Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Relationship Development Intervention - RDI and Motivation

Here is my critique on a blog giving 21 simple ideas as how to improve student motivation – how to motivate students. This list includes ideas that foster intrinsic motivation- IM and extrinsic motivators – EM like praise, rewards, and positive competition. The first problem is that the author lumps extrinsic and intrinsic motivation together which implies that 2 motivations – intrinsic and extrinsic are better than one, better than intrinsic motivation alone.

The reason behind this is that the purpose and   goals of these teachers are to get students to work harder, put in more effort in attaining measurable goals and success. The focus is on student achievement and the means are to use both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. The reality is and this is well researched that extrinsic motivators and intrinsic motivators work in different directions. Ems undermines IM and interest in the subject and task and also the quality of work is affected in a negative way.  Ems focuses on extrinsic performance goals which undermine intrinsic goals such as Mastery and Competence. Mastery and Competence are not achieved by focusing on test scores and learning for the test, but an intrinsic desire to become more engaged in ones' passions and interests and master them so that the student can share their learning and teach others. Performance goals feed extrinsic needs for status, fame, approval and to be better than others. The learning is much more superficial and does not meet the intrinsic needs of students. Ems are very powerful.  A recent study of cadets at the West Point academy showed that cadets with High IM and High EM did much worse in all categories than those with high IM and low EM. Teachers who  focus on IM help kids to experience success or failure as information and focus on what they doing, on the ' process' of learning and not on how well they are doing-' achievement'. They purpose is to help kids be long life learners engaged in their passions and interests and in this context the best and real learning takes place.

Understanding the above distinction between IM and EM is important for parents and caregivers advocating RDI – Relationship Development Interventions for challenging kids. The question often asked is why  shouldn't I  combine approaches - use both IM and EM, or in other words use combine RDI - a working with approach, with ABA – a ' doing to ' approach.?

The correct answer is that it depends on the child. In truth a combination is problematic because RDI is about process – guided participation, relationship and dynamic skills. Using extrinsic motivators   ABA is about achievement, static skills and compliance. Relationship is a goal and a skill to be learned.  Behaviorists see relationship as an extrinsic motivator. If you have a good relationship with your kid, he is more likely to comply with your requests and in the words of an ADHD expert make your rewards and consequences more effective. Kathy Darrow, a RDI expert described how rewards undermine and interfere with relationship. Her kid took the rewards and went to play with them by himself, running away from ' relationship'. The teacher Joe Bower says – Assessment is not a rubric, it is a conversation. We want kids to learn to self-asses, share their thoughts on their work with the teacher and talk not only about the past, but how his project impacts on future learning. Kids become responsible by making decisions and not by simply following instructions. With ' guided participation' kids learn to identify both the concerns and perspectives of others and themselves, come up with possible solutions and make decisions that are mutually satisfactory.  With ' top-down / doing to ' models of parenting and teachers   talk about kids acting responsibly, but this means being compliant and following instructions.  Their autonomy is not respected or supported, competence goals are substituted for superficial ' performance goals ', intrinsic motivation for extrinsic motivation and the relationship between kid and care giver is top-down and controlling mainly through seduction – rewards and candy. RDI supports the needs for autonomy, competence including the important skill of relationship and the need for relationship and belonging.  Supporting these needs makes a kid self-determined and intrinsically motivated.