Monday, July 19, 2010

Intrinsic Motivation: the only way to go for schools

Have you ever said to your students, “Missing this assignment will affect your report card!”? Have you ever given out pizza coupons for reading books? Pencils for returning an important newsletter? How do you feel about honour roll for students above an 80% average? Have you ever bribed kids with marks to read or do homework? Pay children to complete tasks? Pay children for marks on a report card?

How effective are these methods? Do you do persist in using rewards even though you don’t believe they work? What is the alternative?

Daniel Pink talks about intrinsic motivation in his book “Drive”. He makes a strong case that extrinsic motivation does not work. He cites a study that only 50% of the U.S. work force is engaged at work. The rest are unengaged and unmotivated. In a study in Sweden, blood donors were paid to give blood. The number of donors actually went down. Pizza coupons given out for reading in elementary school has little or a negative effect. Offering increased pay for increased engagement and productivity is not effective.

He argues that extrinsic motivation can:

  1. extinguish intrinsic motivation

  2. decrease performance

  3. foster short term thinking

  4. crush creativity

  5. encourage cheating

  6. become addictive

Intrinsic motivation increases engagement, performance, creativity, satisfaction, long term thinking and, one might argue, becomes addictive. He describes heuristic activities as enjoyable in the process of the “doing”, with no set path towards success, no one right way to the end product. It is often in these activities that “flow” can be achieved. The motivation for the task lays in the task itself, not the product and certainly not the reward.

The opposite of heuristic are algorithmic tasks, where there is one set, correct path to one correct outcome. I think some people can be fully engaged and intrinsically motivated in algorithmic tasks, depending on their personality and learning style.

People want to be intrinsically motivated as suggested by the things like the rising demand for “vocation vacations”, where tourists travel to volunteer in another country. He talks a lot about companies like Google and 3M who give their employees 20% of work time (Fedex. Days) to create projects of their own. In fact, Google employees created products such as google translate, orkut, talk and sky during their Fedex. time. His main argument is that intrinsic motivation emerges when people have autonomy over their:

1. Task- having some choice as to what they work on

2. Time- having some choice as to when they do the work

3. Technique- having some choice as to how they choose to complete the task

4. Team- having some choice as to who they work with on the task

He includes a chapter on education. He makes several recommendations for teachers and parents. They are:

1. Change from assigning “home work” to “home learning”. Tasks to be completed at home should increase intrinsic motivation by being interesting and involve real thinking, creating and problem solving.

2. Consider having Fed. Ex. time in your classroom for the students to create and learn about something of their own choosing. They will still need to be held accountable for their time and a framework will need to be provided for them to succeed in this new way of learning.

3. Teachers need to become facilitators of learning and assessment for learning. Students should be given the responsibility for assessing their own work. Consider “Do It Yourself” (DIY) Report Cards.

4. Do not give out rewards for tasks. One might argue that marks in school are irrelevant. (Joe Bower)

5. Praise effort and hard work, not intelligence.

6. Make sure the curriculum is relevant to them in some way, often this is accomplished through giving some choices as to what to learn, how to learn it and how to communicate that learning (Kohn).

7. Make kids teachers. Let them make decisions, develop rubrics, teach one another, collaborate, assess.

I would recommend this book for anyone in business or education. What does this mean for your classroom and school?

1 comment:

  1. This was one of my favorite reads of the year. Interestingly,as we try to change high schools, specifically using marks as extrinsic controls, everyone resists because we need to "prepare them for work." Pink makes a great case for how making school intrinsically rewarding is preparing them for work. We will also be preparing them seek those better workplaces where they are engaged.