Faculty Suggested Reading Notes

I am currently enrolled in EDUC 345, Urban Education, taught by Professor Mark Richardson. Dr. Richardson has been an amazing professor and connection because of his extensive experience within the Richmond City Public School system. After his Tuesday class, I informed him of my interest in researching the efficacy and/or ethics of providing incentives to students to improve academic achievement in the context of Title 1 schools. Immediately, he suggested that I read “The Good Behavior Game” which was a trial conducted in Baltimore City Public School System during the mid 1980s.

To give a brief outline, the Good Behavior Game (GBG), was only implemented in first and second grade classrooms and conducted on a classroom basis. Individual teachers would place a board of rules in the classroom, separate students into various groups and groups who did not commit too many infractions within a given time constraint were initially rewarded immediate benefits(candy, stickers) and later awarded deferred benefits (more time for free time during class). The study followed these students in the cohort until they were 21 years old analyzing aggressive/disruptive behavior levels. The study found that students, most prominently males, involved in the GBG cohort experienced significantly lower levels of aggressive and disruptive behaviors compared to their peers leading up into sixth grade.

After reading this research paper, a few concerns emerged. First, I seriously question getting IRB approval to conduct any type of classroom intervention on this scale. I don’t believe the only direct interaction I could have with the students is through observation and/or survey. Furthermore, while the study was grounded in incentive structure, I would have liked to see if there were noticeable differences among types of incentives (immediate vs. deferred). The only qualitative data the study used to support their claims was teacher observation ratings using the Teacher Observation of Classroom Adaptation–Revised (TOCA–R)scale. The short length of the intervention in addition to the dearth of quantitative data or more comprehensive qualitative data (such as parent surveys, peer observations etc.) makes it very difficult for decipher the magnitude of central claims such as, “By the spring of sixth grade, males in GBG classrooms who had initially been rated above median levels for aggressive and disruptive behavior had significantly reduced these behaviors (Kellam et al., 1994).”

Moving forward, this study reaffirms the contention that incentives are effective, at least in the short run, on outcomes such as student behavior. However, I have encountered little evidence to suggest any strong correlation between incentives and student achievement in the long run. Due to the time constraint, limited access that I will likely encounter within the public school system, and Professor Flanigan making ethics sound so compelling, it may be more worthwhile to pursue an approach looking at the ethics of providing incentives to students in various contexts (immediate v. deferred, formal v. informal relationships, Title 1 v. non Title 1, elementary, middle or high school etc.).

1 thought on “Faculty Suggested Reading Notes

  1. I’m sure Dr. Flanigan would be more than happy to talk to you about what an ethics thesis on pedagogy and educational leadership would look like. She did work with Ryan Foster on higher education and ethics, so she has some experience with it. If you really think you might enjoy that, shoot her an email and set up an appointment. 🙂

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