What are the Rewards of Hard Work?

What are the Rewards of Hard Work?

You’ve worked hard to complete an assignment, submitted your paper, and now you are waiting to receive feedback from your instructor. You may hope to receive a good grade because you’ve worked hard on the assignment. Or you may not care about the grade itself and expect to receive some form of positive feedback so that you are rewarded for the amount of effort you have made. The grade you’ll earn is based upon how well the assignment criteria are met. The challenge for your instructors is finding a way to “reward” you or provide a meaningful form of acknowledgement when your work has exceeded all of the expectations.

Your Instructor’s View

Your instructors approach written assignments as an opportunity to assess your skill sets and determine how well you are making progress in class. Grades are generally viewed as a culmination of points rather than a reward system, which means your work is evaluated by the established criteria or learning outcomes. In my experience, many students will complete the minimum requirements necessary to “get by” in the class or earn a passing grade, others will complete enough to earn the maximum points possible, and some students will far exceed the assignment requirements.

In many online academic programs grading is usually not done “on a curve” – what you earn for each assignment is the grade you will receive. In addition, most online schools have a fixed set of possible points built into the class for the assignments and extra credit is not an available option. If you have done exceedingly well with an assignment you’ll earn the same grade or the same number of points as a student who has done sufficiently well and met all of the required assignment criteria. The question instructors consider is how to reward students who have completed more than what was required.

A Student’s View

When you have a written assignment to complete there are often numerous criteria that must be met. Here are some examples of what you may be expected to complete so that you can earn the maximum number of points possible:

•    The content of your assignment. There will be an assigned topic or subject that is related to the course learning objectives. When you write a paper you are expected to demonstrate your knowledge of the subject matter, develop new ideas, present research, and/or present a logical analysis.

•    The mechanics of your assignment. It is expected that you will utilize proper spelling and grammar, and format your paper according to the required guidelines.

•    Other requirements. Your instructors may establish their own expectations, such as a mandatory word count and demonstrated proficiency with critical thinking skills.

There are a specific number of points allocated for each assignment and you can be reasonably certain that if you have met these criteria you will earn the maximum number of points. What’s frustrating for some students is that a student who meets all of the expectations and completes what is required will receive the same number of points as a student who has excelled.

If you submit an assignment that far exceeds these requirements you may expect to receive something more, a “reward” that acknowledges what you have done. If you are self-motivated there may not be a need to receive recognition because you feel a sense of accomplishment with the work that has been completed. However, other students become discouraged if the extra effort has not been acknowledged.

How an Instructor Rewards Hard Work

As I develop feedback for an assignment, I’m utilizing a rubric to evaluate how the criteria were met and calculate the number of points earned. I’m also considering your progress and what I can do to help you improve or continue to excel as I write up your feedback. There are times when an assignment has been so thoroughly developed I want to provide an acknowledgement of the extra effort or a reward for a job well done.

One of the most important forms of recognition that I provide for a written assignment is the use of personalized feedback. If you have demonstrated advanced writing skills and met all of the assignment criteria I’ll ask follow up questions and build upon several points within your paper. This form of advanced communication can help you feel a sense of accomplishment because it further acknowledges your work.

Another form of acknowledgement I’ve used is peer recognition. This occurs most often during class discussions when a student has provided a well-developed response. I’ll recognize that posting with a follow-up reply, acknowledge the contribution made, provide additional insight, and ask additional questions to build upon that response. This provides recognition and helps to establish the response as a role model for students to follow.

For my class, I may not have additional points or extra credit available to award for your assignments; however, I can provide support, praise, and acknowledgement. I will “reward” an assignment that exceeds all requirements by acknowledging your hard work with feedback that encourages your continued progress and sense of self-motivation – and students respond favorably to this instructional approach because their work has been recognized.

What do you hope to receive as a result of your hard work? Share your thoughts about feedback and rewards via Twitter @DrBruceJ

By Dr. Bruce Johnson

Photo © Jeffrey Coolidge/Corbis

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