Sunday, August 28, 2011

Why intrinsic motivation works

Amusing to see a libertarian group below arguing for what has long been a Leftist ideal of education -- "non-directive" education. They specifically compare their ideas to those of the radical "Summerhill" school of A.S. Neill. If you want to spend money sending your kid to a school that has a two-thirds dropout rate from their final High School exams, that's fine, I guess.

What the authors below seem not to have loaded is that "non-directive" ideas are now very influential in mainstream schools. In British education they seem to be dominant. The result of course is to turn out kids who know little and have little self-discipline -- Kids who are very poorly prepared for the world of work -- the British disaster, in short. In Britain it is only the graduates from Britain's many very traditional "independent" schools who keep the country running.

In my own days teaching High School, I taught at both a traditional private (Catholic) school and a "progressive" ("non-directive") school so I know the difference well. In the traditional school ALL the kids did well in their final examinations, some exceptionally so. And the school had quite a working class catchment area.

In the "progressive" school the parents were generally wealthy. About half the kids studied nothing, learnt nothing and failed their final High School exams -- thus leaving school with no qualifications -- which well mirrored what they had learnt.

The other half however did quite well because they came from homes where educational achievement was expected. In other words the parents had to provide the motivation that the school did not.

In summary: For a certain bourgeois minority, "progressive" education can work. For mass education it is a disaster. The article below talks theory. I'm talking results -- JR

Intrinsic motivation is the desire to engage in an activity for its own sake. More particularly, this desire comes from inside an individual. Because it adheres to intrinsic motivation as the basis for developing a healthy learning experience, the Summum Bonum Learning Center avoids using punishments, payments, grades, and rewards – all of which are examples of extrinsic motivation and control. The use of extrinsic motivation can be traced to B.F. Skinner’s theory of behaviorism (although behaviorists prefer rewards to punishments). Behaviorism posits that everything an individual does (act, thought, and feeling) is a form of behavior. Consequently, it denies the existence of psychological constructs such as the self, mind, or will. Furthermore, the theory of behaviorism posits that human behavior can be shaped and controlled (or “conditioned”) by the application of external reinforcements that induce a person to respond in specific ways. Educational theories based on behaviorism rely on extrinsic motivators to shape a child’s learning experience and psychological development.

Regardless of the status of psychological constructs such as the mind or self, SBLC rejects rewards and punishments as the basis for shaping a child’s learning experience. Extensive research, compiled by Alfie Kohn in his book Punished by Rewards, shows that extrinsic motivators such as rewards and punishments are ineffective. They appear to “work” for simple, quantifiable tasks, but their impact diminishes with time. Just as important, they are ineffective for tasks involving quality, creativity, risk taking, and long-term commitment. In addition, they tend to shift a child’s reasons for doing things from the task itself to an emphasis on getting the reward. Because they are a rather crude attempt to control a child, they fail to address why children learn. At the same time, they actually de-value learning because they are viewed as bribes to engage in something disagreeable. In the eyes of perceptive children, they are seen as phony ploys, and that perception fosters a feeling of being controlled, which is linked to long-term aggression and resentment.

Extrinsic motivators also have disturbing ethical implications that compromise learning and long-term development – implications that voluntaryists instinctively understand. In a sense, extrinsic motivators reduce human beings to passive machines – things to be switched on and off, slowed down, and speeded up at the whim of some controller. Not surprising, these extrinsic motivators raise the status of the reward-giver above the recipient, creating a controller-controlled relationship – the source of status-based relationships and their widespread acceptance as “normal.” Furthermore, by shifting the attention of the learner from the task to obtaining a reward, they reduce the learner’s level of personal engagement in a task, causing learners to make only the minimum effort needed to obtain the reward. Not surprisingly, they discourage students, instill a fear of failure, create anxiety; and suppress the spirit of cooperation by pitting learners against each other. Is it any wonder that public schools and many private schools are such abysmal failures?

In contrast, intrinsic motivation and the practice of motivational interviewing accustom children to thinking about themselves and their goals without being forced into any mold by a politician or curriculum developer. Intrinsic motivation and motivational interviewing also bring learners into the learning process by offering choices and enabling them to enlarge the scope of their choices. They also support a habit of providing detailed feedback to students and parents while identifying why children learn. With these practices in place, children experience learning as a process of discovery, making mistakes, and accepting challenges – the opposite of “playing it safe” to obtain a good grade or some other reward. A school based on intrinsic motivation engages children in the problem-solving process through both choice of content and collaboration. The children learn to value explanations as a means of understanding, not simply reciting information because they were told to do so.

