Moving from carrot and stick motivation

Even before I became a full-time teacher, I struggled with the idea of how to motivate students. While in university we looked at various methods and discussed how students who are intrinsically motivated (motivated to do something because they know it will benefit them) work better and have a more meaningful education than those who are extrinsically motivated (those motivated by either fear of consequences or because they will get something else if they do well).

Extrinsic motivation is often called  using “Carrot and Stick” motivators. So you tell a student that if they do this thing you want them to do, they will get a candy (carrot) but if they don’t do it, they will get a detention (stick). In some way it is nearly impossible to get away from using carrots and sticks. After all, if a student does well they get a high mark, if they don’t do well, they fail. I suppose the amount of importance you give to those marks can change whether or not they become motivators. I myself as a student was highly motivated by marks and by praise.

In a previous post over the summer, I thought about Video game style motivation where I talked about using goals to help motivate my students. This is something I have started doing a little this past week, having the students express their learning goals in writing.

But I also spoke about my positive participation tickets. So far I have not resumed this practice and I would like to refrain from using it this year for several reasons. One is it’s a carrot. It motivates students to something I want because they will get something from it. I found it difficult last year to see the students become greedy about the prizes last year and it also took up a lot of time and money to get the prizes. The positive participation tickets came from a system developed for the intensive french program. Most intensive french teachers use them or a variation to motivate their students to speak French. I’m concerned that if I don’t use the system that when my teaching is observed, my choice to not use this system will be questioned and I’ll be told to start using it again.

My other concern is what to use instead. Last year I tried to go without my tickets with one of my grade 5 classes. After a few days of not getting any hands I started in with the tickets and suddenly the hands went up. I also randomly call on students using a random name selector. But so far this year I haven’t seen participation from a lot of my students. What motivators have you used in your classroom that work for you?

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One thought on “Moving from carrot and stick motivation

  1. James Voros says:

    Hey there. Enjoyed the post. I was using reward tickets last year. Found that the boost in effort came after a ticket was handed out as opposed ti having an impact from the start. What have you decided to stick with. I appreciate it's important to get it up and running at the start of the year. We are big in self evaluation and children setting objectives but then reviewing them. Possibly some kind of point system for achieving certain objectives? Or thinking about what you've mentioned here some kind of trophy system like on the xbox or ps3. With our Victorians topic maybe a "gaslight" medal when you've used four adjectives in your writing or something ….Excuse the rambling, just thought I'd get the ball rolling!James.

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