Children in secondary school are well aware of the rewards and punishment based educational system. They will get a sticker for doing their homework and will be sent home with a note to their parents if they have failed to complete it.
This system for rewarding good behavior and task completion and punishing bad behavior or failure to complete a task has been used in the education system for ages for motivating students.
Actually, there is another way to help motivate students by teaching them how to develop intrinsic motivation, or in other words to be motivated from within rather than from rewards and punishments. This type of motivation where the student actually feels motivated from within to learn or behave properly can be stronger than the motivation which stems from fear of being punished or striving for rewards.
This type of intrinsic motivation is developed based on the social emotional learning and choice theories. The book “Choice Theory” by William Glasser explores this matter in depth. It details on human motivation and on the basis of human motivation.
The theory supported by Glasser is that human behavior is based on internal wants and needs rather than on external stimuli. Also, the author supports his idea that nearly all human behavior is chosen rather than stimulated by outside factors.
The Choice theory can be applied in the educational system quite successfully. Students are expected to study, cooperate and behave in order to comply with the career readiness and college programs, but it is the students who choose whether or not to behave or cooperate.
The other tenet of the Choice theory is that humans are genetically driven to satisfy their basic needs for: survival, power, love and belonging, freedom as well as fun. The first need is the actual physical need which keeps us alive, the other ones are psychological, but according to Glasser the most important need is love and belonging.
Since the 90’s more educators are coming to realize how important love and belonging actually is for the students and for their motivation. This is why more schools are introducing social emotional learning programs for their students in order to help them feel as sense of support and belonging to the school community. By assisting students to feel closely connected to the community and to their learning, these social emotional learning programs help them move on to satisfying their other psychological needs of power, fun and freedom in the classrooms.
It is essential that when the choice option is introduced in the classroom to help the students realize that choice should be preferred over the classic punishment/reward system because the latter is simply an easy method to manipulate the behavior while choice requires a lot of time, patience and skills in order to be able to build a strong, caring and safe community in school.
Introducing choice to older students will actually teach them to take more responsibility for their own behavior and learning instead of leaving the full control over this process in the hands of the teachers.