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Effect of Punishment and Reward on Student's

Updated on April 18, 2020

Effect of Punishment and Reward of Students'

Effect of Punishment and Reward of Students'


The effects of punishment and reward can never be under estimated as it plays a vital role on the academic performance of senior secondary school students both locally and internationally. Punishment and reward play a greater role on students; as some students require discipline or punishment as a motivating factor in improving their performances, while in other hand some require reward for good academic performance.

According to Piazza, et al (2015), punishment is an unreliable technique that is likely to have unfortunate side effect. Reward and punishment are also equally areas of interest which involve many parents and teachers who feel the need for education authority to define it’s limitation so as not to over step their bounds and limits on reward and punishment, especially when they are related to learning process. Most debated solution must be sought out in this intriguing issue because the outcome will give a practical advice and guidance to those who are just beginning the teaching career or to parents who show much concern over their children’s success in life. The work does not even claim to solve all the problems associated with punishment and reward in learning process in the school but rather highlight some possible solutions with abundant educational values to teachers, parents and the public in general.

In Nigeria secondary schools of today, students have developed the habit of going to school late, forming bad gangs, engaging in immoral activities, smoking, discussing and watching pornographic movies and chasing girls while teaching is going on. All these have called for the need for punishment in order to control such abnormal behaviours in the school setting. However, contrary to that, some other students whose behaviour portrays the expected behaviour are required to be reasonable rewarded for continuity.

Currently, schools have different types of reward and penalty policies in place, but almost all of them have one common goal which is to motivate students to learn. Educators nowadays are aware that giving penalties are counterproductive. Punishment tends to generate anger, defiance, and a desire for revenge. Moreover, it also gives example to the use of authority rather than reason and encouragement, thus this would tend to rupture the important relationship between adult and child (Kohn, 2014). An effective rewards and penalty system promotes positive behavior and regular attendance. It is the essential foundation for a creative learning and teaching environment.

This study is therefore concerned with the way in which rewards and punishment, may or may not, motivate students to engage in learning and change their behavior. This study also aims to explore the characteristics of systems of rewards and punishment.

Statement of the Problem

Punishment and rewards have become fundamental issues in Nigerian school system. Lack of punishment and reward have caused more damages to students academic performance as permissive school setting have resulted to poor performance

of the students in the schools. Students in such permissive school setting see it as freedom to involve in indisciplinary behaviour which ranges from noise making, rioting, truancy, creating confusion, examination malpractice, drug abuse, sexual harassment, rape, stealing, absenteeism etc.

Indiscipline in schools has escalated in the past few decades (East Africa Standard Team, 2011). In fact, at the close of the last decade of the 20th century and onset of the 21st century, the nation has been beset with serious cases of indiscipline in most educational schools. According to East Africa Standard Team (2011), there have been cases of students assaulting and raping their teachers, burning and raping fellow students, setting ablaze their own dormitories, burning teachers' houses and administrative blocks. The Government, ministry of education and some school owners are currently implementing several measures aimed at curbing the various cases of indiscipline in schools (MOEST, 2005).

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of embarking on this study is to examine the effects of punishment and reward on the academic performance. Also to determine which is more effective between punishment and rewards in fostering good student’s academic performance in schools.

Research Questions

The following questions were raised in this study:

  1. What is the effect of punishment and reward on students’ academic performance in secondary schools?
  2. To what extent do teachers perceive punishment and reward as appropriate criteria for enhancing good academic performance of students in senior secondary schools?
  3. Is punishment more effective than reward for improving good academic performance of students’ in senior secondary schools?
  4. Is there any gender difference in the perception of the effect of punishment and reward on students’ academic performance in senior secondary schools?

Research Hypotheses

The following hypotheses were formulated for this study:

HO1: There is no significant effect of punishment and reward on students’ academic performance in secondary schools.

HO2: There is no significant difference in students’ and teachers’ perception of punishment and reward as good criteria for good academic performance of students in secondary schools.

HO3: There will be no significant difference in the effect of punishment and reward on students’ academic achievement in secondary schools.

HO4: There is no significant gender difference on students’ and teachers perception of effects of punishment and reward on student’s academic performance in secondary schools.

Significance of the Study

The significance of the study was centered on the effect of punishment and reward on student academic achievement of secondary school students’. There are a lot of benefits to derive on the effect of punishment and reward on academic achievement of secondary school students’.

The findings of the study will encourage students to develop appropriate behaviour both in schools and homes.

Finally, the findings of the study provide teachers, administrators, parents and the general public information on the best ways to apply punishment and rewards.

