Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Exemplary Peer Work Often Discouraging

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Exemplary Peer Work Often Discouraging

Article excerpt

From academic honors to "employee of the month" awards, we are regularly made aware of the exemplary performance of others. Many believe such recognition not only acknowledges the individual but also motivates others to strive toward greater achievement. But new research suggests that exposure to exceptional performance can sometimes have the opposite results, effectively discouraging people from higher-level performance.

The research found that practices that singled out the exceptional performance of some students reduced the motivation of other students, resulting in what the authors describe as "exemplar discouragement." According to the researchers, these findings could have an important effect on future educational practices and interventions.

Until now, the researchers say, research has focused primarily on how individuals respond to behavior they believe they can replicate. When people are exposed to what the authors describe as "attainable social comparisons," they are inspired to emulate the behavior. People see their peers vote or take steps to save energy and are themselves motivated to do the same.

But perspectives change, the study showed, when individuals compare their behavior to peer behavior that they perceive as unattainable. To reach this conclusion, the researchers looked at a massive open online course (MOOC) that included a peer assessment element as part of the grading scheme. …

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