In trying to find a better way to motivate and evaluate my students, what I did last year was, essentially, to borrow an idea which appeared in Change Magazine (April, 1973) under the title "Behaviorism in the Classroom," by Elaine G. Breslaw. Ms. Breslaw teaches history at Morgan State College in Baltimore, and her description of student behavior at this predominantly black school indicated that her students were enough like my own to warrant consideration of this approach to motivating and evaluating students. In regard to her students Ms. Breslaw's concerns were not dissimilar from my own:
"I wanted to motivate students to attend class regularly, prepare reading assignments in advance, complete written work on time, read more deeply in subjects that interested them and avoid the need for official excuses for missing examinations. I hoped to encourage good study habits that in turn would lead to the acquisition of knowledge and high grades as ends in themselves-and, finally , to a heightened interest in the study of (Humanities)." (p. 53)
I was also motivated by the desire to try out a system which might simplify the grading process by cutting back on the hair splitting distinctions of "C+" or "B-", and also find a way of harnessing student effort and rewarding those students who, while not necessarily "bright" enough for high grades, were solid and consistent workers who were too often the victims of outrageous fortune's slings and arrows, i.e. , "other people don't study and get better grades than I do" types. Finally, I wanted a rational system for coping with attendance, lateness, and the general gamut of student excuses which didn't force me into a policeman posture.
"Behaviorism in the Classroom: It Seems to Work,"
Perspectives: Vol. 7
, Article 4.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/perspectives/vol7/iss2/4