If you have a child or children in a NSW primary school, then you may have heard of eagle rocks.

They’re a bit like a collector series. Once a few rocks are earned by the kids for exhibiting good learning behaviour, then they receive a certificate of merit.

My daughter has just started kindergarten and has received many rocks and a few certificates already in only her first month and a half of kindy.

The eagle rocks are part of a Positive Behavioural Learning program which runs throughout the whole primary school K-6. It has apparently been successfully running at the school for 3 years – rewarding positive behaviour and promoting the school ethos of Respect, Responsibility and Personal Best.

My daughter’s teacher informs me that there are currently 940 schools in NSW using the program with each school tailoring it to their own needs. In the teacher’s words,

“free and frequent rewards help build self-esteem and encourage and reward students doing the right thing.”

However, it got me thinking and reflecting from two perspectives: loyalty marketing + behavioural psychology.

Loyalty learning

From a loyalty marketing perspective, it feels like a type of loyalty program – loyalty learning – which may be a great way of encouraging right outcomes. Offering frequent free rewards.

A way of maintaining student attention by using a form of gamification, or relatively instant instant-gratification.

Is it good? Is it bad? Far be it for me to judge.

According to my daughter’s teacher, and the school, it has been highly successful in getting students to show respect, take greater responsibility, and do their personal best.

However, I’d love to see some deeper research on it all. As my gut feeling is that whilst it may be working on one hand, it may also be creating another consequence that teachers may not be aware of.

Behavioural psychology

From a behavioural psychology perspective I’m wondering if it creates some foundational sense of entitlement or anxiety. Could it be creating an unrealistic expectation of having to receive more and more rewards in life to do basic or common tasks?

And from the perspective of kids leaving school after year 12 and entering the work force, does it create the feeling of deserving more and more just for doing things that are simply expected of them in a job role?

I’ve come across many business and HR leaders in my marketing consultancy over the past 10 years that are struggling with this from young recruits.

I was speaking to a marketing manager recently, telling her about the eagle rocks. She was highly interested and told me of an amazing story of one of her new staff members who was asking for a pay rise after only being employed for 3 months!

The marketing manager highlighted to the staff member that all the examples they were suggesting, that were seen by the staff member to be worthy of a pay rise, were in fact standard expectations of any job role: “turning up to work on time, keeping managers up to date, attending meetings, making rooms look neat and tidy after using them” etc.

So, I’m wondering if there is any link between ‘loyalty learning’ and child/young adult entitlement and anxiety, when in real life, people don’t receive regular rewards or ’success certificates’ for standard actions?

And whether the loyalty learning approach factors in building enough resilience and acceptance of failure at a critical early stage of life (ie: the first few years of school)?

I don’t have the answers but was just interested to pose it as a thought-provoking topic.

  • Have you come across such a program at your child’s school?
  • Do you feel that it creates a positive foundation for future success?
  • Or do you feel that there may be some negative consequences that teachers may not have realised yet?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And in relating it back loyalty marketing strategies. We need to be careful in any program of direct-to-customer activity. Making sure that we don’t just focus on the direct actions required, but that we’re also seeking to identify hidden, or related, consequences of our actions. Some loyalty communication can have a negative consequence for customers. Have you researched the positive and negative impacts of your direct-to-customer activity?