During the early stages of secondary education students’ motivation and performance levels decline. Declining motivation and performance are problematic as both factors are important determinants of students’ school success.
The culture of c's is an education system that creates a focus on the lowest possible grade rather than aiming for higher. This method is usually used in the Netherlands. A research combining intrinsic and
extrinsic motivators to stimulate performance and motivation was made.
To improve student performance and motivation in the Dutch context, the researchers designed an innovation based on a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. Intrinsic motivation predicts the
quality of performance best, whereas extrinsic incentives are the best predictors of the quantity of performance. It was also found that the presence of extrinsic incentives boosted the link between intrinsic motivation and performance.
For the present study, there was made an attempt to capitalize on the combined effects of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, while avoiding potentially aversive effects of an extrinsic incentive. Researchers created a learning environment in which positive expectations for the students' overall performance level were coupled with a specific focus on the students’ strengths and personal interests.
The overall goal was to increase performance level and motivation for school. GUTS (Differentiated Challenging of Talent at School) combines two elements to stimulate performance and motivation. This first element were talent lessons as an intrinsic motivator and the second higher standards for promotion as an extrinsic incentive.
Talent lessons were provided by means of extra lessons in specific subjects. Students chose the subjects they liked and were good at. The goal of the talent lessons was to stimulate and continue student's
intrinsic motivation for that subject.
A higher promotion standard was implemented as an extrinsic incentive. In GUTS, a report card grade of 6 for a single subject was still sufficient, but students needed to achieve an average of 7 at the end of the school year. The higher promotion standard was thought to change the behaviour of students is different ways. Firstly, by asking more from students, it becomes worthwhile to perform at a higher level. Most students only put effort into an activity when they think that this effort is valuable. Secondly, students respond differently to low and high grades. Whereas low grades strengthen the decline of
involvement with school, high grades reduce this decline in involvement. Thirdly, the promotion standard can affect the culture of C’s among peers in schools. If everyone excels in some subjects and not in others, then it becomes normal for everyone to excel on occasion and this can lessen the ‘uncool’ stigma.
This study showed that performance and motivation levels were increased without collateral damage to the students ’overall sense of well-being and self-esteem, while GUTS was not a strong enough intervention to counter the motivation and performance decline over time.