FAQ re Awards & Rewards
The basic principles and practices are valid at all levels but the A&R applications are best for:
Early and middle secondary school. A&R can help to start good school habits in the early years of secondary schooling. The program can be maintained in the later years but the style and atmosphere needs to change to suit greater maturity- e.g. certificates can change to a more employment oriented style and the program would have to have a more appropriate explanation and context.
Small, junior primary schools students would seldom need such formal processes.
Yes. The success rate was 100%. That is, 100% application at all stages of the lessons.
Obviously this would not always be the case but it happened to be so with these classes and in these cases, the awards and general practices had created significant change.
Isn't a section for detentions a bit out of place in claims of positive classrooms?
Most social organisations have rules and consequences whether needed or not. A study done some decades ago but not refuted to our knowledge came to the conclusion that the schools that were most stress-free were the most bureaucratic -that is, the schools where the rules and application were clear cut rather than reliant on personal decision making. Legal codes are considered major advances in human history. Schools need 'legal codes'. There are several sections for sanctions because these types of sanctions are used and are needed in schools. They may not be needed often but they are needed nonetheless.
Much of poor student behaviour comes with time wasting in the classroom and the consequent personal dissatisfaction. It is hard to feel good about oneself if doing and achieving nothing. If these issues can be solved the need for sanctions is usually decreased.
Might your program actually do the opposite from what you intend? That is, make detention giving so easy that teachers use them as an easy option?
Yes that is a possibility and it would have harmful effects. Our goal is to reduce the need for consequences- (eliminate detentions!).
(As a response to this question, we have added a new page called Research and included extracts from an article from Kansas University which puts these issues into perspective. It talks about the differences between punishment and logical consequences and the need for 'related, respectful and reasonable' consequences. It adds important examples of how to put the ideas into practice. We liked it and think extracts from the original material would be very useful for schools.)
Awards seem like bribes...
Everyone likes their work to be acknowledged. We all record student misdemeanors, poor or good test results. To develop productive effort and ongoing involvement in learning is to develop strong life habits.
Competition has its place in learning..
Awards for coming top of the class are particularly useful for those students who are capable of coming top but that leaves many others. The program does not exclude competition. The general awards are set by the school/teacher and could be for whatever the school/teacher decides. The daily classroom is a place of learning for all students, regardless of ability or skill level. It needs to emphasize personal learning, cooperation and security for student to take risks. Students should be able to learn and teachers should be able to teach and this requires cooperation as well as competition.
You aim for student engagement but you don't mention an engaging curriculum-
Work practices awards was the strategy that led to the most involved students in our case study. It did what curriculum change did not. Habits are hard to break- many social or family stresses work against learning. Some curriculum trends said to be engaging may have little to do with substantial learning. Choice is a common theme but choice doesn't compensate for lack of quality, variety, well structured material and so on. Independent online learning can appear student centred, be exciting and provide infinite choice but be a study in cut and paste. It all depends. Schools can have a superb curriculum but be unable to break the poor work habits and unproductive classroom behaviour of some students.
You emphasise student productivity, active learning. Could that become a bit heavy going for students ?
Yes. Productive work can be varied, stimulating and satisfying but it can also be repressive. Everyone works best with breaks. Also, for some students a 10 minute productive spell is a major achievement. Fun activities or different activities are valuable. Moving, even breaks for eating healthy snacks can be just as important in secondary schools as primary but they don't happen as frequently. Primary schools prepare older students to do without breaks but it might be better for secondary students to have more.