From Compulsory to…..

From Compulsory to….. eh…

From Extrinsic to Intrinsic Motivation

Engagement and Love and Drive to learn

These days teachers are experiencing a great differential in every classroom and learning context. Differentials between students and their engagement and completion of assignments. Differentials between student behavior before coronatimes and during these stay at home times. Even when and if we return to physical school spaces these differentials are likely to remain.

What explains them? Many variables are at work.

Perhaps we can look to the students who are doing well or relatively well with their learning during these coronatimes. If we ask them and their teachers, what would they say?

The Rio School District is getting ready to ask those questions and start Thought Exchanges to explore these ideas. Meanwhile, I think these times are exposing the vulnerabilities and problems of every human organization. Schools for sure. Public school in grades 1-12 is mandated by state law in every state of America. There are extrinsically imposed negative consequences and penalties for non-compliance for both child and parent. Attendance, grades, grade promotion, etc are all elements of this compulsory nature of our schools. 

Our schools are garden/prisons. They function from opposing metaphors. Since the evolution of standards based learning we have struggled to have non-contradictory forces in our learning environments. We have succeeded in many cases in increasing the garden aspects including having actual gardens themselves. Still, kids have to do this, have to do that, or else…

We preach and aim to develop intrinsic motivation while maintaining a plethora of extrinsic motivational structures including both reward and punishment. We do all this under the legal concept of parens patriae…. the state as parent and under the premise that the individual right to not partake in education is abridged by the need of the collective right to have educated citizens which are seen as better for the economy and the rule of law.

Then comes the virus. School Closures. Kids not connecting, disappearing, connecting and disconnecting, connecting but not doing, doing but not connecting and every other possible variation.

Summer loss in reading and academic learning is a battle we educators have designed for for years. Summer? What about virus loss? Who is losing and who is really losing? No one is winning but by virtue of others losing more there are those that will benefit from the growing gap when economic function and academic function returns. Equity the word has been a buzz and its buzzing now more than ever.

Kids who love to learn, who are in the Must learn category. Kids who love and must make things and explore, kids who love and must read and find ways to express their meanings, kids who love to solve problems and who love challenges, kids who are resilient and who have the emotional support and internal resources to deal with war-like conditions, these kids will go on learning. They will lose many opportunities for sure, the greatest of all, the social interaction and learning from their peers, but they will rely on themselves and their families, friends, and remaining school connections to try to thrive rather than survive in these times. 


Deficit models and examining the tragic consequences and conditions will surely yield useful information and compel us to make things better for all, however, these times can be informed by the children and students of every age who are doing ok and learning and developing and adapting. Perhaps, as we listen and learn from them we can infuse our designing for the future with things that will help every learner.


Along these lines, I suspect that we need to design less for compulsory dynamics and more for individualizing learning plans for every child that encourage their intrinsic ownership of their learning as well as supporting their families to develop along these lines. 


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