Monday, August 6, 2012

Extrinsic Rewards and Badges without Choice

Did you hear the cursing? I've begun to write my research paper on the impact of readers choice awards on student engagement and motivation. To prepare myself, I reviewed all the notes I took for my literature review. Here were some findings.

The findings of this study suggest that reading incentive programs are widely used and, as they are currently implemented in public school settings, may violate some of the most important principles of motivation theory and literacy engagement.
Fawson, P.C., and Moore, S.A. (1999). Reading incentive programs: beliefs and practices. Reading Psychology. 20 325-340. Retrieved from Taylor & Francis Group.

When adults share books that are personal favourites, it helps students identify with the idea of books as a part of life and not just a part of school, thereby demonstrating the richness and fulfillment that books can bring to their lives.
Whittingham, J. L and Huffman, S. (2009) The effects of book clubs on the reading attitudes of middle school students. Reading Improvement. 46(3) 130-136. Retrieved from ProQuest Education Journals.

Engaged readers have deep-seated motivational goals, which include being committed to the subject matter, wanting to learn the content, believing in one's own ability, and wanting to share understanding for learning.
Guthrie, J. T., Alao, S., and Rinehart, J.M. (1997) Engagement in reading for young adolescents. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. 40 (6) 438-446. Retrieved from ProQuest Education Journals.

 My point to these quotes above (and I had many others that were similar) is that well-read educators should know that extrinsic rewards are not as effective as intrinsic rewards and can actually be counterproductive. Why, then, do some educators, especially ones admired and lauded by others, insist on using the same old vehicle with just a new paint job?

Achievements in video games are cool - but they are only cool if players actually WANT them, as part of the whole game experience. My son is a big video game fan. As I recently wrote on my other public blog, these badges and trophies can be both wonderful and annoying. They can also be either an extrinsic reward or an intrinsic reward, based on how they are presented and by whom. If the player has finished the main storyline of the game and is interested personally in unlocking new content or playing further with the game, it can be intrinsically motivating. If my husband or I insisted that the boy get certain trophies in Lego Batman, Mario Kart, and Super Smash Brothers Brawl, and tied things like extra desserts to unlocking these achievements, then this would be an extrinsic motivational tool. Which one do you think my son would respond to best?

In recent weeks, I have become increasingly distressed by a blog that I follow (why do I follow this blog when it stresses me so?). The blog is about gamification and it treats the educators that participate with the same method they advocate for the students. It pushes badges and points to the extreme, even evaluating readers' comments and ranking them, with the "winner" getting a prize. I don't contribute to online discussions so I can "get loot". I don't want to have a conversation about James Paul Gee's book and have my post evaluated. Despite having a "kewl gam3r" format, these educational practices are definitely "old skool" and counter-productive. I don't want to be a part of professional development that involves a "Leader Board". I am a Tribes TLC (c) trainer and there are times when competition is good and healthy, but this is not the case here.

It's at this point that I hear Liam O'Donnell's voice echoing in my head: remember my post from a few weeks ago when I said that instead of debating those who are taking a misguided approach, I should show others a method that respects games, gamers, and education? Well, here's a chance to try games-based learning from an inquiry viewpoint: this is your invitation to attend the Gaming Educators Open House on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. EST. If you want to learn more about our GamingEdus Minecraft server, check Liam's blog, Feeding Change, and see some awesome videos of the crazy things we've done in the really fun game, Minecraft. Contact Liam, Denise Colby, or me for details on how to join the Minecraft fun and play in the world that Technascribe, Praxismaxis, MissColby, Liragrim, Darkana, Phisagrim, Terragrim, and others inhabit.

GamingEdus Minecraft Open House: August 21, 2012 (7-9 pm)

1 comment:

  1. Hallelujah and thank you, Diana!!! Your comments about reading programs that offer extrinsic incentives is right on. I'll be sharing this post!