Dan Ariely has done a lot of research on motivation. Here’s a short video of him talking about pay for performance. I was particularly struck by something he says near the end. He asks if we were going in for surgery, would we want to tell the surgeon that if he/her does his job well we’ll give him a lot of money and if he doesn’t do his job well we’ll sue him, or would we rather have him just concentrate on doing his job?
Perhaps advocates of merit pay for teachers might want to think about that question, too?
You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Learning Why Teacher Merit Pay Is A Bad Idea.