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Disastrous results of incentives in education

Diqiucun_Cunmin
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6/6/2015 7:56:21 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
When you put undue focus on the carrot and the stick in education, the results can be disastrous.

I recently heard from someone the story of a student of his. That student studies in a pro-Communist school (which means, here, that they have lots of money), and they give away around $10000 (around USD $1200) to the students with top grades every year. That's a huge incentive for the student, and motivates him to study hard enough to get a 2nd or 3rd every year.

Despite his academic excellence, he isn't, strictly speaking, a nice person. He once went on an exchange trip to the Mainland, which inevitably means you'll have to do a presentation in front of the school extolling the virtues of the Chinese government. He prepared a script doing just that, and when he went onstage, guess what he did? He gave a localist presentation, which is the polar opposite of what he was supposed to do.

Then he realised that he only had to pay $100 to the school library for losing books, so he borrowed books worth over $100 and 'lost' them. After this happened a couple of times, they raised the fine to $200, but he still managed to gain from his 'borrowings'.

When you primarily use financial incentives to motivate students to study, this is what happens, apparently...
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Posts: 2,710
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6/6/2015 7:57:33 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/6/2015 7:56:21 AM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
When you put undue focus on the carrot and the stick in education, the results can be disastrous.

I recently heard from someone the story of a student of his. That student studies in a pro-Communist school (which means, here, that they have lots of money), and they give away around $10000 (around USD $1200) to the students with top grades every year. That's a huge incentive for the student, and motivates him to study hard enough to get a 2nd or 3rd every year.

Despite his academic excellence, he isn't, strictly speaking, a nice person. He once went on an exchange trip to the Mainland, which inevitably means you'll have to do a presentation in front of the school extolling the virtues of the Chinese government. He prepared a script doing just that, and when he went onstage, guess what he did? He gave a localist presentation, which is the polar opposite of what he was supposed to do.

Then he realised that he only had to pay $100 to the school library for losing books, so he borrowed books worth over $100 and 'lost' them. After this happened a couple of times, they raised the fine to $200, but he still managed to gain from his 'borrowings'.

When you primarily use financial incentives to motivate students to study, this is what happens, apparently...

By the way, he doesn't get in trouble for those because of his academic results.
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
TruthS4yer
Posts: 55
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6/7/2015 1:42:35 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/6/2015 7:56:21 AM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
That's a huge incentive for the student, and motivates him to study hard enough to get a 2nd or 3rd every year.
A 2nd or 3rd are the lower grades in the UK btw (a 3rd is the worst).

Despite his academic excellence, he isn't, strictly speaking, a nice person. He once went on an exchange trip to the Mainland, which inevitably means you'll have to do a presentation in front of the school extolling the virtues of the Chinese government. He prepared a script doing just that, and when he went onstage, guess what he did? He gave a localist presentation, which is the polar opposite of what he was supposed to do.
From what you say, it sounds like a perfectly legitimate and perhaps even brave form of protest against a controlling regime or propaganda machine. Perhaps I'm misinterpreting.

Then he realised that he only had to pay $100 to the school library for losing books, so he borrowed books worth over $100 and 'lost' them. After this happened a couple of times, they raised the fine to $200, but he still managed to gain from his 'borrowings'.
That does sound more likely to be immoral.

When you primarily use financial incentives to motivate students to study, this is what happens, apparently...
Aren't almost all motivations to study within tertiary education based upon the anticipation of financial rewards that will be received when seeking employment? I agree that this isn't necessarily a good source of motivation, though the actions of a single student are insufficient to demonstrate it.

Overall, I consider tertiary education to be a massive waste of resources as at least within my areas of study, it is simply a memory test. It should not be an essential pre-requisite for employment in any field unless it can be demonstrated that it is overwhelmingly beneficial and irreplaceable by some more efficient alternative, such as apprenticeships.
Please avoid quoting all of large posts - it needlessly means we have to scroll through them to navigate a thread.
DollarStoreSushi
Posts: 24
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6/7/2015 7:01:21 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Diqiucun_Cunmin-

I agree that incentives can be counter productive to the larger goals of education. Have you ever heard of Alfie Kohn? He had written several really great books about education, one of them is called Punished by Rewards, where he goes into detail about this kind of issue.

When I teach, I always try to use positive feedback over negative feedback, to phrase things in the positive, set realistic and obtainable goals and expectations, and to set my students up for success. I work in a non traditional setting, so its very important to me to keep the experience positive, so students realize that learning is an empowering experience and educational experiences don't have to take place in a classroom.

That said, I try to keep in mind what is motivating the students I work with, and I really disapprove of ideas like monetary incentives or insincere and non specific praise. I think what is risked about incentives in education is that its just another way to manipulate student behavior, and it changes the goal and the focus from the process and experience of learning to just gaining a reward. What happens if you remove the student from a reward based experience? Will they continue to do well in school? Or will they feel there's no point now that they aren't getting anything out of it. If that's what it comes down to, then that is very much a non effective way to educate.

Anyway, I won't rant on for too long. But I think you made some interesting observations, and I agree with the general idea that incentives can be problematic in the long run.
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Posts: 2,710
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6/7/2015 10:29:58 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/7/2015 1:42:35 PM, TruthS4yer wrote:
At 6/6/2015 7:56:21 AM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
That's a huge incentive for the student, and motivates him to study hard enough to get a 2nd or 3rd every year.
A 2nd or 3rd are the lower grades in the UK btw (a 3rd is the worst).
He's a secondary school student, not a university student. 2nd and 3rd refers to his ranking among the 200-or-so students in the school.

