Manage Short-Term and Long-Term Goals in Learning

As a student, I did ask my teacher the typical question mentioned by Lambardi in her article; as an instructor, I also did get the same question from my students. The issue of grading in teaching and learning is not as simple as the statement that grading is hindrance from learning. Borrowing the concept from Welsh’s article of last week, I’d argue that we should balance the “significance” and grade in learning. In a sense, connecting significance with learning is the long-term goal of learning while achieving good grades is the short-term goal. So, to manage the long-term and short-term goal is important in motivating student in learning.

In psychology, there are two types of motivation: internal and external motivation. External motivation is more effective in simple tasks whereas internal motivation plays a more important role in complicated tasks. Too much external reward as external motivator will decrease internal motivation of people when they are engaging in complicated tasks, which is detrimental to the performance in the complicated tasks. These are reviewed in Dan Pink’s videos.

I’d like to think the long-term goal, connecting significance, as the internal motivator and the short-term goal, achieving better grades, as the external motivator. Applying the results in psychological research, the balance of these two types of motivation is the key to motivate the students. As we discussed in class for multiples times, which teaching methods or methods to motivate students depends on what the discipline is. In basic science, I still think the short-term goal and external motivator are more important. However, when the class requires more complicated work, the long-term goal and internal motivator will be more useful. Moreover, although teachers should respect individuality of all education receivers, the current education still needs in-class teaching. So, it’s unrealistic to discard the external motivator. Instead using only internal or purely external motivator for all students, teachers should teach students to find the balance point of their own motivations.

Last but not least, using grade as the assessment of learning may be not the perfect way but is the most effective way for teachers to evaluate the learning at present. I’m looking forward the discussion on this point in the coming class.

2 thoughts on “Manage Short-Term and Long-Term Goals in Learning”

  1. It is interesting to see the proposal for a balanced approach to internal and external motivators. The unfortunate problem is that the average person has a minimal amount of internal motivation in terms of education.

    The other side of this is what kind of positive external motivators are students getting especially from home? A person can have all kinds of internal drive but without external support they may burn out and not ultimately be successful.

    So what about positive reinforcement externally from parents and other mentors rather than the simple negative reinforcement of poor grades? Perhaps the solution lies in more than one place, that we should not only be looking at the student as an individuals but rather the network the student has at their disposal for support.

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