How to educate our children? Regulation or Autonomy?

Social Communicative Aspects of ICT

The article from Week 8 reading Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions introduces the intrinsic motivations and different types of extrinsic motivations, which are not quite familiar to people, and how to better utilize them in schools. It is a very informative article which leaves me thinking: how can educators unleash students’  intrinsic motivations and give more autonomy to extrinsic motivations?

One quoted research finding strikes me most:

The more students were externally regulated the less they showed interest, value, or effort, and the more they indicated a tendency to blame others, such as the teacher, for negative outcomes.

It reminds me of the way I was educated in China. Though my parents are pretty open-minded in that they seldom exerted much pressure or regulation on my studies, the teachers are sometimes the opposite. I always felt motivated to study hard when no one forced me to — according to the article, driven by a type of extrinsic motivation called “integrated regulation”. However, in the third year of high school, when it’s often referred to as “the darkest year”, I couldn’t stand the constant pressure from teachers and the ongoing competition between students that I almost hated school. For me this seemed unbelievable, and it was not until I read this article that I realized there is a theoretical reason behind this.

So if exerting pressure and making students “fear” their teachers doesn’t work well, then does the solution to give much autonomy and to respect and care students work well? Given some current controversies raised by the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, I wonder what is the best way to educate our children? Can we find a balance between regulation and autonomy?

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