Just as important, by making use of nonviolent communication (taught by Marshall Rosenberg), the Summum Bonum Learning Center fosters the development of empathy by providing an environment where it is demonstrated by adults and is acted out by children with each other on a regular basis. Most obviously, this will take place as children tutor one another. With no grading curve to shame or uplift the students based on their performance, they will no longer be pitted against each other. Instead, they will be able and willing to help one another to learn. At its heart, this type of environment values the perspective of the learner. Further, both the Summerhill and Sudbury alumni have already demonstrated their resultant emotional well being – evidenced by changes in the behavior of even “disturbed” students as they slowly adjusted to the new, healthier environment of these schools. Moreover, both of these schools demonstrated the “fitness for study” of their graduates; they were usually accepted at the universities of their first choice when they chose to attend these institutions.

One of the most significant effects of the Summum Bonum Learning Center will be played out within the families of the learners. The family is the first social “association” with which a child comes into contact. Furthermore, during the first four years of life, 90% of the brain and its functions are formed ( Consequently, since parents are deeply involved in the training for both nonviolent communication and intrinsic motivation at SBLC, the Summum Bonum Learning Center will be helping to reform relationships within the family itself. This will promote healthier interpersonal relationships in the process – the kind that are antithetical to the state. By reforming the two most influential associations in a child’s life (the family and school), SBLC is striking the root in a profound way.


The higher education bubble in Britain

Rachel’s post yesterday got me thinking about university education. Like many, I’m coming to think of it as being the next big bubble. Money is being ploughed into it higher education, and for many – probably most – people, it’s just not worth it. We’ve become afflicted by acute credentialism: to be taken seriously in many professions, you need a couple of letters after your name.

What’s wrong with this? Well, for a start, it makes it harder to break into new jobs. Credentialism raises barriers to entry, and protects certain professions from competition. (Incidentally, occupational licensure – which I consider to be one of the great evils of our time – is worse.) Moreover, it increases the penalties for making bad decisions. Did you spend your teenage years getting drunk and skipping class? Well, sorry, you’ve ruined your life because you can’t get the degree from that Russell Group university that you needed so you could do the job you wanted to do. And God help you if you chose art history instead of accounting on your UCAS form.

Worst of all, credentialism forces people in education to conform so that they get the grades they need. School and university are the two places in people’s lives where freethinking and contrarianism can thrive; where being brilliantly wrong is better than being boringly correct. When your on-paper performance matters so much to your future job prospects, this becomes more difficult. As a result, university becomes more like a training course and less like the thoughtful, argument-filled Academy that it should be.

In a speech at Oxford Brookes University last June, David Willetts said that more than 50% of degree courses were "license to practice" courses. In fact, the true figure is likely to be a lot higher. By now, almost all university courses are credentialist training courses, even humanities and social sciences, because having letters after your name is now so important to finding a decent job.

How did we get here? Mostly, I blame government. Long ago, it was decided that education was the key to social mobility. Targets were set to get people into university, irrespective of their ability. That someone thought it a good idea to get 50% of school-leavers into university says it all – university was just an extension of mass schooling, and shunting as many people through it as possible was the key to making people smarter.

Where a bachelor’s degree once set people apart from the crowd, now it’s a master’s degree. Some day, I’m sure a PhD will be the minimum. Standards have fallen and costs have risen as the bubble grows. Once, everybody wanted to own expensive tulips. Today, people are putting their money into letters after their name. Bubbles are pointless, madness of crowds hysteria driven by easy money, and we're seeing one in education.

People use qualifications to signal their intelligence. It’s hard to show an employer that you’re smart, and a degree is like a good reference letter vouching for you to an employer. But forcing more and more people into university education has devalued that reference. Like trees competing for sunlight growing taller and taller, the credentials have become loftier and loftier to achieve the same ends. The bubble is growing. Someday, it will have to burst.


Time to stop increasing U.S. education spending?

Even The New York Times is now questioning the massive spending increases on education that have occurred over the last generation in a discussion entitled “Spending Too Much Time and Money on Education?”:
Americans are spending more and more on education, but the resulting credentials — a high-school diploma and college degrees — seem to be losing value in the labor market.

Americans who go to college are triply hurt by this. First, as taxpayers: state and federal education budgets have ballooned since the 1950s. Second, as consumers: the average college student spends $17,000 a year on school, and those with loans graduate more than $23,000 in debt. And third, as a worker: in 1970, an applicant with a college degree was among an elite 11 percent, but now almost 3 in 10 adults have a degree.

