The quote I posted yesterday reminded me of a lecture I heard by Peter Senge once in which he talked about a study that traced the decline in the rapid learning ability of pre-school children after they enter school to the introduction of external rewards. When a child is internally motivated, he or she learns for learing's sake. One year old's learn to talk so they can ask for things. Two year old's learn to run so they can keep up with their brothers and sisters. Three year old's learn better social skills and manners because it helps them avoid frustration and time-outs. Before school, learning, for the most part, is its own reward.
In school it becomes all about getting the smiley face sticker, the gold star, the A. That shift in motivation from internal to external leads to a decline in the rate of learning as the pursuit of external rewards takes precedence over the learning itself.
I remember my Uncle used to give me $5 for getting straight A's on my report card. Over time I became more motivated to get A's than to actually learn. I became an efficient test taker. This was not without benefits even beyond the five-spot. Getting good grades opened up doors to good schools. Yet what I said yesterday still holds, not every course I "earned" an A in did I actually learn in. That brings us back to the purpose of schooling. Most teachers I know teach so that students will learn. Does the way most schools do assessment support that goal?
The Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and putting into practice the conditions that foster student aspirations in schools and learning communities around the world. Please visit us on the web at www.qisa.org.
The views represented in this blog are my own and do not represent QISA's stance on any of the issues discussed.