Student Motivation and Performance

In the following video you’ll hear the summary of Dan Pink’s latest book “Drive” which focus on motivation as human beings.   As you watch the video what are the common misconceptions that the current research challenges?    How does this apply to how we motivate students in school towards achievement?   By putting stickers on papers on motivating people in an extrinsic manner what is the lasting effect in schools?  

I find this research and topic to be very applicable to school.  How can we better inspire or push high quality work.  I’ve been fortunate (maybe) to work in a world radically different from education surrounded by people almost solely motivated by the extrinsic value of money.  That being said Pink mentions the value of paying people enough to make “money” not an issue?   What is that number and what should a teacher be paid.   

None of this is explicitly technology related but the issue of how we motivate people is tied to leadership and you will one day have that role.  


23 thoughts on “Student Motivation and Performance

  1. As you watch the video what are the common misconceptions that the current research challenges? The common misconceptions are that people are motivated, will work harder, and produce better results if they are given rewards and incentives and this is not true. This is only true on mechanical tasks but not cognitive tasks.
    How does this apply to how we motivate students in school towards achievement? Many times as educators we motivate with “stuff” (rewards and incentives). Ideally we need to create that intrinsic motivation in kids. I see that less and less. Even in my own children they want to know what they get if they do such and such. I believe we need to create responsible citizens who want to do well and contribute to society. People such as Steve Jobs were mentioned although eventually he did receive money and lots of it he wanted to make a difference. I believe if chidren are raised to want for something all the time I am not sure they will want to make difference just to make a difference and that scary.
    By putting stickers on papers on motivating people in an extrinsic manner what is the lasting effect in schools? Grades and stickers again are something that kids want to see and sometimes just expect. They should want to work for those things to know they did well not just to see it on paper. I hope someday soon we move away from grades and kids prove they know their stuff instead of memorizing. Like the video said we want citizens who are self directed, have fun and contribute to the bigger purpose.
    Well personally, although I would love for money not to be an issue and I could live comfortably, I’m not sure what that number would be. I do know teachers do not get the credit and recognition for all of the time and thought that goes in to their work. Most are passionate and don’t do it for the money but imagine if money was not an issue we’d be even more amazing, haha.

    • Part of the hard part of describing “live comfortably” is living standards seem to be somewhat relative. In the core of the recession there were articles in the NY times about $800,000 not being enough to live comfortably in Manhattan. I found that rather nauseating but people in different places have different expectations.

  2. Kids are motivated when incentives and rewards are given!! But I do believe that this conception is not true for some students. In an ideal world, we want self directed (motivated) students to do better without rewards and incentives, but there are those students in your class who have no motivation to achieve. They don’t know how to be self directed. If their parents aren’t pushing it, they don’t understand the purpose of achieving. When motivating my students, I don’t push those students struggling to be the best in the class; I push them to do their personal best. It goes along with SMART goals. A SMART goal for the top student in the class is not going to be a SMART goal for an underperforming student. As a result, the top student in the class is not receiving rewards or incentives for always being top in the class, but rewarding those students who achieve their individual goal. When we link the individual class goals to the whole class goals, they collaborate and work together to get the class to reach the goal. They brainstorm ideas to get more students to where we need to be. Teaching and encouraging our students to be self directed would definitely eliminate all the rewards and incentives kids think they need to have all the time!
    I liked the example about the Atlassian company. 

    Stacy Lingenfelter

    • Stacy, are you starting to notice that each year the kids want less extrinsic rewards? This year the kids (some) really want to meet the goal because that’s the reward. Most of my students this year are so proud of their data folder and don’t really care about the incentives.

    • Finding some way to put in a self-directed student project is an interesting experience. I think it is hard to do with the current accountability mandate but if there was a way to cut back on the spring testing prep and add a self-directed lesson it would be an interesting thing to watch.

  3. First, I complete agree with you Stacy. Some students really do respond to the extrinsic reward system. I believe that is rooted in a whole different cause that does not relate to school, but instead home life. There are the children that are striving for any type of support and attention, so they only end up performing better when they receive that. It would be great to teach these children to be self motivated learners, however I just do not know if every child has it in them to take on that role.

    I feel this video connects to what I have seen through one of the main corporations here in Peoria. I have a number of friends that work for CAT and EVERY single one says they are constantly bored at work, but will never leave because they are paid so well. The more money they get DOES NOT motivate them to try harder.

