Posts Tagged motivation

Leadership and Learning

Jay McTighe, one of the gurus behind Understanding by Design, has posted this video on his recent encounter with failure.  It speaks to the issue of leaders who are often marked by age that is associated with their experience. Even Jay is showing his age despite the fact that he is only 7 years my senior. (This fact caused me to go peak in my mirror.  Yikes!)

At the AAIE conference, this was apparent as I looked across a “wise” crowd of international school leaders.  The focus of the weekend was technology and the overall content of the conference fell short of accessing the robust technology available today.  That doesn’t mean it was a bad conference – just bereft of the tools we were discussing.  I would suggest that it drove home the point of the separation between digital natives, digital immigrants, and digital dinosaurs.  While Jay is talking mostly about learning (and learners), I’m suggesting that his insights also provide a unique focus on leaders who are desperate to remain open to innovation, but are challenged by their own fear of failure when addressing a complex and constantly changing context.

Marc Prensky helped us to understand through his keynote that our issue is about the difference between nouns and verbs.  We need to be less focused on the nouns which constitute the latest fads of technology tools (e.g. – Facebook, Twitter, Email, etc.) and focus instead on the skills (verbs) of the 21st century.  While we need to embrace the nouns as they emerge and are adopted, the process skills of problem solving, collaboration, and communication remain static and highly adaptive to the new context.  A powerful connection when considering Jay’s insight into how we address our fear of failure.  As Jay notes:

  • Don’t give in to negative self-talk
  • Don’t let an initial failure keep you from trying again
  • Be strategic – practice, details, visualize success

Surfing at 60 is possible for even our most experienced leaders.  And I’m not talking about the ocean kind of surfing.

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Happy First Day Everyone!!

I love the first day of school each year. This year, with dissertation work continuing, I again ushered my own two kids into school, but did not take the reins of a classroom or building. I miss it.

I love the rain beating down on my umbrella while watching buses safely deliver kids to my building.  I love the calls on the hand-held letting me know that Johnny isn’t sure to which classroom he is assigned.  I relish the parent handshakes, the unloading of supplies.  The wide-eyed enthusiasm is part of my biological clock and it refreshes me with each iteration of the cycle.  Like the children in this video, I’m floating toward the heavens in awe of the mystery that is yet to emerge.

May you all have a wonderful “blast off” whether you have started or will soon do so.  May this year be an exciting one where you accomplish all that you seek for yourself and for the children in your charge.

Dr. Kirpal Singh (Singapore Management University) laments in a movie featured at 21Foundation that we are focusing on preparing kids for today or yesterday, but that very few of us are preparing kids for tomorrow.  That needs to be our focus and we should recommit to reaching out further than we can comprehend to address the needs of these citizens of a new millennium.

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Time Travel – Kids Explaining it – Can you see the motivation?

In this video, kids talk about time travel and use various resources to explain their concept.  Since I was recently in an 8th grade classroom talking about black holes, this was especially interesting and, thus, I’m sharing it with you.  This is consistent with the previous message about reaching higher in our expectations than we might otherwise consider.

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Motivation – Again!?!?

Seems like the week to discuss motivation and as I consider various links and tracebacks, I’m found bringing together some ideas into a new framework of understanding many things I have written before and will likely ponder in the future.  This video brings this thinking to specific relief.

We have discussed previously how setting our sights on common denominators (e.g. high stakes tests, common core curriculum, etc.) seems somehow counter-intuitive.  Additionally, many others have offered insight into the dangers of these practices.  Any other approach seems just too challenging to discuss in the midst of political wrangling, decaying facilities, and budgetary degradation.  We seek the average because we have lost the incentive to reach for something that often seems beyond our grasp.  We have lost the pioneering spirit.

In this video from 1972, legendary psychiatrist Viktor Frankl offers an important message about our motivations and our expectations for each other.

Whether we are talking about advances in science, travels to Mars, or the development of new curriculum, this simple video may be the piece that helps us all get past our limitations and our struggle with mediocrity.

We must find a way to seek for children more than our perceptions of their limitations.  We have to provide for the true and honest development of their pioneering spirit.  As the video declares, we must seek point far “north” of mediocrity and find our destination somewhere between average and eminently closer to excellent.

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The Inherent Conflict in Motivation Theory

Motivation theory has been around for multiple decades and has been reflected on by hundreds of authors over a wide span of influence.  Behavioral Psychologists have used animal studies with primates and other species to extrapolate motivational theory for humans.  Many research projects and meta-analyses have considered the implications of various forms of treatments and their impact on motivation.  Despite this rigorous study from multiple disciplines, the results of our efforts continue to confound us.  A prime example is the Strathclyde University study that failed to find any support for a mainstay of motivational practices when considering reward systems in 63 organizations.  No support for contingency theory could be found in this study, which has been described as the largest and most detailed of its kind (Bowey, 2005).  Despite this, contingent rewards are still the cornerstone of the business world and continue to develop in the form of spiraling wages (or reduction of hours associated with wage), fringe benefits, or any number of creative incentives aimed at propelling a work force toward both stability and performance (Herzberg, 2003).

