Truth-be-told, in the last 32 years of teaching I have NEVER used incentives in my classroom. I came up with those incentives in my video because I was required to do so by my school. Many teachers use candy, class coupons or prizes to motivate their students. I have been blessed never to have needed to reward behavior that I EXPECT from my students. It would be like my Principal giving me a reward every time I show up to work on time. Showing up to work on time is expected of me, and in my opinion, basic expectations should not be rewarded.
But now that we are on the topic, let’s think about this question, “What motivates you?” For years, it was assumed that the best motivator for desirable behaviors was to offer cash rewards. But guess what, it turns out that research has proven that offering cash rewards, at least in the realm of creative work and problem-solving, actually encourages worse results. So here is what the experts are saying is the factors that motivate people, they are:
One of our basic human needs in life is to feel that we have a purpose. Believing that we have a purpose is a major element that motivates people. I knew a very old man who lived all alone with his cat. He woke up everyday hanging on to life because he thought his purpose was to feed and care for his cat. I believe that his sense of having a purpose was his motivation to continue to live. Without his pet, I believe he would have given up on life. We all have a need to belong. Belonging is a huge motivator for many people. We want to belong to a family, love, a group, or team. Many teenagers get involved with gangs because they need to fill their need to belong, even if it is with a bad group of people.
Autonomy is our need to have control over our life. We all need to feel that we have at least some control of what happens to us every day. If we lose the feeling of control in our lives, we lose our motivation and simply give up. After all, if we have no control of what happens to us, then why bother trying? We lose motivation.
Mastery is simply our need to feel that we are good at something in life. Mastery is also a motivational factor that leads to us gaining self-respect and pride. When we are good at something it affirms us that we have value. This is a huge motivational factor in life.
So, allow me to challenge you to think about what motivates you. I believe that we all have a little of all four motivational factors in all of us. However, most likely, there is one factor listed that will be your greatest motivator. For me, my greatest motivator is my need for purpose. I need to feel that my life is making a difference and that there is a purpose for me being on this earth. Probably a close second is my need to belong.
In my classroom, I try to figure out what my students' motivational factors are and then I use that knowledge to motivate them. This kind of motivation is a life changer. It is far greater to change a person's view of themselves for a lifetime than it is to give a piece of candy as an instant reward for a behavior. As one who is motivated by my need to have a "purpose" I want to change life outcomes, not just get through a 70 minute class period.
Besides, if I had a bag of candy in my classroom, I would be eating the candy all day! I love you guys. Stay motivated and be the best you can be. Love, Ms. B.
For more research on this topic, I would suggest Dr. Robyn Jackson's book, Never Work Harder Than Your Students. I recently heard her lecture and I am currently reading her book, she is amazing and full of wisdom.