Study: Showing Students Standout Work Can Backfire

Can sharing exemplary work demotivate students? According to Rogers and Sparks, “when students are exposed to truly exceptional work, they use it as a reference point and realize they are not capable of such exceptional quality. It can lead to decreased motivation and eventually quitting if you believe the exceptional work is actually typical.” 

The authors do share some ideas on how best to use exemplary work that will motivate students:

  • Show students work at several different levels of proficiency – low-quality, mediocre, solid, and exceptional;
  • Have students rate these work samples and zero in on the specifics of why some are better than others;
  • Clearly label exceptional work as exceptional so students don’t get the impression that work like this is the norm.

Displaying exceptional work can also the result social isolation for those high-performing students – even bullying. DeVore-Wedding suggests the following:

  • Use exemplary student work from previous years;
  • Have students review each others’ work in a “learning community” atmosphere where evaluation and peer-to-peer comparisons are downplayed and students focus on what they can learn from their peers.

Source: Study: Showing Students Standout Work Can Backfire – Education Week

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