The one fundamental when it comes to motivation Pt2

16 December 2010


In the last post we looked at the fact that mans greatest motivator is to make a gain or avoid a pain.

When you look at this is the context of teaching, it forms a basis of everything we do.  Much of the way we do discipline and encourage compliance is through the means of threats and rewards otherwise known as the carrot and the stick model.

Teachers used to literally have a stick in the class room – there are still a few teachers around who speak fondly of those days!

Today we don’t use the stick in a literal sense, but nether-the-less we still use the stick in other ways.

For example every teacher has at one time or another – and in most cases multiple times a day said “If you don’t do [xyz] you will have to stay in at lunch, or move your seat etc. What you are doing is saying if you don’t do what I want I will bring a level of pain or discomfort in your life.

When we do this we are relying on the fundamental principle that we are all motivated to avoid a pain – the only thing that needs to be determined is what is the students pain threshold so to speak.

Historically speaking motivating people by means of threats has been extremely successful.  The king or ruler who was unhappy with his subjects could say, “Do as I tell you, or I will have you killed!”  This simple but effective form of motivation works on most people (for obvious reasons!)

It is interesting to note that Motivation through fear works best if aimed at the individual and its power is diminished when working with groups- this has massive implications for teachers as we are constantly dealing with group dynamics!

When the workers in the West started forming trade unions in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the possibility of influencing individuals by means of threat dwindled.

It is always easier to put pressure on an individual than a group, which is why people have always sought protection in each other’s company.

Have you ever come across a student that is tough as nails when they are in a group, but you get them alone one and one and it is a different story?

The reason is that the more people with a shared motivation of protecting themselves, the stronger the group will be.

I’m interested…what ‘sticks’ do you use in your classroom? What are the most effective? Let me know in the comment section below.

In the next post we will look at the carrot approach to teaching…

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