The behaviour question

Tom Bennett

I'm looking for ways to set up a sustainable "secret student" model - where a student is chosen without their knowledge by staff, monitored over a period of time and, if they behave well, rewarded with points for their class. Theme park trips as prizes every term aren't feasible but I do want to set up a reward on a termly basis. I don't see it as bribery any more than me being paid a bonus if I do well. Hopefully, it will start a culture of positive peer pressure in my lessons. Any ideas?

What you said


I used to use raffle tickets with a really awkward class once. When students were on task, doing as they should be and so on, they got a raffle ticket. At the end of the week we held a draw and the winner got a big bar of chocolate. Simple yet effective.


I think that there is something wrong with this culture of treats. I don't want to pay students to behave; I want them to behave because it is ethically right to do so. I don't want to give prizes for effort; I want them to learn for the joy of it.

The expert view

To be honest, I have a problem with the secret student concept. For a start, it puts the reward (or punishment) of a group in the hands of a random student and that is not fair to the other children. It's the Hunger Games transplanted to your classroom. If you are happy for your group to pay tribute to the kraken of your whim then go ahead but you must not pretend that it is in any way fair.

Second, extrinsic rewards are intrinsically a bit dangerous. Handled properly, they can be useful, but they have to be kept in the box. Once the reward becomes an expectation, it starts to strangle effort and achievement for its own sake. So use it sparingly. The best reward is sincere praise, proportionate to the act being commended. It is free, it is what they really want, after all, and it lasts a lot longer than a sweet or a treat.

Tom Bennett is author of The Behaviour Guru and Not Quite a Teacher. Read more from Tom on his TES Connect blog (bit.lytombennett) or follow him on Twitter at @tesBehaviour. His latest book, Teacher Proof, is out now, published by Routledge

Post your questions at www.tesconnect.combehaviour.

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Tom Bennett

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