Shawn Cornally makes an interesting point about motivation in school. Students are rewarded extrinsically--with points—which damages the circuitry for higher-level motivation. A more sustainable way to engage students at school is to permit them to pursue their own questions. When this can happen, the role of the teacher is not primarily to remind, motivate, reward or punish—things I feel I do waaaaay too much of for my tenth graders—but to “manage the 100 different threads of learning that are taking place.”
I agree that it would be more enjoyable (for all parties involved) if I were to spend my teacher-energy as a consultant rather than a disciplinarian/reminder. Uggh! It can be so exhausting! Stay on task. Sit in your desk. Keep writing. Look at the prompt. Did you read the instructions?
But I can’t help but think that these issues of dependence may be solved when students start to take a bit of control over their learning. With little skin in the game and a faulty rewards system, why should they demonstrate care, urgency, and attention?
Mr. Cornally’s proposal for a binary grading system applies especially well in science and technology, but for Humanities, I’m not quite sure how it would work. I’d have to think about it more. I also get a bit concerned about my students' ability to generate worthy questions. Is that horrible to admit? I’d like to embrace this style, but perhaps start small, a 10% type of project. Students would be permitted to use 10% of our classroom time to freely work on answering a topical question they want to solve.
It’s definitely time to re-think the reward system in school. Low student motivation has been one of the biggest surprises to me so far. And I myself graduated high school with high marks but little capacity to structure my own learning. The root of the issue with motivation really breaks my heart: students simply don’t see why they should go to the trouble of answering someone else’s deep questions. When students are held back from managing their own learning, they learn to either “play by the rules” or “get outta the game,” both of which damage the learner.
Overhauling the grading system represents a huge change to the educational system, but there are some pioneers to follow. At Reed College in Oregon, students are encouraged to focus on learning and not on grades. There’s also Bennington College in Vermont, where students may request optional letter grades. Both of these colleges turn out top-notch graduates and have highly ranked classroom experiences. Students are learning, and enjoying the process!
TEDxEastsidePrep - Shawn Cornally - The Future of Education Without Coercion. (2011, June 07). Retrieved December 02, 2016, from https://youtu.be/gPeKdXhGcZQ