It is possible, but I am not sure how likely, that the word `reward’ features in the vocabulary of eleven plus parents. There may be some who would advocate that studying towards the eleven plus is an end in itself. There may even be some parents who would advocate a continuous system of rewards.
The word `reward’ is common in our vocabulary. It is not some esoteric term dreamt up exclusively for eleven plus parents – rewards pervade the very fabric of our lives. A girl will reward her lover with a quick kiss for some thoughtful action. A dog will reward his or her owner by an ecstatic wag of the tail for a brief caress. An eleven plus child may even, at times, crave a reward!
The definition of the term `reward’ will be affected by many different factors. An eleven plus child may expect a reward for a correct answer. The reward could be a figurative or even a literal pat on the head – or possibly something far more tangible and lasting.
A reward that is associated with a change in the environment (an extra 10p for a correct answer) is designed to increase the likelihood of the action being repeated. In one section of non-verbal reasoning, for example, the section on codes can be challenging to all concerned. A bag-full of 10p coins, for every right answer, could, possibly, increase – or even decrease - the learning time.
It can be argued, however, that the reward should not be something that the eleven plus child should like or not like. One eleven plus child may crave a pile of 10p coins growing higher and higher. Another child may not welcome a more than a smile or a brief caress. Every eleven plus parent must dream for a candidate working towards the examination because the reward is voluntary learned behaviour in itself.
Of course some children may understand and appreciate the concept of a hypothetical reward. “Your reward for all this hard work will be a good and stable job.” A concept of this nature may be a little abstract for some eleven plus children. Ten pence in the hand may be better than ten thousand pence in twenty years’ time!
It may be a little difficult for some children to put the idea of a hypothetical reward to the test. Waiting twenty years for a reward may be a concept too far for a percentage of eleven plus children! Yet children and their parents do have access to something that called an `intervening variable’. These are variables that can trigger a firm and powerful reward or even one a little more watered down.
By the time a child starts on an eleven plus course most parents will have a pretty fair idea of what works and what does not. Renoir, the French Impressionist painter, may have, potentially, been a very good eleven plus parent when he maintained: “The only reward one should offer an artist is to buy his work.”