I think we've learned a lot about how different kids learn. When I was in school, we all sat in rows facing the board. The teacher read or put stuff on the board, and sometimes we read different portions of a book aloud (especially in English class), and otherwise we answered questions and took written tests/quizzes.
That's boring. That's why school wasn't fun. It was regimented. Many kids learned that way, but many others just didn't. Those were often branded "the dumb kids" who we relegated to a seat in the back, a trip to the principal's office, and a failing grade (or being "left back). Some of those kids might have had intellectual difficulties, but many others had learning challenges like dyslexia and various processing issues. Some had ADD/ADHD or focus problems. As a former teacher, I now see so many of these kids who at least have a diagnosis, and we know they learn differently (not necessarily in a lesser way). The number of diagnoses have gone up, and there are likely just more kids with autism, sensory processing issues, epilepsy, severe allergies, and much more. We can debate the causes of that in another forum.
But we know that some kids are visual learners, while others are auditory, and still others kinesthetic and tactile. So getting up and moving around, making a game out of learning, changing the way material is presented, etc. makes a huge difference in what they take in and what they retain. Creative play activates different sections of the brain. Music, art and hands-on activities aren't just for "fun" but for stimulation of the brain, increased focus, and more. Looking at a problem or a subject in a different way, from a different vantage point, and using different senses can enhance what is taken in and retained. Being able to get up from the desk and move to a different "station" in a class lets kids who have focus problems still be able to learn by removing themselves from a difficult situation or going to a quiet corner. It also lets kids work in small teams so the teacher can get around to each group and interact individually rather than just survey the crowd from the front of the room.
Some kids need incentives - it's not enough to wait until the end of the marking period to get a report card. There's nothing wrong with it - to me, what's wrong is teachers having to spend their own money on supplies and stickers!
How many of us who sat in rows and memorized facts only to regurgitate them on a written test lament that we don't remember half of what we learned? What if some of it had been taught in a different way?
Field trips - we, fortunately, had many. I grew up on Long Island, and we often took bus trips to New York City for theater, the symphony, museums, and specialized programs (e.g. the Spanish classes went to Spanish theater and a Spanish restaurant). To me, this is just as educational as sitting in a row taking a multiple choice quiz. My senior Spanish teacher was a dancer/choreographer, and he taught us a bunch of dances - we went around to the elementary schools to perform, thereby introducing younger kids to new experiences and encouraging them to take Spanish when they could. Totally beneficial even though it took away from the days we spent conjugating irregular verbs!
While I don't think kids should think they don't have to do something unless there's a reward attached, I do think tying privileges to their participation and cooperation (which are measures of performance just like grades are) can be really beneficial in light of what we know about learning styles.