stickers and stars - how effective are rewards - Alfie Kohn

Stickers and Stars — How Effective are Rewards? – #readilearn

Don’t you love it when you find someone who not only shares your ideas but extends them in ways that challenge and make sense at the same time? I do.

I was recently introduced (in the virtual world) to educator Alfie Kohn. First, I listened to his book Punished by Rewards and am now listening to Unconditional Parenting. The bonus with both books is that Kohn narrates them, so the ideas come across exactly as he intended, and it sounds like he is presenting rather than reading. These books are great for both parents and teachers as well as others in any form of managerial role. I wish I’d had the opportunity of reading Kohn’s work before I became a teacher or a parent for the joy it would have given me in sharing and affirming ideas.

If you are a teacher or parent who questions the real value of offering children stars or stickers in the hope of motivating them or of grading the work they turn in, you will find much of interest in Kohn’s work.  You could begin by exploring his website or dive straight into his articles and books as I did.

Here is an interview he did on Oprah in 2013 about his book Punished by Rewards. It includes some interesting perspectives from teachers and parents with whom you may or may not agree.

Continue reading: Stickers and Stars — How Effective are Rewards? – readilearn

21 thoughts on “Stickers and Stars — How Effective are Rewards? – #readilearn

  1. Jennie

    Alfie is absolutely right. When the teacher/parents devises the sticker chart, it’s really for them to get the child to do what they want. The child is not vested at all, and ends up feeling oppressed. Did I use stickers in my class? Early on, and it never felt quite right.

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  2. Pingback: Does a substitute fulfil a promise? | Norah Colvin

  3. Patricia Tilton

    Interesting article with much to contemplate as a teacher and parent.. The title of the article really grabs your attention. Kids like to know that they have done well, but I think it has to be used during special times. The brain likes rewards too — the rush of adrenalin — so I’m sure that plays a role in it too. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for joining in the discussion with some interesting thoughts, Patricia. I agree. We do like to know that we’ve done well. But sometimes (most times) that knowledge is the best reward.

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  4. Anne Goodwin

    Sorry I haven’t had time to watch the video, but I’m continually interested in this thread on your blog. I think the behaviourists would agree that punishment is pointless because it’s ineffective (as well as degrading) and most would maintain that you have to choose the right reward to match the person – I imagine some will work for stickers while others might be insulted by the very idea!

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    1. Norah Post author

      No worries, Anne. The video is only there for those who are interested. I wonder about the behaviourists and what they think. I think the rewards and punishments might sit with them.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Jacqui, I’ve listened to authors read fiction and non-fiction and heard non-author narrators read them too. I would choose an author reading over a non-author reading any day, but it’s really the book I choose regardless of who does the narration. Mostly I’m happy with it, but sometimes I have to change the intonation in my head when I think the narrator gets it wrong. 🙂

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  5. petespringerauthor

    I like a lot of what Kohn has to say. I agree with many of his views on rewards, although I admit that I used them occasionally in my class. As the parent on the video found out, they have to be used selectively, or kids learn to expect them for everything. I’ve had this discussion with so many educators over the years. If it is used purely for controlling purposes, I agree with Kohn.

    One of the questions I’m left with is how is this different than paying adults to work? Plenty of people go to jobs they hate purely for the paycheck.

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    1. Anne Goodwin

      Interesting point, Pete, about the parallels between working for a salary, as many must do. Maybe there should be stickers for the unpleasant but necessary jobs, while other activities bring their own rewards?

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    2. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your wonderful comment, Pete. I’m pleased you found aspects of the video interesting. I tend to agree with what you have said. I used rewards in my classrooms too, but not in quite the same way as some other do. However, having listened to Kohn, I realise I could have done things much better as both a parent and a teacher. I’m always willing to learn and improve. Sadly, I can’t go back in time. I just hope any damage was minimal. 🙂
      I had the same question about pay for work. I think Alfie may have addressed it, but I can’t remember what he said. He was more focused on the bonuses and other incentives that encourage competition rather than cooperation between employees.
      This article addresses that issue: https://www.alfiekohn.org/article/best-results-forget-bonus/
      I haven’t seen anything yet about pay. I know someone suggested if that was the case, they needn’t pay him. I remember he laughed, but I can’t remember the rest of his response. I’m obviously not using the correct search terms because I haven’t been able to find it and it’s impossible to find quotes in audiobooks. 🙂

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      1. petespringerauthor

        Thanks for the article. At least we’re open-minded enough to change—not everyone is. I’m sure you’re kidding about your “damage.” I’ll bet your kid(s) never had to worry about feeling loved.

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  6. Erica/Erika

    A wonderful introduction to Allie Kohn. I am now curious to learn more. Wow, “…make good decisions by making decisions…”. A great deal of wisdom and obviously experience and knowledge in the quotes you shared. I agree with you, Norah, I wish I had this information when I was a new Mother. Like Oprah says, “revolutionary.” As soon as I saw his face, I know I have seen this interview. I have watched every single Oprah show. Lol

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Erica. I was driven to learn more when I first heard of Alfie Kohn too, and now I have a thirst for learning even more. There is so much available on his website and he has published many books. I think I might dive into a third when I’m finished the one I’m listening to now. 🙂

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