03 September 2009

Carrots and Sticks

A hefty dose of my doctoral work is based in motivational theory---in particular, achievement goals. It's one of three major areas of focus in the educational research regarding motivation (the others being ability and intelligence). As that work wraps up and I think about the applications of motivation to classroom environments, I can't help but also think about the adults in those environments.

Tim over at Assorted Stuff recently shared the link to Dan Pink's TED talk about motivation.

The talk is described as "Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don't: Traditional rewards aren't always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories -- and maybe, a way forward." As you might imagine, Pink is a proponent of increasing intrinsic motivation in the workplace (and, hey, what's not to like about that?). He focuses on the idea of autonomy, something I've struggled with recently in the workplace. I don't mind being given a task/goal and a timeline (after all, it is "work" and I am being paid in exchange for completing certain things), but what is so bad about giving me autonomy beyond that point? If I give my employer what is required, does it matter what time of day I do my work...much less where I sit while completing it? And, what if, I was given opportunity to pursue related projects. Suppose that in exchange for the 50 state assessment questions you want me to revise, I get to develop classroom assessment tools for teachers that I think will be useful? I think one of the major sources of my job dissatisfaction over the last year has been the lack of autonomy---no ideas had value, much less the goals I would like to set and reach. At least in the classroom with its various constraints, I was still allowed some creativity and problem-solving.

I can give several parameters for supporting and increasing intrinsic motivation in students. What does an intrinsic environment look like for adults in schools, I wonder? It's not merit pay. It's not canned curriculum. As much as we might like the idea of a Results Oriented Work Environment (ROWE), I have to admit that certain concessions where scheduling is concerned are necessary for schools. I do think it has something to do with choice and a sense of personal control in the workplace---and less to do with forced collaboration/collective action. I am wondering how much of it might have to do with some of these ideas of managing people in a 2.0 environment.

So, teachers, administrators, classroom aides, administrative assistants, and others in the schools, lend me your comments. What would you ask to be changed in order to foster your intrinsic motivation for your work? What would you like to see?


Clix said...

I really-really wish that our administration would only ask for our input when it's going to matter. And I wish that they wouldn't call meetings to go over information that could be sent out in a memo or email.

I want them to show respect for us by respecting our time.

PS: Will you submit this to the EduCarnival? I think sometimes we gripe without thinking about what we truly need. You can email it to me or just click here!

The Science Goddess said...

Will try to remember to send in a submission. Seems like I only have time to blog on weekends (I queue up posts to autopublish)...and am not good at tending things once work hits!