Delimitations to the Study

This study was delimited to some selected secondary schools. The study took place in ten schools.

Limitations to the Study

The major problem faced by the study was delayed in return of administered questionnaires. The effect was averted by adopting a spot technique for the administered questionnaires whereby the researcher waited for the administered questionnaires to be filled before leaving the selected schools.

Some of the respondents were bias in providing sincere and adequate responds. Hence, researcher and assistants monitored and explained the importance of sincerity and accurate responds.

Operational Definition of Terms

Punishment: is the imposition of an undesirable or unpleasant outcome upon a group or individual, meted out by an authority in contexts ranging from child discipline to criminal law as a response and deterrent to a particular action or behaviour that is deemed undesirable or unacceptable.

Reward: something that is given in return for good or evil done or received or that is offered or given for some service or attainment.

Academic Performance: is the extent to which a student, teacher or institution has achieved their short or long-term educational goals. Cumulative GPA and completion of educational benchmarks such as secondary school diplomas and bachelor's degrees represent academic achievement.

Secondary School: a school intermediate between elementary school and college and usually offering general, technical, vocational, or college-preparatory courses

Student: is primarily a person enrolled in a school or other educational institution who attends classes in a course to attain the appropriate level of mastery of a subject under the guidance of an instructor and who devotes time outside class to do whatever activities the instructor assigns that are necessary either for class preparation or to submit evidence of progress towards that mastery.

Deviant Behavior: refers to a behavior that does not conform to social norms and values

Class Attendance: being present in school for learning

Discipline: Acceptable behavior following a social norm or instruction by the teacher

Indiscipline Behaviour: Any act or behaviour or performance contrary to approved rules and regulations of school.


In specific terms, this chapter deals with the following subheading:

  • Theoretical Framework
  • Operant Conditioning Theory of Learning
  • Positive and Negative Reinforcement
  • Operant Conditioning
  • Schedules of Reinforcement
  • Intrinsic and Extrinsic Rewards
  • Extrinsic Motivation Techniques
  • Grades
  • Rewards Such as Tokens, Sticker, Stars and Prizes
  • Incentives
  • Issues Affecting Performance and Satisfaction
  • Extrinsic Reward and Performance
  • Adopting a more Intentional and Effective Approach to the Use of Extrinsic Behavioral Reinforcement
  • Reinforcement in Schools
  • Empirical Studies
  • Summary

Operant Conditioning Theory of Learning

This research study is anchored on the Theory of B. F. Skinner which is the Operant Conditioning (1953). The Operant Conditioning Theory or sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Skinner paired a dog and a bell in order to study how stimulus affects behavior. He concluded that through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior. As a behaviorist, Skinner believed that internal thoughts and motivations could not be used to explain behavior. Instead, he suggested, we should look only at the external, observable causes of human behavior. The term operant refers to any "active behavior that operates upon the environment to generate consequences". In other words, Skinner's theory explained how we acquire the range of learned behaviors we exhibit each and every day.

Operant conditioning theory of learning is a construct in which a behavior becomes more or less probable depending on its consequences. On the same vein, therefore, extrinsic rewards aim at motivating Kiswahili performance. Motivation therefore should aim at initiating, directing and energizing of individual behavior (Green 1995).

Coon(1983) defines learning as a relatively permanent change in behavior due to past experience or the process by which relatively permanent changes occur in behavioral potential as a results of experience .This implies distinction between learning (behavioral potential) and performance (actual behavior), the only proof of learning is a particular kind of performance such as exams (Anderson, 1995).

Reinforcement should principally serve as informative and motivational operation rather than as a mechanical response strengthener (Bandura 1977).

Reinforcement provides the learners with information about the likely consequence of a certain behavior under certain conditions; that is, it improves our prediction of whether a given action will lead to pleasant (reinforcement) or unpleasant (punishment) outcome in future (it also motivates, by causing anticipation on future outcomes. Our present behaviors are largely governed by the outcome we expect them to have, and we are more likely to learn behavior if we value its consequences (Cross 2001).

Thorndike (1974) studied the process by which behaviors are instrumental in bringing about certain consequences, the process became known as instrumental conditioning. Thorndike's work inspired B.F skinner perhaps the best known physiologist of the past few decades. Skinner called instrumental conditioning operant conditioning because animals and people learn to "operate "on the environment to produce desired consequences, instead of just responding reflexively to stimuli. Thorndike (1974) developed the law of effect which states that a behavior followed by a satisfying state of affairs is strengthened and a behavior followed by an “annoying” state of affairs is weakened.

