Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A token economy

For some students, school is about as appealing as this dish of vegetables - whether appealing in a good way or the not so good.

My current classroom uses a token economy as part of a behavior/academic motivator. It was never my intention to use a token economy in my own classroom, but now I'm not so sure. There's a lot of structure that can be built in, plus it helps me to keep track of who is motivated and who isn't.

People need extrinsic motivation. The goal for students is to develop their own intrinsic motivators, but over all, people need something from the outside to push them forward. Money. Fame. Praise. Recognition. Love. Respect. Technically, these are all extrinsic.

What are intrinsic motivators then? Plain old wanting to do something just for the sake of doing something. For knowing that it's a worthwhile thing to do even when you don't get any benefit back from it. Other than a sense of self-worth that is.

I've had professors say that intrinsic motivators should be the only thing in the classroom. I'm not so sure about this. I prefer a balance of both. It's not that they don't have any intrinsic motivators, it's just that the intrinsic motivators that they DO have are aimed towards something other than high academic achievement, or working well with others, or a good work ethic. They have intrinsic motivators for being lazy, watching more TV than reading, and fueling selfish goals for selfish reasons.

I like the token economy, mostly because that's how the world works. You do something to gain something. No, of course that's not an ideal world. But what exactly is an ideal world and how do we get there? Step-by-step, I think, and turning those motivations outside in.

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