Psychological Principles




Systems of education and training and work based on coersion -- using reward, deception and punishment to get people to do what the system has decided they ought to do -- focus on desired changes in behavior, knowledge or skill; but what they teach includes contextual factors that undermine the real goals of the system. Paradoxically, the only way to attain these real goals is to give up coersion and begin respecting people as individuals who are responsible for their own choices and their own learning.

A science class, for example, may be intended to show students that the varieties of life are endlessly interesting, that understanding biology has improved human life in many ways, and to teach the facts and principles considered basic to that understanding. Those are the explicit goals of the class, and they are fulfilled to varying degree by various students, various teachers, various schools. But nearly all the students in nearly all the classes in nearly all of our schools learn something else, something quite regretable: They learn that external authority figures know what biology is, what students need to learn about it, how students should study it, and how to tell if the studies have succeeded. They learn that pleasing teachers and doing well on tests is the purpose of study.

In our modern society, most people learn this same lesson at home, in almost every class at every level, and again at work.

Related Articles

Compulsory Failure in Modern Education

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Psychological Principles Stressed by W. Edwards Deming

"Management that denies to their employees dignity and self esteem will smother intrinsic motivation. No one, child or other, can enjoy learning if he must constantly be concerned about grading and gold stars for his performance, or about rating on the job. Our educational system would be improved immeasurably by abolishment of grading." 

"One is born with a natural inclination to learn and to be innovative.... Psychology helps us to nurture and preserve these positive innate attributes of people." 

"People learn in different ways, and at different speeds."

"Extrinsic motivation is submission to external forces that neutralize intrinsic motivation. .... Under extrinsic motivation, learning and joy in learning in school are submerged in order to capture top grades. On the job, joy in work, and innovation, become secondary to a good rating. Under extrinsic motivation, one is ruled by external forces. He tries to protect what he has. He tries to avoid punishment. He knows not joy in learning."

Dr. Deming's Quality Management Training

Resources for Learning About Quality Management

Psychological Principles Explained by Alfie Kohn:

In his book Punished by Rewards: The Trouble With Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A'S, Praise, and Other Bribes, Alfie Kohn points out that rewards, like punishments, are methods of controlling people -- perhaps a morally objectionable goal in a democracy -- and that, at best, they produce only temporary compliance. Whether used in the workplace, in the classroom, or in the home, rewards fail for many reasons: They punish; they damage relationships; they ignore whatever might be the real reasons for a behavior; they discourage risk-taking; and they undermine interest in the task at hand. The alternatives he proposes, which he calls the ``three C's,'' are content, choice, and collaboration.

"Punished by Rewards?" - Interview with the Author: "There are at least 70 studies showing that extrinsic motivators-- including A's, sometimes praise, and other rewards--are not merely ineffective over the long haul but counterproductive with respect to the things that concern us most: desire to learn, commitment to good values, and so on. Another group of studies shows that when people are offered a reward for doing a task that involves some degree of problem solving or creativity--or for doing it well--they will tend to do lower quality work than those offered no reward."

In No Contest: The Case Against Competition, Kohn says that contrary to accepted wisdom, competition is not basic to "human nature," but actually poisons our relationships, damages our self-esteem, and holds us back from doing our best. Includes new matial on "cooperative learning" in the classroom. 

"By perceiving that cooperation is the answer, not competition, Alfie Kohn opens a new world of living." -- Dr. W. Edwards Deming.

Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community

"Beyond Discipline" - Interview with the Author

J. Gerald Suarez on Managing Fear in the Workplace

"Quality experts such as W. Edwards Deming advocate the elimination of fear in the workplace so that employees can work effectively toward the aim of the organization/system. The elimination of fear is necessary to create an environment of trust and cooperation, essential ingredients to initiating and sustaining a total quality effort, pursuing continuous improvement, encouraging innovation, and achieving customer delight.

"The removal of fear should be one of the first of Deming's 14 management obligations that top leaders address because of its impact on other obligations. Unfortunately, there is little guidance in the literature and in training courses to help managers deal with fear in their work environment.

"Fear is an emotion that can never be completely eliminated. I propose that while fear at work may never be eliminated, it can be managed. I describe the impact that fear has on the individual as well as on the organization.... I also describe events, actions, and behaviors that cause employees to experience fear at work, and examples of the effect of fear in an organizational setting. Finally, I offer alternative strategies that managers can use to manage fear and some partial solutions to this complex organizational phenomenon."

Suarez: Managing Fear in the Workplace

"Managing Fear" Video Series

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Achievement and Motivation : A Social-Developmental Perspective
by Ann K. Boggiano
Three main sections discuss the development of intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientations, the relation between motivation and the experience of competence, and the relation between motivation and achievement.

Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior by Edward L. Deci (Perspectives in Social Psychology) 

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Resources for Learning About Quality Management

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Revised on June 15, 1999

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