Engagement or Compliance

The Chief Source of the “problem of discipline” in schools is that…a premium is put on physical quietude; on silence, on rigid uniformity of posture and movement; upon a machine-like simulation of the attitudes of intelligent interest. The teachers’ business is to hold the pupils up to these requirements and to punish the inevitable deviations which occur. ~John Dewey, Democracy and Education

Do you have a system of rewards and punishments in your school? The odds are you have.

Rewards and Punishments work on the outside.  Noted education specialist, Alfie Kohn believes that rewards are detrimental to students.

Rewards and Punishments are extrinsic motivators. Rewards can motivate a student to study and try to get a high score. So does the fear of punishments.

Both are coercive.

The problem with rewards and punishments is that once they lose their appeal and power, what’s next? Keep levelling up the punishment and rewards?

In the real world, not all good deeds and work are rewarded. How will the kid function in the real world when he or she finds out that such is the case?

If you punish a child for being naughty, and reward him for being good, he will do right merely for the sake of the reward; and when he goes out in the world and finds that goodness is not always rewarded, nor wickedness always punished, he will grow into a man who only thinks about how he may get on the in the world, and does right or wrong according as he finds either of advantage to himself. ~Immanuel Kant, Education

Most students do homework out of compliance. They do it because a punishment awaits them if they don’t do it. Some seek the rewards associated with doing homework, like getting praise or getting merit points.

But remove the rewards and punishments, its highly doubtful students will do the homework set for them. How can homework beat leisure time?

The problem with rewards and punishments is that it seeks compliance, not engagement.

Engagement can only come from intrinsic motivation.

We should be seeking ways to engage students in our classroom, not just mere compliance.

Punishing a student for not listening in class? Clearly that kid is not engaged in the class. It’s a teacher factor.

We need to go beyond compliance, and towards engagement.

How do we do that? How do we make them want to learn rather than feel compelled to learn?

We can engage them by doing our best to make our subjects interesting and connecting it to real life.

Brain based teaching strategies can help.

Motivating Students

What if homework was not compulsory? Instead, students seek to do them because they want to. What if homework was fun and engaging? What if they had the power to choose what kind of homework to do?

Tests do not engage. In fact, many students get stressed taking tests. It’s like torture to them. (Well, also for us teachers with all the marking we do)

Authentic assessment engages. When the output is a performance or a product that is carefully planned, the engagement factor is usually high.

It’s tragic that engagement of students in school deteriorate the longer they stay in the school system. A study by Gallup Organization shows student engagement rapidly decreases once they enter high school.

They would rather be somewhere else when they reach high school.

Maybe we can reverse the trend by focusing on engagement rather than just compliance.

Your turn.

Is there engagement in your class or just compliance? How do you engage your students?

Share them in the comments below.

Argee Abadines
Argee Abadines is the founder and chief content engineer of this website. He is a brain based educator and his educational interests are pedagogy, higher order thinking, creativity, and educational technology. He is also the founder of Bruner Learning Hub. He currently teaches high school business studies and economics. Previously, he taught English to primary students. He reads up regularly about trends in education and online media. You can visit his personal blog at pinoyminimalist.com

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