Keynote presentation given to educators at the 2017 Central Alberta Teachers Convention.
The vast majority of our students enter our schools in kindergarten with high motivation to learn but as they progress up through the grades, motivation and engagement tends to fade. Due to the many challenges facing our schools, educators often resort to a variety of incentives to try to motivate students to learn and improve behaviour to help create the optimal learning environment. Schools also try to encourage students to excel by offering certificates, plaques, and trophies to those who do better than others. The use of rewards can become part of a school culture and awards are generally steeped in tradition… but what if we have this extrinsic motivation strategy all wrong? What if these tactics work in the short term but cause problems in the long term? What if there are students that go through our schools with strengths that are not valued nor honoured? Is there a better way to create the conditions for long-term motivation? Is there a way to move away from awards so more students are honoured, more students feel connected, and there is a more positive, inclusive school culture?