The Times Educational Supplement last week published new research by Emma Dunmore into student motivation. It concluded that while rewards such as points, stickers or treats can improve behaviour in the short term, over time they actually tend to cause pupils to lose motivation. This is because rewards can be perceived as bribery, and cause students to lose their sense of autonomy. In Ms Dunmore’s words:
Receiving the reward may reduce the individual’s sense that they were doing the task because they chose to … Instead, they felt that they were doing it for a reward, and so were being controlled by someone else.
So, what’s the answer? In fact, Ms Dunmore’s study simply feeds into what is already known about student motivation. In the clearest book on this subject, Motivating students to learn (1998), Jere Brophy explains that motivation depends on both students’ expectations of success and the value they place on the task. As the diagram above neatly illustrates, if either one of these is missing (i.e. zero) then there will be no motivation.
Brophy has identified a number of useful strategies that teachers can employ to increase both expectation of success and perceived value.
In summary, these are:
Strategies for increasing expectation of success
- Provide opportunities for success
- teach students to set reasonable goals and to assess their own performance
- help students recognize the relationship between effort and outcome
- provide informative feedback
- provide special motivational support to discouraged students
Strategies for Increasing Perceived Value
- relate lessons to students’ own lives
- provide opportunities for choice
- model interest in learning and express enthusiasm for the material
- include novelty/variety elements
- provide opportunities for students to respond actively
- provide opportunities for students to interact with peers
- provide extrinsic rewards
It is the last strategy (‘provide extrinsic rewards’) which Emma Dunmore’s research relates to, and which can be controversial.
For a full explanation of Jere Brophy’s strategies as listed above, just read p.59 of our free e-book, Tutoring: The Complete Guide, available for free download here.