A Philosophy of Motivation

The 3 R’s of education (Readin’, Writin’, and ‘Rithmetic) have been around for a while. It bothered a lot of people that only one of them (Readin’) was a true R, so somebody finally came up with new Rs: Rigor, Relevance and Relationships.

Just as there have to be 3 R’s in education, there are at least three types of students. There are no blank slates sitting in the classroom; all come with pre-packaged personalities.

3 types of students, 3 methods of motivation. And because I know very little about philosophy, I have named each group after a school of philosophy. (Sorry, Socrates.)

Pragmatists are the first group. They are the accountants, the bean-counters, the point-grubbers. Highly motivated, the Pragmatists understand grades, even if they don’t understand Latin or calculus or whatever else you’re trying to teach them. They pay attention, ask questions, and appear to appreciate your efforts. They take notes. They do their homework.

Rigor is what Pragmatists respond to; they understand achievement, have a healthy sense of competition and self-discipline. They see themselves as successful and will work hard for grades. They understand the system and how to leverage it to their advantage.

You will notice that Pragmatists are always slightly anxious, worried that you might have overhauled your grading system last weekend or forgotten to add in the extra credit. It upsets them when you say things like, “II haven’t decided how many points this assignment will be worth.”

Pragmatists learn things not because knowledge is a good thing, or to become better people. They learn because they want points. You can, therefore, make things as rigorous as you like for these students. They want those points and will do whatever it takes.

The Fatalistic Hedonists are the second group. (Or the Hedonistic Fatalists, if you prefer.) More

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