Positive and Negative Reinforcement Theory

A positive reinforcement is a consequence of a behavior that increases the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. In positive reinforcement a behavior that is followed by the presentation of a desirable stimulus becomes more likely to occur in future. For example if a student finds that studying for exams earns him extrinsic reward, he will be more likely to study for exams in future.

In negative reinforcement, a behavior that brings about the removal of an aversive stimuli because it's more likely to occur in future. Note that both positive and negative reinforcement increases the likely hood of a behavior. Consider the negative reinforcement known as the boring lecture. Because day dreaming lets one escape from boring lecture, he/she is likely to day dream whenever he find himself listening to one. This form of negative reinforcement is called escape learning-learning to end something aversive. Thus, in escape learning the aversive stimuli itself is removed, while in avoidance learning emotional distress caused by anticipation of that stimulus is removed (Mowrer, 1974).

Operant Conditioning Theory

According to B.F Skinner, Studies on classical conditioning resulted to the emergence of other theories that may explain behavior and learning, and one of these is Operant Conditioning. Operant conditioning tries to negate the belief that internal thoughts and mere motivations would bring about learning a behavior. As a behaviorist, Skinner thought that only external causes of behavior should be considered.

The term "operant" was used by Skinner in order to give us a good overview of his theory. By this term, he meant that this type of conditioning involves only external factors that affect behavior and its consequences.

A. Reinforcement

Reinforcement is a process of increasing the frequency or rate of a behavior by means of presenting a stimulus shortly after the display of behavior. The event that intensifies the likelihood of the behavior to be repeated is called a reinforcer. There are two types of reinforcer:

Positive reinforces are favorable stimuli that are given after the display of behavior. Positive reinforcement strengthens the probability of a behavior by means of the addition of something.

Example: You studied hard and got an A in your Math exam. Your mom rewards you by treating you to your favorite restaurant. After this, you study hard again and also got an A in your History exam. Your mom rewards you by going with you to see a movie you like. For your next examinations, you study hard once more.

Negative reinforces, on the other hand, is the removal of the unfavorable stimuli after the display of behavior. In negative reinforcement, the behavior or response is intensified by the removal of something.

Example: You leave home at 8 am to drive your way to work, and you always encounter heavy traffic. You leave your home earlier the next day, causing you to avoid the heavy traffic. You leave home earlier than 8am during the next days and you keep on avoiding the heavy traffic. This means that your behavior of leaving home earlier than 8 am is intensified by the consequence of getting to avoid heavy traffic. In both positive and negative reinforcements, behavior is increased.

B Punishment

In contrast to reinforcement, punishment is a process wherein a stimulus is presented after the display of behavior and causes the decline in the likelihood of behavior to reoccur. There are two types of punishments:

Positive punishment is the addition of something which causes the decrease in repeating the behavior that was displayed. Negative punishment, also known as punishment by removal, occurs when a favorable event or outcome is removed after a behavior occurs.

Example: A child teased his sister, making her cry so loud. The mother spanked him on his buttocks because of this. The child never teased his sister again.

Negative Punishment, on the other hand, is the removal of something which is favorable, in order to decrease the likelihood of the behavior to reoccur.

Example: A teenager is caught cheating in an examination. His parents then forbid him to use his car and also reduce his allowance. The teenager does not cheat in his present exams anymore.

To have a better understanding of these concepts, here is a table which summarizes the characteristics of positive /negative reinforcement and positive /negative punishment:

Decreases likelihood of behavior Increases likelihood of behavior

Addition Positive punishment Positive reinforcement

Removal Negative punishment Negative reinforcement

Schedules of Reinforcement

Once an individual has been operant conditioned to perform a behavior, the performance of the behavior is influenced by its schedule of reinforcement. In continuous schedule of reinforcement, every instance of a desired behavior is reinforced. If a learner receive a reward every time he performs well in exams, it would be on a continuous schedule of reinforcement, in partial schedule of reinforcement is given for only some instance of a desired behavior because reinforcement is less predictable in partial schedule, they are more resistant to extinction than are continuous schedules (Skinner 1957). There are two kinds of ratio schedule: fixed and variable. A fixed ratio schedule provides reinforcement after a specific number of desired responses. Fixed ratio schedule provide high, steady response rates, with a slight pause in responding after each reinforcement.

