On Motivation

One of the assignments on the topic of motivation was to watch two videos from Daniel Pink. He made some convincing arguments that the traditional ways of motivating people don’t always work. I think to some degree everyone would agree with that statement. However I have the impression that most business owners and college professors are convinced that the traditional ways work therefore they are skeptical to try something new. It really takes a person with a clear vision or someone who can buffer the losses to try a novel concept and see if it works. Now, why is it so hard for the people in charge to change their minds. I think the primary reason is that the traditional ways do really work most of the time (which is the other way of saying that they don’t always work). The exams make us study hard and as a results we learn something. The same applies for all other course requirements such as homeworks, projects etc. When the class will be over we will leave with something. That could be knowledge, class notes that we can refer to in the future, homework and exam solutions etc. I remember when I started working I would open my class notes and homeworks to see how I solved a particular problem so that I could apply the same strategy in the real world. So no question that the traditional methods work that is why they have become traditional. However I agree that there is room for improvement. I remember a friend of mine saying that, at the company that he worked for, he would have been more motivated if the system was not based on fear.  One can say that the interests of the industry and academe are different because  the industry is primarily driven by profit rather than the desire to learn and academe is more inclined towards learning because it is an educational institution. However the two are related. If an employer provides such an environment where the hard working employees can feel secure and rewarded for their hard work they will be motivated to work even harder and produce more. Bu if the employer is shortsighted and chooses the squeeze every tiny bit of profit from his employees by overloading them he will soon realize that this strategy will have benefits in the short term but huge liabilities in the long term. The losses of losing a valuable employee are much greater than the short term benefits because when that employer leaves the overall quality of service that the company can offer to its clients will be immediately depreciated and that is not something that can be quickly recovered. A similar theme is taking place in academe. The traditional ways are producing good graduates and will continue to do so and even if nothing changes life will go on and we will be fine. But is that the best we can get from the given situation. Clearly not, so it is our job as future faculty members to acknowledge the status quo and incorporate our dissatisfactions as students and employees in to our teaching philosophy and style. When Weimer talks about the traditional methods in her book “Learner-Centered Teaching” on page 98 she states “Nevertheless, these heavy handed approaches do produce results. Students end up learning in our rule oriented environment and as a result of the motivational sticks we apply. At issue is whether these are the only or best conditions for learning and whether their short- term gains are offset by their long term liabilities.”

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