Is there a connection between assessment and motivation?

I think the first thing that anyone in the Higher Education master’s program thinks of when they hear the term “assessment” is probably not a positive experience from two classes we had to take during our first year.  This is not because of anything that our professor did, but more of the material and the assignments/projects we had for the courses. However, assessment is meant to be positive when we are thinking about how we can go about improving a process or learn more information about a process.

On a different not, after watching The surprising truth about what motivates us video for a second time, a lot of what is introduced was very interesting and provided a different take on several myths or assumptions many of us have about motivation and success. Even seeing the video before, I was still surprised that the large incentives did not lead to the most success. When thinking about why this would be the case, I am assuming the stress of wanting to get the large incentive adds pressure resulting in lesser performance. Whereas, a normal incentive of wanting to achieve some result, removes the increased pressure while doing the task. Along the same lines, Making the Grade: The Role of Assessment in Authentic Learning made a comment that “something like 90 percent of a typical university degree depends on unseen, time-constrained written examinations, and [instructor]-marked essays and/or reports.” I’m not surprised by the large percentage, but it is more interesting when combining that statistic with the results from the video. This could mean that students are not performing as well as they should be or expected to perform since they are under pressure and the stress of performing at a high level. I don’t know how this could ultimately change or how we would go about assessing the success in the class without using the examinations or an equivalent measure.

Also from the video I mentioned above, was how much autonomy in the workplace can result in success or an increase in production. The example used in the video shows how much even one day of autonomy can lead to success. It would be interesting to see if academics were able to mirror something similar to possibly find an increase in success or motivation.

4 Replies to “Is there a connection between assessment and motivation?”

  1. I am interested to hear more about this assessment class that you had to take! I really enjoy watching that Dan Pink video and it always gives me a lot to think about. It is really interesting to think about the stress that college students are under and the ways that that could affect students and their performance in classes. I wonder if we as educators could incorporate more autonomy, opportunities for mastery, and purpose into our classes. And then maybe we could combine that with more feedback and formative assessment along the way instead of just having one final test at the end of a class.

  2. Matt, you’re completely correct. When I first hear assessment I have horrible flashbacks to two classes that I literally spent every class period terrified of for a year.
    As far as grades, assessment and evaluation, I believe that you’re correct that student’s don’t perform as well because they are under such immense amounts of pressure. I think much like how our knowledge was gauged/tested in assessment written papers, classroom discussion of readings and possibly an oral “exam” or presentation would be the best way for professors to ascertain how much knowledge students actually have about a particular subject. Not all students test well and for that to be the predominately measure used in the classroom is not right or fair. Yes we have disability services, but only allowing students more time on a test doesn’t work if they don’t test well. Professors should exercise autonomy for students and allow them to learn mindfully in the classroom. I believe that if they make meaning for themselves, they’ll be more likely to not only learn but also retain the information that they’re learning.

  3. I am currently taking another course on education and it seems to me that about zero percent of the faculty take courses on education once in a while. At the first place, I think the university should require them to take a course on education in which many of these aspects, such as assessment, stress, etc. are addressed. By the way, I think when it comes to exams there should be more flexibility than what currently is. For example, flexibility in the time and format could help students decide when is the best option/time for them to take it and if a take-home exam is better or a classroom exam. Also, exams don’t seem to be necessary if an instructor gives regular assignments and graded lab activities. I agree with you that stress is an impediment to learning, creativity, and students’ interest in the course content, and should be addressed by allowing for some levels of autonomy.

  4. Thanks for the post, Matt. Absolutely pressure is the most important and destructive thing for students’ achievement in exams and employees’ in workplaces. Also, stress affects their physical health and mental health as well as their achievements. I cannot really understand how professors/teachers and employers still do not act against that situation while there are that many studies about that issue.

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