Unlike fixed ratio reinforcement, a variable ratio schedule provides reinforcement after an unpredictable number of desired responses. The number of responses required will vary around an average. (Goldstein and Hall, 1990) Variable ratio schedule provide high steady rates of responding, which are more resistant to extinction that are those produced by any other schedule of reinforcement. A fixed -interval schedule provide a drop in responding immediately after reinforcement and gradual increase in responding as the time for the next reinforcement approach for example suppose that learners have Kiswahili exam after every three weeks accompanied with extrinsic rewards after every good performance. The learners will study before each exam to obtain the reward - a positive reinforcement. But the learners will probably stop studying Kiswahili immediately after each exam and not begin studying it again until a few days before the next exam.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Rewards

Rewards are two types, intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic reward is a feeling of accomplishment after achieving a challenging task the intrinsic rewards does not need other persons comment or encouragement, it is rather a self-fulfillment feeling the worker sense after completing his or her task (Schermerhon et al 2008).Intrinsically motivated workers perform their task with impulsive experience of interest , excitement and satisfaction (Selart et al 2008 ) intrinsic rewards can be intangible like a public praise or being an employee of the month, but extrinsic rewards can be tangible similar to cash payment or benefits (Schermerhom et al.,2008 Selart et al 2008). The basic extrinsic needs are receiving external rewards or avoiding punishment (Fullagar & Mills, 2008).

Extrinsic Motivation Techniques

The following sections examines what will be considered the leading principally extrinsic motivational strategies used in classrooms historically. These include grades, rewards, praise, punishments, public recognition and phone calls home. This section also includes recommendation for applying these strategies in manner that produces more benefits and effective results.


Grades are the most prevalent example of a formal extrinsic motivator used in schools (Shindler, 2008). Their primary purposes are to: 1) provide a concrete representation of either the completion of a task and/or the quality of a performance, and 2) act as an incentive for later benefits and opportunities. As representations of the level of quality performance, grades have only a symbolic meaning. They only represent something of value (e.g., quality work, scores on a test, assignments completed, etc), and have no inherent value. Therefore, in practice, grades become more effective when they are clearly related to a meaningful outcome. This is why grading systems that incorporate more authentic measures such as performance assessment rubrics will be more motivational than more artificial uses such as a total of the number of correct responses on a worksheet. Moreover, the way that a grade is derived can help it become more meaningful and tap into an intrinsic source, rather than being entirely an extrinsic reinforcement (Shindler 2008).

Grades also act as an incentive. As students progress in their academic careers, grades have the effect of creating future opportunities. These opportunities vary greatly depending on several variables (e.g., importance to parents and/or schools, scholarship or financial aid opportunities, etc.). Moreover, as we know, only some students are much more influenced or even aware of these incentives. As a result, grades are a more motivational influence on some students than others. A survey of atypical high school will support the wide discrepancy in how students view the importance of grades (Shindler, 2008). And those teachers who rely primarily on students' being motivated by grades are commonly frustrated with the number of students who are unaffected by the threat of a poor grade if their performance does not improve. In most cases, students who see a relationship between their grades and their ability to reach their personal goals will be most influenced by this source of motivation and therefore more concerned with the kinds of grades that they receive.

However, students commonly see grades as something "given" to them by the teacher (the external agent). Too often they view grades as a representation of their aptitude, ability, or even self-worth rather than the quality of their investment. While this is rarely the intention of the teacher for giving the grade, it is common for students to perceive the grade as such. So, for example, when a student gets a C in a paper they may perceive that grade as a reflection of themselves or their ability in that subject. Given this reaction they find themselves in the position that they must respond to the level of the grade by either accepting or rejecting it as an accurate reflection of their ability (Shindler, 2008). While each of these two responses accepting the grade as consistent or rejecting it as inconsistent may appear somewhat different, they are similar in that neither will result in motivation to do better in the future.

If the student views the C grade as consistent with their academic self-concept, they will find no need to do any better or adopt any different strategies in the future. If the student perceives the grade as inconsistent with their academic self-concept, they will likely feel shame, confusion, and inadequacy along with resentment toward the teacher. Even if there is a great deal of intensity to the emotion connected to this second response, if the cause is viewed externally and the student does not feel that their grade reflects concrete and constructive feedback, the result will be little motivation to change future behavior. The result is the all-too-familiar phenomenon -the student gets used to getting Shindler, (2008).

Rewards Such as Tokens, Sticker, Stars and Prizes

Another common extrinsic motivational strategy, used primarily at the elementary level, is to give tokens and other prizes to student when they perform a desired behavior. These extrinsic rewards act as concrete representations that something of" value" has been accomplished. Therefore, they are intended to act as there enforcement in the process of operant conditioning. This technique originated in the field of psychology called behaviorism, and is most associated with one of its pioneers, Skinner (1957). In operant conditioning, the operant or desired behavior that is being conditioned is reinforced by an extrinsic reinforcement/reward. In this case the operant is the act of desirable behavior on the part of the student, and the extrinsic reward is the token or prize.


