Monday, January 24, 2011

More on intrinsic motivation before extrinsic

An argument to my blog about motivation is “Would you work if you weren’t paid?”  Society needs to understand that extrinsic motivation will only induce and encourage people to a certain point, while intrinsic motivation will provoke and inspire behaviour beyond that point.
To illustrate this let’s take two teachers, who both work in middle class Red Deer:
Ivan – a teacher who is motivated by true intrinsic motivation.  Ivan loves to teach solely to inspire young minds.
Edward – a teacher who is motivated by only extrinsic motivation.  Edward loves to teach for the 2 months off at summer, the pay check, and the honour of calling himself a teacher.
Scenario 1: They are paid $100 000 a year for teaching; a pay which allows them to both live comfortably.  Their administration then offers a 10% (or $10 000) increase in pay if they were to take on extra teaching duties.  Due to their motivations Ivan would say “Yes”, while Edward would decline.
Ivan is agreeing as he is seeing an opportunity to stimulate more young minds.  Edward declines since he does not need the increase in pay to sustain his lifestyle.
Scenario 2: They are paid $30 000 a year; a pay which will NOT allow them to both live comfortably.  Their administration offers the same deal, 10% (or $3 000) increase to take on extra teaching duties.  This time, however, they both accept the deal.
Even though the increase is less this time than in scenario 1, Edward needs the increase to maintain and continue living his lifestyle. 
Teachers need to understand that extrinsic rewards, or carrots, only motivate students to a point.  For some, this point is a 50%, and others it may be a 90%, but there is a mark XX% for every child.  Once a student achieves his/her XX%, the learning curve will drop drastically.  To further illustrate this, an actual comment from a student:
My parents require me to be on the honour roll, which is to have an average of 80% or higher.  Since my mark in this class is an 85%, I can stop trying”
This is occurring more often than we realize!  When we start creating classrooms based on learning, and not marks, the paradigm shift will be amazing.  Students will start holding themselves accountable for their learning, and there will no longer be an XX% for which students will maximize their performance at.  We need to start answering the question of “Is this for marks?” with “NO! It is for learning!”


  1. Finland has no grades...just pass fail...and they have the best education on the this sounds like solid theory. What you are missing is that our society is hung up on the notion of assessment. Everyone wants to know their "percent" they want to be graded, and not just A, B, C, or F either, they want numbers. It would require a huge cultural paradigm to implement something so different. Aaaand...the government would have to start trusting teachers professionally - eliminating diploma exams and all....which will never happen.

  2. I have started this no grading policy in my religion class at school. I have asked all the students to give themselves their percentage mark and we talk about how they are doing in class and with the learning that is occurring. The kids are very uncomfortable with this, but when asked if they would just like a blank left on their report card they can't accept that either so we come up with a mark. It's been an interesting experience.