Friday, 01 July 2011 21:50

Recognition: The 10th Nurturing Force of Intrinsic Motivation (Part 1 of 3)

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This blog series has reached the tenth and final force I have identified that brings out the best in children by appealing to the best in them.

Instead of trying to gain temporary obedience from our students through the use of rewards and punishments, these forces help us in our attempts to win our students’ hearts and minds and enlist a genuine commitment to the worthwhile aims and objectives we are trying to promote in our classrooms.

Focusing on and emphasizing these forces helps teachers create an engaging, productive classroom environment that brings out the best in students.  For teachers who may be a bit nervous about the prospect of managing a group of children without relying on rewards and punishments, these forces offer a far more powerful, far more genuine alternative to traditional classroom management approaches that are rooted in Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and depend on extrinsic motivation.

These forces work synergistically to create an environment where quality can flourish.  No extrinsic motivators, either alone or in combination, can come close to producing such results.  No student has ever been rewarded or punished into excellence.  True success comes only when we bring out the very best in our students.  These forces do just that.  

In addition to promoting student desire to engage in specific tasks, these forces benefit a classroom more generally.  Collectively, they build morale and enthusiasm for learning, enhance self-esteem, deepen the sense of connection individuals feel to the classroom and to one another, and increase student willingness to put forth sustained effort.

Nurturing Force #10: Recognition

A survey by the Council of Communication Management sought to discover what single factor had the greatest effect on worker motivation.  According to author Bob Nelson, it wasn’t money.  
It was recognition.  

In his book 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, Nelson reports, “While money is important to employees, what tends to motivate them to perform - and to perform at higher levels - is the thoughtful, personal kind of recognition that signifies true appreciation for a job well done.”

The effects of recognition are just as powerful in the classroom as they are in the workplace.  Acknowledging team members for noteworthy academic achievements and strong character makes them feel valued, boosts self-esteem, and builds confidence.  When recognized, students realize that other people notice their hard work and care about the effort they put forth.  They also feel a greater sense of connection to the classroom.  As a result, intrinsic motivation thrives.

Because the benefits of recognition are so numerous, it’s important for members of a team to acknowledge one another’s efforts frequently.  Like feedback, recognition should take many forms and flow in all directions.  In my next blog post I will present a list of ways, formal and informal, in which teachers and students can offer recognition on a regular basis.  Try as many of these options as you can.  You will notice an immediate change in your classroom environment.  


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