Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Does Punishment Work as Motivation?

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I attended a workshop with Rick Lavoie on Motivating Students. One of the things he mentioned was that punishment does not motivate students. I have to disagree with this philosophy.

I think punishment can be highly motivating. For some, they may not be motivated the way we want them to be but I still believe that it can be motivating.

I remember growing up and getting spankings (not cruel ones but enough to know that I did something wrong). I was highly motivated not to repeat certain behaviors because I did not want to get punished which might result in spankings.

Getting traffic tickets is a form of punishment and I know many people who are motivated to obey the law to avoid getting traffic tickets. If this was not effective, people would not obey any traffic laws.

Going to jail is a punishment and I believe many people are highly motivated to obey the law in order not to go to prison.  This punishment has been highly effective in society or we would not have a penal system.

In school, administrators give detentions as a punishment to students who disobey the rules.  This has been a common punishment for many years and if it was ineffective, I do not believe this practice would continue.

In my classroom I tried to deal with my students in a positive way and promote success. This usually worked and most of my students complied with my rules. If they didn’t, one of my punishments was to have them call their parents, which they hated with a passion! This was an extremely effective punishment and I did not have to use it too much in one year.

Do you use punishment in your class? If so, what do you do? Do you feel punishment works to motivate students? Why or why not? Please share.

Image: 'Punishment, 1938
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Mama79hi said...

Interesting! I used the "call the parent" technique with one child in particular. She always said her mom said it was ok for her to disobey the teacher or to refuse to do work. I would then call the mother and ask her to talk to her about whether it was ok for the daughter to refuse to do work and disobey me. Mom's conversations were short and to the point and very supportive of me! This was highly effective with this particular kid.

Anonymous said...

I'm really glad that someone agrees with me. I, too, believe that punishment works as a motivational technique. I've heard, so many times, that positivity within the classroom is the best way to go! Granted, yes, I love keeping the classroom environment fun and easy-going, however, some students just can't handle that and their behaviors call for a punishment. You can't ignore that! I'm in a classroom now and I feel like once a student gets punished for a behavior, that behavior gets deleted from their normal behavior for the time being. BUT, what do you do when the consequences just aren't enough? When the student doesn't care?

Pat Hensley said...

@Anonymous Then I think you haven't found the right motivation. In order for the student to care, you need to find something that is important to the student - either to add or to take away.

Anonymous said...

You're right, I probably haven't found the right motivation, but I'm trying to keep consistency as these punishments I am giving are school-wide punishment. But, we have one student in particular that is on half days. He is dying to come back into school on full days, and he knows he has to meet the expectations. However, we keep seeing, day in and day out that he really isn't making the progress to come back on full days. The kids seem to think that getting Wednesday night school and detentions are fun...

Pat Hensley said...

@Anonymous I had a 9th grade student who demanded attention (mostly negative) about 95% of the class (I used a tally sheet and marked in minute intervals how many times he disrupted my instruction). He really drove me crazy and had no friends in class either. Other teachers also had a major problem with him and detention, phone calls home, taking away privileges really didn't motivate him. It took a lot of time and I really had to hunt for something that he found success in and it was having his tests read aloud on the computer and then writing his responses on it. I had been holding computer time as a reward but he never had earned it before. Now I was requiring it for instruction and I was amazed how successful he was! Little by little he required less direct attention from me or his peers. This soon changed how we all interacted and he was becoming successful in my class as well as his other classes. I was so thrilled when he was able to graduate high school because I was extremely doubtful at the beginning of 9th grade! I have to admit that when he started to be successful, even my own attitude changed toward him. I learned a lot from him!