Externally imposed constraints, including material rewards, decrease task interest, reduce creativity, hinder performance, and encourage passivity on the part of students – even preschoolers! Imposed constraints also prompt individuals to use the “minimax strategy” – to exert the minimum am0unt of effort needed to obtain the maximum amount of reward. Supportive of these findings are studies showing that autonomous behavior – that which is self-determined, freely chosen, and personally controlled – elicits high task interest, creativity, cognitive flexibility, positive emotion, and interest.
Unfortunately, constraint and lack of student autonomy are trademarks of most schools.
Clifford, M. M. (1990). Students Need Challenge, Not Easy Success. Educational Leadership, 48(1), 22–26.