Archive for the ‘Intrinsic motivation’ Category

Is “Waiting for Superman” worth seeing?

January 13, 2011 2 comments
Pediment showing name of Mearns Street Public ...

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This Monday, “Waiting for Superman” came out in my local, independent theater and I jumped at the chance to see it. If you have not heard about it, the movie traces the failings of the public education from the perspective of a number of families in the system. To be honest, I went into the movie knowing that some things had been left out of the movie (although I chose to find out what after seeing the movie) and I was somewhat bothered that the movie appeared to only cover education from the view of inner city families while appearing to address public education as a whole.

After seeing the movie, however, I was impressed with its ability to move me. While no ideas are provided in the movie on how to make a difference (in fact, it leaves you a little hopeless with respect to public education), I felt my mind reeling on what I could do personally to make a difference.  I keep thinking about how we could try to connect inner city children near our community with resources,  since (which the movie leaves out) it is often resources that are missing for the inner city children that other, more affluent communities do have. Even connecting children with a mentor, much like the Big Brother/Big Sister program, might help some? Anyway, the movie is worth seeing in that sense – it makes you want to do something (which I think is of course is its intention!). And of course, you can make a huge difference in your own school system.

The movie has had me thinking about this topic every day – as there is so much to consider. Today I read this article about it – which bring up even more topics for discussion:

So I think I am going to use my blog for a while to discuss the issues raised by this movie and get my ideas on paper.

Have any of you seen the movie and what did you think of it?


How to get kids to do boring but necessary tasks

November 10, 2010 Leave a comment

The week is getting super busy so I have not done much reading to talk about. I would like to continue posting, so today I am sharing an article that I found some time ago from the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley entitled How to Get Kids to Do Boring but Necessary Tasks

The best part of the article I think is the final conclusion (based on this one and several previous related articles):

“Rewards work in the short-term because they provide us with a nice feel-good Dopamine hit. But unfortunately, rewards tend to have a negative effect on kids’ motivation over the long-term. The answer is to motivate kids to do those not-so-fun things that are necessary in life with the particular kind of encouragement described above. That way, their brains deliver those feel-good chemicals in response to their feelings of mastery and autonomy (intrinsic motivation) rather than in response to receiving a material reward (extrinsic motivation).”

Based on other things I have read, this means rewards are helpful when you want to make a change in a temporary behavior, for example, sleeping without a pacifier. But when it comes to long-term behavior, such as working hard in school or instilling honesty, it is better to motivate using the strategies discussed in the article above.

Parental control and children’s intrinsic motivation

November 7, 2010 4 comments

Since becoming a parent, I have always been fascinated about how parental control and motivation of children are interrelated.  Many mainstream parenting books have touched upon the subject and discuss the spectrum of parenting techniques based on work by Diane Baumrind (authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and everything in between). I happened upon a book a few years ago that delves into this issue in much more detail: The Psychology of Parental Control: How Well-Meaning Parenting Backfires by Wendy S. Grolnick. I am going to share a few items from that book in my next few posts, although I highly suggest reading the book. It discusses many research studies on the topic of parental control and its effects and many of the results are counter-intuitive and incredibly insightful.

For example, the book quotes studies by Dweck et al.(1998), which found that found that when children were praised for being smart after successfully completing an assigned task, they did not enjoy a subsequent, more challenging task as much as kids who had been praised for effort. Furthermore, on the second round, the kids praised for intelligence were more likely to choose the easier problems that would make them look good.  These kids also were more likely to attribute mistakes to a lack of ability and gave up trying more quickly. Those praised for effort, however, tended to pick more challenging problems and also enjoyed the exercise more. The kids praised for effort were also more likely to see intelligence as linked to improvement, rather than a static trait. My own interpretation of the research is that praising for intelligence versus effort results in kids who feel trapped to have to live up to the label, which makes them afraid to fail. The beauty of failure is that you learn that you can get up and try again. Kids who are praised for effort aren’t pressured to perform to an expectation and can relax and focus on learning.

It such a simple concept, but a potentially very important and powerful one.