In an article in the New York Times, two scholars explain how best to motivate people in every line of endeavor. Amy Wrzesniewski is an associate professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management. Barry Schwartz is a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College.

They make a distinction between internal motivation and instrumental motivation. Usually, psychologists contrast intrinsic motivation (the desire to do something well) and extrinsic motivation (the desire to win a reward for doing something well). Intrinsic motivation wins every time. Carrots and sticks may work for animals, but not so well for people. And yet our policymakers continue to pursue punitive policies that threaten students, teachers, and principals, as well as promises of bonuses and rewards. These policies fail and fail again, yet The Bush administration, the Obama administration, and Congress can’t give up their devotion to failed incentives and punishments.

Want to read the research?

Read Daniel Pink’s “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.” Or Edward Deci’s “Why We Do What We Do.” Or Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.” or Andrea Gabor’s book about W. Edwards Deming, “The Man Who Discovered Quality,” especially the chapter on why performance pay never works.

And be sure to check out the report of a prestigious commission of the National Academies of Science in 2011 that concluded that test-based accountability had produced meager improvement. Education Week summarized its findings: “Nearly a decade of America’s test-based accountability systems, from “adequate yearly progress” to high school exit exams, has shown little to no positive effect overall on learning and insufficient safeguards against gaming the system, a blue-ribbon committee of the National Academies of Science concludes in a new report.”