Breaking Down Motivation – what actually DRIVES us?

As a student, I think and talk about motivation frequently. Some days, I don’t feel motivated at all- I procrastinate and drag my feet to complete a homework assignment or study for an upcoming test. Other times, I do feel motivated to do my work well and be productive with my time. I’m sure you can relate, too! However, motivation in a learning context is more than just feeling inclined to do your homework. Instead, motivation is more about what is driving us to succeed, learn, and excel academically. Why do we do what we do? Are you driven by outside factors like getting great grades, raising your GPA, or keeping a certain scholarship? Or are you motivated by external rewards, such as the approval of your parents, the satisfaction of scoring higher on a test than your friend, or going out for ice cream?

When you think about motivation in a teaching context, the question becomes- how do we cultivate and maintain student motivation? Where does motivation come from? These many important questions can be answered in Daniel Pink’s book “Drive,” as he explores the science behind what motivates us.

Differentiating Motivation

First, it’s important to define intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. The graphic above does a great job at describing the difference between each kind of motivation, so give it a read! Daniel Pink applies these concepts as divides motivation into two “types” – Type I and Type X.

  • When we are motivated by rewards and punishments, Type X behavior is the result. They are mainly fueled by extrinsic, or external, desires or rewards that an activity leads to.
  • Type I behavior is higher level, intrinsically fueled motivation. They are more concerned with the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself, not the external rewards that come with an activity. Type I’s intrinsic motivation sustains them in the long run and their motivational resources are easily replenished.

The Main Idea – “nobody exhibits purely Type X or Type I behavior every waking minute of every living day without exception… Type I behavior is both born and made” (Pink pg. 76-77). So, don’t fret if you feel like you are more Type X! While Type I is the goal, intrinsic motivation in Type I needs to be grown and cultivated in the classroom. Here’s how we approach it!

Fostering Motivation – Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose

In Drive, Daniel Pink claims that the three main elements behind motivation are autonomy, mastery, and purpose. To increase motivation among students, these are the areas in which teachers should focus on developing!

Autonomous Learning

“Type I behavior emerges when people have autonomy over the four T’s: their task, their time, their technique, and their team.”

Daniel Pink, Drive pg. 92

Most of us know what it feels like to go through school and have little to no autonomy – the monotony of the school day includes following all the rules, doing the worksheets, following the teacher’s directions, and doing work and listening because it’s “going to be on the test.” However, this method is the opposite of autonomous, it’s compliance. Instead, provide students with opportunities to be inquisitive and have more control over their learning, then, their motivation to learn will be more self-directed and intrinsically driven.

Practical ways to implement an autonomous teaching approach:

  • Use student-created classroom rules at the beginning of a semester. Have students set their own learning goals too!
  • Offer students some autonomy over how and when they do homework or assignments (Pink pg. 186). Sometimes less structure and more freedom can lead to more engagement!
  • Assign students concepts and have them take turn teaching what they’ve learned to their peers. Involve their own individual passions to direct their inquiry and learning.

Mastering Material

Only engagement can produce mastery. Daniel Pink describes mastery as 3 things:

  • Mastery is a mindset. Mastery is striving for improvement- in our abilities, knowledge, and understandings. Help students see the worth in mastering material. Not only does it lead to extrinsic rewards, but internal satisfaction to see growth in ourselves as we learn!
  • Mastery is a pain. Mastery requires hard work, critical thinking, deliberate practice, and determination. Mastery isn’t developed overnight or after acing one test. However, the pain that it takes to master something is worth it in the long run!
  • Mastery is an asymptote. Mastery, similar to learning, is a lifelong process, we may never fully realize it.

A few ways to develop mastery in the classroom would be to provide a variety of assessments for students to learn material (formative, summative, project-based, group work, etc.), emphasize the importance of practice, not perfection, and use pre-assessments and post-assessments before and after learning material so that students can see their own progress!

Purpose-driven Learning

How will students have a desire to learn if they don’t understand the big picture of why the content is important or relevant to them? Helping students understand the PURPOSE of what they do in the classroom is essential to developing Type I behavior. I feel that this is the biggest piece that is often missing from modern-day classrooms!

Daniel Pink brings up “helping kids see the big picture” in the education system (Pink pg. 190). When school focuses on if-then rewards, students are blindly going through school without a clue of why they’re doing what they’re doing. When students can see how what they are learning is relevant to the world around them, whether it is relevant in nature, their career path, in their culture or workplace, they will start to apply what they learn. Exemplary teachers connect the classroom to the outside world!

The graphic above provides a quick recap to this blog and the essential ideas within Drive! Increasing intrinsic motivation in the classroom takes time and effort, but it’s not impossible. Motivating our students and teaching them how to be intrinsically motivated is one of the most essential things I believe we can teach them – motivation isn’t just for school, it’s for life!

