Monday, February 09, 2009

Reward or Inspiration?

Last week I had a conversation with a friend who provides Upward Awards Night Entertainment and another friend who does Arizona Reading School Assembly Programs. We discussed the value of rewarding behavior as a method of increasing that behavior.

This is a very important topic to me for several reason. Firstly, I make my living in large part by providing Bluebonnet and Accelerated Reader Incentives in the form of educational and motivational assembly programs. Secondly, my BA and most of my masters level coursework has been in the field of behavioral science in one form or another. When it comes to Kid Control: Behavior Management for Unruly Children, I literally wrote the book!

So the conversations I held with my friends on these topics were more than just academic.

I was impressed with the idea brought up by Tommy that when the reward is, in itself, an inspiration to continue the behavior, then it becomes a more effective behavior loop.

Think of the difference between exercising for three weeks so that you can eat a huge and fattening meal (rewarding, but not circularly reinforcing the original behavior), verses exercising for three weeks so that you can buy yourself some new workout clothes or a desired piece of gym equipment (reward AND circularly reinforcing of the original behavior).

The programs I offer as rewards and incentives are the same programs I offer as my regular Reading School Assemblies and also the same programs that I offer during my Family Science Night and Math Night Activities. These assembly programs are inherently funny and entertaining, just like Kyle who does some hilarious but very effective Arizona Family Science Night and Literacy Night Activities.

I think doing a program like this (i.e. Inspirational) is so much more effective than just a fun, rewarding show. I mean, from the perspective of the audience, the results are very similar (everyone laughs and has a great time and feels rewarded) but when it comes to LONG-TERM results, I think an inspirational assembly program is more effective than one that is just a funny children's magic show puppet show.