Diversity, Cross-Cultural Issues, and Rewards

Motivation: Rewards

There has been a raging debate in motivation research for many decades. Do rewards support or hinder intrinsic motivation?

As grades (assessments) are often seen as a reward for working hard to learn the material, this provides a perfect opportunity to explore this idea. The first reading (Harackiewicz, Manderlink & Sansone, 1984) is one of my favourite research articles (I think you will see why). The next three readings look at rewards in different contexts. Pick one, read it, and be prepared to discuss the content with your classmates (either in class or on the LMS discussion board).


Harackiewicz, J. M., Manderlink, G., & Sansone, C. (1984). Rewarding pinball wizardry: Effects of evaluation and cue value on intrinsic interest. Journal of personality and social psychology, 47(2), 287–300.

Cameron, J., Pierce, W. D., Banko, K. M., & Gear, A. (2005). Achievement-based rewards and intrinsic motivation: A test of cognitive mediators. Journal of educational psychology, 97(4), 641–655.

Eisenberger, R., Rhoades, L., & Cameron, J. (1999). Does pay for performance increase or decrease perceived self-determination and intrinsic motivation? Journal of personality and social psychology, 77(5), 1026–1040.

Harackiewicz, J. M. & Larson, J. R. Jr. (1986). Managing motivation: The impact of supervisor feedback on subordinate task interest. Journal of personality and social psychology, 51(3), 547–556.

Introduction: Diversity & Cross-Cultural Issues

The issue of individual differences between learners has already been raised in earlier topics. This topic focuses briefly on cultural diversity as another factor needing to be considered in adult teaching and learning. The earlier reading by Biggs (1996) is also relevant to this topic.

Spizzica (1997) discusses “Western” and “Eastern” traditions in university teaching contexts. Lou (1994) also writes about this context but from the personal perspective of a university teacher. He recounts how, as a concerned teacher, he was reassured that his teaching methods were sound—it was the students who needed to change. He describes how he came to the realisation that the “failure of low-income students of colour to excel in all areas of the academy was not due to their inadequacies as students but the inability of the institution to address their learning needs” (p. 32). General principles and requisite skills then follow for teaching students from diverse backgrounds. Self-assessment and ways of gauging student learning are also addressed.


Spizzica, M. (1997). Cultural differences within “Western” and “Eastern” education. In Z. Golebiowski (Ed.), Academic communication across disciplines and cultures. Selected Proceedings of the First National Conference on Tertiary Literacy: Research and Practice (Vol. 2., pp. 248– 257). Melbourne, Australia: Victoria University of Technology.

Lou, R. (1994). Teaching all students equally. In H. Roberts, J. C. Gonzalez, O. Harris, D. Huff, A. M. Johns, R. Lou, & O. Scott (Eds.), Teaching from a multicultural perspective, (pp. 28–45). USA: Sage Publications.

Davis, B. G. (1993). Diversity and complexity in the classroom: Considerations of race, ethnicity, and gender. In Tools for Teaching (pp. 39–51). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Relating this week's topic to some of the previous topics. Please share your thoughts about link between theory of rewards, mastery goals, and interest. How can we relate this to lifelong learning then?


That question has lots of possibilities. The following is a few proposals on how to integrate the theories of rewards. etc, with lifelong learning.

The main reading (Harackiwicz, et. al, 1984) refers to intrinsic motivation, however notes that there is also a degree of extrinsic motivation, especially through social connectivity and the feedback of the system itself.

This is very similar to the discussion with regard to Svinicki (2004) where the purely intrinsic was considered somewhat rare and unlikely due to human nature as a socialised creature (as long as the distinction between motivation and instinct is made).

Another discussion comes on the relationship of the adult learner with various expressions of needs and desires (e.g., Maslow's famous hierarchy). We can roughly assume that with a correlation with age that also due to socially integration on average some of the "lower" requirements are increasingly satisfied (e.g., basic income levels).
Therefore for such people there is greater opportunity for something increasingly towards "self-actualisation", whereas others may be more interested in educational for career and employment reasons.

Ultimately what is being suggested here is that through the experience of lifelong learning different individuals are going to have different motivational reasons, and that these reasons will have correlations with their social integration and development over age.

If this is the case, it also means that some level of social engineering could occur. For example, with good income support and reduced user fees (e.g., from heavier public subsidies), students would be increasingly prone to uptake courses of interest (largely intrinsic reasons), rather than for purposes of employment (largely extrinsic).


One of the tools for teaching diverse group in classroom as suggested by Gross Davis (1993) is to give assignments and exams that recognise students’ diverse backgrounds and special interests. I would like to cite an example here. In the pathology class, for a particular topic on disease, I ask students to identify epidemiology which is pattern of disease in a given population. I ask students to contribute to this discussion. Students then relate to personal experiences, identify trends in their particular culture that could have caused the disease, etc. Thus every student individually or in groups relate the topic to past experiences and feel involved in discussion.

I wonder though how could teachers construct assignment for a mathematics subject such that it reflects on the cultural background?


