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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


FOURIE, Janine  e  DREYER, LM. The use of rewards to enhance the experiences of academic self-efficacy and motivation of foundation phase learners in a special-needs school. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2022, vol.62, n.3, pp.527-542. ISSN 2224-7912.

Throughout a person's life, characteristics such as creativity, adaptability and perseverance are needed. Research has shown that these characteristics can be cultivated through a combination of high self-efficacy and intrinsic motivation. Self-efficacy, or the belief one has about one S own ability, has a direct influence on how motivated one is to participate in a specific task or activity. An interrelationship therefore exists between the two, and can be influenced by an overall mindset regarding ability or intellect. Teachers often use rewards in the classroom to motivate learners to reach high performance standards; however, heavy debates about the influence of rewards on learners' self-efficacy and motivation are ongoing among academics. These debates are often due to different views or points of departure concerning motivation, such as the behaviouristic and cognitive approaches. The behaviouristic approach to motivation focuses mainly on three components, namely a driving force, learned motives, and incentives to "push" someone into participating in a task or activity. As opposed to the behaviouristic approach, the cognitive approach focuses on cognition, a personal, social, and cultural incentive that "pulls" a person towards participating in a given task or activity. According to the cognitive approach, motivation depends largely on the task or activity, on how interesting it is or what its perceived value is, on a person's abilities (or perceived abilities), and on the reason for success or failure in similar activities in the past. Past experiences are of crucial importance when people judge their own abilities (self-efficacy). Other criteria used to evaluate one's own abilities include social comparisons, verbal feedback, and physiological reactions. Research has shown that learners in special-needs schools often have low self-efficacy beliefs about their academic ability due to repeated experiences of failure. A study to investigate the role ofrewards on these learners' self-efficacy was therefore imperative. Teachers could use the findings to inform their decisions on how to use rewards in the classroom. Deci and Ryan's (1985) self-determination theory (SDT) was used as theoretical framework for this study. This theory strives to develop learners' self-efficacy beliefs through fulfilling three basic human needs for optimal functioning, constructive social development, and personal wellbeing. These needs are identified as 1) the need to feel capable, 2) the need to be in control (autonomy) and 3) the need for relatedness. As far as rewards are concerned, the self-determination theory covers issues such as how rewards can be used as informative feedback for learners, scaffolding them into becoming more effective in a task or activity. The theory further distinguishes between autonomous and controlled motivation providing opportunities for extrinsic motivation to become intrinsic motivation through integration. Five participants were purposefully selected from a special-needs school in the northern suburbs of Cape Town where they took part in a collective case study design that investigated their experiences of rewards and self-efficacy. It was found that learners value and experience different types of academic rewards on an individual basis and that the classroom teacher should therefore carefully select and award rewards. The types of rewards vary from abstract rewards like verbal praise to concrete rewards such as stickers or sweets. The awarding of rewards should furthermore focus on the learning process, and not on product or outcome, in order to increase learners' self-efficacy. The process of rewarding the learning process can be visualised as a staircase where each step is a learner's individual learning goal, with the overarching learning outcome (or product) at the top. As the learner climbs each step, he or she is in fact reaching a learning outcome. Rewarding for process and outcomes thus becomes integrated and the process becomes the product. This study's findings contribute to the increasing repository of literature on the use of academic rewards, focusing on how, and not if, rewards should be used.

Palavras-chave : collective case-study; foundation phase learners; learning outcome; learning process mindset; motivation; rewards; self-efficacy; special-needs school; verbal praise/feedback.

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