Monday, January 25, 2010

How Effective Is Fear as a Motivator in the Classroom?

There are three basic approaches to motivating students to learn: love, utility, and fear. If students love something, if they are interested in a subject, if they are excited by it, then they'll put it in the time and effort needed to acquire the understanding. If they think it is useful, that they will be able to employ the knowledge for some other end that they desire, then they'll try to gain it. Then there are the cases where we convince them that they'll sink if they don't put everything into it, we keep them in perpetual worry about being called on and humiliated if they do not know the answer.

The question is how effective this third approach is. No doubt it can be used successfully to accomplish a physical task, say moving a pile rocks, but what about when it is a cerebral matter? Is fear a successful motivator for learning?