    “When it comes to cognitive tasks, the larger reward leads to lower performance.” Obviously this quote goes against decades of beliefs, especially in school systems. However the video states that countless studies completed by psychologists, sociologists, and economists all point the this result. In schools we are trying to create critical thinkers, not memorizers. This tells me that educators, including myself, need to move away from extrinsic rewards because it is not producing “21st Century” learners.

    • I have a number of friends at CAT and I’ve seen this same trend. One goes through line by line and edits instruction manuals. I’d rather gouge my eyes out than do this all day for a living. I’m guessing he makes six figures easy.

      Cat does seem to generate a huge amount of loyalty from employees and sometimes that seems tied to moving people around every few years into new projects or challenges. In some sense if you are stuck at a boring current position at least you know in a few years you’ll have something else to work on.

  4. I like what has been said so far. It reminds me that just as much as I have certain rules and expecations for my students even before they walk in my door, they have some for me as well. The major difference is that most of mine are written down and most of theirs are unwritten. They expect to get a sticker or most of the points by just giving a ‘good effort’ without regard to whether it is right or wrong. They expect to just get handed the information they need to know with not much concern about where it came from. They seem not to be motivated by what they are learning but rather just getting through the process. And as it has been mentioned there in lies the challenge. Making the learning process ‘rewarding’ without just tricking them into making it through. I liked the CAT example because I have a friend that was paid very well at CAT but has recently switched to a smaller engineering company and absolutely loves it because he feels much more challenged cognatively and valued and is having a much more fufilling experience.

    • I completely agree with Kevin that kids come into class and just expect that the information be handed to them. Not only is there a lack of motivation, but, over the years, my students seem increasingly at a loss to even find a starting place. They are dependent on others to do it for them. whether that be teachers, parents, or other students. It would be really interesting to just take a morning where my students could learn about whatever they wanted, work with whomever they wanted, and present any kind of project they wanted-this would be after ISAT of course-haha.

      It would be intriguing to see the results though. At the beginning of each school year, I do a learning and interest inventory with my students. Instead of having them fill out a paper next year, maybe this is something I would try. So many possibliities…

  5. First of all, this presenter must of had a ton of time on his hands or a great positive cash incentive to draw and write this whole presentation! Pretty neat.
    As you watch the video what are the common misconceptions that the current research challenges?
    Being a teacher we aren’t offered any rewards if we work harder, put longer hours, and take away our personal time to improve our instructional methods. We get an annual raise by part of the contract, so in our case I believe extrinsic motivation in non-existent. Our motivation is or should be all intrinsic. Unless you account for the pleasure of seeing your students succeed at something that was once challenging to them due to your better instruction (I suppose that could be extrinsic). The students though, at least in P.E. classes, are not motivated by extrinsic rewards. Their motivation is either there, or it’s not and I believe that comes from the activity and the presentation of the activities.
    How does this apply to how we motivate students in school towards achievement?
    I agree with Nicole that we need to build intrinsic motivation within the students. How we do that is the challenging part. Like I stated a few sentences previously, I believe the motivation comes from the presentation of the activities or information. If you find fun exciting ways that related to the students, then motivation levels will increase. The next challenge is to tie that motivation into ways that will benefit the students not only through their grades, but into their everyday lives.
    By putting stickers on papers on motivating people in an extrinsic manner what is the lasting effect in schools?
    Putting stickers on papers in irrelevant in the P.E. classroom, but I do reward students with stickers for good behavior. Stickers can be used as motivation if you offer it as a reward for good behavior. Works especially good for students in the younger grades K-2, but doesn’t work much further than that. However, the motivation does not last long! Works for one class period then the students leave with excitement if they get one (sometimes crying if they don’t), but when they come next class they completely forgot about the sticker from the previous day.

    • I think the guy who did the animation is not tied directly to the presenter. But yes he probably makes some money due to the popularity of the clip and youtube’s revenue sharing policies.

