In Barkley’s (2010) textbook “ Student Engagement Techniques” she discusses the potential benefits of placing some form of value on coursework by stating “Some teachers find that the easiest and most direct way to spur students to invest time and effort in their coursework is reward strategies such as high grades, bonus points, praise, incentives such as release from work (“if you achieve x number of point, you do not need to take the final exam”), achievement recognition (“the three best projects were done by students X, Y, Z”) and so forth.” (p. 13)
My initial thoughts when reading this paragraph was that, this is me! I love that extra incentive that may give me an extra edge in getting a better mark or may let me avoid something down the road. However, I do wonder if this is a beneficial technique in the long run to better help motivate students?
I think that many students like to receive a “pat-on-the-back” or a “gold star” for a job well done on an assignment or for going above and beyond in what was required for a particular course. But is this type of value on motivation really helping students?
According to Wade et al (2007) “The motivation to achieve depends not only on ability, but also on whether people set mastery (learning) goals, in which the focus is on learning the task well, or performance goals, in which the focus is on performing well for others. Mastery goals lead an individual to persist in the face of failure and setbacks; performance goals often lead an individual to give up. High achievers find a balance between striving for mastery and performance. People’s expectations can create self-fulfilling prophecies of success or failure. These expectations reflect one’s level of self-efficacy.” (p. 451) When taking these ideologies into account there is little synergy between Barkley’s thoughts. Is providing an incentive to a student really wise in the long run? My initial thoughts were of course it is, if it helps to get something done on time then I’m all for it. However, thinking about this a bit more critically makes me wonder if the student is actually learning along the way or if they are merely completing something for the sake of completing something in order to achieve a reward or an advantage later on.
To me the value of motivation has changed throughout my years of pursuing education. Initially I would love to get extra credit on an assignment or for handing something in earlier than it was due. However I believe I was just doing that to receive that extra advantage in the end and not for actually trying to grow as a learner. As I began to pursue further education into a more specified area, I began to realize that I actually wanted to learn and get better educated on my profession and to explore areas that would help me become more knowledgeable. I believe that here my motivation was more directed to increasing my own intrinsic self-efficacy as opposed to achieving a superficial “pat-on-the-back.” Sometimes a positive comment or constructive feedback on an assignment can go a long way.
Providing some form of incentive to help motivate students may be a beneficial method in some but not every circumstance I believe. Enforcing incentive too much may be detrimental in the long run as the students may become too reliant on receiving some form of “reward” at the end of an assignment or test. I do think however that providing some form of incentive can be beneficial when there is a group assignment or project at stake. For example by providing some form of reward to increase motivation on doing a god job or by completing the group assignment on time can create a common goal that everyone in a group can work towards. This could also perhaps reduce the occurrence of any social loafers as everyone could be more motivated to achieve that common goal. I think in the end motivation should ideally rise from within an individual and the need for becoming better at something or for simply wanting to learn as opposed to receiving incentive. As educators I strongly believe it is our responsibility to help trigger that intrinsic motivation by sharing and triggering that passion for lifelong learning within our students and to help enable them to be successful in their future educational endeavours. I believe Wade et al (2007) summarizes by stating that “Satisfaction and well-being increase when people enjoy the intrinsic satisfaction of an activity and when their goals and values are in harmony.” (451)
Barkley, E. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco:
Wade, C., Tavris, C., Saucier, D., and Elias, L. (2007). Psychology 2nd Canadian ed. Toronto: Pearson