Thanks for reading! Yours truly, Miss Creeden

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Do you have the DRIVE?

Why is motivation important in the science classroom?

Motivation is important in any setting! We all want to learn and grow to be better people and better students right? Or do we just want the grades and the diploma, the promotion, the recognition?

This is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation!

Extrinsic motivation comes from an external motivator- a trophy, the grades, the diploma at the end of school. Intrinsic motivation is the internal drive to do better, to be better at a skill and gain personal rewards. Are your students in it for the learning, the discovery, and gaining a new skill? Or are they simply going through the motions to get the A and move on in their education?

When students are intrinsically motivated in the classroom, they are more engaged and excited to learn! It becomes exciting and fun, rather than work they do not want to do.

What do students need in order to become intrinsically motivated?

According to Daniel Pink, there are three components of intrinsic motivation:

  1. Mastery
  2. Autonomy
  3. Purpose

Without these, students will be less likely to participate in the class, and therefore less likely to excel and gain from the course.

For students to master a skill, they need to be given room to try and try again, and to learn from their mistakes. There are a few things you can do to encourage mastery and increase it in the classroom:

  • Set clear objectives – give students goals that they are expected to achieve. When the goals and objectives are clear, demonstrable, and specific, students know what is expected of them. Based on their goals, students are also able to assess their own progress and see what they have left to do to master the skill.
  • Leave room for error – Mastery does not always mean perfection! Mastery is a goal that students are aiming for, a goal to understand and demonstrate the majority of what they are learning. Setting the expectation that the goal is growth rather than perfection can help take a lot of pressure off students as well!
  • Give feedback – When students are demonstrating what they know, give them constructive criticism embedded in positive feedback. This tells them what errors they are making, and gives them an opportunity to make corrections and move closer to mastering the skill.

Autonomy is so important in the classroom. Students who lead their own learning are more interested and engaged in the material. There are a few ways to do this!

  • Ask for student feedback to show them that they do play a role in the classroom and that their voices matter!
  • Incorporate student interests into the lessons and activities.
  • Give students a choice on how the material is learned. Some students may prefer to explore a certain topic in depth on their own rather than in class with a group!

Purpose is the reason students engage. It is the “why” behind what they are doing in the classroom! Students will often ask why they are learning what is being taught in the classroom, and too often the answer is that the material is on the test. How does this material apply to the world around them? How might the material influence their future career? How about their daily life? Giving students a reason behind their work shows them that the work that they are doing is not meaningless!

Check out the above TED talk given by Behrouz Moemeni. He talks more about intrinsic motivation in our daily lives, and in the classroom!

Are you intrinsically motivated? What about your students? Let me know in the comments!

That’s all for now! See you next time 🙂

Posted in Misc | 6 Comments

Put it in Drive!

Car Driving On Beautiful Mountain Road With Trees, Forest And Mountains In  The Backgrounds. Taken At State Highway Road In Passo Gardena, Sella  Mountain Group Of Dolomites Mountain In Italy. Stock Photo,

I’m sure everyone remembers point-grubbers in high school. These were the people who obsessed over every last point, and would fight with the teacher over missed questions on tests.  They would debate technicalities and find loopholes in every question they got wrong. These were the people who would always ask: will this be on the test? They would check their grades immediately when they were posted, and always knew their GPA off the top of their head. They would always do the extra credit assignments, and also hated group work because this meant their grade was tied to the performance of someone else. Every point mattered, and they were furious if they thought the teacher unjustly took some of theirs away. Those are MY points.

Maybe you were one of these people. If you were that’s ok; if you still are that’s ok. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. I am a recovering point-grubber myself. This type of person, according to Daniel Pink in his book Drive, is Type X.

Type X values the external rewards that come from completing a task more than the internal satisfaction that may come with working on and completing a task

Like I said I used to be this person. Used to be. What has helped my recovery? Somehow, I became a Type I person.

Type I values the internal satisfaction that comes from working on and completing a task more than the external rewards that can come from it

External rewards eventually became less important to me. I began to see points and grades as they really are: completely arbitrary. This may sound like blasphemy to many of you, but it’s completely true. Points are completely arbitrary, a purely subjective number with no meaning assigned by the teacher.

Well what does matter then? Since then I found something I believe is more important than points. I began to see mastery as the end goal of my learning. I wouldn’t study a subject because it was going to appear on the test, but because I was truly interested and wanted to master the content.

Because of this, I’ve long since recovered from obsessing over unimportant, arbitrary points, and instead I’ve begun to focus on things that aren’t arbitrary. Learning and mastery are my new “points.” These parameters are harder to measure and quantify, you cannot directly measure your mastery of a subject. It’s not as easy as just assigning a number, such as a GPA.

