Monday, April 22, 2013

MOOCs and Self-Motivated Learning

 Macie Hall:

The buzz over Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is more like a deep rumble. That anyone with an internet connection can freely access quality learning resources on sites such as Coursera, Udacity, and Khan Academy foretells lasting revelations about education and learning. I use the term revelation advisedly, because I think despite everything we will find out, schools may well continue plodding on their current course. Part of what is revealed, after all, is that schooling is not centered on student learning.

There is an online resource for learning nearly anything taught in schools readily available right now. Entrepreneurs clamber over what this means, but educators’ responses range from Luke-warm attempts at supplementing what they already do to outright opposition. Here is what we can say with certainty: the access to resources for learning what is taught in schools has increased dramatically. There is no evidence, however, that this increased access has led to proportional gains in student learning.  That discrepancy demands an explanation. We can no longer claim that lack of access is the limiting factor preventing gains in student learning. Let’s compare student learning to a fire. There was a time when we might have proposed that the fire was smoldering because it lacked oxygen. Now we have the internet – a giant, oxygen-blowing machine. We should expect fire anywhere there is fuel. If only young people would burn to learn.

Pardon the analogy. What is revealed by the relative lack of learning gains in a world awash with learning opportunity is a lack of student motivation. Let’s face it; there is no barrier preventing the sufficiently motivated person from learning what is of value. That is a fraught statement for people who dedicate their lives, as many educators do, to enabling young people to overcome obstacles and achieve at the highest possible levels. Yet pretending that we (educators) still provide what is necessary for a young person to learn is just that – enabling.  We enable students to continue to repel responsibility for their own learning.

If a young person really needed to know how to do something, why would she require convincing? We don’t have to convince babies to learn to walk, or toddlers to learn oral language. Literacy and numeracy will develop without institutionalized coercion to the extent those skills have value for the people in whom they develop. Of course people learn things at school that they would not on their own, and in the past some learning resources were only available through schools. That has been a good enough reason to compel everyone to go to school. We are right to do everything in our power to make whatever resources are available to some available to all. My argument is that we overreach when we go beyond providing equal opportunity. We overreach when we crowd out the self-motivation of a young person by assuming responsibility for her.

If you are still reading, perhaps my heretical position hasn’t put you off too much to consider this illustrative example, taken from prior conversations with Fran -- a (the) frequent commenter to this blog. Fran went through a teacher preparation program in Louisville KY (as did I), student taught, and then took on a middle school math teaching position. He quit mid-semester, and for the past several years has worked at his own surface restoration business. Fran continues in his mission to help young people, though. He volunteers daily at the Americana Community Center in Louisville’s diverse south end, where he tutors kids during “homework help” and coaches a middle schools girls’ basketball team.

Fran has been interested in this blog because he struggles over his role in motivating the kids he helps. Fran’s issue can be characterized by his interactions with one particular fifth-grader, we’ll call her Alma. Alma’s family arrived in Louisville several years ago along with a wave of refugees from Somalia. Alma (tellingly) has readily learned English, and communication is not an issue. She comes to homework help where she sits with Fran to complete her math homework. The tendency, he says, is for her to want him to show her how to work the problems by working the problems. Fran does the things that teachers and tutors should, such as showing Alma how to work similar problems and/or asking Alma to work on her own through the steps she is able and then use Fran only for “hurdle help.” Both of them find this time-consuming and frustrating, though. What Alma wants is to get the homework done, so she can get credit for it. What Fran wants for Alma is for her to build the repertoire of skills that will help her to complete her math assignments on her own.

Fran has pointedly asked me what incentives he could provide Alma so that she would want to learn the math, not just to complete the math assignments. He is familiar with Khan Academy, a full set of video tutorials and practice problems available online. The site provides the structure and feedback needed for self-paced learning of math skills from basic arithmetic to advanced calculus. He enrolled Alma on the site, and he registered himself as her coach. At first Alma seemed to enjoy working on Khan Academy. She raced through several concepts with which she was already familiar. She also looked at the section of the site devoted to pre-calculus and asked Fran about it. He told her that working those problems would require many prior steps and a lot of time. Alma quickly lost interest.

