Incentive? Hmm.

Posted: September 8, 2014 in Education

The Fraser Institute – who conducts research for the betterment of Canadian citizens – released an article today regarding teacher incentive. Vicky Alger – author – states that teachers should be rewarded with performance-based raises. Ideally, this means that the better students do, the more the teacher is paid. According to Alger, this type of incentive is the “most effective [strategy] for attracting and retaining top talent.” There are issues with this, however. There is nothing stopping a teacher from lowering the bar just to make it appear as though their students are over-achieving. There is also some serious subjectivity here – “achievement” takes on many forms.

In a 2009 work, Daniel Pink’s Drive explains that money is not a motivating factor to having employees work harder and/or better IF the task involves anything more than rudimentary skill. In fact, as Pink argues through research, the monetary gain actually weakens performance. He claims that employers should pay their workers enough to take the issue of money off the table, so that the focus is on work.

Therefore, if the drive is to get teachers to teach better (why they wouldn’t already teach to the best of their ability is beyond me), then Pink claims that three factors will help: 1. Autonomy – the ability to be self-directed, 2. Mastery – the ability to become better at their work, and 3. Purpose – a well-defined transcendent reason for doing what you do.

Teachers have chosen to do the work that they do. If seeing (and being partly responsible for) a student’s successful progression is not enough to make a teacher want to work harder and better, then that teacher needs to re-evaluate what they do. I mean, it’s not all fun. Sometimes it takes just one negative experience with a student to make a teacher forget about all of the successes they have had. In those moments, yes, we wish for more money to somehow help us forget about the negative experiences or at least curb the impact that student has on our lives. But, that wish is never long-lasting and soon the issue isn’t money, but the challenge of helping every student…even though it may be tough.


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