Incentives can take many forms such as prizes at the end of the week for successfully performing a task or refraining from an undesirable task, or group privileges for being first or best, or rewarding students who do well on one task the chance to opt out of a further task. They concretize the non-verbal bargain: if the student does something that the teacher has determined is good, you will get something that you should like."In this way, incentives can be helpful in clarifying what is desirable behavior. At their best they can help promote good habits and shape more functional patterns of action. For example, if a mother provides a child an incentive to make the bed every day, the child may become comfortable with that behavior and continue with it throughout their lifetime, even after the incentive is not longer present. In the case of healthy behaviors that become intrinsically satisfying once they become habits, this can lead to positive long-term benefits. However, with any extrinsic reward, one must question whether the incentive has contributed to the development of good behavioral patterns, or has just bribed students to do something that they would not have done without the bribe, and will not do once the bribe has been removed. And if over time the students do not experience any internal satisfaction from the behavior being induced, the incentive will eventually lose its power Shindler, (2008).

Issues Affecting Performance and Satisfaction

When contemplating the factors that impact on performance, a number of interrelated issues need to be considered. As espoused by Robbins et al (2008), individual performance is moderated by the personality, values, attitudes and ability of the individual which, in combination, affect their perceptions and motivation, and ultimately influence individual performance. In addition to the factors listed above are the issues related to the culture of the organization and its employees.

Robbins et al. (2008) assert that focusing on biographical characteristics such as age, gender, marital status and seniority does not provide accurate, reproducible evidence of links to improved performance and job satisfaction. More importantly, they outline the importance of employees possessing the requisite skills and abilities to perform their duties as providing an increased likelihood of good performance and job satisfaction. They caution though, that even the most skilled employee may not perform or be satisfied with their job. Robbins et al. (2008) emphasizes the importance of ability-job fit, rather than pure assessment of ability, as being an important determinant of job performance and satisfaction. Clearly a multifaceted approach to improving and maintaining job satisfaction and performance is required if long-term results are envisaged.

Extrinsic Reward and Performance

Motivation is an important issue in any organization because it is involved in energizing or initiating human behaviour, directing and channeling that behavior and sustaining and maintaining it (Steers & Porter, 1987). This argument is supported by Deci (1972) who showed a decrease in intrinsic motivation when extrinsic rewards were used to promote behavior. It is important to note that the reduction in intrinsic motivation occurred with monetary rewards, but not with verbal praise. When individual performance is viewed as the outcome the concern regarding extrinsic rewards decreasing intrinsic motivation is not so clear-cut. There is no doubt that extrinsic incentives can boost performance. In a practical sense, decreased intrinsic motivation will be a concern if the extrinsic incentive is withdrawn, as the increased level of performance is unlikely to be sustained. Hamner (1987), when considering forms of external incentive such as merit pay schemes, cautions that these systems can fail for a number of reasons including: If pay is not related to performance; If ratings are seen to be biased; If rewards are not viewed as rewarding; If there is more emphasis on satisfaction with pay than performance; and If there is a low level of trust and openness about the merit raises. Some merit pay schemes may encourage poor work practices as individual employees attempt to maximize their personal gains to the detriment of the entire organization (Hickey & Ichter, 1997).Rewards and recognition that the employee views as positive should improve job satisfaction and performance (Dunford 1992).What types of reward or recognition are best to increase intrinsic motivation and enhance individual performance and job satisfaction.

Kovach (1987), Popp and Fox (1985) and Hede (1990) conducted surveys and provide answers to this question. They found that employees sought achievement, responsibility and growth as the highest priority for incentives in their work. A reward and recognition system that addresses these areas should produce the desired outcome. Goal setting can provide a number of these employee rewards as individual employees can negotiate desired outcomes with management (Dunford 1992). The employee who plays an integral part in the development of these goals is more likely to perceive the outcome as being achievable and to be committed to achieving them (Robbins et al. 2008). Management involvement will ensure the goals are consistent with corporate objectives and that they provide challenging opportunities for the employee to use their current skills and abilities and to encourage the development of new ones. Public acknowledgment of the agreed goals and their achievement is important to reinforce the desired behaviour (Robbins et al. 2008). This could be undertaken in the form of a quarterly achievement award and presentation similar to that successfully employed by Delta West (London and Higgot, 1997).