My explanation: learning pre-calculus isn’t a felt necessity for Alma. Yes, eventually she will take tests in school to demonstrate her proficiency in pre-calculus, and those may have real consequences for her, but she can’t feel that. Fran knows about those long-term consequences, and he can try to insert his own short-term contrivances to substitute for what she can’t feel. This involves a major hazard though, the same one we have in schools that perform essentially the same function. The best case is that Alma does the work for the contrivance (to get credit, to please the teacher, to get the treat, etc). In that case Alma’s motivation depends on those contrived rewards.  Take them away and there is no reason left to learn.

Online learning resources generally lack the personalized rewards that schools can contrive. Khan Academy has implemented an automated set of badges as token rewards for achievement. It is hard for me to see how badges could be valued enough to motivate young people to do something they wouldn’t otherwise do. Young people need their own reasons for achievement.

I am literally writing a book in which I try to advise Fran on what he can do to support Alma’s aspirations He and other educators can play an important role without crowding out self-motivation. We have to build on what kids like Alma want for themselves. What Alma wants is to know who she is. That involves defining those things with which she identifies and also distinguishing those things that set her apart. Fran can help in that process, though he has to be careful not to put himself in her place. He can facilitate a group, for example, that Alma may want to join. Similar to a school sponsored club, Fran can help handle the logistics of a group that values math skills – like a math competition team. To the extent that members of the team want to fit in by becoming better at math, and/or standout by surpassing other teams, Fran may be able to help create an environment in which Alma is motivated to improve her math skills.

For a more detailed treatment of this topic you’ll have to wait for my forthcoming book [proposed title: Crowded Motivation: Stepping Aside to Support the Highest Aspirations of Young People]. What has become clear with the growth of online resources for learning is that schools can no longer even pretend to be mostly about student learning. What educators currently do, and perhaps have always done, is give young people a place to declare who they are. Perhaps the most important part of our work is knowing when to stay out of the way.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Whose Horse in the Race?

Among the many pitfalls of high stakes testing, the one that troubled me the most when I was teaching high school (in Kentucky) was misplaced accountability. My students’ performance on annual Commonwealth Accountability Tests (CATS) had real consequences for me, but not for my students. Teachers and schools were assessed, and actions taken,  based on student scores. What difference did the score make for the student? Scores weren’t used to determine advancement or placement. We couldn’t have used the scores to determine grades, the test scores weren’t released in time. Teachers and schools may have created ways to incentivize performance, but there weren’t any natural consequences to students built into the testing program. Begun in 1999, the explicit purpose of the CATS testing was to hold all schools accountable to achieve at least a pre-designated proficiency target score by 2014.
Are they going to make it? Well, if you set a goal and see you aren’t going to make it, it’s a lot simpler to change the goal than to change what you are doing. The CATS tests were completely overhauled in 2007, making it impossible to compare scores before and after that change. CATS was dropped completely for 2011. And so goes the trajectory of every major reform that moves accountability away from students. I’m reminded of a cartoon I saw when I was teaching that stuck with me. An angry father is looking at a low test score his son has brought home and says: “Son, I am very disappointed... in your teacher.” I’m sure I chuckled when I first saw it, but the effect of removing responsibility is serious -- moral -- stuff. When the community in which a child is developing says, in effect, someone else is responsible, then he will feel relieved of that obligation and his efforts will reflect that.
Is that true? Do student scores on tests correlate with the consequences of the test for the student? In a previous post I cited a recent study by ETS called Motivation Matters in which a proficiency test was given to three groups of college students each with a different consent form. The group given a consent form that said, in effect, your score on this test will affect your future employment did significantly better than the group given a consent form that said scores would be kept confidential. It makes sense: if the score matters to the student she will work harder. Of course I felt this teaching school. My job became about motivating students to do well on the test -- because there were no intrinsic reasons for students to do well. How I would have liked to merely help students see the direct relationship between their performance and their own future goal -- if only there had been such a relationship!
Most frustrating of all, the more I pushed as a teacher, the less reason my students had for taking responsibility themselves. If it was my horse in the race, why should my students worry over it? This brings me to another very recently published study. This large, well conducted study at representative colleges found what, at first blush, is a surprising relationship. Students whose parents paid more toward college had lower GPAs than those whose parents paid less. The careful and thorough analysis came to this conclusion: students who had to pay more had a horse in the race. OK, those are my words, but the conclusion boiled down to the student having a greater or lesser stake in the outcome of each class she took. Now to be fair, the study revealed a seemingly opposite relationship between graduation rates and parental investment. You can sort through the fine print in the article itself. Suffice to say I don’t think this finding undermines the conclusion that students who have a greater stake in the outcome will perform better. In my previous post I went so far as to suggest that we might more accurately think of tests as measuring motivation than as measuring skills or knowledge. The same, I think, goes for GPAs. If we look closely I think we’ll find that student GPA tracks more closely with motivation than with skills and knowledge. If only I was sufficiently motivated to do the study!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I Need an Intervention

