Token Economies

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In college, I remember hearing from my professors that token economies and other reward systems were a thing of the past – that we want to build intrinsic motivation into our lessons.

I remember hearing from my professors that token economies and other reward systems were a thing of the past

However, I was surprised to find out when I started that my school implements one of these. The teachers carry around dollars that can be spent on special treats in the cafeteria once a week. Different teachers hand them out for different reasons, but still, students are being rewarded for their actions.

The adult world they’ll soon be entering just doesn’t work like that.

I’m torn on this. Part of me deplores the idea that we are rewarding our students for things that they are suppose to do. The adult world they’ll soon be entering just doesn’t work like that. On the other hand, it does motivate them to work where they wouldn’t otherwise.

I’ve taken to only handing out the dollars when I see something extraordinary from a student or as part of a game. I use more of them in my inclusion class because I feel those students need the incentive more than others.

What’s your stance on token economies like this? What positive or negative experiences have you had with them?