  6. I was surprised by the findings in this study. I guess I always assumed the more incentive the better the outcome. It does make sense that for mechanical processes this incentive works, but why the turn around when cognitive processes were called upon? Have we as a society stopped trying?
    I agree with many things that have been mentioned. Extrinsic rewards are so common that our students don’t know how to work without them. They get allowances at home, stickers at school, and trophies for every sporting milestone they attempt (mainly because we don’t want anyone’s feelings to be hurt). Many students are motivated only by the fact they may get money for every “A” on their report card. Trying to build students’ intrinsic motivation with all these other incentives is a very hard task. I do think that with students setting individual SMART goals, it has started many students on the path of intrinsic rewards instead of purely extrinsic. They see their progress and know they achieved it themselves.
    As far as putting a price on teaching, I don’t think an appropriate sum will ever be offered. Most people who get into education know it doesn’t pay the best, but they teach because they love it and feel they can make a difference. Most teachers put in long hours and are always searching for new ways to keep their students engaged so they embrace lifelong learnering as well.

  7. Listening to this makes me first think of exactly what the government is trying to do, punish the bad teachers with those bad student test scores, and reward finacially those good teachers with high test scores. The idea that we actually do worse in intellectually based skills by being highly rewarded seems out their, but I can see to some degree how this could be true. I think something is important in what is said about the low end, as he does mention paying enough to make money not a major factor. I have often thought about education and the extreme difference in pay that occurs from a first year teacher to a 30 year teacher and between districts. I am not saying that the 30 year teacher is not the better teacher or teachers in one district are not better than another. Instead I question the extreme low pay some districts give for the vast part of a teachers career. Such teachers sometimes have to maintain multiple jobs just to try to balance a checkbook. Is this creating an effective teacher? Are some teacher really that much better than others, well yes some are, but it has nothing to do with pay. As we watched I thought something really jumped out and it relates to SIP days. I hate SIP days, I have only had a few that I thought were good, and even fewer I thought were so good that I could truly use something in my daily life. What if instead we followed this example of Atlassian and gave teachers the opportunity to be on their own for that day and create something innovative. In such environment I could see true innovation taking place. Teachers are creative, but rarely are given time to be such, unless it is on their own time. As for application to students is concerned, I have never bought into stickers, or extrensic rewards. I always have encouraged my students to understand that what they are learning is not to please me, their parents, or for grades but instead to self satisfy. Lastly, numbering a value on how much is the right amount for an educator to be making. I will not put an exact number down, instead I will say that when an educator is shown appreciation financially for accomplishments it is appreciated. When they are nickle and dimed they will feel unappreciated. In the buisness world no one would ever be asked to put out their own money for their company without expectation of complete reimbursement. In teaching opportunities for conferences and time to work on what is learned is a value that goes beyond money when it comes to motivation.

    • If I had to put a number on it and had the political position and power to make it a reality I’d peg it this way:

      45 k to start and 70 k as a cap. More pay for stipends for coaching and leading PD but also try to get teachers more recognition and status for the work they do.
      My concern when you start people too low is they continue to pile up debt just to live and don’t have much freedom later on. They also have student loans to pay and depending on the situation can eat a huge chunk of the monthly budget.

      There is some argument that the 70 k number is about where happiness peaks off in terms of income. All your material needs are being met without stress provided you aren’t hugely in debt and having your income halved by debt payments.

      I put the cap there not for a negative reason but only on the general principle that salary is often tied to the amount of risk a position has to take. The CEO is compensated well if the decisions he / she makes helps the company become more profitable. If they actually accomplish their vision. At the same time they pay the price if it doesn’t work. In schools the administrators largely give up their personal lives to meet the needs of the school. Then again coaches in season are putting in about 80 hours a week as well.

      i’m not sure where I would peg administrative pay as too much or too lavish. All depends on school size and how many supporting personnel they choose to employ.

  8. At the end of the video he made the comment that when people are treated as people and not as horses they have a purpose in life. Once you understand someone believes in you and the atmosphere you work in is fun, true motivation is sparked. It would be really hard to work somewhere that is no fun and you are just another number in the workplace. Is it really worth that much money to go to work unhappy everyday?
    I guess that is why I am a teacher because your not doing your job if your treating students as just numbers in your classroom. Motivation is truely evident when a student understands that you believe in them and encourage them to do their best. Extrinsic rewards like stickers are great for a couple days, but if you don’t intrinsically make that connection with your students the motivation lasts about as long as the stickers. We all know as teachers you can’t really put a price on seeing students succeed in your classroom and know that you have played a part in that success!

