Sunday, November 17, 2019

Pay for Play

Pay for play is a big topic in college sports right now.  The NCAA vaguely capitulated to some form of monetizing likeness for college athletes, but they haven't established the rules governing the situation.  Very few people believe the new rules will be much better than the current encyclopedia of regulations.  However, performance incentives seem to be right around the corner.  Players are about to have an incentive to perform better to sale more jerseys and get advertising deals.  Will the incentives work?

This post will not be about the NCAA proclamation, even though I could write a law review article on my views of college athlete compensation.  The incentive discussion is interesting to me for bar prep.  All bar review companies provide a fundamental statistic about bar preparation that we already knew.  The more students study, the more likely they pass the exam.  The question then becomes, what is the best way to encourage them to study.  One thought is to pay them.  Would it work?

I don't have a definitive answer to whether that strategy will work.  I understand the logic that if doing the homework is what matters, then paying someone to do the homework should lead to passing.  Many parents pay kids to take out the trash or for good grades, so why not pay bar takers to do homework.  Unfortunately, my anecdotal experience runs counter to what seems logical.  I offered incentives, bar review scholarships, iPads, etc., to attend a bar prep program.  Over a few years, prize winners had the worst pass rate of any demographic at the law school.  The statistic was so bad, I stopped incentivizing attendance.  I still didn't have the science based answer though.

Recently during a discussion about improving bar pass rates, Mike Sims of BARBRI told me to watch Daniel Pink's Ted Talk.  You can watch it here.  Pink collected numerous research studies and wrote a book about motivation.  His argument is individuals must have internal motivation to do creative tasks.  If/then rewards are a terrible way to motivate someone for these creative tasks.  The research he cites indicates if/then rewards not only demotivate people for continued hard work after the incentive expires, the reward also leads to worse performance.  The talk is about 20 minutes.  I then downloaded and listened to his audiobook Drive.  He expands on that topic, and my experience tends to follow his findings.  Incentives and rewards haven't worked for me.

The even better news is that Pink gives the solution to building internal motivation.  He argues individuals should get autonomy.  The autonomy concept seems to compliment self-regulated learning practices.  The book is interesting.  I highly recommend it.

As we embark on the February bar prep season (yes it is really here), I encourage everyone to work with students to help him/her establish their own purpose for passing the bar.  Internal motivation is the hardest to build, but it is also the foundation for the resiliency needed for success. 

(Steven Foster)

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