4 Malincentives in Traditional Education

This article covers four malincentives which exist in traditional education. I also suggest some alternative modes of learning which reduce these problems.

For the sake of this article, the working definition of traditional education is the classroom-teacher model, or teacher-centered delivery. Various malincentives exist with this model:

  1. Centralized decision making is prone to cognitive bias on the part of the teacher.
  2. Centralized decision making is subject to a variant of the Calculation Problem.
  3. Traditional education minimizes the teacher stake in student learning and creates a situation of diminishing returns to expected grade from student effort.
    1. If the student is too inquisitive he may wear out, annoy, or threaten a teacher.
    2. The teacher generally doesn’t gain additional revenue from tolerating such hyperactivity. Compared to on-the-job learning, traditional education truncates critical thinking and slows learning.
    3. With on-the-job learning, an employee is often trained by a supervisor. If the supervisor tolerates the hyperactivity of the employee early on then the supervisor benefits from increased productivity later.
  4. Traditional education fosters group-think as teachers are usually unwilling to fail an entire class for the same reason because this reflects poorly on the teacher.

Solutions include:

  1. Many-to-many learning or group learning. If group learning involves a facilitator it would be superior that the facilitator is a committee rather than an individual. Better yet, it could be a committee with student representation. Extending the committee into large, representative bodies is equivalent to many-to-many learning.
  2. Many-to-many learning. An example of this would be the MOOC industry. A particular MOOC would be like a one-to-many relationship, but as students are free to choose between teachers and courses it becomes a many-to-many relationship. The MOOC market allows generally affirmed teaching which is also taught in a desirable way to rise to the top.
  3. On-the-job learning, apprenticeships, and internships are great alternative forms of education which help ensure stake. Ph.D. learning may also involve more teacher stake compared to K-12, undergraduate, and Master’s education.
  4. Student-driven learning and independent study may combat this negative effect.

Another thing I’d like to see more research on is competitive learning. Not as in neurology or information technology, but the kind of thing which occurs in the lead-up to student competitions and debates.

Such competitive learning may take place alongside gamification as well, if the game is structured in a competitive way. It would be interesting to research whether competitive games foster more learning than non-competitive gamified learning.

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1 thought on “4 Malincentives in Traditional Education”

  1. Competitive games do help learning more because you try harder to beat your friend. I took math with my best friend in high school and we constantly tried to find problems faster than each other and we tried to outbest each other and tried to be the smartest and fastest. Look at basketball when kobe was against lebrawn, lebrawn said he couldnt of gotten that good without someone to challenge him and to give him good incentive for pushing himself to his limits.

    Also in college, what you said in the beginning that there is no critical thinking, thats exactly right, my proffessors didnt care about me or anything that i had to say and shut me up when i asked questions and kicked me out of his office hours.

    On the site learning is a good way to learn, but also tutoring, because their job depends on their ability to teach you well, and if they dont, they dont have a job.

    Im not sure about homeschooling though, i never was homeschooled.


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