thoughts on extrinsic motivation

OK – I am all for fostering intrinsic motivation in students.  In fact I think its what teachers (and parents) should be striving to do with most tasks.

But sometimes extrinsic motivation Just Works.

Case in point: my kids and tidying their rooms.

Every weekend for the past few years its been the same *fight* –

Me: “Tidy your rooms: its your job. We need to keep out house clean so we can live a safe and healthy life. It helps us to look after out things when we put them away”.

Kid’s hear and think: “tidy up …  … boring … blather blather …. she’ll cave in if we whine and do it for us”.

…and believe me when I say that I’ve tried being strong and not caving.  I’ve even followed through and given away some of their toys (although not many – I had to pay for the things!)

I’ve tried bribery (which is extrinsic in nature, I know) but its not a long term solution.

But now I’ve instigated The Rewards Chart.

The goals have been set (both short term and long term) as have the rewards (a trip to the museum and some money to spend in the shop).

This weekend, the kids (6 and 4) are falling over themselves to stick a sticker on the chart.  Tidying up has been done in record time AND there was no fighting (another goal).

Miss K (6) is right into it because they do it at school.  Mr H (4) is less into it at present … but that’s OK as I think he’s starting to get the ability to think a little further into the future. … although is also smart enough to recognise that if he doesn’t tidy up either Miss K will miss out on going or he’ll get to go anyway as I can’t leave him home.  Hence the carrot of some coin to *buy* something at the museum shop which is one of his favourite places in the known universe.

So I can see that there is a place for extrinsic motivation in the classroom as well: term rewards, “Gotchas” etc for things that don’t have a lot of inherent or apparent intrinsic motivation.

6 thoughts on “thoughts on extrinsic motivation

  1. leechbabe says:

    It is interesting to see what sort of motivators work for children.

    We did rewards charts like that while Annie was toilet training but the same system did not work for Heidi, she needed instant rewards.

  2. corymbia says:

    leechbabe – I suspect Mr H is too young to really get into the rewards chart – the reward is too distant. Interestingly though – the version we did wit TT worked with Miss K and not with Mr H despite him being a bit older when TT commenced.
    WFI – you got me all figured out!
    Jayne – for me, you’d just need to brandish a strawberry freddo and I’d do (almost) anything!
    M&B – I figure at some point I’ve got to benefit 😉

    It’s been an interesting experiment – I’m studying education (….I’m bored with being a botanist now and instead am going to inflict myself onto unsuspecting minors) and everyone is right into building in “intrinsic rewards” into all tasks and bagging the extrinsic rewards system … . frankly its a bit like saying that for adults, the joy of working should be so great that getting paid is not necessary! There’s a place for both systems in my book.

  3. I love the fact the reward is a trip to the museum so it is educational anyway. You are a sneaky Mum and I salute you!

  4. Jayne says:

    Yep, when bribery and blackmail fail, the rewards chart is usually a winner 😉

  5. M & B says:

    Nothing like a little bit of extrinsic motivation in my view. Especially when it benefits me 🙂

  6. Greta says:

    As an adult, I am exactly the same.

    I’ve outgrown the stickers, but I will perform at my peak when I have an employer or teacher who gives me heaps of back-patting. Corporate people know this, it’s why they give out bonuses and promotions. The hardest part of motherhood for me has been the lack of recognition for my work.

    It’s human nature. We’re really not that far evolved from Pavlov’s dogs…

    I use incentives all the time with my son. Sometimes stickers, sometimes excursions, sometimes (dare I confess?) an ice cream. And I’m not ashamed, because incentives work well for me, why not use them on my child?

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