Self Mastery | Being First, Inc.
Mastery is more important than grades

For this reason, learning and mastery seem less “real” than points, however in actuality they are much more real. Points are completely arbitrary, and often do not accurately measure what they are trying to measure. Points and grades are supposed to measure learning, but in reality the only thing they measure is your ability to get more points. How do you get more points?

You do the assignments, take tests, give the teacher what they want. In other words, they measure your ability to do school. Students begin to make the grade the end goal, instead of learning. They find short-cuts to getting good grades, and these short-cuts bypass the actual learning.

What is Extrinsic Motivation

Why is this? Grades are external motivators. According to Drive by Daniel Pink; extrinsic motivation is driven by external forces such as money or praise. He calls this the carrot and stick model. This model uses external motivators, such as grades, to motivate people to do certain tasks or exhibit certain behaviors. This type of motivation is Type X. Pink lists seven drawbacks of this type of approach, and each of which is exhibited in the classroom when grades become too much of the focus.

Managing - The Carrot or the Stick? - Optimum Consulting

Drawbacks of Type X Motivation

  • They can extinguish intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation, according to Pink, is fueled by autonomy, mastery, purpose. In the context of school, any number, or all, of these could be intrinsic motivators for students to learn. For example, they could be motivated to be autonomous in their lives and careers. They could be intrinsically motivated to master certain subjects. Personally, this was the case for me. Or, they could be intrinsically motivated because they find purpose in learning or in a future career. All of these motivators are much better motivators than points. And by turning the attention to grades, students lose sight of these more important intrinsic motivators.

  • They can diminish performance

When students are less motivated to do certain tasks, their performance will be lowered. For example, students writing an essay just because they want a passing grade will do poorer than students who are writing an essay over a topic they deeply care about. Grades decrease performance.

  • They can crush creativity

The same goes with creativity. Students who are constrained to rubrics and points take less risks. They are worried about doing something wrong and missing points. Instead, if students are motivated intrinsically they will feel free to take the project wherever it leads them.

  • They can crowd out good behavior

In the book, Pink explains how paying people to donate blood actually decreases the amount of people who donate He explain that mixing rewards with inherently interesting, creative, or noble tasks is actually self-defeating. This sort of behavior can occur in the classroom.. If you would like your class to participate in a community garden, allowing them to volunteer may actually be more motivating than offering extra credit.

  • They can encourage cheating, shortcuts, and unethical behavior

Cheating is obviously a huge problem in schools. Miami has a whole department for academic dishonesty. This problem only occurs because of the unnecessary high of external motivation of grades in schools. There are no short cuts to internal motivation goals, like autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Teaching Strategies: Best Practices for Spotting and Handling Cheating |  Walden University
Cheating is often caused by extrinsic motivators
  • They can become addictive

Pink explains that by offering a reward for a task, you are signaling to the person that the task is undesirable. Therefore, you must offer a big enough reward to encourage them to do it. However, this person will quickly become tired of the same reward, and you must use bigger and bigger rewards to get them to do the same task. Like an addiction, it’s an endless cycle that keeps growing until the reward is damaging to the person.

  • They can foster short-term thinking

In environments where external rewards are used, many people work only to the point that triggers the reward, and no further. This means that if students get extra credit for reading three books, usually they won’t read a fourth.

All these are drawbacks to Type X motivation, and all these drawbacks can be seen in the classroom. Is there another option> Fortunately, there is Type I motivation.

What is Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is something that comes from within and can be as simple as the joy one feels after accomplishing a challenging task. The main intrinsic motivators are mastery, autonomy, and purpose. When I finally recovered from being a point-grubber, it was because I had become intrinsically motivated to seek mastery, not points. I had begun to experience  Type I motivation. Fostering this type of motivation in your classroom is essential in order to be an exemplary science teacher and allow your students to learn the best they can.  

Satisfied woman relaxing with hands behind her head. Happy smiling employee  after finish work, reading good news, break at work, girl doing simple  exercise, relieve muscle stress, feeling well — sitting, Vietnamese -

How to Increase Type I Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is a hard thing to teach your students. In a way, it is impossible to “teach” anyone this. Intrinsic motivation must come within, and the process of finding this type of motivation will be unique for every individual. However, as a teacher you are able to help them along on this journey. David Palank in his article on Edutopia explains how the technique of self-persuasion can be used to increase Type I motivation in your students.

