Points systems & Rewards



Robin Grille – ‘Rewards and Praise: The Poisoned Carrot’

Star-Chart Treatment, where a child is given a star for good behaviour has long been seen as a productive way to reinforce good behaviour patterns. This is true but only on the surface. We tested this theory in the beginning with animals,  we’d train rats to run mazes, pigeons to peck at coloured buttons, and dogs to salivate at the sound of the dinner bell. Just because we have modern pyschological know-how that has enabled us to manipulate children’s behaviour, thoughts and emotions in the same way as we can teach a seal with a few sarines and a little flattery, to balance a ball on it’s nose, it doesn’t mean we should. We are not concerned with quality of relationship we develop with a lab-rat, nor their self-esteem, their sense of autonomy or independence. This the means the control method of  reward, praise and reinforce, therefore, falls to pieces. This is backed up in many ways but one way to point it out easy is the fact that a students’ performance was undermined when offered money for better marks. In the classroom, reward system create competition, jealousy, envy, and mistrust. Rewards or prizes for ‘good’ performance are a threat to co-operation or collaboration.

  • Reward systems suppress a students’ creativity, and general impoverish the quality of their work. Rewards can kill creativity because they discourage risk-taking.
  • The more we want the reward, the more we come to dislike what we have to do to get it.

Children can also feel manipulated if they are praised in a certain way. This is because compliments are loaded with our expectation that the child must improve in some way. The child who is used to being praised begins to feel inadequate if the praise doesn’t come. Praise is the sweet side of authoritarian parenting, it reduces the relationship to of controller and controlled. It sets the stage for manipulative and dishonest relationships later in life. Manipulation erodes the functions of mutual trust, vulnerability and transparency, which are vital to healthy intimate relationships. Why bother to find out why a child refuses to go to sleep at our convenience, (Is he afraid? is she feeling lonely? is he still hungry? etc. ) If we can simply reward him or her with a trinket for going to bed on time? It feels easier to fudge over the underlying problem by using a bribe. This gives the clear message that we are not interested in how he or she feels.

Children are born with an insatiable zest for mastery, and each new attainment fills them with delight. (Give the accessory at the beginnning of learning instead of the end?) Your appreciation touches your child more deeply when it experience in terms of your feelings, therefore you should use terms like ‘I like the colours you chose’ or ‘I love how you sang that song’. An ‘I’ statement keeps you from holding a position of power over your child., positive feedback is best for your relationship with your child when it is offered spontaneously, praising and rewarding are not good, they should be replaced with appreciation and acknowlegment. Therefore it is proven rewards and praise for ‘good behaviour’ or ‘good performance’ simply get in the way.

What have I learnt?

Accessories (the rewards for participation)  are a huge part of the user journey and experience within Frog Voyage, but the user shouldn’t be implicated by the negatives portrayed above. Therefore it is absolutely vital that the rewards are given before they accomplish a task. For example, if the user were to open the Italian section, they would see the landing page, where they can collect an accessory for their character before they start, this is also a means of attraction as it allows users to see what they are studying while they are still currently studying it, not after they’ve completed that ‘section’. There are no marks to be achieved from the site, therefore there is no ‘completion level’ and all users, regardless of intelligence are equal.

The language used through the site should reflect this research, there should be no compliments loaded with expectation, nor should there be any compliments that are only related to success. For example, on completion of a quiz, their Frog mentor that guides them through the site could say something like “Oh great, you just learnt about Paris, did you enjoy it?” or “I really love that hat, it suits you!”. Using methods where we connect with the child on an emotional level by asking them about their feelings, or complimenting them on something they did well during the activity, not on completing the activity.