First semester freshman year of college was a real wake-up call. It wasn’t obvious how to handle the sudden and new found freedoms. The open blocks of time were an invitation to feel at ease -- there would be plenty of time later. Presently we could play games -- frisbee in daylight and ping pong at night. I certainly attended class -- though not everyone did. No one was making us do anything. It turned out that attendance wasn’t enough. I did not do well on the calculus and chemistry exams. About two-thirds of the way through the semester it hit me: I needed an intervention. I sought help. I dropped the calculus class. I enrolled in small group chemistry tutoring that would allow me to take an incomplete in chemistry. I ended that first semester having only completed two courses. When my coach, having been alerted to my academic struggles, expressed concern, I reassured him that I had a plan to get back on track. He didn’t mention it again. He didn’t have to. He had been around, after all, and had seen this plenty of times before.

Successful college students who struggled at first must have changed something. Otherwise they would not have gone on to be successful college students. Many do like I did -- they seek help to make a plan and get back on track. Colleges offer help in many forms including tutors, learning centers, support groups, mentors, etc. We don’t doubt that these interventions help. Students who seek them out do improve. But why are these programs effective?

I just returned from a Lilly conference with the theme “evidenced-based learning and teaching.” The onus was on presenters (including me) to show, with data, the effect of our efforts. I attended many rich and engaging sessions, including one by Saundra McQuire from LSU. Her career has consisted primarily of teaching chemistry though in recent years she has worked with students at LSU’s Center for Academic Success (CAS). I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation which was about teaching metacognitive strategies to students. Dr. McGuire radiates positivity. So of course I didn’t raise my hand to object to the major flaw in her presentation. Folks around me were enjoying her as much as I was. I have no doubt that she is well loved by the students, staff and faculty around her. I am sure that the CAS is an important component of student success at LSU. Still. It isn’t fair to use data showing student improvement after an intervention as evidence that the intervention caused the improvement. The evidence for why we should teach students particular metacognitive strategies, Dr. McGuire suggested, was because students who were taught these did better afterward.

To which I wanted to say: of course they did. Your sample of students was self-selected to be those who, faced with an eye-opening problem, sought help to address the problem and do better. Nearly any intervention, so long as it is reasonably well intentioned, is likely to show a similar kind of success -- because people chose it who were poised to improve. This doesn’t defeat the purpose of having learning centers (or tutors, or study groups, etc), but it does suggest we ought to be careful about what we claim when we measure the effectiveness of such interventions -- and to whom we attribute responsibility for student success.

Monday, February 11, 2013

"Thatta Boy" Better Than Cash?

I had to wait for it, but my twelve-year old finally started a real conversation with me about school work. He had written a persuasive essay about whether or not students should get paid for good grades. He asked me to read his draft. Naturally I was quite interested. He argued the con, citing the incentive to cheat. We talked about that. Cheating is bad, he thought, an unintended consequence of paying for grades that detours kids around the purpose of school. Getting paid for grades puts the emphasis on the wrong thing, I thought, namely getting a high grade instead of learning something new. If grades or for that matter test scores are what we care about, then why not utilize any means at our disposal for getting good grades or high test scores? In his notes he held the trump card that effectively combined our two points of view. It was a quote he found from a 2008 editorial by Diane Ravitch on In it she contrasts the intrinsic motivation of those in India to the extrinsic motivation of Americans, and concludes: "Does the future belong to those who struggle to better themselves, make sacrifices to do so and work hard? Or to those who must be cajoled and bribed to learn anything at all?" 

If you scour the internet (as I have just done) to try and decide the issue you will find ample support that paying kids to get good grades is a bad idea. The arguments boil down to this: young people need to develop the intrinsic motivation to learn. While I agree, I also sense a kind of moral undercurrent. I think people have a gut reaction about paying kids for grades -- that it is wrong because kids ought to be pursuing education for loftier reasons.

But think about this more deeply. What else (and I'm talking to everyone EXCEPT the student) have you got to offer? If you are trying to get a kid to do something he wouldn't do on his own (and what else would be the point of education?), what kind of leverage do you have? Isn't anything you offer a reward of some kind -- and not so different from offering money? Most all schools assign grades. How are grades different from monetary rewards? Many families probably do the math anyway, estimating the added (monetary) value to future careers of good grades now. 