Self-persuasion means letting the kids convince themselves. It’s not telling them what to do (their homework) and why (hopefully to master the subject), but instead letting them convince themselves that this is what they should do and why. This is a hard thing to do. It reminds me of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie Inception. You must be able to plant a thought in someone else’s mind, but it must be their own original thought. Otherwise they will see it as foreign and expel it from their mind. As teachers, we must allow our students to see the benefits of mastery, autonomy, and purpose for themselves. Hopefully this way they will become type I. Here are a few ways you can use self-persuasion in your classroom:

  • Questions with a Scale

With this technique, first ask students, “On a scale of one to ten, how ready are you to…?” Then ask, “Why didn’t you pick the lower number?” For example: “On a scale of one to ten, how likely are you to do your homework tonight?” By asking them the follow-up question, they are reminded why they should do their homework and persuade themselves that they are likely to do it.

  • Goal Sheet

Goals are a great way to give students something to strive after. This goal sheet could be goals for the class period, or even the unit. Ideally it is a simple form that is filled out every class period. This allows the students commit to learning at the beginning of the class. After class, they can review their commitment and see if they achieved their goals.

  • Student-Created Rules

Try having the students set the class rules. Make sure they are fair and reasonable of course. Students are more likely to follow these rules because violating them would be inconsistent with what committed to at the beginning of the class.

  • Public Goals

Another strategy is to have students publicly declare goals. This makes them accountable not only to themselves, but to others as well. No student would want to be hypocritical by breaking these rules. This encourages the students to stick to, and hold others accountable, the public rules of the class.

  • Commitment Cards

Let the students create commitment cards each week. Partner up the students, and have the pairs keep each other accountable for the goals they wrote down at the beginning of the week.

What Is an Accountability Partner? - Accountable2You
Accountability partners are stronger together
  • Remind by Asking

Telling students, or anyone, what to do usually doesn’t achieve the desired result. This is because you are taking away their autonomy, a necessary ingredient to Type I motivation. Instead, ask students what they are going to do. They will have the freedom to choose and you are restoring their autonomy.

Posted in Constructivism, Drive | 3 Comments

Shifting into Drive

For generations it has been thought that the best way to produce great results is the ole’ carrot-stick method. Punishment for failure and rewards for success, such as when you were a kid and school and your report card reflected whether or not you would be out playing with your friends before the next big test. Suddenly though a New York Times bestseller has hit the market telling us this way of thinking is wrong. Author Daniel H. Pink of the novel Drive illustrates how our centuries old manner of thinking is highly flawed meaning this carrot-stick approach is more harmful than helpful.

Pink writes in his novel how detrimental offering rewards for excellent work can lead to a company’s end. In promising these rewards it takes away the value of the work performed making workers less interested in providing it. On the other hand Pink provides multiple examples where companies that provided more freedom in how a job is completed gives the companies a more maximized yearly profit.

Extrinsic vs Intrinsic Motivation

The explanation behind this is that there are different ways of motivating people.

Extrinsic Motivation is an outside force that acts on a person to reach a certain goal like:

  • Studying for enough time to get a good grade on the test.
  • Working hard enough in your career to get that pay raise you need to buy your first house.
  • or simply having those little contests at work that gets the winner a gift card to their favorite restaurant.

The truth behind the matter is that these extrinsic rewards designed to motivate people actually is completely devastating to productivity because it culls our intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is our inner desire to accomplish the tasks we set for ourselves. It is why we do things such as providing for our community, it provides the opportunity to display our skills which gives us a sense of belonging and entertainment to us.

When extrinsic motivation is applied it makes the task undesirable and if given a reward it makes an expectation for that reward every time that the task is performed. This leads to burnout making a larger reward necessary to keep the motivation up. Eventually the reward will become too great meaning it will not be provided and will make the task completely unbearable.

As future teachers we have to make sure we do not kill our students’ motivation like the old man in the video above.To fully utilize this new information in the classroom one must design the environment to replace extrinsic motivation with intrinsic motivation. Ways we can do this is by:

  • Get the students involved in their education. Focus on what excites them in science and have them set learning goals for their education.
  • Open up the possibilities of how assignments get completed, so students can show off their creativity.
  • Draw the attention of our students to really get them involved in the learning process
  • Lastly, one has to give students the opportunity to display the knowledge that they have gained. Have them teach the class, in this way they model giving back to the community, this is the intrinsic motivation.

The best way to involve intrinsic motivation into the classroom is by making students into active participants engaging in the knowledge we hope they obtain.

One method of teaching that I personally have seen growing in popularity, relatively on social media apps, is Montessori teaching. In the video below they explain how the children of several age groups act more as a family. The video demonstrates how students work in groups and teach the class themselves as they travel along their teaching journey. They even use problem solving techniques without adult intervention to restore their own sense of community when there are disputes between students.