Finally, it must be remembered that the exact nature of the reward must be tailored to the individual because each individual will place a different emphasis on the issues they perceive as important; change of focus towards intrinsic motivation could be implemented as part of an organizational development approach, but will require appropriate training and education to be provided to managerial staff. When considering the three-dimensional typology adapted from the work of (Dunphy and Stace (1988), the change process to implement the two strategies described would be classified as being proactive, incremental and collaborative. The change would necessarily involve the entire organization, should be multifaceted and should continue over the long term. These strategies, though initially aimed at improving individual performance, are envisaged to have the potential to increase organizational performance through improved organizational climate and culture.

Adopting a more Intentional and Effective Approach to the Use of Extrinsic Behavioral Reinforcement

It is a well-established reality that human behavior can be conditioned by environmental stimuli. While one can debate the extent to which one's behavior is externally conditioned or has its source in more internal drives, as educators we need to recognize the power of environmental conditioning. If one examines an effectively managed classroom, one will see a teacher who understands behavioral principles. That does not mean the teacher will overuse extrinsic conditioning or even rely on it as a motivational strategy, but will understand that the forces of behavioral conditioning are operating continuously.

The starting point to making sense of behavioral conditioning is to understand that in a conditioning situation there will be something that acts as a focal event/action/operant and then there is something that happens afterward to reinforce it. For example if we wished the family dog to consistently fetch a stick that we throw, we might give the dog a treat each time he/she brought back the stick, and only if he/she brought back the stick. In this case the dog learns that when they do the desired behavior (bringing the stick back), they will be reinforced (obtaining the doggy treat). Yet, it is important to remember that in one's efforts toward behavioral conditioning, especially when it relates to humans; little or none of the actual conditioning/learning that actually occurs will necessarily resemble the conditioning/learning that was intended. For example if we examine most punishments, the intention is to create a disincentive related to the unwanted action. But what is actually learned is much more complex and typically takes the form of a disincentive to interact with the source of the punishment or the creation of a new set of skills to get around the punishment in the future Shindler, (2008).

When we examine the use of extrinsic rewards in practice, it is understandable why they are so popular, as well as why some would view their byproducts as undesirable. In most cases, they work in the short-term to motivate behavior. But there are several questions that should be asked if one is to use extrinsic reinforcements for an extended period Shindler, (2008).

Debate on the suppression of intrinsic motivation by extrinsic rewards in psychological journals over recent years is too big a topic to be reviewed here except in the briefest terms, but some aspects of it are informative for our immediate purpose. Meta-analyses of a large number of studies have been published by Cameron and Pierce (Cameron and Pierce 1994) and Eisenberger and Cameron, (1996) who approached the subject from a “behaviorist” perspective. Their findings indicate support from these many studies for the view that tangible rewards like money tend to suppress intrinsic motivation in so far as it is evident in subsequent time spent on the task, but not when it is measured by verbal expressions of attitude. They found from their classification of many investigations, that the effect tended to when the reward was expected and independent of performance. They also concluded that tangible rewards had a small positive effect on attitude to the task if the reward was quality dependent. Verbal rewards, praise and the like, tended to have a positively reinforcing effect on both free time on the task and attitudes to the task. They also questioned the inhibiting effects on creativity, citing evidence for the positive reinforcement of divergent thinking by extrinsic rewards and arguing for the generalization of such effects. The research on creativity shows, as with intrinsic task interest, that the detrimental effects of reward occur under limited conditions that are easily avoided. Rewards can be used to either enhance or diminish creative performance depending on the way they are administered (Eisenberger and Selbst, 1994)

Behavioral psychologists sharply disagree that extrinsic rewards undermine intrinsic motivation. They argued that the evidence of negative effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation were artifacts of “poor operationalisations” of the reward as are enforcer, a focus on short-term effects without consideration of overall reinforcement history, and neglect for the enormous amount of research showing that reinforcement makes behavior more, not less, likely to occur. Brophy, (1998) helps teachers make a distinction between positive recognition and providing rewards. He stated that intrinsic motivation is not undermined by the use of rewards as such, but offering rewards in advance of action as incentives leads students to believe that they engaged in the rewarded behaviors only to earn the rewards. The students' focus then is on the reward, not on the learning that has value in its own right (Sansone and Harackiewicz, 1998). The results of two related meta-analysis, one by Cameron and Pierce (1994) and one by Eisenberger and Cameron (1996), formed the basis for a powerful recent response from the behaviorist tradition. These scholars found that rewards undermined behavior in rare and easily avoidable circumstances (i.e., when they are tangible, expected, and not contingent on performance), usually had no effect on intrinsic motivation, and could actually increase creativity. Deci and colleagues (Deci and Koestner et. al., 2001) published a later review directly contradicting the conclusion by Einsberger and Cameron that the suppressing effect of tangible rewards was limited to conditions in which rewards were independent of performance.

