The Struggle Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivators

I began the morning today reading Larry Cuban’s interesting comparison of the ideological differences of some teachers that use and don’t use Class Dojo. 1 In his post, Cuban discusses the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations students have for behaving the way they do, and cites a Lepper, Sethi, Dialdin, and Drake study (1997) that offers interesting insight in its culmination (see pages 44-45):

We come to learn to do things not only because they are fun or likely to lead to some immediate payoff, but because we have come to believe that we “ought” to do them, either to facilitate our own long-term goals (i.e., because it would be “good for” us) or to follow the norms of the group or the situation in which we find ourselves (i.e., because it seems the “right” thing to do).

I have struggled lately with the balance between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and can empathize with the value inherent to both. While there’s something to the accountability and measurability of extrinsic motivators, lasting change seems most common when rising from within. Alas, one of the original, pure struggles of teaching (and of managing teachers of teachers).

Aspiration Management

In a fit of interesting irony this morning, I immediately thereafter read Class Dojo’s announcement that they (we?) had reached an exciting milestone:

As of February 14th, 2014, teachers have given students over 1 billion pieces of feedback on ClassDojo. That’s 1,000,000,000 moments when teachers have recognized students for doing something wonderful!

Is this something teachers should celebrate? Absolutely. Schools would be far brighter places if more successes were recognized and celebrated than failures. PBIS, for the win. 2

Show 2 footnotes

  1. As a personal policy, I have ceased linking to any of Cuban’s work – regardless of quality – in my own form of protest. An odd type of extrinsic motivator, to be sure, but his continued, blatant disregard for the copyrights of others is simply inexcusable. As a teacher and example to others, he “ought” to behave better because it’s the “right” thing to do.
  2. Does your school implement PBIS in some form? A praise to reprimand ratio of 4:1 or higher is the goal our schools have set.
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