Each ** represents advancing to the next part.

Here is my presentation on Intrinsic Motivation:

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I have stopped assigning daily required homework to my students. Over the last 4 years of my teaching career, I assigned daily homework, and at the start of each class I would "check", or assess, the completion of their work. Every day I would either send home a worksheet, a page out of the textbook, or a task to be completed for next class.

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Was this excellent practice or malpractice? When I started to think about it, what I was doing could be considered malpractice. The students would open their work booklets to the assigned page and I would walk up and down the rows and either give a grade of 100% or 0%. It is ludicrous to call this true assessment. I was grading their work ethic more than their actual knowledge of math. Almost every students' mark was being either inflated or deflated due to their work ethic.

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Why did I give homework? At first, I had believed that daily homework teaches good work habits and/or develops positive character traits.

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After reading the research I have yet to find one piece of evidence that supports this claim.

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After reading this I still believed in homework as it gave students more time to master a topic or skill. I have read reports from researcher Richard C. Anderson that claims "the actual learning that is occurring depends strictly on time spent learning the concept".

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However, when Anderson completed further research he found that this claim also turns out to be false. The majority of people that I have encountered that are supporters of daily required homework fail to look at the tasks from the students’ point of view.

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Most “drill and practice” assignments actually do the contrary to students’ learning, and actually “drill and kill” any interest to the subject area. Also, when students are struggling with a concept, asking them to complete questions on this concept will become frustrating and still no actual learning will occur. I have realized that I need to stop treating my students with the notion that “if I give them more to do, then they will know more”.

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In my classes, I challenge students in meaningful contexts and provide them with questions that are similar to the ones in class. I do not require my students to complete these questions, I do not grade these questions, and I do not force my students to do work which is not important to them. The meaning of the math is what I put as a priority in my class, and homework as second. How can we change this?

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Here is a worksheet I used to use during class. The students would follow along and write the answers in. Students became disengaged. I was constantly asking students to “pay attention”. What I failed to realize that these students did not find any value or merit in the assigned task. Now, at the beginning of class I have created structured review questions for the students work on in collaboration with their group members. Once completed, I move onto the lesson for which we complete until the end of class. The next day we start again.

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Difference; the questions that are given are no longer pseudo-context but actual real life application. Here is an example of a question I currently use. First I ask my students about their knowledge of the JFK assassination. Some talk about conspiracies they may have heard. Next, the task;

1) Determine the distance all three bullets travelled before hitting an object

2) Determine the closest distance the car came to the shooter.

These are two specific outcomes in my Math 20 Pure course. Before I would give my students the equation of the line and the point from which they had to calculate the distance. Now, my students must CREATE the line of the car, the co-ordinate system, and label which points are important. Depending on where you set the origin for your Cartesian Co-Ordinate system the points and equations of the line may differ.

THIS IS OK! Students need to realize that there isn’t always ONE way to complete a question. Contrary to popular belief, in math there are multiple paths to an answer. For this question, there is a “right” answer, and for other questions there may be multiple “right” answers. This needs to be taught.

**DISCUSSION about homework and meaningful tasks**

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This is what are students are telling us. They leave their homes and lives, where entertainment and engagement exist readily and enter our schools where we are asking them to “calm down.” Instead we should be awakening them by challenging their minds. We can no longer motivate students by carrots and sticks, or grades and consequences. Asking a student to complete something with the reasons, “I told you so”, or “It will be important later” is no longer motivating students. Students need to have motivation within.

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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.

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I used to believe that this mark was where students would jump from. They came into my class wanting to achieve AT LEAST that mark, and from there try their hardest. After watching how students reacted to their marks closely, I found the complete opposite.

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Once a student achieves his/her XX%, the learning curve will drop drastically. To further illustrate this, an actual comment from a student:

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*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.”*Students are using their wanted mark as a ceiling for their performance not a floor! 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!”*What does guide motivation?

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Autonomy: students want to be self-directed, and to have control over their own learning. If you only want compliance from students, then you cannot allow them to be self-directed. However, self-direction will allow for true engagement to flourish in a classroom.

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Proof: A software company called Atlassian, out of Australia, does something very unique. Once, every quarter, they allow their employees to work on whatever they, with whomever they want, and however they want. They are provided with beer, cake, etc. so as to create a fun environment. The only catch: whatever you create, fix, or solve, you must show your results. The company has seen, just in these 24 hours alone, a large array of fixes for existing software, new software, and so on. “Pure un-diluted autonomy truly works!”

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Mastery and purpose: Students truly want to get better at tasks they are required to complete. No one enjoys not knowing, or not being good, at something. Also, students need to know the WHY part just as much as the HOW.

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Proof: “People will do things for free, spend time doing it for the fun of it and never expect any reward from it” Most people will shake their head at this statement. If you are one of those people, look at the site “Wikipedia”. Here is a site that is created solely on people doing research, spending time reading, and then providing their knowledge FOR FREE. Look at how many educational blogs there are; people sharing their ideas, thoughts and answers with the world, for no gain at all. What drives them? “Mastery and contribution”.

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What does this look like in a high school math class room? Here is an assignment I once used. Before giving it, I knew the students were not going to be engaged, so I put some humour “textie bookie”. Of course this made them laugh a bit, but entertainment does not necessarily mean engagement. After some thought I realized there is no autonomy here. I am giving students the price of their house, the mortgage rate and even the years they will amortize the mortgage over. Since when does this happen? In life we have choices but in school we are told what to think. This year, I changed the assignment to this.

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Start giving questions that don’t just have one right answer. Instead of giving students information why not just provide them the context but ask them to research the information? I allowed students to collaborate with others or work alone. The world was their boundaries. This time I heard comments such as “WOW! I can’t afford that” or “Geez, never thought it would be that expensive”. Also, some students informed me of great conversation they had with their parents because of this assignment. They had autonomy and understood the purpose.

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Another example from Math 30 Applied; here is a page from our work booklet. BORING! I have been to very few places with perfect square blocks, but this is what I gave my students in previous years. This has now been changed to this:

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Using the city plan of NY, NY, students were asked to create different paths from an actual location to another actual location on the map. No longer is this out of context, nor did I say “In case you ever encounter a perfect set of city blocks this how to solve”. We actually came up with the REAL solution from different points in the city of New York. Students even challenged other groups from different points. Again autonomy and purpose!

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Once we realize that our job should focus around students, and the outcomes, reasons, and justifications surround the student, we will then be promoting learning in schools and not just ranking students. Students will become intrinsically motivated to complete tasks, not because of marks, but actually due to the fact that they understand the purpose, want to master the task and have autonomy about how to solve it.

This really spoke to me David, thanks for taking the time to pull together such a rich and entertaining presentation. The idea that it is a certain mark-threshold that drives student motivation really enforced something that I speak about in my work context. I'm involved with the Canadian Education Association's project called What did you do in school today? and the idea of encouraging students to be INTELLECTUALLY engaged in their learning is key in this initiative. And the factors we identify that impact intellectual engagement are relevance and motivation - your presentation really speaks to this. We always say you can have an A student who isn't at all intellectually engaged even though they have fulfilled and excelled in their homework and assignment requirements. Your presentation has really provided an insightful tool for educators to think about how learning can be altered to increase relevance and motivation. I'm going to share this blog post with my colleagues! Thanks so much!

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