Sharing news and commentary about education, careers, investing, and life.

Sharing news and commentary about education, careers, investing, and life.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Motivating (with money?)

I was thumbing through Mavericks at Work after having read it for the second time and this quote really stuck out:

“There’s another lesson that’s really obvious,” he continues. “You cannot motivate the best people with money. Money is just a way to keep score. The best people in any field are motivated by passion. That becomes more true the higher the skill level gets. People do their best work when they are passionately engaged in what they’re doing” (91).

It really got me thinking about motivating students. When I was younger, I was partially motivated by money. Let me explain. So my parents would reward my brother and I with $10 per A in a class. This usually meant $60 pay days at the end of the "quarter" (I put it in quotations because at my high school they were actually trimesters but called "quarters") or, at worst, $50 dollars. Now, if I knew I was going to get a B in just 1 class, I wasn't going to kill myself over $10 extra bucks - let's face it, for a 12-16 year old (the age I was in high school) $50 is still a large amount of money. So how much did money really motivate me? Or was it simply passion for learning (or getting good grades, or even the recognition that accompanies good grades) that motivated me?

Looking back, I'd say the positive feelings of getting good grades, and the accompanying recognition, are what really drove me. Sure, I love learning, but there's nothing quite like having people recognize you for your achievements. In fact, I read that in a national employee survey, employees value recognition and compliments over pay. Yeah, no one is going to work for free - but they'll probably stick around longer if they know they're valued and are going to be recognized for their achievements.

So now the question is this - how do you motivate a student who may not have a passion for learning and doesn't care for recognition? At that point does it come back to money?

These two questions got Orion and myself thinking a few weeks back - why aren't there hybrid scholarships that "pay for grades"? Say $20 for each A, $5 for each B, $0 for each C, -$10 for each D, and $-25 for each F. I put in negatives because if someone gets 3 A's, 1 B, and 2 F's, I'd want them to be "punished" for F's by taking away some of the money they "earned" for the A's and B's (in this specific case the student would make $15 instead of $65 if they weren't "punished").

OK, so besides the fact that people would complain about students only focusing on good grades, and not focusing on learning per se, what else is a negative of this method? It's something I've been looking into, because all too often I've seen very bright students who just don't care about school getting poor grades. Any other ideas about "hybrid" scholarships or other ways to motivate students?


Becca said...

sorry for the late comment, i'm just now going back to some of your earlier posts...

i think, in general, education should be more about "level of understanding" or "learning" than about grades (in quotes because they're abstract and hard to define). grades and motivation are pretty inextricably linked in our educational system. whether you give money for good grades or just a pat on the back, ultimately it's that grade that matters. well, duh, you say, but think about it. if "learning assessments" (what MCG calls tests) were just that, a fair assessment of what you've learned, getting an A would actually mean that you gained knowledge. imagine that! to me, that's concrete, something to work for. but maybe that's just me...

eventually, i feel like a shift in the paradigm of testing would "trickle up" so to speak into the "real" world and there would be a greater emphasis on satisfaction with your job than on the money you take home. everyone feels good doing something that they know and understand...then the money is just a bonus!

Ashfaq Ramjaun said...

However hard you try to motivate a student if the latter is not interested then you might fail. Instead I think that you should inspire the person to achieve his goals.

For the hard working student, good grades would seem to be the best reward. What is it for those that lack behind? Normally, these people are not interested in studies and have other hobbies. You should try to understand their hobbies and reward then accordingly.

Let’s say that some of them are passionate fan of football, then one thing that you could do, is to bring them to a football match. If you live in UK, make them watch a Premier League match. As you were discussing earlier, what will motivate them?

For me I think it’s the reward which may not be the same for everyone.

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