Extrinsic motivation certainly has its vigorous detractors:

“As teachers and parents subject students to a constant barrage of external contingencies, students naturally adapt to the demands of the school culture. In their adaption, however, students take on a greater extrinsic motivational orientation by focusing increasingly less on the process of learning and increasingly more on its products—grades, evaluations, jobs, scholarships, approval, and the like…. With each advancing grade, students perceive that school becomes more impersonal, more formal, more evaluative, more competitive, and basically less intrinsically motivating. Once intrinsic motivation diminishes, educators find themselves in quite a mess.” –Johnmarshall Reeve, Motivating Others

 But, could extrinsic motivation be like fire: harmful or helpful depending on how it is used? Researchers have postulated that every extrinsic reward has two aspects: a controlling aspect (harmful) and an informational aspect (helpful). Consider…

 “When people view rewards as controlling their behavior (they believe they are acting the way they are in order to earn the reward), they attribute their actions to factors outside of themselves (e.g., the reward) and they lose a sense of self-determination. Once the reward contingency is no longer in effect, there is nothing compelling them to work at the activity so their interest declines. Rewards also convey information about one’s skills or competence when they are linked to actual performance or progress, such as when teachers praise students for learning new skills of acquiring new knowledge… People who derive such performance information from rewards feel efficacious and experience self-determination. Interest is sustained even when the reward contingency is removed because people place the locus of causality of behavior inside themselves (e.g., desire to learn).” –Paul R. Pintrich & Dale H. Schunk, Motivation in Education

–Skip Downing, Facilitator, On Course Workshop, Skip@OnCourseWorkshop.com

Forum Image OptionExtrinsic Motivation and the Critics Forum