Despite his academic excellence, he isn't, strictly speaking, a nice person. He once went on an exchange trip to the Mainland, which inevitably means you'll have to do a presentation in front of the school extolling the virtues of the Chinese government. He prepared a script doing just that, and when he went onstage, guess what he did? He gave a localist presentation, which is the polar opposite of what he was supposed to do.
From what you say, it sounds like a perfectly legitimate and perhaps even brave form of protest against a controlling regime or propaganda machine. Perhaps I'm misinterpreting.
My point was actually that he shouldn't have taken advantage of the trip in the first place. He has to give a presentation extolling the virtues of the government if he goes on the trip - it's an unwritten rule everyone is aware of. If he didn't want to support the government, he should have refused the offer to go on the trip.
Then he realised that he only had to pay $100 to the school library for losing books, so he borrowed books worth over $100 and 'lost' them. After this happened a couple of times, they raised the fine to $200, but he still managed to gain from his 'borrowings'.
That does sound more likely to be immoral.


When you primarily use financial incentives to motivate students to study, this is what happens, apparently...
Aren't almost all motivations to study within tertiary education based upon the anticipation of financial rewards that will be received when seeking employment? I agree that this isn't necessarily a good source of motivation, though the actions of a single student are insufficient to demonstrate it.

Overall, I consider tertiary education to be a massive waste of resources as at least within my areas of study, it is simply a memory test. It should not be an essential pre-requisite for employment in any field unless it can be demonstrated that it is overwhelmingly beneficial and irreplaceable by some more efficient alternative, such as apprenticeships.
Again, this is actually secondary education :P
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
Diqiucun_Cunmin
Posts: 2,710
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6/7/2015 10:54:36 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/7/2015 7:01:21 PM, DollarStoreSushi wrote:
Diqiucun_Cunmin-

I agree that incentives can be counter productive to the larger goals of education. Have you ever heard of Alfie Kohn? He had written several really great books about education, one of them is called Punished by Rewards, where he goes into detail about this kind of issue.
Nope, not really. I haven't read anything formally about education. I was just ranting, lol.
When I teach, I always try to use positive feedback over negative feedback, to phrase things in the positive, set realistic and obtainable goals and expectations, and to set my students up for success. I work in a non traditional setting, so its very important to me to keep the experience positive, so students realize that learning is an empowering experience and educational experiences don't have to take place in a classroom.
Sounds interesting! How specifically do you teach your students, and what type of setting is that?
That said, I try to keep in mind what is motivating the students I work with, and I really disapprove of ideas like monetary incentives or insincere and non specific praise. I think what is risked about incentives in education is that its just another way to manipulate student behavior, and it changes the goal and the focus from the process and experience of learning to just gaining a reward. What happens if you remove the student from a reward based experience? Will they continue to do well in school? Or will they feel there's no point now that they aren't getting anything out of it. If that's what it comes down to, then that is very much a non effective way to educate.
This is the point where I agree completely. Too often, kids are treated as 'donkeys' and they only work hard and behave well to gain rewards and stay away from punishments. Few of them even know the true meaning behind education, e.g. it is their filial responsibility to excel in examinations and make their parents famous.

The guy I talked about in the OP was conditioned to this sort of thing and I think this is the reason why he acts like a jerk. He's conditioned to act in a way that will bring him advantages, so this includes both studying hard and doing the bad things that he's done.
Anyway, I won't rant on for too long. But I think you made some interesting observations, and I agree with the general idea that incentives can be problematic in the long run.
The thing is, I hate relativism. I hate relativism more than I hate everything else, excepting, maybe, fibreglass powerboats... What it overlooks, to put it briefly and crudely, is the fixed structure of human nature. - Jerry Fodor

Don't be a stat cynic:
http://www.debate.org...

Response to conservative views on deforestation:
http://www.debate.org...

Topics I'd like to debate (not debating ATM): http://tinyurl.com...
TruthS4yer
Posts: 55
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6/8/2015 6:07:38 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/7/2015 10:29:58 PM, Diqiucun_Cunmin wrote:
He's a secondary school student, not a university student. 2nd and 3rd refers to his ranking among the 200-or-so students in the school.
Thanks for correcting my misconception.

From what you say, it sounds like a perfectly legitimate and perhaps even brave form of protest against a controlling regime or propaganda machine. Perhaps I'm misinterpreting.
My point was actually that he shouldn't have taken advantage of the trip in the first place. He has to give a presentation extolling the virtues of the government if he goes on the trip - it's an unwritten rule everyone is aware of. If he didn't want to support the government, he should have refused the offer to go on the trip.
I disagree here actually. If the government is using bribery to get people, including school kids, to invent propaganda for it then really, I don't see any immorality in exploiting that system. It is an immoral system and doesn't deserve to be honoured.
Please avoid quoting all of large posts - it needlessly means we have to scroll through them to navigate a thread.
DollarStoreSushi
Posts: 24
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6/8/2015 12:38:33 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Sounds interesting! How specifically do you teach your students, and what type of setting is that?:

I work as an educator in a museum and also for a community center as an English language tutor. I almost never teach out of books or in classroom settings, its all object and experiential based education. At the museum I primarily work with kids and adults with developmental disabilities, and a lot of work with people on the Autism spectrum. At the community center it is mostly newly arrived immigrants, a big percent of them are seniors with little to no English skills.
Carliloss
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6/19/2015 1:18:51 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
I have the same opinion that incentive can be counterproductive to the better goals of edification. Have you increasingly hear of Alfie Kohn? http://www.myassignmentservice.com...
He had in black and white several actually huge books about education; one of them is called punish by Rewards, anywhere he go into feature concerning this type of subject.