From another meta-analysis they concluded that “all expected tangible rewards made contingent on task performance do reliably undermine intrinsic motivation”. The following year Ryan and Deci (Ryan and Deci, 20002) published a general article on self-determination theory, restating their cognitive evaluation theory, focusing attention “on the fundamental needs for competence and autonomy".

They saw competence and autonomy as different variables, having different but complementary effects. So feedback and communication rewards that induce feelings of competence during action can enhance intrinsic motivation for that action. But they believed that feelings of competence would not enhance intrinsic motivation unless accompanied by a sense of autonomy, or could be experienced as internal locus of causality (the sense of origin in deCharmes’ terms). Social support or long term personal development will provide conditions for maintenance of intrinsic motivation, as this effect of personal causality requires either immediate contextual support for autonomy or abiding inner resources that are typically the result of prior developmental supports. So in addition to competence and autonomy, relatedness is a further contributing factor in interpersonal settings, with intrinsic motivation more likely to flourish where there is a sense of personal security in relationship with others.

Ryan and Deci, (2002) conclude that extrinsic motivation can vary greatly in its relative autonomy. For example, students who do their homework because they see its value for their chosen career are extrinsically motivated, as are those who do the work only because they are adhering to their parent’s control. The effects on intrinsic motivation for the learning task will differ according to whether the extrinsic reward sentail personal endorsement and a feeling of choice or whether they result from compliance with external regulation. Noting such effects of personally meaningful extrinsic rewards, Ryan and Deci, (2002) proposed what they called “organismic integration theory” to detail different types of extrinsic motivation and contextual factors and how they could either promote or hinder internalization and integration of the regulation of behaviour.

Reinforcement in Schools

Teachers have also used positive reinforcement to improve the classroom performance of their students. For example verbal praise has been used to increase participation in classroom discussion (Smith et. al, 1982) and since 1960s positive reinforcement in the form of token economies has been used to promote desirable classroom behavior (Kazdin, 1982), In a token economy teachers use token to reward students for appropriate conduct and economic behavior the students then used token to purchase items such as motor bike or privileges such as extra recess time. Token economies have been used to decrease television watching by children (Wolfeet, 1984) increase reading by school children (Brown et. al., l986) and improve social skills in monetary retarded adults (Sanford et. al, 1987). Kiswahili can be easily learned through programmed instruction (a step-by –step approach based on operant conditioning, in which the learners provide at his or her own pace through more and more difficult material and receive immediate knowledge of the results of each response). Nonetheless, Skinner, (1984) insisted that programmed instructions have several advantages over traditional approaches to education. Programmed instructions provide immediate feedback of results (positive reinforcement for good performance and only mild punishment for poor performance) eliminate the need for anxiety -inducing exams, and permit the student to go at his or her own pace. Skinner estimated that of schools adopted programmed instruction, students would learn twice as much in the same amount of time.

Empirical Studies on Punishment and Rewards

Junis and Feshbach (2006) carried out a study on the effect of punishment and reward on student’s performance. Where Survey research design was adopted. Questionnaire was used as an instrument for data collection. 300 respondents were randomly selected as sample of the study, with arithmetic mean as method of analysis. Thus, their findings revealed that: reward and punishment facilitate learning and condition or control students’ behaviour to a desirable change; commendation; praise, and encouragement were superior to censure, ridicule, threats and punishment. The findings also revealed certain considerations that teachers must observe while administering punishment which emphasized that punishment must be painful or unpleasant to the offenders, that teachers should differentiate and apply different kinds of punishment, to administer a punishment immediately after an offence is discovered. Teachers must explain the necessity of the punishment; the teacher must always maintain a friendly and warm attitude toward the student being punished, prolong punishment, like scolding, nagging or threats are to be used as least resort.

Another study was carried out by Ilegbusi, Ayo, and Ikeji, (2013) on the topic “An analysis of the role of Rewards and Punishment in motivating school learning”. Survey research design was used, 4000 respondents were randomly selected as sample of the study; instrument of data collection was questionnaire and mean was applied for analysis of data. Thus, their findings revealed that reward and punishment promote learning, increase students extrinsic motivation to learn and discourage the student’s intrinsic motivation to learn. The findings further revealed that although, punishment does suppress a response, mere non-reinforcement is more effective in permanently elimination of an unwanted response, appropriately combined with rewards, however, punishment may redirect behaviour; under circumstances such as this punishment may allow the more permanent effects of rewards to become operant, even though its effect may be temporarily disturbing. Students motivated by fear of punishment will stop work, as has been shown by research studies quoted above, even avoid study once the fear is removed. They will always associate fear of pain with study, and it is not healthy to keep students under a permanent state of siege. The research finding also supported that more service forms of punishment, like thrashing, can effectively supply the punished response of a learner, but they do so by setting up conflicts between the punished response and others evoked by punishing stimulus. In other words punishment says “stop it” but does not tell what to do, and the result is simply confusion and emotional upset.

