The Best Way to Motivate People Is….

I read Diane Ravitch’s blog every day; it should be required reading for anyone in or concerned about education. This entry looks at ways of motivating people. No surprise, intrinsic motivators are more powerful than extrinsic ones. To the list of books I’d add Alfie Kohn’s Punished by Rewards.

Diane Ravitch's blog

In an article in the New York Times, two scholars explain how best to motivate people in every line of endeavor. Amy Wrzesniewski is an associate professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management. Barry Schwartz is a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College.

They make a distinction between internal motivation and instrumental motivation. Usually, psychologists contrast intrinsic motivation (the desire to do something well) and extrinsic motivation (the desire to win a reward for doing something well). Intrinsic motivation wins every time. Carrots and sticks may work for animals, but not so well for people. And yet our policymakers continue to pursue punitive policies that threaten students, teachers, and principals, as well as promises of bonuses and rewards. These policies fail and fail again, yet The Bush administration, the Obama administration, and Congress can’t give up their devotion to failed incentives and punishments.

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About Will Dix

I am currently writing a book about college admission. I'm interested in the intersection of the college process and American culture. I attended Amherst College in the 1970s, taught high school English and theater at The Hill School in the '80s, returned to Amherst in the '90s as an admission dean, and began the '00s as a college counselor at the University of Chicago Laboratory School. I then joined Chicago Scholars as Program Director. Currently, I blog about college admission for Forbes.com. I also help community organizations serving low income students understand the college admission process so more students can consider gaining access to higher education. I have a few private college counseling clients that I take by referral only. The views expressed in this blog are mine alone.
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