Virtual Rewards Produce Real Motivation

Researchers studying the effects of incentives on learning, especially short-term incentives, are suggesting how best to leverage those non-monetary things kids value most (thus making these programs more cost-effective for schools and districts to administer) to motivate students to learn, reward them for their efforts, and in the process, boost attendance and retention levels in school.

Working together, researchers from the University of Chicago, University of Mannheim, and the University of California San Diego experimented with the effect of short-term incentives on student efforts and published their results in “The Impact of Short-term Incentives on Student Performance.” Drs. Steven D. Levitt, John A. List, Susanne Neckermann and Sally Sadoff tested the effects of low financial gain, high financial gain, non-monetary gain and the loss of their gains on some roughly 6,700 students in the Chicago, Illinois area. By announcing the incentives immediately before the tests were administered, the researchers eliminated the effects of preparation on performance. By modifying the rewards as either available immediately after taking the test or one month later, they could study which scenario—long-term or short-term—is most effective.

Although the effects varied by student body demographic, whether due to age or economic strata, the researchers were able to demonstrate that, while financial rewards were effective for older students, for younger students, non-financial awards were as effective, or in many cases, more effective, than low financial rewards (such as $10) or high rewards (such as $20) in their samples.

The takeaway from the study for educators and administrators is not only that short-term incentives work, but that something as inexpensive as a digital reward, which is easily dispensed and controlled, and affordably obtained, can be an effective means of incenting students to study harder, attend class more regularly, and stay in school as the value and benefit of their rewards increase over time.

Read the rest of this post: Virtual Rewards Produce Real Motivation
Download the whitepaper: “The Impact of Short-term Incentives on Student Performance.”

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