Deci and Ryan (2002) used the concepts of intrinsic motivation and internalized extrinsic motivation to examine self-regulation of learning. They defined internalized extrinsic motivation as behavior that has a separable consequence (reward or goal), but is integrated into a person's life so that the person's behavior is wholly volitional. They also found that high quality learning is associated with intrinsic motivation and fully internalized extrinsic motivation. They found that the social contexts that allow this combination include choice, optimal challenge, feedback, interpersonal involvement, and acknowledgment of feelings.

Additionally, Mulder (2008) found that in social decision making, the concept of punishment increased cooperation while the concept of a reward did not, and there were more disapproval towards an offender when there was a punishment for non-compliance than when there was a reward for compliance. These findings suggest that punishing non-cooperation which signals that non-cooperation socially disapproved of more strongly fosters moral concerns regarding cooperation than rewarding cooperation which signals that cooperation is socially approved of. In the animal studies, it was found that punishment memory decayed much faster than reward memory in olfactory learning and visual pattern learning in crickets, and neurotransmitters conveying punishment and reward signals differ in crickets. They proposed that the faster decay of punishment memory than reward memory observed in insects and humans reflected different cellular and biochemical processes after activation of receptors for amines conveying punishment and reward signals (Nakatani et al., 2009).

Nicolelis (2008) also demonstrated that both reward- and punishment-related stimuli in nature were motivationally salient and attracted the attention in a recent animal study.

For example, Gomez and McLaren (1996) examined the effects of reward and punishment on response disinhibition, happy and nervous moods, heart rates and skin conductance levels during performance of an instrumental learning task. For one group of subjects (the reward group), correct responses were reinforced with a small monetary reward, while for another group (the punishment group), incorrect responses led to a small loss of money. Results indicated that subjects in the punishment group made fewer disinhibitory responses, were more nervous and less happy, and had a higher skin conductance level compared with subjects in the reward group (Gomez & McLaren, 1997).

Zink et al. (2003) found that the activity in the striatum during probabilistic reversal learning reflects the salience of the critical punishment event leading to behavioral adjustment. Reward-related mesolimbic dopamine steers animal behavior, creating automatic approach toward reward-associated objects and avoidance of objects unlikely to be beneficial by influencing the strategic establishment of endogenous attention.

Davidson, 2000). Reward is corresponding to appetitive motivation system, while punishment is corresponding to defensive motivation system. Thus, from this perspective, it suggests that the underlying mechanisms between reward and punishment are different, which is in line with the finding of the current results that reward and punishment have different impacts on conflict processing at explicit level.

Krebs et al. (2010) showed the facilitation effect of reward on conflict processing in explicit association, they agreed that reward could concomitantly induce behavioral costs, which was confirmed by their finding of behavioral detriments when the task-irrelevant dimension (i.e., word meaning) implicitly referred to reward-predictive colors. Besides, they argued that the effect of reward on conflict processing was possibly due to that attention was distracted by reward.

Covington (1999) also explored the coexistence of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, and found the students' interest in learning to be connected to task orientation rather than failure avoidance. External rewards, while still popular, generally have only a short term positive effect and possible long-term negative effects on learning. When students have a sense of control and choice, on the other hand, and are challenged just above their level of competence, they have increased intrinsic motivation, persistence, and belief that they can be successful. It is no surprise, then, that to improve academic achievement of middle school students; successful programs incorporate the social contexts for both intrinsic motivation and internalized extrinsic motivation.

The challenge for educators is to provide appropriate balance as middle school students develop both intrinsic motivation and internalized extrinsic motivation or goal orientation. As teachers, we can provide the optimal challenge and the problem solving support for academic success and a sense of flow.


This chapter has dealt with rationale of extrinsic rewards and punishment on academic performance of some selected secondary school. On rationale, it is clear that extrinsic rewards and punishment have a place in the schools and that the school has an obligation to extrinsic rewards among students so as to nurture their academic performance, it’s been revealed that school administration function such as giving rewards like tokens, sticker, stars and prizes were aimed to improve performance.

Although literature gave some points on the extrinsic and intrinsic rewards and punishment, few of the studies reviewed had attempted to explore the influence of extrinsic rewards and punishment in performance of secondary school students’.

Effect of Punishment and Reward of Students'


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