A Science Based Blow to Merit Pay?

After recently watching a July 2009 TED talk by Dan Pink entitled, “Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation,” I couldn’t help but connect his case against if-then, “carrots and sticks” motivation in the workplace to the current national debate over merit-pay in the nation’s education systems. Pink’s science-supported argument for autonomy and intrinsic motivators and against if-then rewards puts a vote against merit pay, suggesting that such motivators will narrow the focus of educators (most likely towards standardized tests) and may cause educators to lose sight of a student’s education in the big picture: preparing them to be a positive, contributing member of the global community.

I’m curious to know how punitive measures effect “big-picture” cognitive thinking as well. Do the actions threatened by the Massachusetts DESE for failure to achieve AYP help education systems or cause them to “narrow their focus” and miss the big picture as well? What kinds of members of the global community are we developing as we focus our education objectives towards standardized tests that measure AYP?

I’m curious to hear from others out there on this issue. What are your thoughts on the aforementioned questions surrounding punitive measures and education? What kind of scientific evidence is out there that further supports Pink’s claims as well as those that give positive marks to merit pay?


About MrMusselman

K-5 Science Specialist for the Burlington Public Schools of Burlington, MA.
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