Montessori Classroom

This is the type of classroom that we as futures should work towards providing for our future students.

Problem Solving is a Must Have In The Workplace, Here is Why

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The Drive Within Us

Motivation is the reason the world moves. Everyone has their own unique motivation that causes them to act in the way they do. Motivation is very powerful and can be used to do unimaginable things. Motivation is the factor that makes tomorrow a new day and leads to inspiration and inguenity.

Motivation has been looked at through many different perspectives and analyzed by many great minds to better understand what it truly means. The author that I will highlight in my post is Daniel Pink, who wrote Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Pink highlights many important components of motivation in this book which has a valued purpose for us as educators. He goes over the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and hits on the importance of intrinsic motivation. I will break down the three components of intrinsic motivation that Pink mentions and go over how they can be applied in our classroom with student interactions. We will better understand the meaning behind a student’s DRIVE!


This is the first part of intrinsic motivation that Pink goes over. Autonomy in a classroom setting applies to the idea that as teachers we give our students the ability to freely think and pursue their own personal interests.

Think about personal experiences from when you were in school. When you were forced to do an assignment by the end of class on a topic you had no interest in, how did it feel? Like you were wasting your time? Did you stare at the clock waiting to move on to the next class? This style of behavior stems from the absence of motivation in our work and is why autonomy is very important in the classroom.

This can be contradicting however when this gets mixed up with the idea that we are letting our students control the classroom. This is not true. Autonomy in the classroom stems from a strong trust between students and teachers. Teachers encourage free-thinking knowing that their students will use the structural freedom to inquire and indulge in active learning.

Some examples of autonomy in the classroom would be,

  • To promote inquiry-based learning
  • To allow for students to pick research topics for projects
  • Allowing students to grow through feedback vs penizling them for wrong answers

Allowing students to have some control over the outcome of their learning experiences hits on thier intrinsic motivation because they are doing something they enjoy. When we are told what we have to do we come at the objective with a negative approach. Promoting autonomy in the classroom can counteract this phenomenon and promote higher levels of learning.


I will start this concept off with a question. As you progress through college, what is motivating you to try your best in your teaching classes? Is it to just get a good grade? Is it to just pass at the end of the semester? For most of us, this is not the case. The reason we are trying so hard and putting so much effort into our work is that we are trying to become great teachers. We care more about that than anything else right now. We are working towards mastering our education in teaching so we can become better for ourselves.

The concept of mastering a skill can be intrinsically motivating since we have the natural urge to be the best we can be at what we enjoy doing. We want to become better and better while learning new things and this comes from within us. This style of motivation can be applied to the classroom setting as well.

We can promote mastery in the classroom by allowing students to progress over the school year on certain real-world skills that they can apply to their lives. If students feel that learning what we are teaching them will have a genuine impact on the outcome of their lives then they will respond with the DRIVE that we desire as educators.


Connecting students learning to real-world application, like mentioned in the mastery section, is a fundamental principle that needs to be applied in our lessons. When students can visualize how what they are learning is important, it transforms from “school” to their actual life.

No student wants to waste their time learning things that don’t apply to them. We have all been there before. We mentally check out and disregard anything being presented to us. We check out.

This is due to the fact that purpose is a strong intrinsic motivator for students. We must incorporate it into our classroom and we can do this by,

  • Going over how lecture can be used in the work force/STEM field
  • Showing students how learning can make them become well rounded adults
  • Expressing how world problems can be fixed through scientific thinking and how science can be used to move the world.

Goals are a great way to set up students with purpose in their learning. Making S.M.A.R.T goals will help keep students on track and allow them to visually see the progress they make on their journey of learning. It gives students more of a purpose for learning and allows them to observe growth within the classroom. This is beneficial for the teacher as well since this can be used as a form of assessment for your students. Here is a link below to a video about how to make smart goals!

We must continue to grow as teachers to find our student’s motivation and promote this motivation in their learning. Every student is uniquely motivated and this is a challenge for teachers but one that can be accomplished!

We must set our students up with an environment that lets motivation prosper. Highlighting Purpose, Mastery and Autonomy will allow for us to see our student’s true DRIVE!

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Motivation Matters!

Social media is full of influencers trying to increase your motivation. Whether it is a fitness influencer trying to help their followers on their health journey, a mental health influencer trying to help their followers take care of themselves, or a business influencer trying to encourage their small business followers to keep going, motivation on the Internet is unavoidable.

I would have to assume that your plan to motivate your students most likely didn’t include setting up an Instagram account and posting things like “You can do tonight’s homework!”. It more likely may have included class rewards, extra credit, or more homework passes. The social media influencer and the class rewards are the models we are used to seeing, but are they the most effective? What really motivates us? And, more importantly, how can we motivate our students?