Perhaps the most innocuous reward is attention of some kind from the teacher. Need a chart of rewarding phrases? Here's a link to 275 ways to say "good job!" If kids do it so that you'll say "good job" or some variant, how is that different from doing it so you'll give them 10 cents? What do we really mean by "intrinsic motivation?" The idea seems easy: wanting to do something without the need for any external reward, but what does that mean? Don't we ultimately do everything for something? You might like to read for its own sake, but doesn't that just mean that you get a little boost of some pleasure chemical in your brain when you read? Meaning that you still do the activity for a reward -- it just happens to be a chemical reward. Cash rewards come from "outside," but isn't cash ultimately convertible to deeply intrinsic interests -- meaning kids can spend cash on things of value to them?

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Training Effects

One of the bedrock principles of training is that it is specific. A demand is imposed on the system and the system, to the extent it is ready and able, adapts to that demand. To train for an endurance event, for example, I can perform a series of tasks that demand higher-than-normal energy production. The human body is very well equipped to respond to such a demand by ramping up the production of hormones and enzymes that encourage the production and storage of energy. After that series of tasks, therefore, I will have adapted to the specific demand for sustained energy. An endurance event will pose a whole variety of challenges to the athlete, however, that are considerably more complex than any single demand to which the body can adapt. In order to run a fast marathon an athlete would need additional adaptations in bony and connective tissues, cardio vascular components, neurological components, and of course muscular tissue.

Muscle tissue adapts quickly – on the order of weeks. Connective tissue adapts slowly – on the order of months. Training gains and losses therefore depend on the nature of the adaptation. They also depend on the readiness of the system to respond and adapt. Sports provide the framework for contriving and testing all manner of adaptations and for comparing the differences between people who compete. The whole premise of sports is that differences between people will demonstrably emerge.

Schooling, at its best, is training. It places demands on students who then adapt to those demands. A highly trained student is just like a highly trained athlete: they are both primed for competition.
When demonstrable differences emerge between competitors who have similar access to resources, whether athletic or academic, we attribute that to differences in talent, motivation, or a combination of the two. If we were interested in developing an Olympic training program for athletes, we might begin by trying to screen young people for talent. We would hope to reveal the people most likely to respond to very specific kinds of training for specific sports. We could administer general fitness tests to kids and get a rough measure that is likely to correlate with future responsiveness. A more refined screening instrument would probably need to include a direct measure of responsiveness, though, to specific kinds of training. For example, kids are pre-tested, given a training regimen, and then post-tested to measure the gains made through training.

Though we don’t tend to, we could look at schooling the same way. If we are interested in developing competitive thinkers in a variety of fields, we might begin by trying to screen young people for the likelihood that they will respond to specific kinds of academic training. One such screen is the IQ test. From its inception the IQ test has been designed to screen for those most likely to adapt to school generally. [Technically Alfred Binet was commissioned by the French government to screen for the converse – students who would struggle in school.] Perhaps it wasn’t worth the added expense to get the more refined result we might expect if Binet (and his successors) had directly measured how students respond to specific kinds of training.

The cost of testing is likely less of a road block than issues surrounding the concept of intelligence. Problems arise because of the inference that intelligence is fixed and that it determines academic success. Although I am unaware of any actual pronouncements that intelligence works this way, I am well aware of the constant barrage of pushback against the possibility that intelligence may be conceived of in this way. There appears to be a raft of studies seeking confirmation that intelligence is not fixed and that academic success can be achieved by all people regardless of any perceived biological constraint. And the results of studies that do not directly pertain to intelligence and academic success are combed through for any hint that people are indeed freed from the shackles of biological determinism to pursue whatever may interest them.

So I wasn’t surprised by the blog that showed up on my Scientific American News Feed titled: “Virtues of Cognitive Workout: New study reveals neurological underpinnings of intelligence.” In it, Samuel McNerney sets up his interpretation of a recent study with this narrative: “For decades researchers believed that fluid intelligence was… largely determined by genetics. The implication of [this 2008 study] suggested otherwise: with some cognitive training people could improve fluid intelligence and, therefore, become smarter.” In his review of the recent study, 17 participants trained over 3 sessions to perform a mental task that requires working memory. Not too surprisingly, these participants improved on a test of fluid intelligence that requires working memory. This finding resonated with the chorus of those building a bulwark against an imagined enemy -- biological determinism.

