Posts Tagged understanding
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.
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.
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.
This week I had an opportunity to read scholarship submissions at Wilson High School for the vocational education program. On the table was two years full tuition and books for a vocational path of your choice (primarily encouraging state colleges and vocational schools). Of interest was the fact that I had the honor of sitting across the table from past Washington Senator Joe Stortini, currently restaurateur of some notoriety from Joeseppi’s Italian Ristorante on North Pearl in Tacoma. Our cordial discussion and history walk was enthusiastic and energizing. Joe was key to early educational legislation including the many tweaks to collective bargaining and implementation of constitutional mandates to fund basic education. Between 1969 and 1977 he sponsored or co-sponsored many bills during a complicated time that included the emergence of many of the foundations that are being debated today during less comfortable economic times.
But, our discussion turned to the programs in Tacoma to encourage the options for kids beyond the typical college bound mentality that often dominates the conversation in many circles. This is understandable in an environment focused on test scores, standards and a desire to assure that 100% of our children are prepared for post-secondary education. What Joe and I talked about was the reality that many kids need another path – whether in the arts, or metalworking, or the culinary arts – they need a path for success that doesn’t label them a failure if they can’t get into a “acceptable” college. The video below confirms this notion, although you will need patience to get through the dialog to reach the conclusions at the end. But, the anagnorisis of this is clear when you consider Mike Rowe’s insight into “Dirty Jobs.”
I like that he points out we are “at war” with the notion of work. It is clearly true that we are in the process of creating ever new generations of complacency where we have been taught that work is bad and following your passion means finding the “get rich quick scheme” that will fuel an early retirement.
Mike has introduced me to my peripeteia. How about you?
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:
- establish high standards and assessments
- provide districts with additional flexibility and resources
- 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.
George, J., & Jones, G. R. (2008). Understanding and managing organizational behavior (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Another version of the same old mantra –
If I know something, I can repeat it.
If I understand something, I can discuss it.
If I truly grasp something, I can create on my own.
Thus, students must be able to articulate their learning (not just products) in order to assess whether they truly grasp a topic or just understand it.
Evan Wittenberg discusses Google’s beliefs about leadership. In the first statements, he captures the best of transformational leadership in articulating succinctly the Google vision. The rest is about individual consideration and internal development of leadership values that reaches beyond the typical “push” model and looking more to “creating environments” where people can learn and develop their own personal leadership. (Advertisement precedes video.)