Why Does This Matter?

Before we can go any further, we need to establish what the goal of motivating our students looks like. Let’s let thoughts filter into our head and just take them as they are- no judgement at first. Go ahead and write this list down (Yes! Go do it!). Here are the goals that first popped into my head:


  • want to listen during my class and their other classes
  • want to push themselves to achieve at their highest level
  • want to continue learning for the rest of their lives
  • are curious about the natural world
  • have a desire for a grade in my class that reflects their understanding of content
  • behave in my class, their other classes, and in life
  • care more about learning outcomes than their grade

Did your list have any similarities with mine? If not, that’s okay- I am sure this list could be infinite! The reason I had you do this activity is because, in general, if we don’t know why we want to motivate our students, then we won’t know how to motivate them.

Types of Motivation

Now, contrary to what you might think, not all types of motivation are created equal. In his book, Drive, author Daniel Pink outlines two different types of motivation: Type X and Type I. Here’s what they mean:

Type X

  • Values the external rewards that can come from completing a task more than the internal satisfaction that may come with working on and completing a task

    Type I
  • Values the internal satisfaction that comes from working on and completing a task more than the external rewards that can come from it

If it wasn’t already obvious enough, yes, Type X and Type I are complete opposite types of motivation. They have different ways to be switched on in our students, which means that we must understand what they look like, and when each type is beneficial to trigger.

Type X

The blog reader in you is probably thinking, “Oh, well Type I must always be better than Type X, if she’s bringing this up.” And, while Type I is generally more beneficial than Type X, it isn’t always. You know just as well as I do that there isn’t always a great “why” behind why students need to complete a certain task. In cases like those, Type X motivation is a great thing to trigger, often using rewards. Wondering when this might be? Here’s a flow chart to help you figure it out.

Taken from Drive by Daniel Pink, page 69

Let’s run through an example using the flow chart of a task that is mostly routine: memorizing the metric prefixes.

  • Is the task mostly routine? Yes!
  • Can you increase the task’s challenge or variety, make it less routine, or connect it to a larger purpose? In some ways, yes, but overall, no. You should certainly tell students that memorizing the prefixes leads to the larger purpose of using those in dimensional analysis problems. But, at first, they don’t know what those problems are, nor do they probably care. You can’t make it much more challenging, since it is just memorizing, and, technically, you could add variety to how they memorize them (playing games, flashcards, team challenges), but not what they are memorizing.
  • Use rewards, even “if-then” rewards, but be sure to
  • Offer a rationale for why the task is necessary: You must let your students know that these prefixes are going to be used for all sorts of problems throughout the year. They are a very essential building block of all that is to come in your class and in the content.
  • Acknowledge that the task is boring: Do just that. You know just as well as your students do that memorizing prefixes is not the most exciting thing… let them know that you understand and show them you are human, too.
  • Allow people to complete the task their own way: Sure, you may have used flashcards to memorize these yourself, but that doesn’t work for every student. Allow them to have some autonomy in the way they memorize these and you should get less pushback- and it will help to build their overall study skills!

Motivate students extrinsically using things such as small prizes, homework passes, extra credit, class parties, etc. Anything that students can work towards that would be given to them would be considered extrinsic motivation. And, in some cases, as mentioned above, it can be a good thing.

Here is a TED Talk about the importance of being careful with your extrinsic motivators and the importance of creating intrinsic motivation instead.

Type I

In a perfect world, all students would be Type I, or intrinsically motivated. This may look like:

  • having the desire to learn
  • asking lots of questions, at times beyond the course content
  • making connections to everyday life, or asking about these connections
  • being excited about learning

Imagine having a classroom full of students like this! Imagine how much you all could learn together, how positive the atmosphere of your classroom would be, and how much you could push your students. Now, of course, most students don’t arrive in our classroom feeling this way, being intrinsically motivated. So what can we do to help? Here are some examples:

  • Not throw out empty words: For Type I students, verbal or written encouragement is a great motivator. It reminds them that their work and interest in their work is a positive thing and that they are on the right path. However, when this praise is thrown out all of the time, especially for achievements that aren’t particularly impressive, it loses its meaning. Be sure to carefully craft the words of your encouragement and praise.
  • Have students set their own goals: When students are able to choose their own goals, they are able to cater them to what they believe they can accomplish. And, when they report these goals to someone, such as their classmates or teacher, they are held to a certain level of accountability to achieve them, which is a good thing. Goal-setting doesn’t just have to be about grades or tests, but can also touch on things like behavior, studying, and even attitudes. Here is an example of a goal sheet you could have students fill out:
  • Connect course content to students’ lives: When students realize that the content you are teaching them is actually important, they are more likely to take a personal interest in it, which will hopefully turn into intrinsic motivation. Find out what your students are interested in, and talk about it. An interest in football can become a projectile motion lab in your physics class that includes going to the field and throwing a football! You don’t need to turn all of your students into physicists, but you need to show them that science is everywhere.
  • Go to the margins: If you read my last blog, then you know all about what this means. Essentially, don’t be afraid to follow the interests of students, even if that means veering off of the path of your original lesson plans. When students see that you care about their questions and wonderings, then they will see the value in being curious in the first place.

