Sharing & Learning Together

Monday, February 13, 2006

Some thoughts

I have been reading all the postings on your blogs after each CASW session. I have been thinking about some issues that seem to be all-pervading. Many key questions seem to be going into problems with individual students and problems of motivation. Several suggested strategies are to do with rewards and punishments. I would urge all of you to think beyond rewards and sanctions and look at intrinsic motivation. If we understand the context of the child, can we not look for the interests of the child and plan work around that? Would that not be a better motivator than rewards and punishment?

Also, do look up Alfie Kohn and John Holt - we have their books in the library, or you can type a search with their names and rewards and punishments on Google search. You may not agree, but you could think about it.

Can you think of any instance in your life where the desire for a reward sparked a long term interest in any activity? Further, can you recall any instance when the fear of a punishment got you hooked on to any topic?

I remember a Geography teacher when I was in Std 06, who was particularly scary and how I did study hard so as to please her, but how the very text book became distasteful to me! I still have a problem with all things geographic!!

8 Comments:

  • Ms. Tara, It's nice to read your blog. It's quite interesting to know that you were motivated towards other subjects. So I understand that apart from Geography the other teacher's have motivated you. But in my case teacher's just prefered to teach and did not bother about anything other than covering the portions for the exams. The teacher's in my school liked to see our marks in the exam than thinking about motivating the students towards a chapter or subject. So whom to be blamed me or the teacher or the school.

    By Blogger joel, at 7:40 PM  

  • We all come from different backgrounds and our motivations and interests in things are different. What you have written Joel, makes me thank God for the nth time in my life. I have been extremely lucky in that ,that my parents never cared for my school results, which were good most of the times anyways, but that was not the most important thing for them in life. And they always focussed on "doing what you do with interest and sincerity" rather than be better than the 25 other kids in the claxs. They taught me to enjoy my work and care about the outcome for my sake alone.This attitude did cost me a few things but brought much bigger rewards in terms of life in itself.
    Looking at everything that is going on around me, I feel again and again indebted to my parents for what they have given me. I am more motivated now than I ever was to spread this light as far as I can. I don't mean to be preachy or maudlin. Forgive me, anyone who reads this, if I sound like that, but I am just speaking straight from my heart, as usual.

    By Blogger Neela Tatu, at 7:53 PM  

  • Tara,being intrinsically motivated is ideal. But not all children are. Is it okay then to provide for differences and motivate the child in the way he or she best understands,being very judicious of the methods of course. However, the ultimate aim would be to help the child internalise the whole process and become responsible for his or her actions.

    By Blogger sandra kunder, at 1:43 AM  

  • No point blaming anyone, Joel. We come from a system that is highly teacher-centric. Most of the schools around us are also teacher-centric, exam-driven, text-book centred and the pressure on teachers in Aditi to follow like-wise is immense from anxious parents who believe that that is the only way to provide a "successful" education to their kids so that they do well in the IIT entrance exam or walk into Stanford university with full aid! Nothing wrong in these aspirations, but the belief that this can only be achieved through direct teaching, text book learning and drill and kill is absolutely unacceptable to us at Aditi. Our contention is that good teaching practice based on an understanding of how a child learns, will result in real understanding and high achievement in academics as well! Nowhere do rewards and punishments picture in this scheme as motivators. Mind you, I am not suggesting that there be no consequences for going against accepted rules - there has to be some accountablilty for going over a word limit, for example, but when we are discussing strategies in CASW meetings, let us stick to improving teaching practice with an understanding of how the brain learns best. We were fully agreed that the brain does not learn in an atmosphere of fear, so using punishment as a motivator does not work! Koshy, maybe rewards work better than punishments, but they are no substitute for intrinsic motivation - there is no greater motivator for doing 5 hours of riyaz than the pleasure of hitting a Swar with more perfect accuracy than you ever have! No riyaz for a prestigious concert will match that. And that is the kind of motivation that we have to try and build into our lessons - to nurture within each child the desire to hit the perfect note!!

    By Blogger Tara Kini, at 8:59 PM  

  • Neela, I have been similarly blessed but I am also convinced that it is possible for kids in our care to build the same kind of intrinsic motivation.

    By Blogger Tara Kini, at 9:00 PM  

  • Yes, ofcourse, Sandra, catering to the needs of an individual child are fore most even int he kinds of motivators used. I also think a certain amount of humour in dealing out punishments helps to keep the fear element out. I remember the famous "Go to Mrs. Warrior's carpet" punishment - the kids who went there trembling, had a great time - just sitting there and maybe reading - and ended with a sweet. It was never considered a treat and was a threat, but not one that left them scarred.
    Still, I would say that a really well-planned lesson, that is based on strategies that enable learning, should not need recourse to any threats at all. It is not easy - it is hard work. But it is very dependent on what your basic beliefs about how children learn are.

    By Blogger Tara Kini, at 9:09 PM  

  • Insufficient motivation could be caused by fear of punishment, lack of interest, lack of competition, laziness or defeatism. Trying to spark off intrinsic motivation within such a student is challenging. But we teachers need to be alert and look for students who might need it.

    As a child I had always wanted to do everything to the best of my ability. I was blessed with wonderful parents and exceptional teachers who kept me motivated.

    I recall 2 incidents very clearly which have been etched in my mind. As a child I had always been good at sports and the desire to be on the school team was motivation enough to give it my best shot.

    The second incident was that once I had been humiliated in class by a second language teacher. Just the need to prove her wrong motivated me to such an extent that I ended up securing the highest grade for that subject.

    By Blogger Geeta Kamat, at 10:14 AM  

  • Dear tara i agree that every child's needs need to be understood and motivatots need to cater to them specifically.
    I remember this boy who was so talkative and distracted in class that i would be myself be very distracted. So as a " Punishment" i told him to come to my class after lunch for an " extra math"
    He came and i gave him some different kind of problems, assissted him in some areas. He worked on it and left to his class. The next class he said" miss can i come to your class even today?" He said " Miss i enjoyed doing those problems you gave me" I said. " No you are not supposed to be staying in class after lunch, you have to go and play" He said" So miss, Can i talk and disturb you today so that i can come to you" I think this was a case where external consequence triggered an interest in the child.

    By Blogger kalpanau, at 2:46 AM  

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