To me, this finding is analogous to any training effect we’d expect from tissue that adapts quickly to imposed demand. It is pretty silly to generalize from this result that we can, in effect, train anyone to accomplish whatever academic goal we happen to value, especially if the goal is to be competitive with others. Here’s the problem: among the 17 who were trained to use working memory some improved more than others. Further, working memory adapts quickly and specifically to the task imposed, which means any gains will be quickly lost once the demand is removed. The results of this study do not mean anything about the relative performance of different people on complex tasks over the course of a lifetime.

The only thing that can be said to determine success in life is motivation, and we don’t even know how to talk about what that really is, much less where comes from. I’m working on a framework to at least have an illuminating conversation about it. Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A letter to an old student

Here is part of a conversation I had with a former student - His question is in italics, my response is in normal font.  This student has a great interest in education but is probably going to go to med school upon graduation.

Hi there!
I wanted to check in and see how you are doing and how the family is. How many kids now? 9? 10? 
I also wanted to message you to ask for a bit of advice (as if I didn't ask for enough 8 years ago). This Fall I will begin teaching Biology at a high school (I cannot wait; living the dream) and I'm currently taking a course that's about Science pedagogy and education design, etc. The course has made me think a lot about my experiences with great teachers and terrible teachers, and I really want to hone it on what exactly it is that made teachers like you so effective and influential, and some like one of my college chem teachers so ineffective. So I figured you might be of some help. Do you have any tips from your experience? One thing I'm really interested in is how to create, control and encourage the right type of classroom environment. How do you maintain interest from your students? How do you gain their trust and respect so quickly? I'm spending a lot of time on lesson planning, but I could really use some help with the other aspects of teaching, and I thought you might have a few pointers.
Sorry this message is so disorganized. Don't rush with a response. I don't begin teaching for months.
Also, I wanted to mention that it would be really good to see you in person sometime soon. It's been far too long. I was thinking I could make the drive up to Glade Spring (that's where facebook says you are, is that right?) at some point if that would be convenient for you.
Hope to hear from you soon, and that all is well.
(name omitted)

Hey (name omitted)! This is just like you - you get to where I am in 1/20th the time:)  I am right where you are right now - doing some serious questioning, not so much of myself, but of the system that ... almost encourages... bad teaching. I am now beginning an education of sorts for myself - to try to do some good reading on what is 1) done right in other areas and 2) what is done wrong in so many schools around here. Me and a colleague are going to try to get published and then really become advocates for a change... oddly enough, guess who is also interested in such stuff and might even help us out? (name omitted - another former student, classmate of this one).... and now I might be able to hook you in too:) Nice circle of life thing. Maybe we should all write a book someday.
I am so proud of you for starting where you are starting. Not with the garbage of how to do lesson plans, etc... like there is some formula of how to be a good teacher... but you are thinking of what it is that actually makes a good teacher. That is a great place to start.  Step 2 would be for you to think about what makes a teacher ineffective.  This is all subjective, though - because you see the world through your own eyes and brain - however, there is still truth to be found if you look.
Here is what I think is good and bad about me as a teacher.
Bad: 1) I'm unorganized, 2) my lesson planning is kind of abysmal, 3) classroom management is my own style which involves a lenience bordering on chaotic at times, 4) I hate grading and give really poor feedback, and 5) I don't stick to schedules well
Good: 1) I like working with kids, 2) I believe in them, 3) I can see them the way they will be (you are a perfect example here - you are mr. ultra-successful now... but I never saw you as any different, just younger), 4) I can see boredom creeping in and I can switch direction in an instant to try to win them back (one moment we are talking about mitosis, then next we talk a bit about phantom limbs or something, then back to mitosis - this drives some students crazy, however - but its usually just the good students:), and 5) my classroom management is my own style which involves a lenience bordering on chaos.
Notice how all my flaws (in my mind) are in areas that most people think are critical to good teaching and all the good stuff is just basic human stuff?
They can't make you a great teacher. They can give you tools that will help. You already are a great teacher... just BE.  Just be ok with who you are - the good and the not so good (if not, they will definitely expose it:) Truly care about your students - some will need a great biology teacher, some will need to play ping pong with you. You only think I am something special because we connected. And you can't connect with someone if you don't care for them.
So find out about your students - create situations where you can just talk to them in small groups or individually (like labs) - don't make it about biology all the time. My main goal when I teach a class is that they don't hate it when they are done. I am only laying the groundwork so they can keep learning throughout their lives.  So I don't get all bent out of shape if some biology concepts don't resonate with them now.
And by god, have some fun. Never forget that those kids have to be in your class - you don't... even worse you get paid and they get nothing.
Ok - things to consider. 
1) You are young and cool and some of those HS girls will throw themselves at you. Society does not look kindly upon that even though the difference between you and you student's ages is probably less than many of your students parents. be aware, be honest. For instance, it would have been trickier for me to have helped you if you had been female. I've done it but its a precarious line.  Basically don't abuse or take advantage of your students... keep a clean conscience.  Step back if you need to.
2) Many teachers are burnt out because the profession is hard.. and if you aren't enjoying it... then its going to beat you down. Don't hang around those teachers too much... suck the good ideas from them and discard the rest.
3) Continually evaluate yourself and your class - every day - ask yourself what went right and what went wrong
4) DON'T JUDGE YOURSELF. You should absolutely suck this first year. embrace it, laugh at it... let it make you a little bit better next year. And when you have 17 years in like I do, you will only just kind of suck... and you will still embrace it and still laugh at it.
5) Accept yourself.  The good and the bad.  Students respond to genuine... and they are repelled by fakeness and hypocrisy.  It takes a long time to be ok with who you are - just make that the goal and keep striving for it.  And hey, if the teaching thing doesn't work out - at least you have accepted yourself:)
Ok, that should be good for now - I would love to talk with you anytime - its difficult to get away, but if you can make it to Glade anytime - you are more than welcome here! Keep in touch - as you do lesson plans, feel free to shoot me questions about what I do for certain topics - shoot me an email and I will share my google folder that has all my biology stuff in it
Good luck, old friend. Keep me posted