Remember, the goal here is to create lifelong learners, not robots!

We want to create interested students who are so eager to learn- not just students to show up and run through the motions because they have to.

Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose

These have already been indirectly touched on, but these three principles are essential in assisting in the development of Type I students.

Check out this video to learn about a research study done on motivation, as well as what mastery, autonomy, and purpose mean.
  • Mastery: Working at a task until you have mastered it can nearly only be done when you are a Type I individual. With mastery comes “flow”, a state of mind in which you are so engrossed in your task that work almost as if time has stopped, and that task is the most interesting thing. We need to give our students opportunities to attain mastery, not just forget about concepts after a test.

  • Autonomy: Within reason, we should let our students decide how and when they will complete a task. Daily, assigned homework? I mean, maybe, but I have a feeling students will quickly get tired of that and turn homework into yet another annoying, mindless task that they just need to “get through”. Here is a great article from Education World with some suggestions on how to be flexible with homework.
  • Purpose: Again, student interest and investment in their learning is essential. If students think science is completely irrelevant, why blame them if they aren’t interested? You must tell them the why.

TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read)

  • Two types of motivation exist: Type I and Type X
  • Type I: intrinsic motivation (students have a desire to learn, they desire the experience of learning rather than the external rewards available from good grades, good behavior, etc)
  • Type X: extrinsic motivation (students participate, behave, study, etc in order to receive extrinsic rewards from the teacher or others)
  • We need to understand these types of motivations in order to motivate our students, as the way we tap into those motivations differs
  • Mastery, autonomy, and purpose promote intrinsic motivation
  • Intrinsic motivation is the overall goal, although extrinsic motivation/rewards can be helpful for memorization and other rote tasks

If you want to learn a bit more about Drive and figure out what motivates you, take this quiz. Intrinsic motivation is certainly more difficult to create in your students, but, just like going to the margins and going out of your way to be exemplary, it is worth it in order to create lifelong learners.

That’s all for now- now go, set goals and motivate!

– Miss Karlock (@MissKarlockChem)

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Driving Down New Roads: A Motivational Roadmap

Our First Stop? Daniel H. Pink’s Drive

It is imperative to note that although this blog post draws heavily from Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink, this is in no way a review nor simple summary. Instead, I aim to expand upon ideas put forth by Pink while focusing more heavily on the implications in the scope of education.

Based on the three core “Elements” behind which Pink constructs his argument for a shift to intrinsic motivation, we are able to deduce three guiding questions. I find it easiest to remember these questions as a motivational MAP.

  • Am I being engaged enough to seek out opportunities for further MASTERY of the subject at hand?
  • Am I providing myself with enough AUTONOMY to foster genuine interest in my work or hobbies?
  • Does a lack of PURPOSE lead me to feel the need to ask: “Why do I bother doing this?

What this means in the classroom…

A simple rewording of these questions leads us to a much more relevant query for the classroom. However, do not forget to ask yourself the aforementioned questions in order to assess your own levels of intrinsic motivation. We should want the best for our students, but that also involves wanting the best for ourselves.

Our classroom-oriented questions can be remembered as:

  • Are my students being engaged enough to seek out opportunities for further MASTERY of the topic?
  • Am I providing students with enough AUTONOMY to foster genuine interest in their topic?
  • Does a lack of PURPOSE lead my students to feel the need to ask: “Why am I learning this?”


The topic of mastery may seem to be already at the heart of the educational experience. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Often students are simply subject to soulless assessments forgotten by the time the next chunk of subject matter needs to be tested. I feel as though “mastery” should not be seen as the accomplishment of mastering a topic, but instead the desire to seek that level of understanding.

“People can have two different mindsets, she says. Those with a “fixed mindset” believe that their talents and abilities are carved in stone. Those with a “growth mindset” believe that their talents and abilities can be developed. Fixed mindsets see every encounter as a test of their worthiness. Growth mindsets see the same encounters as opportunities to improve.”

Daniel H. Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

As students learn and progress through a curriculum, the driving force should not be centered around scoring well on the tests at the end of each unit. As educators, we must instead work to cultivate a mindset where the improvement of the student is revered, rather than just their performance on an assessment. That desire to be the best that they can be should be something that we aim to encourage in each of our students.


