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Motivation vs. Compliance

December 7, 2014


I have been thinking about motivation lately.  Specifically, how is student motivation improved?  The majority of students in Saline Area Schools are motivated to do well.  What is it that motivates them, and how can we deepen that motivation to create even stronger levels of student engagement?  The if/then rewards are effective motivators in certain simple situations:  “If you complete this worksheet correctly within three minutes, then you will get a sticker.”  Small, tangible rewards work, especially when the goal is short-sighted and quickly achievable by most. The larger question of motivation is quite convoluted and mired in a study of human behavior.

The issue becomes more complex as the goal is more far-reaching, not clearly defined, and complicated. In school, at all levels, we want to encourage more complex tasks that require students to use the four Cs:  Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking.  We need students that are engaged and actively participating in their learning as opposed to those that are merely compliant. Author Daniel Pink, in discussing his book, “Drive,” notes the need for autonomy as critical to employing more student engagement.

“Students and teachers don’t have a lot of autonomy and trends in federal policy over the last decade aren’t helping.  When I say autonomy leads to engagement, it doesn’t mean that you have to turn the autonomy dial up to 10 in every circumstance.  If you really want to get people engaged, you have to find ways to increase autonomy the right amount at the right time.”

I am looking for examples of what is the right amount at the right time within the Saline Area Schools. Once examples are identified, what is the best way to share and replicate those ideas in all schools?  If we can increase student and staff engagement while focusing  on the 4-C’s…. the results in student achievement will be compelling: students prepared to excel in post-secondary education, participate fully in a global society, and poised to compete with the world’s best in academia and industry.  That is our hope for every student enrolled in the Saline Area Schools.

One Comment leave one →
  1. John Krouskoff permalink
    December 8, 2014 10:28 am

    Scot–I’m with you 100% on motivation vs. compliance, and part of the solution likely begins in the primary grades. By the time students are in high school, they are well “trained” on the steps to success in a compliance driven system. I’ve seen some very engaging, passion based projects that allow for a great deal of autonomy via the use of 20% time. My favorites are by Heidi Bernasconi at Clarkstown North High School, but I know there must be other great examples shared online.
    Perhaps our autonomy in learning is not aligned with our autonomy in assessment. I think of the example I heard years ago, in which the speaker asked a group of educators what their response would be if three students handed in one test. After some chuckling and mumbling, the point was clear; if collaboration and engaged learning are important motivators, the means of assessment should align accordingly.
    I hope to run into you at one of the national conferences soon.

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