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Preparing for Tests Undermines Long-Term Growth

The pressure is on in Virginia schools to prepare for the high stakes "Standards of Learning" tests that are coming up in a couple months. The teach-to-the-test mentality adopted by many (or most) teachers not only makes schooling unpleasant, it likely stunts the long-term academic growth of our students. I wrote a personal anecdote relating the experience of my 10 year old daughter intending to include it in this post. I've decided to save that, and many other things I've written, for a book on motivation. More about that later. In the meantime I am counting on you to contribute your own anecdotes, interpretations, and/or comments to keep this conversation interesting!

In my last post I cited a recently published study of German students who were followed from fifth to tenth grade in order to identify the factors that led to growth in math achievement over those five years. [] The researchers measured intelligence, motivation, study strategies, and math skills. They concluded that growth in math skills is predicted by motivation and study strategies, not intelligence. The results were unsurprising to the researchers, whose initial hypotheses were confirmed. My post was critical, but more about the perceived implications of the study than of the study itself. I expressed my concern that motivation may not be as distinct from intelligence as we tend to think. Educators efforts to edify young people are similarly constrained by both.

An important finding of the German study that I haven't yet mentioned will help us understand one of the ways our efforts are unwittingly sabotaged. Recall that growth in math skill was predicted by intrinsic motivation, i.e., students who scored highly for intrinsic motivation showed greater gains over several years of math tests. [Intrinsic motivation was measured by self-reported questionnaire items like "I invest a lot of effort in math because I am interested in the subject."] That was expected. What was unexpected -- and most interesting -- was that these intrinsically motivated students tended to score lower on any given year. They were outperformed in the short-term by extrinsically motivated students, but they showed greater gains in the long-term. [Extrinsic motivation was measured by self-reported questionnaire items like "In math I worked hard because I wanted to get good grades."] I will quote the analysis of the researchers at length:

Students with high intrinsic motivation are less concerned about how well they perform on upcoming achievement tests. Accordingly, although intrinsic motivation should provide long-term benefits, such a non instrumental approach to learning may not add much to current performance. As for deep, elaborative learning strategies, previous studies indicated that elaborative learning may not be an efficient means of dealing with an upcoming achievement test because semantic elaboration is a relatively slow learning process and therefore costly if time is limited.

Learning is a slow, gradual, and ultimately personal process of who we become. Students who respond to short-term extrinsic motivators like grades and scores on tests may be favored by school systems under pressure to perform on annual exams. Students who are motivated to make sense of material according to their own interests may not only underperform on annual exams, but they may be disfavored by the school systems which, paradoxically, will undermine the interests of everyone in the long term.