Harlow, Harlow, and Meyer (1950) laid a foundation for an alternative theory to standard contingent theory when they found in their experiments with monkeys that motivation in fact existed in absence of any of the typical extrinsic incentives typically associated with performance.  The complexity of the problem itself in the form of a puzzle created a manipulation drive that was studied prior to any reward structure being introduced.  This study caused them to conclude that manipulation drive was as powerful as homeostatic drives that are related to satisfying unrelated needs (food, etc.).

Deci, Koestner, and Ryan (1999) pursued a large meta-analysis of 128 studies to reflect on the interaction of extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation. Their analyses indicated that the effect of all tangible rewards led to significant undermining of intrinsic motivation, no matter what measure was used. The implications of this are profound and consistent with Herzberg (2003) where he postulates that extrinsic rewards simply reinforce motivation toward acquiring the next reward, and not toward greater degrees of accomplishment.

Pink (2009) confirms that intrinsic motivators have superior power over extrinsic rewards and can be found through three principles:  autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  The following video demonstrates how this is instrumental in developing deeply personal goals.

Two questions that can change your life from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.

Herein lies the rub. In the current age, we seek greater accomplishment of task and insight into innovation and creativity while holding on to industrial age methodologies for eliciting quantity of performance rather than quality. By virtue of this, motivational insights that uncover the intellectual dynamics involved in encouraging complex cognitive tasks are critical to the next age of human enlightenment.

References

Bowey, A. (2005). Motivation: The art of putting theory into practice. European Business Forum, (20), 17-20.

Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M. (1999). A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 125(6), 627-668.

Harlow, H. F., Harlow, M. K., & Meyer, D. R. (1950). Learning motivated by a manipulation drive. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 40(2), 228-234.

Herzberg, F. (2003). One more time: How do you motivate employees? Harvard Business Review, 81(1), 86.

Pink, D. (2009). Drive : The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York: Riverhead Books. 

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Instructional Core

Richard Elmore, in this video clip and with the associated graphic, defines the best measure of how we should judge innovation and change in an organization.  The data that we collect must come from the core if we are to determine with any degree of certainty that these changes have been implemented and whether or not they are sustainable.

High stakes testing does not accomplish this.  Many have now written about test scores and continue to miss the point.  The scores do not inform instruction and lack the “granularity” needed to affect real change.  Teachers do not change based on either initiative nor incentive based reward.  They change, in Daniel Pink’s words, because they want to master their craft, because they have always been an autonomous lot, and because they have a special purpose that stands them apart from other professions – nurturing the progeny of others.  The talents that will change schools are those with unyielding drive that infects these other dimensions powerfully and without hesitation, as in Geoffrey Canada’s work in Harlem.  These efforts will often come from the teachers themselves when they are effectively empowered to be leaders in their own organizations.

But, ultimately, systemic change will only happen when we keep our “eye on the ball” and that means the instructional core.

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New Horizons 2010

Under a grant from HP, the New Media Consortium and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has released the latest New Horizon Report for K-12 education. Not surprisingly, the two critical trends to take center stage are Cloud Computing and Collaborative Environments.

The critical issues surrounding the trends that this collaboration brings to the forefront is the degree to which we have failed to link student achievement to the technology that we are adopting and, further, the degree to which schools have been forced to miss the boat on one initiative after another due to lack of financial resources or insufficient political resolve. The Horizon Report lists five critical trends that are not disappearing any time soon:

  • Technology is increasingly a means for empowering students, a method for communication and socializing, and a ubiquitous, transparent part of their lives.
  • Technology continues to profoundly affect the way we work, collaborate, communicate, and succeed.
  • The perceived value of innovation and creativity is increasing.
  • There is increasing interest in just-in-time, alternate, or non-formal avenues of education, such as online learning, mentoring, and independent study.
  • The way we think of learning environments is changing.

With new devices (e.g. iPad), and new technologies descending upon us on a daily basis, we need to consider how to best approach the challenges that we now face since our prior efforts have been so stilted and restrained.  While we see pockets of excellence throughout the world, the systemic and sustainable changes to educational systems still evade us.

I understand why.  While we all recognize the import of technology on daily life, we continue to be circumspect because the research proving its efficacy lacks so far behind the intervention that new technologies have already replaced those originally reviewed.  Our system of reflection and review is insufficient in its capacity to truly address the actual effects of these trends.

A recent presentation by adjunct professors at Pacific Lutheran University is a perfect example.  Their research on purported unintended consequences of technology heaped upon young unsuspecting children was, in most cases, 10 years old.  Can anyone remember what kind of computers we were using 10 years ago? Can you remember which devices didn’t exist a decade ago?

In Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement by John Hattie (2009), computer assisted instruction was considered using 81 meta-analyses that included 4,875 studies involving 3.9 million subjects.  The effect size was approximately d=0.37, something just more than developmental effects – in other words an effect that was about equivalent to just normal growth and development.  Despite my argument above, there was little change in effect size when broken down by year of study which Hattie believes counters the belief in increasing effect with increased sophistication.  Like many, the only correlation was between the use of computers and increased student engagement. Hattie concludes that there is no necessary relation between having computers, using computers, and learning outcomes.