    • @ Heather
      I like your closing comments. I think most teachers are very intrinsically motivated. I remember leaving the school the first Friday after I’d left the commodity trading world feeling like it was such a great feeling to know the work I did had purpose and meaning. I hope most teachers feel this every day even when we get to the parts of the year where work becomes a grind.

  9. The way people are motivated is a mind blowing phenomenon. I loved how he talked about the company that gave everyone a day to work on whatever they wanted, with whomever they wanted and they had so much more production. The reward was an innovation reward rather than a monetary reward. Although people may not think so, I do feel that when people have the opportunity to be themselves and do things how they want, they are more productive. Rewards lead to pressure. When there’s pressure, people won’t be as productive as when they are “on their own.” We have to be “Purpose maximizers, not profit maximizers!” That’s a very good quote to remember moving forward.

    • I completely agree, Antonio! Although you would think that an incentive would motivate people to perform better, I can see where it would create more stress. On the other hand, students seem to expect a reward (sticker, praise, recognition) for everything that they do. Some of my middle school students performed for a community event, and I had some ask me if we were going to get paid. I found myself explaining that sometimes you do things for free because it is nice or because it is the right thing to do. Furthermore, I think that we as teachers need to get creative with “teaching” intrinsic motivation. Some people are naturally self-motivated, while others seemingly need that extrinsic motivation. In striving toward producing students who are self-motivated and self-starters, I think that we have a challenging task on our hands. Lastly, I think that teachers should get paid to live comfortably without having to worry about paying the necessary bills. Like Nicole said, I’m not sure what that number would be. Maybe taking the average income of an area and/or the average mortgage/rent amount would be a starting point.

  10. I tie this all into the actual account that “money can’t buy you happiness.” It makes perfect sense why this quote is used over and over again in various situations. The deeper meaning in the life you have, the people you share it with, and accomplishments along the way are what really make you who you are. Does money make everyone sit a little more comfortable? Of course! Tying this into our jobs, many people don’t do a teaching career for the money- rather the rewards of seeing the kids grow and learn. As for the kids, I see a lot of them enjoying the little instant rewards similar to his example of the carrot on the stick. But, when you put a large prize in front of them they really do not react as well. It was a very interesting thought process.

  11. The book, Disrupting Class, claims that motivation is one of the fundamental problems with our education system and that schooling can and should be intrinsically motivating.
    The authors of Disrupting Class claim that if we follow their recommended plan, we can make school intrinsically motivating and help our children maximize their individual potential to realize their dreams. When our students (anyone) participate in tasks that are inherently fun, they spend the time learning in different ways because they are interested and engaged. They are not learning to earn a sticker or reward. I believe that if our students learn because it is stimulating and compelling they will stay with the task because the task is fun and enjoyable.

    The video talked about cash rewards and that if you don’t pay people enough they won’t be motivated. If our students didn’t rely on extrinsic motivation, this wouldn’t be a problem. If students could choose their projects, learn in ways that are challenging and interesting to them and set the pace, they will surprise us. I believe this is definitely a “learned” solution to helping our students, but it is worth teaching!

  12. Everyone is motivated differently. I liked how the video gave different examples of what can motivate individuals. When it comes to our students, I agree with the comments above. Students just expect to get smiley faces and stickers along with an excellent grade but does this really motivate them or just reassure them? I certainly don’t think this engages them. We need to promote self-directed learners and it’s not through giving them “stuff.” I feel like they expect that but there comes a time when we need to figure out what truly motivates them to become lifelong learners.
    I loved the example of the company that allowed thier employees to choose who they wanted to work with and what they wanted to do just for that one day. Imgaine the possibilities of our students with this concept!! I would love to see what my students could with this. This is something that would need to be practiced to really get the results but it could work. This approach engages students and allows them to use thier creativity.
    The possibilities are endless!!

  13. I am very motivated by money, but I don’t think that if you told me I was going to get a $10,000 raise that would make me a better teacher. I think for some teachers it might work, but I don’t think it would work for very long. I also don’t think it is a good idea for incentives with the test scores. I think teachers would then cheat to make their students do better on the tests. I believe it was in one our previous classes the professor told us how principals were fired for changing test scores and making his school look better on paper. It is a very interesting topic, and I am not sure what the correct answer is.

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