A study published in Educational Psychology examines how different approaches to rewarding pupils affected their spelling scores and prosocial behaviour for different ability levels.
A total of 1,005 pupils, ages 9 and 10, in 28 classes were recruited from three primary schools in Singapore. Classes were randomly assigned to one of five reward conditions: competitive, cooperative, individualistic, cooperative-competitive, and cooperative-individualistic. An ABABA (A= implementation, B = withdrawal) design was used for each condition, and pupils’ spelling scores were tracked over a period of 10 weeks. Teachers were asked to rate pupils’ prosocial behaviour before and after the study.
The results showed that the different conditions did affect pupils’ spelling scores and prosocial behaviour, but that these effects depended on ability level, such that different conditions were more effective for different ability levels. Across all five conditions, only the cooperative-competitive condition resulted in increased spelling scores and prosocial behaviour across all three ability groups, with these improvements maintained when the intervention was withdrawn. In the cooperative-competitive condition, pupils cooperated as a group and the group with the highest average spelling score (compared to other groups) was rewarded.
Source: Effects of reward pedagogy on spelling scores and prosocial behaviors in primary school students in Singapore (October 2019), Journal of Educational Psychology