Shall we reward or punish? What’s the solution?

Those of us who have passed through the classical education system have been rewarded or punished in many places throughout our education. These methods, which we have seen from our teachers, have made us believe that this is the right one. In fact, if we take it from the beginning; The world we were born into, in the education we received from our parents, while feeding food, toilet training, trying to sleep, trying to get school homework done or telling things not to do while shopping, teaching the attitude that should be applied when visiting, and teaching behaviors that should not be done when visiting big relatives, sometimes with a reward. We are used to being motivated or threatened with punishment. Although we realize some mistakes in the education we receive from family, school and environment when we reach adulthood, “I’m not going to do this to my own child.”even if instinctively “The method I got from my parents is the most accurate.” We joined this cycle without realizing it. And so, the methods of child education continued, with some changes over time, but on the same basis, being passed down from generation to generation.

What Makes Reward and Punishment So Resistant Into Our Education?

When we think about this question, we may think of the years when the behaviorist school was at its strongest, namely the 1970s. Influenced by Pavlov and Thorndike, Skinner taught mice and pigeons many behaviors by giving rewards. In fact, his experiments in those years became so famous in America that other fields found, “I wonder how we can evaluate this in our own field?” goes in search. The American army asks Skiner to use pigeons in battle to teach him to press the button when a foreign object is caught on the radar, and Skinner succeeds. If many behaviors can be taught to animals with this method in the education world in the following times, the idea of ​​why we do not use the same method on children in schools begins to flare up, and thus the behavioral school enters the schools. In the 1800s the award was actually practiced from time to time in schools. But with this school, it systematically becomes an educational tool. While all systems seem to be working perfectly with this school, suddenly a contradictory voice begins to resonate in the education community. In fact, it is a voice that says that the reward is not an effective method in education, that is, on people, and that although it seems to be beneficial, on the contrary, it causes great harm to children. This voice is Prof. Edward Deci and Prof. It came from Mark Lepper. And these two professors, unaware of each other, have already started to roll up their sleeves for the experiments they will do to prove their thesis.

prof. Edward Deci Experiment

The year is 1971. Edward Deci designs an experiment with adults. He divides the university students into two groups and gives blocks to both groups. But with one difference… It gives money to one group as a reward for every meaningful shape they will create with blocks, and gives nothing to the other group. While the students are dealing with the blocks, they take time and see which group will be playing with the blocks longer. As expected, the group that wins the prize spends longer with the blocks. And there is a second part of the experiment. After the experiment is completed, the students are told that the experiment is complete and they are taken to a different room. There are also Legos and magazines, some different objects in this room. It is said that they can deal with legos or magazines if they want, and the second part of the experiment begins. And this time things change. While the group that received an award for creating shapes with blocks almost never played with the blocks, the group that was not awarded the prize continues to deal with the blocks instead of the magazines.

prof. The Mark Lepper Experiment

Mark Lepper does a similar experiment with children. Lepper divides kindergarten children into three groups and gives them colored crayons. He asks them to draw a picture. It gives ribbon and star certificates as awards to the first and second groups. He says he will reward the first group when they paint, but he gives the second group the reward after the event as a surprise. The third group gives nothing. And the result is similar. Children who know that they will receive an award are more involved in painting. But there is also the second part of the experiment. Two weeks later, these children are taken to a room with crayons and different toys. The groups are watched from behind a hidden glass. The result is that; Compared to the group that previously painted with a prize, the non-award group showed more interest in crayons and engaged in just as much excitement.

These two experiments cause a great controversy in the education world. Because there are results that prove that the classical methods are actually not as useful as it is thought. These experiments show one more thing. If the child is interested in an activity, the child’s existing internal motivation is extinguished when he is given a reward. In addition, reward and punishment create a control mechanism over the individual and the child says, “Before, during and after his constant behavior is controlled, but if things go well, I can achieve what I want.” idea prevails.

