Axing the honour roll: Do rewards hinder learning?

Nov 05, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Good for St. Basil Elementary and Junior High School in Calgary, which is "doing away with all certificates and ceremonies honouring academic and athletic achievement." Why? Citing Alfie Kohn, they argue, “The research shows very clearly that 3 things tend to happen when students are encouraged to focus on getting good grades. The first is that they become less excited about the learning itself. The second is that they tend to become less likely to think deeply … The third thing that happens is when you get kids focused on grades they pick the easiest possible task when given a choice — not because they’re lazy, because they’re rational.” (I rermember graduating from the University of Calgary and finishing second for the Humanities academic achievement award - second to a person who did nothing but coursework, while I was editor of the student newspaper and participant in a wide variety of activities. Had I valued the award (or even known it existed) I may well have curtailed the best part of my education just to win some stupid trophy).


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