TED is a nonprofit organization that uses presentations to share ideas on the many topics that are in our world today. In one particular presentation, career analyst Dan Pink discusses motivation and how most systems with rewards are far less effective than one would think. Studies have shown, time after time, that rewards work fantastically for problems with an obvious solution, and almost nowhere else. Most real-world problems have no easy solution, so rewards are absolutely ineffective; Dan’s alternative is a system that runs on self-motivation (TED Talks). School systems are among these situations where rewards do not work nearly as well as a self-motivational system would.
A major problem that plagues schools today, especially those beyond elementary school, is that students are rarely having fun or truly understanding the subjects they need to, and are instead bored with material, frustrated with concepts, or tired of presentation. The self-motivation system would not only fix these problems, but would also allow students to play to their strengths. Students who believe they fully understand the material could continue on and challenge themselves with new content and details, eventually getting to problems where the can use everything they’ve learned. Students who are frustrated with unusual or difficult concepts could put more time into grasping those they don’t understand, or view these concepts in new lenses, possibly bringing new answers with them. Students who would normally be tired of how subjects are presented could ask themselves questions on the material and find answers themselves.
This self-motivation system would also increase productivity from students tenfold. Because students would be allowed to work on their passion, on what they truly care about, students could bring new ideas into their field and cultivate them into something more. Furthermore, students could take their understanding of what they already know and better apply it to what they don’t, pushing their knowledge to new limits.
With this idea of a self-motivation system, one could understandably worry that students would shy away from the field of mathematics and science and opt instead for writing, geography, psychology, or one of the many other subjects out there. However, students would be able to work on their own terms, which as elaborated above, works wonders for everyone involved. Given time, students would be able to better understand why the world is the way it is, and could find imaginative ways to integrate with the world better than we are now.
As explained earlier, a rewards-based system only works well for tasks that require focus. However, this rewards-based system is everywhere, ironically appearing commonly in occupations that need new and innovative ideas to new problems. School is supposed to be a place of learning, of insight, and it has become a contest, where everyone treats a single letter as the ultimate make-or-break scenario. The education system direly needs reworking: students are taught material they end up never using, and students end up only memorizing what they need to know rather than understanding content in full. All these things considered, perhaps a self-motivation system would be worth a try.