This book explores motives and incentives for learning. The authors believe that the reasons for learning, or not learning, are greatly dependent on the kinds of incentives that prevail in the classroom. Some incentives act as disincentives, inducting positive reasons for student achievement, while other incentives both encourage achievement and promote the continuous desire to learn as a goal in itself.

This book explores ways that teachers can modify classroom incentive systems, including grading methods, to encourage positive reasons for learning among students. The changes discussed can be implemented by individual teachers in their own classrooms, and over 25 specific activities are included that can be adapted and used for that purpose.

Table of Contents




  • The Need for Better Classroom Incentives
  • A Level Playing Field: Motivating All Students
  • Overview of the Book

Goal 1: Understanding the Negative Effects of the Ability Game

  • Keeping Score: The Case Against Grades
  • Ms. Jackson's Classroom
  • School as an Ability Game
  • The Dynamics of Self-Worth
  • Questioning Myths About Motivation
  • In Defense of Ms. Jackson
  • Student Activity: Quiz
  • Paying for Performance
  • Summary

Goal 2: Changing the Rules: Activities to Promote Positive Reasons for Learning

  • Five Steps to Instituting an Equity Focus
  • Implementing New Reward Strategies: Karen Teel's Classroom
  • Step 1: Insure Equal Access to Rewards
  • Step 2: Reward Mastery and Curiosity
  • Step 3: Reward Multiple Abilities
  • Step 4: Offer Alternative Incentives
  • Step 5: Make Assignments Engaging
  • Summary
  • Suggested Readings

Goal 3: Overcoming Obstacles to Change

  • Student Unresponsiveness
  • Insufficient Skills
  • Unlimited Rewards
  • The Myths of Competition
  • Summary

Final Review: Revisiting Ms. Jackson's Classroom

  • Noel
  • Sean
  • Lydia
  • Michael
  • Concluding Thoughts



About the Authors