14 Videos for Starting Dialogue on Rethinking Rewards, Awards

It is no secret that I have some strong opinions on using awards and rewards to “motivate” our students to be better behaved and achieve more in schools.  Instead of using carrots and sticks to bribe and punish students, we need to work to create the conditions for students to motivate themselves (adapted from Deci and Ryan) and move to a more intrinsic model of motivation in schools.

If you have further interest in reading my thoughts on rewards and awards, please read my post, “My Issue With Rewards” and check out my page “Rethinking Awards Ceremonies” that includes 50 posts from many different educators.

Here are some videos (in no particular order) that I have used to initiate dialogue around a conversation that questions the use of rewards and awards in schools (if you have any other videos to share, please link them in the comments below and I will add them to the post):


1.  Rick Lavoie on “Motivation and Competition in Schools” – here is a mashup I created of 3 videos of Rick Lavoie as he questions the use of competition as a motivational tool in schools.  He is not opposed to competition but he says that we need to reflect on HOW we use it and work to use competition when it is a choice.


2.  Daniel Pink on “The Surprising Truth ABout What Motivates Us” – Pink shares research on the issues with using carrots as a tool to motivate and states that we need to focus on creating the conditions through autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  Be sure to also read his book, “Drive”, in which he more closely links to Edward Deci and Richard Ryan’s research on “Self-Determination Theory“.


3.  Sheldon from Big Bang Theory on Motivation – a comical clip to show the silliness of using bribes and punishments to alter behaviour.


4.  Dwight Schrute vs Alfie Kohn – in this humorous video, we see how “business leader” Dwight Schrute (in TV’s “The Office”) attempts to motivate his staff using the legendary “Schrute Bucks”.  Inserted between the clips are references to thoughts from author Alfie Kohn.  If you can access any episodes of “The Office”, be sure to check out their version of business awards, “The Dundies”.


5. Dr. Ross Greene: Kids Do Well If They Can – in this clip, Dr. Ross Greene shares how, instead of looking how to motivate kids to be better behaved (“kids do well if they want to”), we need to look through the lens that kids WANT to do well and, therefore, we need to look for the skills they are lacking and teach them so they CAN do well.  Be sure to check out his books “The Explosive Child” and “Lost at School”.


6. Alfie Kohn on Rewards – a short clip by Kohn that includes “the more you reward students for doing something, the more they lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward”.


7.  Joey’s Soap Opera Awards Loss although comical, it shows the idea that awards can move us toward a “succeed by defeating others” mentality.


8. Nobel Prize Winner Richard Feynman on How He Doesn’t Like Honours – a good clip from the late physicist, Feynman, that challenges the idea of traditional “honours”.


9. Edward Deci’s Keynote – Deci shares the research that tangible rewards can actually DECREASE intrinsic motivation.  Deci is one of the key researchers in which Kohn and Pink have based their work.


10.  Daniel Pink on TED:  The Puzzle of Motivation – Pink shares thoughts and research on how traditional rewards aren’t as effective and do not motivate as we would think they would.


11.  Barry Schwartz on Using Our Practical Wisdom – in this TED talk, Schwartz talks about rules, carrots, sticks and actually choosing to do the right thing.


12.  Bribe Mentality: Neglecting and Derailing Intrinsic Motivation – the first 8 minutes of this video are very good and include the words of Kohn, Pink, and Marshall Rosenberg… the last part focuses on a resource-based economy that would go beyond the scope of most conversations in schools.


13: Mr. Keefe’s Class Dojo – this video shows how a teacher uses the software Class Dojo to attempt to “motivate” his students.  I won’t get into this one much in this post, and although this video is designed to support Class Dojo, this is definitely a good conversation starter on the use of sticker charts and rewards-based programs in schools.


14.  National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Christmas Bonus – Clark Griswold shows us what happens when a reward is expected… but not given/received.



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Chris Wejr

Proud father of twin girls and a son. Currently working as the Principal of Shortreed Elementary School (K-5) in Aldergove, BC, Canada. Passionate about instruction, strengths-based education and leadership, reconciliation, assessment, and human motivation.


  1. Thanks for the compilation of videos on a subject that I also have an interest in. At our school, we moved away from an awards day surprisingly with little opposition.

    • Daryl, that is fantastic! Can you tell me a bit more about this – which grade and the process? Has anybody shared the story as it may help others looking to do the same!

  2. Thanks Chris – a few I had seen, but several that are new to me. I would be curious about how you (or others) are using the videos. Have you used them as part of a professional learning activity? I could see some sort of jigsaw activity but I would be interested in how you or others are finding they can be used with staff or students.

    • Hey Chris – good question. I never thought of using them in some sort of activity but that would be right up my alley! These clips could be edited down to a 2 minute clip and used together in a meeting to really stir up some dialogue. I have used Dan Pink, Ross Greene, and Rick Lavoie (separately) in staff meetings to initiate dialogue on motivation and assessment. Some of the other ones I have used as clips in presentations/blogs and then a few I have just come across recently. I enjoy using video to initiate a conversation and then see where it goes – the video “Born to Learn” that you shared years ago was used at our staff meeting once and this eventually ended up with us designing and creating our hill to encourage more outdoor play. I know this is fairly common sense to someone like yourself but I have found that instead of directing the conversation so it is perceived as MY idea, a simple question with an interesting, relevant video can spur some interesting dialogue that can lead to change. Love the idea of some sort of jigsaw activity that would include a few of them at once! (and love that this list of videos has now provided me with an idea for an engaging future professional learning activity)

      Thanks for commenting (and walking your talk). 🙂

      As Chris said… if anybody else has used video clips for a professional learning activity, please share…

  3. As an informal plt at my school, monthly we get together for “popcorn and a movie”. During these sessions we show a video of some sort (2 million minutes, FAT City, etc) and then have a professional conversation. Completely voluntary and flexible as possible. This month I’ll be sharing some of these videos as our conversation starter.

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