Extrinsic Motivation: It might be even worse than you thought!

Participating in class will help you make connections between concepts. During class lectures and discussions, your brain makes connections to assigned readings, past class reunions, and your own life experiences. These connections are the foundation of learning!

Class discussions allow you to hear different perspectives and different ways of understanding concepts. (Your peers will also benefit from your contributions to the classroom!) Some of your classes will have active group work, supported by your teachers and peer learning assistants who provide opportunities to test your understanding and speak to others’ Teaching concepts.

When Carly Robinson, a researcher at Harvard’s Student Social Support Research and Development Laboratory, and her colleagues designed a study to examine the effects of attendance bonuses, they expected positive results. After all, it’s common practice in American schools to give out awards like this.

They surveyed hundreds of teachers and administrators and found that the vast majority believe in and use attendance bonuses in their schools. Only a minority of respondents – 2% – thought the award was a bad idea.

It turns out that the latter group is doing something.

Robinson and her colleagues published their findings in the recent issue of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision-Making Processes. They found that attendance bonuses did more harm than good: They concluded that bonuses were not only ineffective in increasing attendance but might even increase absenteeism after awards were given.

In the study, more than 15,000 middle and high school students were randomly assigned to one of three groups. The first group served as a control group and did not participate in the reward program. In the second group, students were told that they would be eligible for an upcoming attendance bonus if they were not absent during the following month. In the third group, students with high attendance in the previous month were rewarded. For this last batch of students, the award was a surprise – they were unaware that an award had been given, so their participation was not affected by the possibility of winning one.

Contrary to the principal’s best guess, students announced in advance that they could receive an attendance award, which did not affect the child’s absenteeism rate. In hindsight, this makes sense. After all, attendance bonuses won’t make dentist appointments disappear. If a child is skipping class, they may not be the kind of student who would even be motivated by an attendance bonus.

What surprised the researchers, however, was what happened after the awards ceremony. Absenteeism increased by a full 8 percent over the next month.

“Rather than motivating students to continue to excel in attendance, these awards send unexpected signals that we didn’t expect,” Robinson explained. “This is especially true for underperforming students who benefit the most from high attendance.”

The award had a small positive effect on the youngest students in the study (sixth graders), but those benefits disappeared as students got older. The study authors note that this is consistent with previous research showing that young children are more motivated than their older peers through “symbolic incentives” such as stickers and prizes.

The award had small positive effects on the youngest students in the study (sixth graders), but those benefits disappeared as students got older. The study authors noted that this is consistent with previous research showing that young children are more motivated than their older peers through “symbolic incentives” such as stickers and prizes.

Why did the attendance awards according to the research backfire? One reason is that schools use extrinsic motivation to improve grades, which research often shows is a bad idea. According to the study’s authors, attendance awards can “suppress” students’ intrinsic motivation, signaling that they are outperforming expectations and giving them an “allowance” to rest.

The researchers also say social forces are at work: Students may see the awards as highlighting their status as high achievers and isolating them from their more obscure friends. For these students, missing a few days allows them to regain their place in their peer group.

If handing out an attendance award was a mistake, is there a better way? Attendance Works, a national nonprofit, emphasizes the importance of relationships in motivating students to attend school. Teachers should be aware of when students are absent and make efforts to reach out to them and their families to demonstrate their absence and their value to the community. In identifying effective strategies, the group said “building positive and trusting relationships with students and their families is key to fostering good engagement.”

Bottom line: There’s good reason to believe that attendance bonuses don’t work and even increase absenteeism. This reminds us that extrinsic rewards can undermine our motivation and reduce the behavior we want to encourage.

About the article

Participating in class will help you make connections between concepts. During class lectures and discussions, your brain makes connections to assigned readings, past class reunions, and your own life experiences. These connections are the foundation of learning!

Class discussions allow you to hear different perspectives and different ways of understanding concepts. (Your peers will also benefit from your contributions to the classroom!) Some of your classes will have active group work, supported by your teachers and peer learning assistants who provide opportunities to test your understanding and speak to others’ Teaching concepts.

There’s good reason to believe that attendance bonuses don’t work and even increase absenteeism. This reminds us that extrinsic rewards can undermine our motivation and reduce the behavior we want to encourage. In this article, we discussed the adverse effects of Extrinsic Motivation in trying to solve the attendance problem in the classrooms.

Bill westermen

Digital Entrepreneur, Website Builder, SEO Consultant and Professional. I have 12 years experience in Digital Marketing, And this is the future of Business

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.