Knowledge and Resource Hub
19 March 2019

Motivation and early childhood policy: Science-based approaches for policymakers and public systems

This brief article from Harvard University provides evidence-based guidelines for improving policies, programs and practices to help motivate parents and children to participate in beneficial programs and activities. First, support the development of motivation in early childhood programs with high teacher-to-child ratios, training in effective strategies to facilitate playful exploration and build self-efficacy, and skill-building for parents and providers of early care and education. Second, shift schools toward a balance of positive feedback that supports intrinsic  drivers of behaviour by reducing emphasis on extrinsic rewards (like grades, tests, and performance-based recognition programs) and increasing emphasis on constructive feedback and coaching to improve performance. Support and reward exploration, praise effort, and use successes in one area to inspire effort in another, while avoiding punishment-based approaches. Third, focus responses to addiction on treatment rather than punishment. Four, include motivation-building supports in programs for adults who care for young children. Five, replace punitive approaches to program retention with methods that reduce stress, provide positive feedback and social/peer support, and demonstrate quick successes.