If we look at the event from a developmental point of view, one of Erikson’s personality development periods, the 0-2 age period of the baby is the period of insecurity against basic trust. During this period, the baby needs unconditional love so that it can be securely attached. However, the reward and punishment used in similar situations such as not eating the food given in this period, not sleeping when it should be, will awaken the feeling of conditional love in the baby. And the feeling of being insecure and conditionally loved will settle in. In the age of 2-4, children who are in the period of doubt and shame towards autonomy, children who have just started to walk, talk, and toilet control, while devoting themselves to exploring their environment, need to see their supporters who are with them in both wrong and right. You will be punished!” phenomenon will cause a great withdrawal in the child and a diminution in his courage. And in this period, the child, who is accepted under all circumstances, will have confidence in both himself and his environment, or on the contrary, he will have doubts about himself and his environment. At the age of 4-6, children are in the stage of guilt versus entrepreneurship. The levels of exploration and curiosity are very high. Children may have a lot of curiosities and questions about their gender identity, especially during this period. If the child’s questions are met in a strict and punitive manner during this period, the feeling of guilt will begin to prevail in the child and there will be breaks in his assertiveness. Children at the age of 6-12 are in the stage of success versus inferiority. This is the period when reward and punishment methods are most frequently applied to children. A child’s desire for success increases with school. And as he experiences the feeling of success, his self-confidence will increase and he will focus more on his school responsibilities to experience this feeling more. They need to be appreciated for their successes and to be motivated by the right guidance in their failures. It should be ensured that the child’s needs are met with full support and that he or she does not feel inferior. The feeling of success that the child achieves as a result of his effort is already a motivating factor for the child to strive for the next task. However, while there is internal motivation, the reward given to the child creates an imbalance in the child and allows him to perform the desired behavior with the attractiveness of the reward, while the reward given as a reinforcer will cause the child to stop the behavior when the reward does not feel the effect of the first day. Or vice versa, the punishment used when the child does not perform the behavior expected from the child is the feeling of inferiority in the child, “I can’t do it anyway.” will cause a complex and the child will say, “Let me endure the punishment and not strive for the behavior expected of me so that I can avoid this feeling of worthlessness.” will make up his mind. Children between the ages of 12 and 18 are in the period of identity confusion versus identity gain. Children in this period want to experience the feeling of being a separate individual by getting rid of the influence of their parents during their adolescence years. “Who am I? What is my purpose of existence? What are my goals?” they try to establish their identity through similar quests. During this period, parents may be worried about their children’s efforts to become independent and may enter into conflict with their children. The most basic need of children in these stages is to be given the right to choose within the limits of the education they have received from their parents and their environment until this age. It is allowed to choose freely. Otherwise, the control metabolisms exerted on the child will cause the child to feel that he has no right to choose and is worthless.

In groups where a job is done with a reward, competition will occur among individuals, and competition will cause hostility among opposing groups. It will reduce the value of the work that is wanted to be done and turn into an effort given only for the reward. While a sense of worthlessness and accepted helplessness develop in children who do not win the award, narcissism may develop in children who can often win the award. Or, if the child thinks he can’t win the prize anyway, he may not even need to try. Under normal circumstances, no matter what developmental stage the child is in, success as a result of an effort gives pleasure. With the support and right guidance given to the child from the environment, the child is encouraged to strive for a higher performance, and the child develops as he/she succeeds and succeeds as he/she develops. Children and families who catch this cycle and internal control do not need reward and punishment at all.

So why are rewards and punishments continued in the system despite all these development barriers?

In fact, these methods are the easiest solution to the job. If the child does not want to do a behavior, educators or families will only seemingly solve the problem with reward or punishment, instead of resolving the root cause of the problem. Thus, families feel relieved by thinking that they are doing their responsibilities. But the facts are: all problems are just hidden under the mop with a broom.

I have already told you about my adopted theorist, Albert Bandura. Bandura says; “Children do not learn behavior with reinforcements such as rewards, punishments, or praise. Because children do many behaviors that are not reinforced, or they may stop behaviors taught by reinforcement after a while. Because children learn by model, by imitation.” If the child does not perform a behavior that is expected from the child, for example, does not read a book, it is necessary to look after the family. When did the child get acquainted with the idea of ​​reading a book? Was it just an assignment given by the teacher when he started school? Is it just an action for reward? Or, on the contrary, is it an activity that parents witness frequently reading and that people do with pleasure and interest? The child does not do what he does not see and imitates what he sees. And it should never be forgotten that; Children are trained by sight, not by ear. If we want to give children internal motivation, we can take the first step by knowing and understanding their developmental needs well. We can enable the child to taste development by assigning tasks at the next level of his/her level and supporting him/her in the process. Basically, it’s not the reward that should be given, it’s the right feedback. In other words, a higher level target is shown by emphasizing effort and intention in a process that is going well. By supporting the process, not the end product, the message is always with us, no matter what the result is. The child is taught to self-assess and take responsibility in the process. Thus, regardless of the presence or absence of reward or punishment, the child will strive for his/her own goals in line with his/her capacity and interest and achieve success.

Finally, it should not be forgotten that routines are very important at every developmental stage. In infancy; nutrition, sleep, in childhood; friendship relations, communication styles, leisure times, school age; Sleep hours, responsibilities such as homework and similar periodic needs should be created in line with the individual differences of the child. Thus, the feeling of trust in the child will prevail and uncertainty will disappear. However, within this order and within the limits, the child will be given the right to choose, and an early intervention will be provided to the developmental conflicts that may arise periodically in a democratic family environment. In short, reward negatively affects development and learning. It also inhibits existing potential.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.