Carryl Clark

Primary Teacher

Noble Primary

  • Digital Learning: Methodologies

Use of reward systems as part of online learning


According to Wiliams, engagement in learning and motivating pupils in the classroom can be
a challenge for some teachers (Wiliams, 2012a). During online learning, this engagement and
motivation was further challenged as my colleagues and other probationers discovered it was
more challenging to engage and motivate pupils when they were not in the classroom. On
discussion with other probationers, we realised that we were all having similar issues with
engagement and keeping pupils motivated during an extensive time out of the classroom. A
collaborative decision was made that we would look at ways of trying to improve the
engagement and motivation levels of pupils during online learning. The idea we agreed on was
to research if using a reward system would improve engagement through the use of a ‘Secret
Student’ system. The use of a reward system was chosen as according to MacLean, reward
systems can be used to achieve goals and motivate pupils on a short term basis (McLean, 2010).
The purpose of this enquiry was to achieve a higher level of engagement through the period
pupils were learning from home and to maintain the motivation of pupils as online learning

The secret student initiative was introduced to the children who were given the opportunity to
discuss and agree the criteria for them to achieve the reward, giving the pupils a voice. In
discussion with the pupils, it was decided that to merit the reward, pupils would have to be
engaged in online learning through a variety of online activities which included participating
in live lessons, daily check-in’s, Sumdog, Epic and uploading at least 70% of their tasks
assigned to them throughout the week. At the beginning of the week, one student was randomly
chosen, using the lollipop randomiser, during our daily check in on a Monday morning. The
student’s name would not be revealed and would remain a secret throughout the week. The
student’s work and engagement levels through daily check in’s and live lessons would be
monitored and recorded throughout the week to see if they had met the requirements and
merited the reward for the class using the form shown in Appendix 1. The name of the secret
student would be revealed the following Monday morning during our daily check in and the
class would be rewarded through gaining marbles which would then be transferred to a treat of
their choice on their return to school. However, if the secret student did not reach the
requirements necessary to achieve the reward for the class, their name would not be revealed
and it would just be stated that the secret student had not met the requirements. It was hoped
by using this strategy it would engage and motivate more pupils in their learning as according
to Dylan Wiliams, reward systems can encourage pupils to become more engaged and work
together for the desired reward (Wiliams, 2012b).


This enquiry aimed to increase the engagement of pupils during online learning. It was hoped that the implementation of the reward system would:

  1. Increase the engagement of pupils during online learning.
  2. Encourage pupils to complete tasks assigned through the online platform.
  3. Increase effort during online learning (Teacher judgement).
  4. Increase pupils in attending online daily check in’s and live lessons.
Download Practitioner Enquiry