Jessica Bryce

Primary Teacher

Plains Primary

  • Digital Learning: Pupil Engagement

What happens to engagement in online learning when a reward system is introduced?


As an educator, it is always of top priority to ensure that pupils are engaged in both teaching and learning. The importance of this has been emphasised numerous times by several accredited authors where the evidence of a strong relationship between engagement and academic success has been apparent (De Villiers and Werner, 2018). After moving to distance learning in January 2021 as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, it became a key interest of mine to ensure high levels of pupil engagement when remote learning was the primary method of delivering education. This was partly due to the poor levels of engagement during the initial school closures in March of 2020. For the practitioner enquiry group and myself, we were all extremely interested in how we could encourage our pupils to become more involved in online learning. This motivation also stems from the underpinning of the National Improvement Framework (Scottish Government, 2020) and the requirement to ensure that educational equality is achieved (Scottish Attainment Challenge | Learning resources | National Improvement Hub, 2021). It was decided that introducing a rewards system would be an effective way to encourage pupil motivation and engagement, which would allow for the opportunity to “focus on actions that can be externally observed and extrinsically controlled” (Back and Allen, 2018). 

After conducting initial academic research, it was understood that by “introducing engagement-contingent rewards”… “the rewards are likely to be experienced as controlling the task behaviour” (Deci, Koestner and Ryan, 2001) something that was noted throughout the duration of this study. However, it was decided that for the purpose of this enquiry that extrinsic rewards were appropriate and measurable. 


The aim of this enquiry was to investigate whether introducing an online reward system would encourage pupils to engage with three main elements of remote learning: 

  1. Joining live lessons  
  2. Uploading work to Teams 
  3. Accessing Sumdog 
Download Practitioner Enquiry