A letter to the teachers of English: 87Punished by rewards (1) [Archives:2005/854/Education]

June 27 2005

Dr..M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb.

Dear Fellow teachers,

The title of this article has been borrowed from a psychologist, A. Kohn, who writes how the rewards given in schools such as stars and prizes to recognize the achievement of students work against motivating them; they act as bribes. He is firm that external motivational sources like these most often do not create the wanted results and stresses that intrinsic motivation – motivation that comes from within – is more useful than extrinsic motivation – motivation that is provided by rewards.

Is it true of our schools and colleges? Do our students get carried away by the prizes and rewards they get for their achievements? Is extrinsic motivation less useful than intrinsic motivation with our students too? If it is, how can we correct the imbalance in the situation? Can we not use any extrinsic motivational factors at all in our situation? How can we develop intrinsic motivation in our students? These and a few related questions will form the theme of this and a few letters that follow this. I have chosen to write about motivation as I have recently experienced a controversial behaviour in some of my students and I am sure that the problem lies in how motivation is perceived differently by different teachers and how they are motivated by them.

First of all, what is motivation? Several psychologists have provided definitions to motivation; some of them are:

– internal state or condition that activates behaviour and gives direction

– desire or want that energizes and directs goal-oriented behaviour

– influence of needs and desires on the intensity and direction of behaviour

– the arousal, direction and persistence of behaviour

Though there is disagreement about these definitions, motivation is commonly believed to be the desire or want or need that energizes one's action or behaviour. Motivation can be externally provided in the form of rewards, prizes and incentives such as jobs or positions or extra money; even a word of congratulation can act as extrinsic motivation. It can be provided internally by the satisfaction one gets in completing the job on hand.

It is believed that internal or intrinsic motivation is more powerful and longer lasting than external or extrinsic motivation mainly because it creates the necessary urge to go on with the work on hand. It has been found to be true of learners as well. Teachers as well as parents are, therefore, advised to keep the level of motivation of the learners as high as possible while they are in schools or colleges, especially intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is more durable and self-enhancing, according to Kohn.

Many experts have made suggestions as to how to provide intrinsic motivation in learning situations. As good learners are driven by success, curiosity, originality and relationships in order to achieve good performance, opportunities to obtain them can be a rich source of motivating them. Teachers should see that the conditions in the classrooms are conducive to provide opportunities to obtain these goals.

Nothing succeeds like success, it is said. One success leads to another and another and so on. Provide the opportunity for the learners to succeed; by fair means, through healthy competitions, using good and useful testing devices. Success through unfair and unethical means will not bring real motivation. More will follow.

Yours fraternally,

Dr M N K Bose.