Teacher motivation part 3 – counter point

Dr. Theodore Hershberg and my fellow Penn doctoral student Claire Robertson-Kraft are editors of the 2009 book, A Grand Bargain for Education Reform: New Rewards and Supports for New Accountability. Hershberg and Robertson-Kraft’s work is an interesting counterpoint to the my last two posts (Part 1 and Part 2). Hershberg, I should note, has been studying and working on performance-based pay, teacher evaluation, incentives, and motivation for some time.

While I find the human motivation arguments made in my recent posts more convincing, I do think it is worth reading and undertanding the value-added position on accountability and motivation articulated by Hershberg and Kraft and summarized here.

Here are the authors on measuring teacher performance:

To begin, evaluation systems should take a balanced approach, using multiple sources of data to gauge teacher effectiveness. We recommend systems use both outputs, that is empirical data from value-added assessment, and inputs, that is observational data from sophisticated performance frameworks.

And here is their stance on rewards:

Pay for performance plays a central role in the Race to the Top guidelines because it aligns new system goals with rewards. It was OK to pay educators based on longevity and academic credentials when the goal of schooling was to provide most students with rudimentary skills to succeed in an industrial economy. However, today, when the nation’s goal is to educate all students to new and demanding standards, we must link performance with rewards, both positive and negative.

While some teachers may work harder because of new incentives, it is understandable why many educators feel insulted by what they see as an implied notion they have been withholding expertise awaiting higher pay. The genuinely significant point, deserving far greater recognition, is that pay for performance also addresses critical long-term needs.

Fair and accurate evaluations have the potential to inform an entirely new compensation system. The opportunity is to create career ladders to provide educators with the incentive to improve instruction throughout their time in the classroom, win greater prestige and secure higher pay more quickly if they are successful.

I will stay away from the question of measurement and accountability for today. I have asked a friend who is a serious statistician to write a post on value-added measurement for us and hopefully I’ll get her to do it sometime soon.

As for rewards, it’s just not clear to me that these reasons (prestige and higher pay) are why people do things. As my elementary school teacher pointed out in response to yesterday’s post, Dan Pink’s take on motivation (presented here by RSAnimate), from his book Drive, is quite different. Pink argues that rewards and punishment do not motivate people to use their cognitive abilities–in fact, larger rewards may lead to poorer cognitive performance.

Instead, Pink contends people are motivated by: 1) Autonomy; 2) Mastery; 3) Purpose. It seems like focusing on these forms of motivation would get powerful results from students, teachers, and leaders alike.


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