But, hold the phone – Hattie throws us a bone when he does further analysis of the data and proposes that the following conditions must be met.

Computers are used effectively…

  1. when there is a diversity of teaching strategies
  2. when there is a pre-training in the use of computers as a teaching and learning tool (min. of 10 hours)
  3. when there are multiple opportunities for learning (e.g. deliberative practice, increasing time on task, etc.)
  4. when the student, not teacher, is in “control” of learning
  5. when peer learning is optimized
  6. when feedback is optimized

These two pieces of literature coupled with our own sound judgment form a new approach to prudent thinking on deployment of technology resources.  A formula based approach of developing infrastructure, providing training, and prudently purchasing equipment may lead to a best practices scenario for technology’s next horizon.

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Motivation & Daniel Pink

It seems fortuitous that I wrote last night on Mike Rowe and then found Daniel Pink shortly after to reflect on the nature of motivation.  These are two very nice videos back-to-back and tell us much about the new age of work and accomplishment.  Similar to the theories (dare I say facts) presented by Pink, I’m writing this instead of the paper that is due in my doctoral class – my incentive, “grade” based class where I do work for the carrot of a piece of paper that somehow distinguishes me from everyone else – hogwash!

In reality, much of what Pink describes is true for me – I select projects where I can be creative and add to the base of knowledge rather than looking for the position with the greatest pay potential.  Performance has always been a motivator and I read about Google’s 20% only to say “Yeah!” and “Right On!!” and “That Makes Sense!!!”

The fact that we have had it wrong for so long is what amazes me.  In schools especially, we seem all too caught up in a Pavlovian reality and stretching to a different kind of conceptual framework seems unreachable.  Could it be that our most difficult students are trying to tell us something that has nothing to do with their “condition?”  Maybe we have so tightly closed the lid on our children that they have no choice but to move constantly amongst realities – one after another in quick succession – to the point that we no longer understand them because of their divergence from our norms.

Pink may have the new age of motivation in his pocket, and his dialog on the topic has inspired some divergent thinking at the very least.

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Motivation 101

A thought on why broad education reform is lingering despite selective successes…

In looking at organizational behavior, there is one theory of motivation that may apply to the current scenario in regards to the willingness of teachers to embrace necessary change. Equity Theory provides a basis for thinking about motivation that goes something like this:

The equity theory of work motivation was developed in the 1960s by J. Stacy Adams (equity means “fairness”). Equity theory is based on the premise that an employee perceives the  relationship between the outcomes — what the employee gets from a job and organization — and his or her inputs—what the employee contributes to the job and organization…. According to equity theory, however, it is not the objective level of outcomes and inputs that is important in determining work motivation. What is important to motivation is the way an employee perceives his or her outcome/input ratio compared to the outcome/input ratio of another person. (George & Jones, 2008)

What’s interesting about this is the “referent” or other person that is used as the comparison.  In the last decade, there has been a movement to compare teachers at a professional level to other white collar careers, and rightfully so.  Education is clearly a highly valued profession in the truest sense and many aspire to the profession out of desire to service and more intrinsic motivation.

But, when I talk to teachers, there is a terrible disconnect between the two factors described above.  There is a huge demand for excellent inputs with little potential for commensurate outcomes that would ever be considered consistent with doctors or lawyers.

So, does that mean we have to raise pay exponentially and provide incentive based rewards? Nope – not necessarily!  In fact, additional pay may not be a motivator if all other factors of work conditions remain the same.  If children have increasing needs and if demands associated with the job continue to escalate, pay and other extrinsic incentives will have little impact on overcoming the significant disparity between needed work (and there’s lots of it) and the slim possibility of rewards in a system that never seems to be “fixed.”

At the core of expectancy theory is a need for people to believe that they can achieve the expected performance level.  Have we given teachers any degree of belief that they can achieve the targeted performance?  Many reports have been published on the problems with the American education system.  Have many been published on the quality of the system?  Do teachers feel like their goals can be achieved if they go from one evaluation to the next thinking they are doing the right thing only to find that their evaluations and performance demands change in any given year without additional possibility of remuneration?

In 1993, the Washington State Legislature enacted HB 1209 school reform.  There were three steps:

  1. establish high standards and assessments
  2. provide districts with additional flexibility and resources
  3. hold districts and schools accountable for student achievement

Steps 1 and 3 have been accomplished, although accountability still seems a wavering target.  But step 2 has not been fully addressed at either constitutional nor budget level.  Thus, it is clear that a disconnect still exists between desired program change and a willingness to address the associated costs for resources and staff motivation towards these changes.

It’s easy to understand why changes in the profession of teaching are hard-fought in an era of increasing complacency.  With nothing but criticism often greeting them at the doors of their classrooms, teachers are the most difficult group to address when considering motivational strategies.  Setting standards is only one part of the puzzle.  Giving teachers a sense that a new order is not only achievable, but desirable, is the real challenge of leaders and policy makers.

References

George, J., & Jones, G. R. (2008). Understanding and managing organizational behavior (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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