Response by Steven Laws, Director of BESA member The Sticker Factory, to crticism of motivation stickers in the classroom by Tom Bennett, the government’s adviser on pupil behaviour:
Motivation is an important key to learning and there are a broad range of resources and approaches available to the education sector which are used not only to motivate but also to reinforce learning and to enhance the crucial aspect of communication between children, teachers and home. A good educational practitioner will select and use the resources they see fit in order to achieve the best results for their pupils. I can state this with the experience of 15 years in the classroom in secondary education.
During my time as a teacher the discussion of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation appeared regularly invoking a wide range of views that were often emotive. In my opinion, based upon my time as a teacher, the optimum approach when educating young people is to utilise both forms of motivation intelligently. Each approach has its own merits and each individual will respond to elements of both forms dependant upon their own unique personality and their age.
In this context, I am concerned with the potential ramifications of the article in the Sunday Times,
28th February, written by Sian Griffiths. The headline is provocative and the article confusing. Tom Bennett, who is also an ex teacher and now a professional consultant, is quoted as not using sticker charts and that they should be used cautiously. This is not the same as “ . . . has warned that rewarding children with stickers and gold stars could be counter-productive” as written in the opening paragraph. Furthermore, the article specifically states that Alfie Kohn says “using sticker charts is ‘bribery’ “. An article in a 1993 US Parenting Magazine has an article entitled ‘The Case Against Gold Stars’ in which he considers different forms of reward and argues that they amount to bribery is a generalisation but nowhere does he quote the above statement as written in the Sunday Times article. I respect Mr Bennett’s right to express his view relating to sticker charts but this is only one tool in a vast array of motivation products that are used in schools. It is my concern that should his advice be mis-interpreted or taken out of context that all motivation products will be targeted and seen as negative, which they are not.
Stickers, charts and all other forms of motivation products are only tools and when used wisely by skilful educational professionals, will enhance motivation in the classroom. I leave you with the words of a Year 7 pupil from Suffolk;
“I put all my stickers at the end of my bed when I get them so when I walk in I can see all of them and what I’ve achieved”