We talk a lot about preparing our students for real life. We entice them with the reward of high marks (A’s, 100%’s, 3’s and 4’s) and we threaten them with failure (F’s, 0’s, 1’s and 2’s). It’s easy to think that enticing kids with high marks works because of the kids who work hard for those high marks. They make us feel good as educators. What I find most amazing is that teachers think that giving zeroes and F’s does any good. First of all, how many kids do F’s and zeroes actually motivate to improve or do their work? Out of how many? Are the odds worth it? So if it’s not for motivating kids or for getting them to actually want to learn then teachers see it as necessary to teach kids a lesson. Kids must see what happens when you don’t do what you’re told, when you don’t do your work, or when you turn your work in late. I thought that too. What made me change my mind? Well, plainly and simply was that giving out zeroes and F’s not only didn’t help any of the students receiving those low marks, I’m not even sure they learned “the” lesson. I just didn’t see how it did any good to flunk them. For whatever reason, they didn’t want to, or couldn’t, do the work that the rest of the class was doing. I am still working on how to get kids to either want to do the work we’re doing or to come up with something that they are willing to do during our time together. That is still a work in progress and I have opinions as to why some kids just aren’t willing to do anything in class. With regards to the A students or the C students I really just want them to focus on the topics, on the learning, and not on the points or the grade. Yep, I value intrinsic motivation and that is what I want help foster in my students. Part of my mission statement is that I want to help kids become life long learners. Grades hinder that goal.
I struggled with grading and with rewards and punishments to motivate kids. What helped me a lot was the following video on motivation. Dan Pink’s research, along with Alfie Kohn’s, has given me so much to think about and that is why I made sweeping changes to how I work with kids. (Thanks to Joe Bower, too!) If you haven’t watch this video you need to watch it.
Dan Pink’s motivation video, which I shared here.
Here are all three parts of a video on competition that gave me a lot to think about as well. It’s well worth the watch and all three parts together last about 20 minutes. I first shared this video here. It validated a lot of what I believe so having someone say these things really helped me have confidence that the things I’m doing are in the best interest of my students. If you haven’t watched these I highly recommend them.
So how could anyone watch all four of the above videos and still not want to change the way they work with kids?