Being Successful Makes You Happy

Motivating your students to learn and to participate can sometimes be very hard. Especially if the decision to attend a language course was not made by the student him- or herself, but by the company or another institution. Adult learners vary from child learners in how they are motivated. They have life experience from which to judge any information presented to them. They are more likely to be self-motivated with a need to know why they are learning what they are, and a desire to apply new understandings immediately.

To stimulate learning, lots of teachers use incentives for students. The spectrum ranges from occasional spontaneous incentives to sophisticated reward systems. This applies not only to primary school pupils. Research has vastly shown that learners at all ages respond to enticements, although reward systems for adults need to be much more sophisticated. Elements of play have a decisive part in this. But how can you use incentives in remote learning and even more in asynchronous online learning environments?

In this blog post we will look at some advantages of a reward systems in general and why you should use one. We will also have a look at rewards options in an online setting.

Advantages of a Rewards System

Appropriate behavior: Students conform to appropriate behaviors when rewarded either intrinsically or extrinsically.

Increased motivation: Students will show interest and raise their participation in the everyday classroom tasks, responsibilities and learning.

Joyful students: Incentives for students motivate them to be more productive because they create a feeling of pride and achievement. Being successful makes you happy.

Boosted self-esteem: Every success story helps students become more self-confident. They are proud and encouraged to achieve another successful result.

Completed homework: School Psychologists suggest that reward systems help motivate students to complete their homework. It’s rather shocking that without rewards, students don’t complete it.

Improved results: Rewarding students encourages and endorses school effort. They lead to improved outcomes for students.

Limitations and Dangers of a Rewards System

Given these obvious advantages, it is important to be clear about the limitations and dangers of reward systems:

Devaluation: After a while rewards are no surprises anymore and they come as expected. They will lose their effect. Watch Dan Pink’s excellent TED talk on motivation for more details on how reward systems can utterly fail.

Control and manipulate: Students might feel they are manipulated and controlled by you. This also teaches the student how to manipulate.

Race against the clock: Students focus more on finishing an assignment to win a classroom price, instead of learning what the lesson is meant to teach. Finishing it is more important than to actually understand it.

Addiction: Students can become addicted to classroom rewards. This means that they won’t study anymore without them.

Increased pressure: The more you praise students, the greater the fall if they can’t live up to that praise and to your expectations.

Bribes: The line between bribes and rewards is very thin. Rewards can lead to the idea of controlling your students. You’ll feel more powerful and use rewards as bribes.

Rewards are also directly and indirectly linked to systems of competition and performance. If this happens in a playful way, one often speaks of gamification. More and more institutions and companies are incorporating elements of gamification into their training courses, but also increasingly into their central processes. Many online stores rewards their customers with achievements and awards for purchased goods. The benefits of a well-balanced rewarding system are more and more widely used in all kinds of business areas.

Involve the Learner in the Instruction Process

Now, what does this all mean for your teaching? When you are planning lessons, always try to allow student input. When the projects come to completion, give students an opportunity to submit feedback. Being a part of their own learning process is important for adults. So, wherever you possibly can, be sure to make it happen.

In every lesson that you conduct, allow the student to take on as much of the decision-making process as possible. Adults want and need freedom to choose in order to stay motivated. In a talk by Dan Pink about a study done at MIT, he elaborates on the fact that having the freedom to make decisions is significantly more motivating than other incentives offered, including monetary rewards. He says that rather than incentivize work, we should say, “You probably want to do something interesting, let me just get out of your way.”

Blended learning tools and eLearning systems can make it easier to give students autonomy (and also track their success). The vast array of offers for online and blended learning from inlingua International ties in exactly with this. Online courses and activities can be linked to face-to-face or virtual classes.


Adult learners’ self-motivation and need to know why can be met with open arms by involving them in the education process. Their desire to apply understandings right away is easily aided with problem-solving lessons. A general lack of inspiration can be solved by a healthy dose of autonomy.

Over the last few months inlingua International has developed and tested a dedicated gamification system for its online learning platform on my.inlingua. In February the new enhanced platform will be launched globally.


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