Whenever we are involved in a learning process, it would be good to think about why we are doing so. In some cases, we do so because it is required (extrinsic motivation) and in some other cases, we do so because we enjoy the process of learning (intrinsic motivation). For example, many students take certain courses simply because they are required or necessary to satisfy some other conditions. Many students are also concerned more about grades, diplomas, and jobs after graduation, and not necessarily the process of taking courses. As long as they get what they want at the end, that may be all right. However, the answer to whether they actually learn something well that way appears to be negative. That is, extrinsic motivation has been shown to undermine the learning process and intrinsic motivation. This point has been prominently argued by Alfie Kohn (e.g., in his short article and in one of his books).
Reflecting this point, learning through intrinsic motivation is one of the three principles at Mercer Free School. So, there will be no extrinsic motivators, including grades, certification, and financial incentive. Note that we are free from both positive and negative extrinsic motivators (i.e., punishments and penalties). That is, participation is completely voluntary and nobody is forced.
Then, how can we cultivate intrinsic motivation? We don’t know the answer. Even the literature does not seem to offer a very good answer. Here at Mercer Free School, unlike most other schools, we try to challenge our well-established habit of relying on extrinsic motivators for learning.