"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What Motivates Teachers?

"Teachers are neither mercenaries nor missionaries. They do the best they can in spite of - not because of - the salaries they receive. Reformers who have never taught do not understand what motivates teachers. I don't think they ever will. All the more reason to be skeptical about 'innovative' merit pay plans." -- Walt Gardner
"Reformers," legislators, school board members, newspaper reporters, TV news pundits, and politicians in executive offices around the country, don't seem to know what motivates teachers. If they did, there wouldn't be the excess of legislation linking test scores to teacher evaluation and pay. There would be no offers of merit pay for higher test scores. The Race to the Top plan, which includes paying teachers based on test scores isn't based on research. It's based on what sounds good coming out of a politician's mouth.

Below is a short (10 minute) talk by Daniel Pink, about the science of incentives and motivation. Some important points...
  • Studies show that rewarding non-thinking, mechanical tasks with higher pay influences performance positively. "The higher the pay, the better the performance...For simple straight forward tasks those kinds of incentives -- if you do this then you get that -- They're great."
  • The same studies show that higher pay reduced performance on tasks involving cognitive skills. "Once the task called for even rudimentary cognitive skill, a larger reward led to poorer performance...When a task gets more complicated, when it requires some conceptual, creative thinking, those kinds of motivators, demonstrably, don't work."
  • Studies have repeatedly shown that higher incentives led to poorer performance on tasks involving cognitive skills.
  • The best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough that they're not thinking about money, they're thinking about work.
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Dan Pink: The surprising truth about what motivates us



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Something to think about...how does this relate to student motivation? You might also be interested in...

Alfie Kohn on Punishment
A very short (less than two minutes) video talking about the damage of punishment.

Carrots or Sticks? Alfie Kohn on Rewards and Punishment
...rewards and punishments are...two ways of doing things to students -- as opposed to working with them. One says to kids, "Do this ... or here's what I'm going to do to you." The other says, "Do this ... and you'll get that." The first approach, which these days we prefer to describe euphemistically as "consequences," leads kids to ask this question: "What do they want me to do, and what happens to me if I don't do it?" The second approach ("positive reinforcement") leads to this question: "What do they want me to do, and what do I get for doing it?" Neither question is anything like what we want kids to be asking, such as "What kind of person do I want to be?"

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