Rebuttal to Extrinsic Motivation

What now! A school that states its purpose and objectives with the inclusion of this philosophy:

to value learning more than propriety, to trust the unadorned pleasures of learning, unassisted by point scores, prizes, rankings, and punishments.

I started teaching in 1982 at St Ann’s School in Brooklyn, New York. Begun in 1965 by Headmaster Stanley Bosworth, St Ann’s was and is an upstart in the world of independent schools. One of St Ann’s hallmarks is that students do not receive grades, only anecdotal comments.

Alfie Kohn, well-known in certain circles as another educational upstart, believes that extrinsic rewards are useless in education, in raising children, or in creating a positive work environment. He expounds on this in his book Punished by Rewards: The trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and other Bribes.

The Study Guides and Strategies site, which I have referenced in previous posts, begins the Motivating yourself ~ extrinsic values page with the line: Print this and write three reasons someone else wants you to learn this. The text then goes on to suggest that learning to satisfy someone else’s criteria is not as effective as learning to satisfy your own, and to assist with the process they provide An exercise in Motivating Yourself.

As to which type of motivation is best, I leave it to you to determine for yourself, but am willing to bet that both types have their place. The Cornell University College of Engineering provides some suggestions for Maintaining Morale & Motivation, and concludes:

In sum, both intrinsic and extrinsic methods of motivation are important and necessary.

And the University of Connecticut page, Tips for Rewarding Students for Good Performance (Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation), begins by stating:

Recent theories suggest that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are not two opposing constructs, but rather two ends of a motivation continuum.


One thought on “Rebuttal to Extrinsic Motivation

  1. riarama

    Although extrinsic motivation pose some threats especially to intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation is still essential in so far as it is purportedly combined with intrinsic motivation. The combo of extrinsic an intrinsic motivation works far better than when they are used separately.

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