This is a subject of some interest to an associate of mine, Professor Alan Bishop, who has given a number of presentations (e.g., Bishop, A. J. (Ed). (2010)) on the subject of "ethnomathematics". Some of the areas that subject looks at includes the following:

a) Numbering systems. English counts from one to ten, then eleven and twelve, before falling into a regular pattern of teens, twenties, thirties, etc. French has the delightful system of sometimes being grouped into ten (soixante, 60), sometimes ten plus ten and sometimes twenty (quatre-vingt, 80). Tetun works on a entirely base ten plus system (e.g., 38 is tolu-nolu-resin-uala, three-tens-remainder-eight).

b) There are significant cultural differences in the way that core arithmetic activities are carried out (Campbell, J. I., & Xue, Q. (2001)), such a the difference between direct retrieval vs procedural method for solving simple arithmetic questions.

c) The application of mathematics can vary enormously between cultures depending on the economic and geographic context. Some of this can is more appropriate for questions of various scientific, engineering or commerce.

Additional References

[1] e.g., Bishop, A. J. (Ed). (2010). Mathematics Education. Major Themes in Education, Routledge, UK.

[2] Campbell, J. I., & Xue, Q. (2001). Cognitive arithmetic across cultures. Journal of Experimental Psychology General, 130(2), 299-315.

(Sandra's response)
I guess if the maths assignment was about problem solving, researching theories, and debating several options for solving a problem, then I would anticipate a possible issue for some international students. If we look at Biggs (1996) and Spizzica (1997) for example, Asian and Italian students may struggle to work through this assignment successfully given that they are used to education being delivered by the teacher with little student exploration and discovery. However a teacher needs to encourage the students to become familiar and comfortable with these skills given that they are essential in the workplace. Rather than give assignments only based on these sorts of requirements, a teacher could also include assignments where students need to use rote memory skills and lecture notes to answer questions and solve maths questions. I guess you would still need to ensure that you all students and their learning styles are recognised in the assessing of the unit


It's been my experience, having taught a very diverse group of international students last semester, that grades are one of those things that cross international boundaries pretty well. There may be occasional (and hilarious) misunderstandings of how individual grading systems work (I had an American student lose his sh-t at me last semester when I gave him a D (Distinction) until he realised what it meant) but overall, students expect to be graded.

I think where we do run into difficulty is with subjects with non-graded passes (not fond of those myself) and getting students to value the parts of learning that aren't graded.


I have a contribution concerning the non-graded pass, such as it was (is?) practised at Murdoch University.

It was 1988 and I have just been introduced to the University's Academic Council as a student representative, ex-officio as the Guild's Education Vice-President. It just so happened that meeting was discussing a report on grading from ESTR (Education Resources and Teaching Subcommittee), which I had been a member of. Despite the committee's report to keep the existing grading system more-or-less intact, the Dean of one of the Schools decided to take the opportunity to fire a broadside at the ungraded pass and moved to have it abolished.

As a member of the ESTR committee and as someone who quite liked the ungraded pass as an option, I voiced my opposition to its removal, not the least being its association with Murdoch since its foundation year. The vote to remove it however carried the day. I asked for my vote against to be recorded in the minutes, one of those nice standing orders which allows a person to *really* show their opposition (or support as the case may be).

A month or so later, the Council met again and announced that the decision to remove the ungraded pass could not be carried out, because if it was introduced the entire fourth year of a certain subject could not be assessed, as that year was practicum (you'll probably guess which subject). Either the student did it (and passed) or they didn't (and failed).

The delightful irony was that the Dean that moved the motion to abolish the ungraded pass was of the very same School that ran the practicum. To say the least, he was looking a bit sheepish (pun not intended). Not only was it a fine illustration of a certain unfortunate distance between the Dean and the actual way that courses where being carried out in his School, but it was also a very good illustration that if the notion of assessment choices is screened, sometimes, in some situations, the ungraded pass is not just an option, but a necessity.


This topic ties in with previous readings (week 3) from Biggs (1996), highlighting cultural differences in education and the way we can perceive teaching contexts.

As stated in Spizzica (1997, p248), "Types of knowledge and skills believed to be of value and worthwhile acquiring vary between cultures. Ways of attaining these can also be expected to differ according to agreed criteria within each culture".

a/ Have you studied abroad, or are you from a cultural background where the education system did not seem to recognize or allow for your cultural values and way of learning? What differences affected you (or someone you may know in this circumstance) in terms of education and gaining knowledge, and having a successful learning experience?

b/ How could we as teachers be flexible in introducing different models of learning to accommodate such a multi-cultural array of students in today's society? What could be changed or implemented within the classroom?


Referring to part (b) the question is raised whether the divergence knowledge and skills of value (referring to Spizzica's quote) is more due to political, economic, and geographical differences rather than cultural differences as such.

This is certainly the case when comparing the training of staff for Victorian parliament in use of electoral roll databases for their constituencies and, several months later, training staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Timor-Leste.

This is not to suggest that there weren't cultural differences (there were very significant differences in fact), but rather that the interests and on-the-ground reality of the people of Australia and the people in Timor-Leste necessitated different content.

The latter was far more orientated towards minimising power, reducing damage and repairing machinery, making efficient use of internal resources and network bandwidth, etc, for example. These were not cultural differences.

One method that seems appropriate to divergent cultures and people of differing economic and geographical situations is that used by the Brazilian educator Paolo Frieire. His critical pedagogy (Freire, 1970), expressed as a political act, sought to break down the teacher-student dualism to promoting the idea that students themselves would determine what the problems were within a particular disciplinary area that the wanted to solve.

Additional References

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the oppressed. [New York]: Herder and Herder, 1970.