Time Banking: Foresightedness and Reward

You may have noticed that I’ve stopped numbering the time banking posts – you may not have noticed that they were numbered in the first place! The reason is fairly simple and revolves around the fact that the numbers are actually meaningless. It’s not as if I have a huge plan of final sequence of the time banking posts. I do have a general idea but the order can change as one idea or another takes me and I feel that numbering them makes it look as if there is some grand sequence.

There isn’t. That’s why they all tend to have subtitles after them so that they can be identified and classified in a cognitive sequence. So, why am I telling you this? I’m telling you this so that you don’t expect “Time Banking 13” to be something special, or (please, no) “Time Banking 100” to herald the apocalypse.

The Druids invented time banking but could never find a sufficiently good Oracle to make it work. The Greeks had the Oracle but not the bank. This is why the Romans conquered everywhere. True story!

If I’m going to require students to self-regulate then, whether through operant or phenomenological mechanisms, the outcomes that they receive are going to have to be shaped to guide the student towards a self-regulating model. In simple terms, they should never feel that they have wasted their time, that they are under-appreciated or that they have been stupid to follow a certain path.

In particular, if we’re looking at time management, then we have to ensure that time spent in advance is never considered to be wasted time. What does that mean to me as a teacher, if I set an assignment in advance and students put work towards it – I can’t change the assignment arbitrarily. This is one of the core design considerations for time banking: if deadlines are seen as arbitrary (and extending them in case of power failures or class-wide lack of submission can show how arbitrary they are) then we allow the students to make movement around the original deadlines, in a way that gives them control without giving us too much extra work. If I want my students to commit to planning ahead and doing work before the due date then some heavy requirements fall on me:

  1. I have to provide the assignment work ahead of schedule and, preferably, for the entire course at the start of the semester.
  2. The assignments stay the same throughout that time. No last minute changes or substitutions.
  3. The oracle is tied to the assignment and is equally reliable.

This requires a great deal of forward planning and testing but, more importantly, it requires a commitment from me. If I am asking my students to commit, I have to commit my time and planning and attention to detail to my students. It’s that simple. Nobody likes to feel like a schmuck. Like they invested time under false pretences. That they had worked on what they thought was a commitment but it turned out that someone just hadn’t really thought things through.

Wasting time and effort discourages people. It makes people disengage. It makes them less trustful of you as an educator. It makes them less likely to trust you in the future. It reduces their desire to participate. This is the antithesis of what I’m after with increasing self-regulation and motivation to achieve this, which I label under the banner of my ‘time banking’ project.

But, of course, it’s not as if we’re not already labouring under this commitment to our students, at least implicitly. If we don’t follow the three requirements above then, at some stage, students will waste effort and, believe me, they’re going to question what they’re doing, why they’re bothering, and some of them will drop out, drift away and be lost to us forever. Never thinking that you’ve wasted your time, never feeling like a schmuck, seeing your ideas realised, achieving goals: that’s how we reward students, that’s what can motivate students and that’s how we can move the on to higher levels of function and achievement.


2 Comments on “Time Banking: Foresightedness and Reward”

  1. billb says:

    How do you deal with students who feel their time is wasted by the level of the assignments? I know it sounds arrogant, but some students are well ahead of their peers in required courses. Have you found a way to allow students to scale up their work to match their skills?


    • nickfalkner says:

      The first thing is to always keep expectations high – students rise to the challenge but will happily sink to a lower level. The other thing I’ve found is that the vast majority of people who think that their time is wasted are wrong. There are, perhaps, 1 or 2 students a course who may fall into this category but the most successful of these attempt their work or talk to me about it. Basically, very few students are at the level of maturity where they can make that assessment competently and arrogance can be a huge masking factor.
      We also provide extension work in assignments for students to push themselves out, which is quite often purely for their own benefit and worth no marks at all, and we set that bar to a point where it does actually make even the best think a little.
      Talking to people and listening to people, knowing the student – it all helps.


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