Given that a high school diploma, a bachelor’s degree and even graduate school are no longer a ticket to middle-class life, and all these years of education delay the start of a career, does our society devote too much time and money to education?

In the discussion, PayPal co-founder and technology investor Peter Thiel notes that “College Doesn’t Create Success,” noting that college graduates make more money than non-college graduates partly because people who are more creative by nature are “more likely to complete college” than less creative people, even if going to college doesn’t make them any more creative or teach them much of value. The fact that many successful people happened to go to college doesn’t mean that college made them successful, anymore than the fact that “Brooklynites who work in Manhattan” make more money than “Brooklynites who work in Brooklyn” proves “that crossing the Brooklyn Bridge makes people more productive.”

Education expert Richard Vedder sums up education’s decline over the last generation as “Spending Triples; Results Slide.” As he notes,
Spending on K-12 schools, adjusting for inflation and enrollment growth, has roughly tripled over the last 50 years, yet there is little solid evidence that today’s students are better prepared for work and citizenship than their grandparents were — and even some evidence that they are less so.

The university situation is similar, with two-fifths of those entering college failing to graduate within six years, the average college enrollee spending less than 30 hours a week on academics, and a major recent study by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa showing that there is little advancement of critical thinking or writing skills while in school. Moreover, college costs are soaring, and almost certainly the education system is becoming less efficient, at a time when labor productivity is rising elsewhere.

The icing on the cake is the total disconnect between student job expectations, college curricula, and the realities of today’s labor market. More college grads are taking low-skilled jobs previously occupied by those with high school diplomas — more than 80,000 bartenders, for example, have at least a bachelor’s degree. If students are successful in graduating (a big “if”), they often are saddled with debt and only able to get a relatively low-paying job.

As students learn less and less, nowhere is the problem greater than in America’s education schools, which people are required to attend if they wish to become teachers. Students in education schools have some of the lowest test scores of any major, and lower high-school grades. But education schools are so easy for students to pass that, as Professor KC Johnson notes,
the average grade in Education classes far exceeds the average in virtually any other major, to such an extent that “Education departments award exceptionally favorable grades to virtually all their students in all their classes.” The University of Missouri provided the most embarrassing results; at the state university’s flagship campus, one of every five Education classes ended with each student receiving an A. The logical inference of such figures . . . is that Education professors have failed to perform the gate-keeping role of ensuring that badly under-qualified students aren’t simply passed along so they can then become public school teachers. . . they reflect the leveling approach that is at the heart of contemporary schools of Education. Competition is bad; cooperation is good. Individual achievement must be discouraged; collegial collaboration is the ideal. “High-stakes” tests and exams requiring critical thinking have less relevance than group work or classroom chats. Such an environment all but ensures that professors will not attempt, much less succeed, in distinguishing much between students’ abilities.

Many education schools are ideologically oppressive places that seem designed to inculcate left-wing ideology rather than produce effective teachers. K-12 education is better in Japan because teachers there learn through apprenticeships and on-the-job training, rather than taking useless classes filled with psychobabble at education school, as George Leef points out in “Nurturing the Dumbest Generation.” “In Japan, there are no education schools at all. Those who wish to become teachers first earn degrees in some academic discipline and some of them are then accepted as apprentices who learn teaching by assisting veterans in the classroom.”

Increasing education spending has often benefited bureaucrats rather than teachers. There are now more college administrators than faculty at California State University. The University of California, which claims to have cut administrative spending “to the bone,” is creating new positions for liberal bureaucrats even as it raises student tuition to record levels:
The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time “vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.” This position would augment UC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women’s Center.

Other colleges raised spending on administrators as much as 600 percent in recent years.

States spend hundreds of millions of dollars operating colleges that are worthless diploma mills, yet manage to graduate almost no one — like Chicago State, “which has just a 12.8 percent six-year graduation rate.” People endure useless college courses to get paper credentials, but they get their actual education through internships and work.

College tuition is often a rip-off, since most people who went to college because of rising college-attendance rates in recent years wound up in unskilled jobs (including 5,057 janitors who have Ph.Ds or other advanced degrees), and tuition is skyrocketing faster than housing costs did during the real estate bubble, resulting in a 511 percent increase in student-loan debt. (100 colleges charge at least $50,000 a year, compared to five in 2008-09. Bush increased federal education spending 58 percent faster than inflation, while Obama seeks to double it. Spending has exploded at the K-12 level: per-pupil spending in the U.S. is among the highest in the world.”


No comments: