student in this study works with two different teachers during her reading intervention period: one teacher Monday and Friday. 9 Modifying Behavior Through Extrinsic Rewards February 4: Begin “Marble Jar” intervention and extrinsic reward use February 4-14: Collect data on time it takes for student to get started in lesson and number of complaints throughout lessons February 14: Review the first 2 weeks of data. make changes as needed February 17: Conference with student to see how she is feeling about her progress February 17-21: Continue use of the intervention and extrinsic rewards February 24-28: Phase out extrinsic rewards and implement some intrinsic rewards March 3-7: Data analysis (observation notes in journal. tally sheets. transcript from student conferences) March 10-21: Writing results and putting the action research report/paper together Method for Data Analysis Instructional data will be collected and compared to baseline data using graphs and charts.

Results of the study could potentially shape others teaching practices within the school. 10 Modifying Behavior Through Extrinsic Rewards previous week at that Monday. This will keep both of us on the same page. We will know what to look for and what to reinforce. Accurate data recording The other teacher and I will use the same checklists with the same behaviors clearly defined. We will reward marbles and take away marbles for the same behaviors. It’s important to show her the growth she has made. and Thursday. Disseminating Results: Results will first be shared with the student. Wednesday. We will be able to compare data and the behaviors we were both observing. References . We will also conference on Thursday afternoons to debrief about the lessons on Tuesday. Results will also be shared with professionals within the school community. which will hopefully boost her confidence and self-esteem.

. extrinsic reinforcement. and inequity. Guinee. School Psychology Review. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology. W. B. Extrinsic rewards undermine altruistic tendencies in 20- month-olds. P. Madecky.. Online Submission Rejholec. December 1). Improving behavior through differential reinforcement: a praise note system for elementary school students. Smith. Sanders. M.. 24-28.. J. (1997) The effects of school-based interventions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a meta-analysis. (2008. (2008). M. (2012). & Tomasello. College Teaching. . T. 22(1). L. F. J. Intrinsic motivation. An action research on the effects of extrinsic rewards on motivation of eighth grade language arts students. S. Encouraging classroom participation with empty extrinsic rewards. & Nor.. & Taylor. Australasian Journal Of Early Childhood. Fields. T... Haywood.J. B. D.. & Eckert. 113-120. 26. 83. 5-27. R. (2009). C. (2002). Charlton. K.1037/a0013860 Wheatley. R. doi:10. 44(6). 551-571.. 1785-1788. Warneken. Education And Treatment Of Children. G. T. G.L. T.1037/h0032355 DuPaul. E. 37(4). A. (1972). Increasing elementary and high school student motivation through the use of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. doi:10. Kuespert. R. 11 Modifying Behavior Through Extrinsic Rewards Deci. Getting the balance right: The challenge of balancing praise and correction for early school years children who exhibit oppositional and defiant behavior. West. (2012). 60(2). 32(4).. Developmental Psychology.