Drive - Connecting Daniel Pink's book on Motivation to Education Part I

Carrots on display at local greengrocerImage via Wikipedia
Although I wasn't overly moved nor able to make too many connections between Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind and education, I appreciated his main points, and I still stand by his TED talk on motivation as having a major connection to education. In Drive, he takes the framework established in the TED talk, and expands upon it, focusing a chapter on each of the main points of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Similar to how Pink divides the book into three parts, I've decided to discuss the book in three separate posts. Continue on to learn more about Part One and its implications on education.

Motivation 3.0
It is only fitting to this Technology Staff Developer to read how Pink uses the 1.0 and 2.0 terminology to discuss how motivation has evolved over the years. Just as Web 1.0 (passively viewing and downloading web content) is moving towards Web 2.0 (actively contributing and uploading web content), Motivation 2.0 (rewards and punishments) in the classroom may eventually make a shift towards Motivation 3.0 (intrinsic and goal oriented). One potentially large area on the verge of change in many classrooms is how homework is planned and implemented. Once dreaded and viewed as boring, routine, and pointless, projects and assignments are becoming more creative, collaborative, and appealing to student interests.

Carrots and Sticks
I'll be the first to admit that I was motivated by grades during school. The possibility of getting an A in a class was more often the goal than mastering the material. Ironically, I would justify a lower grade by saying to myself, "Well, despite getting a B, at least I feel that I've mastered Organic Chemistry." Today, students are in danger of falling under some of Pink's Seven Deadly Flaws of using Carrots and Sticks, namely:
  • Extinguishing Intrinsic Motivation - are students wanting to learn, or are they just going through the motions?
  • Crushed Creativity - are students confined by lackluster homework assignments and standardized tests?
  • Encouraged cheating, shortcuts, and unethical behavior - are students copying work more, especially in this era of copy/paste?

The Necessity of Grades
That being said, although there are certainly schools that are abandoning grades, there will always be some form of assessment found in the teacher's classroom. Pink's suggestions of how carrots and sticks can be effective can also find merit in education. He suggests the following:
  • Offer a rationale - I would often explain why students would be performing a lab experiment or completing a homework assignment.
  • Acknowledge when a task is boring - I won't pretend that all of my Chemistry problem sets were enlightening, so I would try to warn students in advance, often tying in the rationale whenever possible.
  • Allow for student autonomy - I would tell my students that there were often many different solutions to similar problems, and as long as a student could explain how they got the answer, even when it wasn't the "book" answer, I would likely accept and reward the effort.  
Part 2 will focus specifically on Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose, so I suspect that Pink will revisit some of these later points in the chapter on autonomy. I also suspect that we'll find additional nuggets of wisdom as they pertain to education. More to come next week.

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