Ever wish your students were more motivated? If you’re like most of us, you have tried an array of rewards and punishments to motivate kids. There’s only one problem: it doesn’t work. At least it doesn't work well enough. People (yes, even students) aren’t motivated from the outside so rewards and punishments only work to a point. We are internally motivated. That’s why it's essential to engage and inspire students to be motivated to succeed in school (and life.)

If you’re ready to move beyond the reward/punishment model and embrace a whole new way to understand motivation, I encourage you to come back regularly. It’s time to challenge the status quo and create schools and classrooms based on what really motivates behavior.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

We Are Driven by Fun

One of the most overlooked areas in education is the importance of fun in the classroom. Renowned psychiatrist William Glasser has identified fun as one of the five basic needs that drives all human behavior. If you want your students to be more motivated to do what you want, infuse fun into your classroom.

The drive for fun is captured wonderfully in a two-minute video: Piano Stairs. What motivated so many people to use the stairs as opposed to the escalator? Just watch and you’ll see that it is all about fun.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Too Many Carrots, Too Many Sticks

Please read “Too Many Carrots, Too Many Sticks: Four Fallacies in Federal Policies for Low-Achieving Schools,” by Arthur H. Camins, published today in Education Week.

Here’s a passage from this important article:

“Carrots and sticks may achieve short-term results, but their use frequently has unintended consequences to the detriment of core values and long-term goals. It is long past time that we stop endorsing policies and programs based on fallacies, and instead demonstrate the leadership and integrity to act on what we know makes all of us better.”

I continue to be encouraged that more and more educators are finally realizing that the reward/punishment model has taken us as far as it can. To create the schools we want for our kids (and teachers), we need to engage, inspire, and build schools and classrooms based upon the principles of internal control psychology.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Paying Big Bucks for Puny Results

You can’t get much more mainstream than The Wall Street Journal. For that reason, I was delighted to read a piece written on June 18 by Eric Felton that unmasks the limits of incentive programs sweeping the nation (“Age of Incentives: Paying Big Bucks for Puny Results”). I encourage you to do yourself a favor and read this brief article, but here’s an excerpt:

"The incentive schemes may be touted as sophisticated means to produce desirable social outcomes. But as far as policy innovations go, the basic idea—if you want people to do more of X, pay them to do X—strikes me as decidedly uninspired. Especially since it so rarely works.

"Companies may have bulked up the slimming schemes, but that hasn't exactly produced a svelte workforce. It turns out that paying kids to get better grades doesn't result in better grades, either."

Of course, like most of us, the author knows no alternative to rewards, so ends his article with resignation: “That said, I’m off to the Lego Store.”

I’m sensing a fundamental (and very exciting) shift. Increasingly, people are accepting that the reward/punishment model has taken us as far as it can. The uncomfortable dilemma facing the majority is that they don’t know what else to do. (Hence, “I’m off to the Lego Store.”) If you’re looking for a viable alternative, I hope you’ll check out any (or all) of my books listed on the left. You will find practical strategies that will help you engage and inspire. It's time to move beyond the reward/punishment model.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Importance of Fun in Learning

There has been an interesting exchange recently in The Washington Post about the importance of fun in the classroom.

Renowned psychiatrist William Glasser has written and spoken about the strong connection between fun and learning on numerous occasions. I have heard Dr. Glasser say many times something like this: “Fun is the genetic payoff for learning.” Glasser’s Choice Theory identifies fun as a basic need that drives human behavior.

In The Motivated Student, I write: “Walk into any great classroom, and the feeling of fun is palpable. It can be seen on the faces of the students. Just as importantly, it seen on the faces and in the body language of the teacher. This doesn’t mean there is chaos and foolishness going on. On the contrary, the best classrooms are characterized by focused work in a joyful atmosphere.” (p. 42)

Put simply, fun with a purpose supports learning.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Acknowledging Every Student

How can we engage more kids and foster an environment where every student feels valued? One school in Canada has eliminated their annual awards ceremony, deciding, instead, to acknowledge every child. Read about it here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Response to Intervention for Tots: Blaming the Victim

Education Week just published an article today that I found frightening: “Response to Intervention for Tots.” It’s not simply the content that’s scary. It’s the fact that the following highly respected organizations are collaborating on a joint position statement: The National Association for the Education of Young Children, the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division of Early Childhood, and the National Head Start Association. These three prestigious organizations are contemplating bringing response to intervention to preschoolers!

“Response to Intervention.” Talk about “blaming the victim.” If a child doesn’t neatly fit into the cookie-cutter mold, he/she is provided with an “intervention” so the child can perform at the “expected” level – where he/she “should” be.

Hey, here’s a thought. Maybe kids develop at different rates and have different predilections/interests. Maybe there’s something flawed about the whole notion that kids “should” be at a particular place simply because of their grade/age. Maybe many of these kids don’t need an “intervention.”

Maybe the system needs an intervention and would be more successful if they implemented differentiated instruction and respected children as individuals rather than “expecting” everyone to perform specific tasks at specific times.

Does anyone else find this trend unsettling???

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Merit Pay: Some Preliminary Findings

Just read the following today in Education Week: “Preliminary results from a Chicago program containing performance-based compensation for teachers show no evidence that it has boosted student achievement on math and reading tests, compared with a group of similar, nonparticipating schools, an analysis released today concludes.”

Compare this expensive (and divisive) strategy to that used by Michael Anderson in Indianapolis (see the May 31 posting below).

When we build relationships and a collaborative environment with kids, they thrive. When we implement competitive reward systems, kids don’t do better while staff morale suffers. A successful model is cost-friendly. A failed model is expensive. Are those in positions of power really "data driven"?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Race to the Top: Who Decides Where the Money Goes?

What do you know about the process for determining who is awarded “Race to the Top” money? I’ll admit I didn’t know much. Even though I think “Race to the Top” is the ultimate oxymoron - a competitive process with an objective to help us succeed in an increasingly interdependent and collaborative world – I figured the current administration was enlightened enough to create a decision-making process that is inclusive. Then I read this:

“Education secretary Arne Duncan devised the 500-point scale by which various ‘peer reviewers,’ none of them directly involved in K-12 education, will evaluate the states’ competing bids.”


To read the full story, visit http://www.economicprincipals.com/issues/2010.05.30/1146.html