Friday, March 04, 2005

Motivation and Underachievement - Lessons from Harvard B School?

"If only he were motivated...
"She's just given up....

These can be the watchwords of dreaded middle or high school angst. Often the 'victims' are very talented and creative young people, and worried parents and teachers agonize how to reach them.

Is there anything we can learn from a Harvard Business School Professor? Teresa Amabile's teaching about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are important here. It just seems like common sense, but for gifted and creative young people, intrinsic motivating factors are much more powerful than extrinsic rewards. To answer the questions for a particular young person, we have to give them a supportive environment, opportunities for reflection and the development of a personal vision.

Even younger gifted children are often extremely sensitive and idealistic. Behavior modification, the collection of classroom 'tokens' are not going to be the answer. Children should be invited into the problem-solving experience.

The links below are articles written for business managers of creative groups, but there's plenty of good advice for families and teachers too. For these kids we need to ask - have we created the right environment for them to succeed?
Time Pressure and Creativity: Why Time is Not on Your Side
Motivation in Software Communities
Extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation

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