What motivates teachers and students?

This is important! You’ve got to set aside ten minutes and watch this TED talk by Dan Pink. While it’s not specifically about teachers, nor specifically about students, it tells us a lot about what motivates and doesn’t motivate both groups. Presented by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce in their always lively “RSA Animate” form, it presents scientific evidence debunking the widespread idea that “if you reward something, you get more of the behavior you want.”

One study at MIT concluded that “a larger reward led to poorer performance.” But it wasn’t just that one study at one place. The result has “replicated over and over again by psychologists, by sociologists, by economists.” (We’re talking only about tasks that require “conceptual, creative thinking.” Large rewards do work fine for rote, algorithmic tasks.)

This is yet another reason why merit pay for teachers is a bad idea. There are plenty of good reasons to pay teachers more…and to reward students for what they do. But don’t expect that either action will improve performance. “The best use of money is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table. Three factors, the science shows, lead to better performance and personal satisfaction: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.” Those are how to get better results from teachers and students alike.

Watch the whole video.

Categories: Teaching & Learning