Intrinsic motivation v Carrot and Stick

Well, do bonuses really make us work harder? Surely all these highly paid bankers must be really focused, work relentlessly and solve problems quicker and faster then other mere mortals. Well, you will certainly argue that they didn’t think out of the box when it came to banking systems and the recent collapse of the banking world.  In fact Dan Pink’s argument would confirm that systems now in place will reinforce complacent, limited cognitive thinking, and will actually encourage a diminutive, inwardly spiralling system which will inevitably, fail us again.

I find the intrinsic v extrinsic argument one that has simmered for a very long time in the teaching profession. Were I work, we would never countenance house teams and points which were heavily extrinsic in their thinking – given and taken away as the occasion demanded. Along with that there was an old school type of thinking that went with school houses, lists or tables that showed which house was winning – and also laboured on which was loosing. Only finding a model which avoids publicly demonstrating who has lost would be considered.

We always looked for intrinsic means of motivating. The trouble is that all too often, children only recognise that they have done well if they see something in their hands as proof of their success. General praise and public applause would not be enough. Hence a drift into certificates, or more recently “Spotted”s.

“Spotted”s are little slips of paper which say on one side,

“You’ve been Spotted by….”

and the teacher’s name follows. Amazingly simple in it’s concept. But this is a ticket to a greater prize! These are given to children, not just for good work, but also for good behaviour. They child might not even have been looking to receive this small token of praise, but the hope is that (and is generally the case) that when good/kind behaviour, or concentration on a task, is rewarded, then the child feels a warm sense of achievement and will remember that behaviour in the future and repeat it.

The reward can be given for anything you wish and for any circumstance e.g. a good idea, reasoning and explanation, writing, reading, leaving another fidgety child alone, keeping their temper when provoked etc…

It’s aim is to promote a positive ethos and attitude – and unlike house points, can’t be taken away once given.

The child writes their name on the back and it goes into the ‘spotted’ box. Each class has the chance of having one name drawn out each week and (here’s the carrot) that child – as well as being seen to have done something positive by the whole school, also has the opportunity to choose something from the head teacher’s treasure box!

It has proved to be very popular. It does reward in an extrinsic kind of way for more intrinsic actions.

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