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Rewarding kids for good grades might not be a good idea: UBC prof

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A reward is always a good way to motivate your child to do better… right?

With report card season now upon us, we’re hearing some words of caution from a professor at UBC. Sandra Mathison says you might want to hold off on offering your kids an incentive.

She says using that kind of system makes everyone involved focus on the outcome, rather than the learning itself.

Mathison points out report cards reflect an end. But she says the process of learning is more important for creating lifelong learners, “so that the grades and assessments that we do of students actually help them to understand what they know, what they’re learning, and what they need to do next.”

“[Research shows] creating conditions where there’s internal motivation — where people do things because they have intrinsic value and intrinsic interest to them — lead to better and more learning, greater creativity.”

She doesn’t think teachers should think about grades as rewards, either.

Ask lots of questions about your child’s report card, even if there are lots of A’s on it. Mathison says parents really need to be asking about and looking for more detail, regardless of whether their child gets high or low grades.

“Looking for information about more specifics, wanting to see the comments that are written… Those are oftentimes the keys to actually understanding how well your child is doing in school, and how well they’re doing in specific subject areas.”

She says parents can help by staying in contact with their child’s teacher, or making sure their child is attending to their school work in particular ways.