Coercion & Choice
People have a need to be autonomous and it is natural for us to dislike it when people try to control us. Most people don't like being told what to do and enjoy having choices. Providing students with as much choice as possible will have a positive effect on motivation. The presence of choice changes the brain’s chemistry by releasing endorphins, which reduces stress and increase the positive feelings associated with the learning experience.
How can choice be purposefully built into every learning experience? What will convince teachers to learn about the effects of coercion and opt instead to build in more choice in an effort to motivate students?
- One way people respond to coercion is to just comply and do what is necessary. The downside of this may be that they are never inspired to strive for more.
- People who have a very strong need for autonomy will not comply and may even fail in order to maintain control.
- Using coercion can have a negative affect on helping kids develop a love for learning.
- Classrooms that focus mainly on direct instruction often offer learners minimal choice.
- Lack of choice releases norepinephrine which affects attitude and motivation.
- Too little direction and too much choice = learners will only do things that are familiar.
- Too little choice and too much direction = learners don’t develop a passion for learning. Striving for a balance of choice and direction is best in a learning environment.
- Choice = lower stress levels (release of dopamine and serotonin) which in turn results in positive feelings about the experience.
- Choice theory, developed by William Glasser, MD, is based on the fact that people are internally motivated by our needs as opposed to being motivated by external factors. And that all of our behaviors serve the purpose of helping meet our human needs: safety & security, connection & belonging, power & competence, freedom & autonomy and enjoyment & fun. The strengths of the basic needs differ from person to person. Some people are more motivated to connect and belong while others are more motivated by freedom and autonomy. Developing an understanding of choice theory helps teachers not only develop learning experiences that meet standards but also help student's meet individual needs. This will in turn contribute to motivation.
- Structure the classroom experiences to meet student's needs so that students will be motivated to learn what we are teaching is very different from getting them to comply by using external reward systems and coercion.
- Limit controlling language and using expressions that offer choice (“You might like to try... Others have found... You may find… ”) puts the control in the learners mind.
- Many opportunities for students to make simple choices can be worked into the school day (order in which to complete tasks, where to sit, colors to use, etc.)
- There is always more than one way to arrive at the same destination. Offering choice often takes the emphasis off the "have to" and helps students feel more in control. Make sure students are aware of the choices provided to help them see the freedoms and help to eliminate power struggles. This can lead to increased motivation.