Saturday, September 05, 2009

Rewards don't work?

I just got done watching a video that was on John Sowash's blog. It's a TED video so you know it has to be good. The basic premise is that rewards don't work. Well, that's not exactly it, but watch the video and then we'll talk.

OK, rewards do work if the only thing you're rewarding is reptative mechanical tasks. Watching this made me think of traditional education. Most students see grades as both a carrot and a stick. Luckily most education seems to boil down to "reptative mechanical tasks" and so it seems to work quite well (yet another time I wish there were a sarcasm font, I know how to YELL, but how do you express sarcasm?).

Unfortunately many educators, me included want more than just the traditional approach. We want students to express themselves creatively in the class. We want them to think critically when solving problems. We want them to be intrinsically motivated. However we are forced to use a carrot/stick reward system. How do we move past this to foster authentic education? I wish I had answers.


Meghan Cole said...

I agree with your expectations for our classes. As an educator I am looking for ways to motivate my students to WANT to do well on their own. Today's speech from the President may have been a motivator for some but others who needed to hear those words from someone powerful were not allowed to participate. How can we motivate students who don't get any help from home??

Anonymous said...

There is a program that allows students to be in charge of their own rewards. When positive behavior is reported, students have points deposited in a personal bank account. Teachers can 'sell' anything using the bank. Check it out at The Behavior System

Craig said...

I totally agree with the carrot and stick metaphor. I was a teacher in the public schools and this was the frustration that drove me out. The kids simply did not want to be there and rewards/punishment only went so far. Luckily I found a better way. I help kids learn technology skills that will actually be useful. The kids learn more in 5 days in the program than they would all semester in a public school. How is this possible? 1. The kids are extremely motivated because they are taking courses in something they are interested in. (Web Design, Robotics, Digital animation, etc) 2.They are in a class with 6 or 7 kids TOTAL! The instructor gives them amazing 1 on 1 time for more than 8 hours a day. They walk away with an amazing project that they are proud of and don't even realize that they are learning concepts like programming, algebra, vectors, writing skills, and so on. So the bottom line from my experience is that schools need to offer courses in subjects that interest the students and then add in the intrinsic academic skills. (Real World Learning) and then they need to accommodate very small student-to-teacher ratio's to facilitate learning....Oh and by the way, disadvantaged kids who attend for free are just as successful as the ones who pay $1200 for the week! It's not always about who is wealthy or who has parents who care.

Theo said...

Thus far, the comments have been about rewarding students - but this must also apply to teachers etc. - more importantly than applying it to individuals, think about how the principal of intrinsic rewards would be applied to schools, systems, etc.

Of course I don't need to mention that NCLB and the Race to the Basement applies exactly the wrong model because they see learning and teaching as a set of "mechanical and repetitive" tasks.