What Constitutes a Reward?

I’ve been reading (slowly, ever since I realized I should take notes on my for-work reading, a task much harder on the T than just reading …), Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink, recommended to me by several people. I think all the teachers should read it (in our copious spare time). So far, it’s focused mostly on intrinsic versus extrinsic motivators, and how external rewards often decrease internal motivation.

That’s really important for teachers, no?

So here’s my current wondering. I’m doing some sort of class meeting/circle next year. It’s happening. My current plan is to do this (at least) on Mondays (main purpose: build community, transition back to school check-ins, launch the main math task of the week) and Fridays (main purpose: close the week, celebrate community leadership, celebrate completed work).


So I got the idea of celebrating work from ROLE Reversal, the same book that recommended Daniel Pink (along with my coworker). But, is celebrating completed work/final products, etc a reward? That would then decrease the intrinsic motivation of students to attempt more problems/revise more products? If so, I don’t want to celebrate completed work! But if not, I think it’d be a way to build community and get excited about math.

Hmm.  (Maybe I should keep reading?)


7 thoughts on “What Constitutes a Reward?

  1. I have always wanted a tighter community in my math classes…and have always loved the class meetings my daughters had in elementary school. I also love the centers, just have never figured out how to make it all work. Will keep coming back to see how the discussion is going.

  2. It’s been over a year since I read that book, and I didn’t take notes, but I think celebrating the *hard* work, or *thoughtful* work, or *collaborative* work, as opposed to the completed work done that week wouldn’t sabotage motivation.

    I really enjoy what you are doing on this blog. Rebooting is a lot of work, but so rewarding.

    • I will think on this. It’s an important distinction and perhaps a reframing that will accomplish the same goal (celebrating hard work, but also revised, “publishable” products).

  3. After you finish the book, check out the RSA video of one of Pink’s speeches. I read another of his books (A Whole New Mind – it was great)
    One of the models I am going to institute in my classes next year is based on language I am stealing from my church youth group. I intend to try and create a behavioral covenant of a sort between me and my students and revisit it regularly as the year progresses. Weekly meetings may be too regular, but check ins on the progress of our community and our academic journey will, I think, enrich our year together.

    • Yes! I have seen the animate-video; I’m excited to hopefully use it with the students next year!

      And I’m hoping that after the beginning of the year, the class meetings will not take crazy long or be too much, but still serve their purpose. Kogutmath had a class where she started every Monday with one, and I’m pretty committed to that, even if it’s just “what do you need us to know right now for you to be present here” followed by launching the math. And the Friday one will eventually be about 10-15 minutes, I imagine, which doesn’t seem too long (really just serving as the day’s summarizing activity). Thanks for reading!

  4. I don’t think celebrating is ‘extrinsic’. I think it’s an opportunity to nurture instrinsic. For one thing, it’s not conditional: I presume you’d celebrate whatever happened that week, vs. “no cupcakes unless we all get 80%”. For another, it’s a moment to focus on experiencing the joy of doing something for its own sake, as opposed to having a reason to do something other than the something itself.

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