Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Motivational Rewards: Good/Bad or Dependent on Context?

Hello fellow bloggers...I have a question(s) and thought(s) that I could use help on,  since my knowledge of youth motivation is "lacking" for a better word.  Sooooo I was having a discussion with my advisor about how an Chicago inner-city after-school group rewards youth for completing and posting their CT project on their website.  However, the reward is not what I consider typical, as it provides more parts to build more projects.  Herein lies the complication: the literature suggests that motivational rewards aren't "recommended," thus some frown upon this practice. (Does this maybe lead to feelings of entitlement?)

Granted my lack of knowledge in this field is a huge stumbling block to unpack this delimna...but a basic question arose: Should this blanket statement on motivational rewards cover all of the different learning environments (school, after-school, summer camp, museum) where so many different dynamics are at play?  And is the motivational reward system discussed in the literature been from only formal school environments?  And lastly can giving youth supplies (e.g. CT parts, paint, clay, fabric) to construct creative projects be equated to the aforementioned literature of undesirable motivational rewards?
I'm really anxious to hear everyone's thoughts! And if anyone has literature on these issues...bring it on!


  1. I guess it would be dependent on the framework your dealing with. I'm sure it might be frowned upon if your begging and pleading with the kids in the after-school program to actually engage with the activity, but i'm assuming this is not the case.

    It's also dependent on what the reward is. So your not giving them money (or candy) or seems they are being given a chance to continue to work on something that they enjoy and that the 'reward' (i don't like that word) is a mediator for them to continue on making something meaningful to them and the community.

    There is TONS of literature on rewards and the like, but you may want to look at things like intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivational issues. So if your giving them something that increases their intrinsic 'motivation', that is good. But if the goal of the reward is for them to 'behave' a certain way, that is bad (in my opinion).

    There are a few ways you could look at it. From a socio-cultural standpoint of encouraging engagement and identity formation by giving them tools to create. You could also look at it from a more individual standpoint (e.g., cognitive) and look at issues of intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy (i know, i know) Also, pick up that Bandura book on my desk in the office as well as the Handbook of Competence and Motivation, that would be a great starting point as well.

  2. Hi begging involved here. I'm thinking it would be more along the lines of intrinsic motivation however I like the socio-cultural tool perspective. Thanks for the reading suggestions!