December 18, 2006

Rewards and Positive Reinforcement no good?

Posted in classroom management, education books at 9:36 pm by mrsmauck

I’ve been meditating on my classroom management style lately, as I get closer to heading into interviews, and as I read Pat Conroy’s entertaining, inspiring teacher memoir, The Water is Wide. Browsing some lists on Amazon the other day, I came across a classroom managment book called Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn. I had been trying to mesh the ideas Harry Wong proclaims to be so foolproof when it comes to controlling the kiddies’ behavior with what I’ve read in The Passionate Teacher about course content being the ultimate discipline tool. Punished by Rewards seems to contest one of Wong’s chief tenets: that positive reinforcement and rewards will get students to work hard. Here’s what I finally figured out about what I think about Wong: How do his procedures and systems encourage self-discipline? I think too often, they require a lot of organization on the part of the teacher, and a bunch of memorization and Pavlovian responses from students. Anyway, this book by Kohn says these three things are what truly make students motivated, disciplined, and respectful:

  1. Content, or curriculum.
  2. Collaboration.
  3. Choices.

I think I agree with this. I’m not going to establish elaborate reward systems before I begin teaching. I think I’ll do some sort of consequences chart for students to see what could result from behavior that disrupts learning, and then focus mostly on teaching the students in a way that is motivating and challenging and requires us to work as a team, while still allowing them to make choices that suit their talents and interests.

Conroy, by the way, is keeping me in stitches! I love how he is such a great example of all these modern educational theories like mulitiple intelligences and individualized instruction, while still calling the kids punks and saying “Bullcrap” when they tell him that a rattlesnake can eat a man. I just finished reading a section when he said one of his sacred tenets of education was that the teacher should always purvey an air of insanity and eccentricity to keep the kids on their toes. Hooray! It’s finally okay to be the nut I really am!



  1. Laura said,

    You know, I’ve just started coming around to the same conclusion about Wong that you did. In fact, it was wandering the aisles of Wal-Mart today that it hit me: it just ain’t my style.

    I still haven’t gotten hold of Kohn’s book or the Passionate Teacher, but I’ve been reading Setting Limits in the Classroom, and I feel like I have to do a lot less coming up with intricate consequences and rules and can have just the one simple “choices” heuristic to fall back on when the kiddos start to bug me.

    Still, if you get to skip the first tragic year–THREE years–of Wong-induced scrambling, I say to you: Not fair!

  2. Anonymous said,

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