Tool #3

Implementing a Rewards System

With rewards deemed essential tools for the purpose of shaping desired behaviors, the following are three topics for the leaders of a professional development initiative to keep in mind when working to embed the frequent and sustained use of Whitewater Learning® into the culture of your organization.


Elizabeth Murphy, co-author of the Murphy-Meisgeier Type Indicator for Children,’ discusses in a training workshop on how to use her indicator the use of rewards to shape the behaviors of young children. One of Murphy’s essential points is that if you want to know what is reinforcing to the children for whom you are responsible, watch them. They will tell you through their behaviors what they prefer to do, what they observe, whom they want to be around, what they will eat and what stays on their plate, how they react to noise and activity, among a myriad of information… all from observations.

 The same can be true for individuals of any age. In the absence of a survey to determine rewards, watch and listen with a commitment to get to know those with whom you teach, interact with as a team member, or even want to get to know in the future. Observe how they use their time, what makes them joyful and what turns them upside down. This information is valuable as you identify reinforcers to help shape and reward desired behaviors.


WHIP stands for “What you Have In your Possession.” Reinforcers don’t always have to be planned ahead of time or an item on your shopping list. They can be simple items that you carry in your pocket or have in a desk drawer. Sometimes it can be something as simple as a paperclip you happened to have in your pocket, given to the person you wish to recognize, and accompanied with the right words to create personal meaning.

For example, in giving the paper clip to someone you observed doing the right thing at the right time, you might say, “I noticed you went over to soothe Absame when he was sad. That was a kind behavior and I am proud of you. I want to give you this paperclip to keep in your pocket to remind you of how being kind to people when they are sad can help that person feel better and may help you make a friend that could be special to you for a long time.”


Some districts are using reinforcements that may affect working agreements and therefore it is either imperative or sometimes just good practice to maintain strong communication between the school board and its administrators and members of bargaining units when initiating a reinforcer that affects working parameters. Here are a few examples that some districts are currently using as reinforcers for completing Whitewater Learning® modules:

  • On professional development days, when students do not report to school, some districts are allowing employees to complete their professional development requirements online, from any location, and at any time of the day or night. In these cases, there is a window of time, such as five days, during which the requirements must be completed. Because Whitewater Learning is online, uses Moodle software, and is housed at the reputable St. Paul, MN-based TIES technology service provider for school districts, the subscribing district has access to the district’s usage and can see which employees completed the required number of modules or hours and who did not. If an employee chose to not complete the work, the time can be attributed to either a vacation or dock day, depending on the agreements of the district.
  • The same applies to weather-related days for some districts. The online solution for these first two examples has many benefits including the problem of child care when schools release students from school but the employees have to report. Who cares for their children?
  • Providing “get out early” or “come late” tokens to staff for flipping Whitewater Learning content prior to applying the content during a designated professional development day, small learning community sessions, or at regularly scheduled staff meeting. Staff can use their tokens, no questions asked, at any time with the understanding he or she must be on time for all classes he or she is assigned and may not leave before the students to whom the teacher is assigned. In addition, the tokens cannot be used on days the employee is expected to be in attendance at a meeting.

 Being creative and thinking outside the box, there are many ways that workdays can be used differently, thereby creating the time and reinforcements that encourage the use of Whitewater Learning as a regular part of each educator’s professional development.

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