Postgraduate Dissertation

The Impacts of Extrinsic Reward Systems on Children’s Intrinsic Motivation to Learn: A Systematic Review


The significant role of motivation in enabling students to reach the highest standards of learning experiences has been long recognised. To this end, numerous strategies have been employed, prominently the use of external reward systems as a potential solution for enhancing engagement in learning. However, a substantial number of theoretical frameworks were put forward in the literature of psychology, suggesting the use of rewards as detrimental to the internal source of motivation, which generated an unmitigated debate. After decades of research producing contradictory findings, the disagreement remains unresolved. With the purpose of enlightening the potential outcomes of rewards on intrinsic motivation and discovering the extent of existing research around the field, adopting a systematic review methodology, empirical research conducted within the last thirty-five years on the effects of extrinsic rewards was identified and analysed. By employing an exhaustive approach to literature searching on eight electronic databases, nine empirical studies were selected, which complied with the predetermined criteria for selecting studies. The main findings of this study suggest that the outcomes caused by the practice of giving rewards are not essentially harmful, but highly variational depending on a series of factors. However, the degree to which rewards are a useful strategy for promoting motivation is unclear due to the limited focus of existing research regarding location, design and age group of population. This systematic review also reveals through the thematic analysis of selected studies' findings that the reward type and the contingencies the rewards are administered for play a significant role in determining their impacts. However, even though the reward characteristics are influential; context and individual diversities such as gender and age seem like a more potent factor in determining how rewards are perceived regardless of their characteristics.

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Dalci, Cansu


Rights Holders: Dalci, Cansu
Supervisors: Gilson, Catharine

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Education
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Degree programme

MA Childhood and Youth Studies



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