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Motivation: From Outside In
We got a great variety of experiences in the thread for today's show about paying for student performance. I recommend reading the whole thing, but here are a few comments to give you a taste:
I am an educator in Pendleton, OR. I use motivators daily as I work with special education students. Sometimes those motivators are as simple as saying "good job". However, there are times when students need more motivation and I never go further than a small little prize. The best motivator I have found is to make learning fun.
From ORSunshine, an edible motivation:
My parents used to take my brother and I out for ice cream when our yearly report cards came in - it was an acknowledgement and celebration of the good grades. That and positive reinforcement at home when we brought home good school work, as well as volunteering in the classroom taught us that our parents valued our educational acheivements.
k5655 was more skeptical:
I am currently a high school student and though I may be biased because of my previous experience, I firmly believe that students should not be rewarded with money, toys, cars, or whatever. To me, this system encourages the child to do well because of some material value and it begs the question, what will happen when parents aren't there to reward their children?
Wunderfulife is worried about a different kind of backlash:
I graduated from high school in 2001. When I was in high school, I got A's and B's because I was expected to.
Rewards were unnecessary, but that didn't stop the school from trying. Each year, my high school would "honor" everyone who received high grades in an assembly. Not only was that system horribly tacky, but gruesomely embarrassing.There were systems in place for high-risk students in which the reward scheme was much more enticing. I don’t know whether this affected their grades at all, but I do know that other students would be jealous. After all, these students received rewards for showing up and doing their homework. Everyone else showed up and did their homework and received nothing.
And ScottMil left us with an ambivalent take. He says you can view financial rewards as analgous to antidepressants:
A financial reward is often the wrong reason to motivate someone, but perhaps forcing a student to engage in a topic or work harder, at some point the value of this work may begin to mean something in its own right. Sometimes doing something or trying something, even if it is for the wrong reasons, can lead to other things. Just as the way relying on an antidepressant is not the way to achieve good mental health, but sometimes it takes that boost for the mind to heal and help you sort things out.
Isn't life in a way all about rewards? Doesn't every action and interest give us some form of reward: emotional, fame, love. Most everything we do is predicated by a final reward of sorts, or else why do anything at all?... Perhaps, at some time the 'right' reasons will take over.
That's just what Cpinbird is hoping:
I am one week away from beginning my 25th year teaching middle school. I was an intrinsically motivated student who loved learning. My own kids, 13 & 16, are different. The 16 year old is just beginning to see beyond today when he undertakes something. Thus far, he has been motivated extrinsically, and rewards of money and privileges have helped get him through school. He's beginning to think about the future, and we'll see this year if he can look beyond the present moment when he's doing schoolwork.... Begin with extrinsic rewards and mentoring relationships and, over time, the intrinsic motivation will come.
This switch — from working hard for some external goal to working hard for its own sake, or for something more personal — seems like the holy grail of all of these programs. How do you get it to happen?