Monday, February 8, 2010

Paying Kids to Think Makes them Dumber!

Do you pay your kids to go to school? Of course you do! We pay our kids in grades. This I think creates a problem though. According to Dan Pink's presentation at TED on motivation, a number of universities (London School of Economics for one) a "Pay for Performance Plan" actually decreases performance on tasks that involve creative problem solving. The only time the "carrot and stick" model of motivation increases student performance is when a person is only given very simple tasks where very little creative thinking is involved. I guess in this case it is only a matter of a person deciding how much effort to put in, as effort is the only ingredient required for success.

But is effort the be all end all for improving student performance? No. Instead I think we need to focus on improving student performance with more intrinsic rewards when teaching upper level thinking.

1.) Autononmy - the feeling that "I am in charge of my learning". But, our job as teachers might then be to find a way to prove that kids need to look after their own education.

2.) Mastery - self esteem doesn't come from people patting you on the back. It comes from applying yourself to a difficult task and being successful. Mastery is a form of reward.

3.) Purpose - the ultimate job of the 21st century teacher. My latest focus - connecting what students are learning to their lives in such a way that the student uses the knowledge TODAY. And, to use this knowledge for something that serves a higher purpose than ourselves.

Keep talking about the intrinsic rewards of learning to your students. It's a tough sell at first, but its the only currency worth paying them.

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