Not to be all oxymoronic, but we had an interesting staff meeting last week. As a failing school, we are required to test our students at the end of each quarter. It's called Progress Monitoring. Our scores had been relatively flat through second quarter, so we decided to ramp it up for third quarter. A committee was formed to create an incentive program for the kids, and their recommendation was to do a raffle. Without going into the specifics, kids could earn raffle tickets by improving their scores in math and reading.
We analyzed data at our last staff meeting, and there were significant gains. The raffle was deemed a success, but one of my colleagues made an interesting point. She lamented that it took a raffle to get our students to perform. She wondered if we were doing our kids a disservice by using external rewards as motivation. Shouldn't they do their best on tests because it's the right thing to do?
The whole intrinsic vs. extrinsic thing.
Ideally, kids should want to do well on tests, or anything really, because success is it's own reward. Of course, as a failing school, success is often hard to come by. That was the idea with the raffle, to create that feeling of success before we take our state tests in April. While I agree with my colleague, I think the raffle was right for our particular situation.
All this has had me thinking about motivation in general. In the good ol' days, did kids work hard just because? Do the kids of today have to have some kind of reward, something concrete, to work hard? Is that even a bad thing? We live in a capitalist society after all. Maybe kids today are just more in tune with their culture. What's-in-it-for-me the only real motivation.
The funny thing is, I usually try not to pay much attention at staff meetings.