Providing students with autonomy is often misconstrued as giving the students complete free reign, but we can give students varying levels of autonomy based on the lesson we have planned. If you ever worry that your lesson plan is too rigid or has too many hard lines, ask yourself this: Is this something that my student has sought out or expressed overt interest in? If not, how can I allow them to bring their own twist to the topic or process in order to boost their motivation? It is hard to avoid slipping into the maw of extrinsic motivators if each of your lessons does not include some level of student autonomy.

The OWL Model is one such example of a way to increase student autonomy. Kate Baird and Stephanie Coy discuss their experience implementing an “Observe – Wonder – Learn” Model here in a February 2020 edition of NSTA’s Science and Children publication. Despite the aforementioned journal being catered towards elementary educators, I feel as though the benefits of student autonomy fostered through the OWL model could be applied to any classroom.


This video featuring the late Chadwick Boseman is an incredibly potent piece about finding purpose in life.

“Purpose” is another key element that seems to often be misconstrued. Despite likely having good intentions, I feel as though the opinions of family members, educational staff, and even the general public can sometimes interfere with a student’s definition of purpose. A student’s sense of individual purpose is far more important than a societal demand for a certain profession. Additionally: if a student does not feel individual purpose within the classroom, they may feel the need to ask the dreaded question…

“Why are we learning this?”

A Student You’ll Probably Encounter

The UC Berkley Greater Good Science Center has a wonderful article about the development of a student’s sense of purpose and the benefits of such development. They touch on both the benefits of purposefulness within the realms of mental health and academic performance.

TLDR: Too Long Didn’t Read

Intrinsic motivation is centered around three key elements: Mastery Autonomy and Purpose. In order to encourage the development healthy intrinsic motivation within both ourselves and students, we must constantly seek to include these three elements within our life and our lessons.

Special thanks to Daniel Pink and his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Michael Mischler

Miami University || Class of 2023
College of Education Health and Society || Integrated Science Education Major
College of Arts and Sciences || Environmental Science Co-Major
Secretary || NSTA, Miami University Chapter

Posted in Drive, Misc | Tagged , | 6 Comments

You’re Driving Me Crazy!

What drives us? What gets us out of bed in the morning and into the classroom or the workplace? Is it the pursuit of a great salary or great grades? According to much of our current economic and educational systems, the answer is a resounding yes. But maybe that isn’t the best way to motivate people, to drive people forward. Maybe, as Jessie J would contend, it’s “not about the money, money, money”.

Jessie J just might be right about where our drive actually comes from.

Daniel Pink, author of the book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, would agree with the British pop star. In this work, he asserts that we work best when we are intrinsically motivated by the task, not when we are motivated by an extrinsic reward.

Pink identifies three elements that are essential to producing this intrinsic motivation in people, what he would call, being Type I, for intrinsic. I want to spend the rest of the time we have together delving into each of these elements and discussing how they might be applied in our science classrooms.

1. Autonomy

When we are told exactly what, how, and when to do something, it can be really frustrating and maybe even drive us crazy. We are not robots nor cogs in a machine. And neither are our students!

Students, as a whole, do not like strict deadlines or nitpicky teachers that really make a fuss if a student were to use a different color pen on an assignment than expected. While some of them have been conditioned to do well under this factory-like setting, a controlling environment does not foster growth or passion.

So, we need autonomy in the classroom, but that does not simply mean that the kids have free reign. Daniel Pink describes autonomy like this:

It’s not the rugged, go-it-alone, rely-on-nobody individualism of the American cowboy. It means acting with choice- which means we can be both autonomous and happily interdependent with others.

-Daniel Pink, Drive p. 88

Autonomy means trusting your students to make their own choices (in certain situations) about how they will engage with your class. This can be employed in a variety of ways:

  • Consulting with students about when they should have to turn in work
  • Emphasizing quality of work over punctuality of work
  • Implementing inquiry-based activities where students pick their own research questions
  • Letting students choose how they want to be assessed

Now some of you might be thinking: these are the words of a teacher whose students are going to take advantage of his leniency. I would be lying if I said that was not a possibility. But asking students to defend their choices and demonstrate how this would benefit their learning will allow you to see if the students are at a maturity level where this level of choice would be appropriate and foster their intrinsic motivation to learn.

If I haven’t convinced you about the importance of student autonomy in the classroom, check out this video made by teachers much smarter than me about its importance:

2. Mastery

Another element essential to the development of intrinsic motivation in students is mastery.

Ponder for a moment your favorite professional athlete, musician, or artist. Do you think they became great by focusing on temporary, external rewards? Sure, a championship ring or a Grammy might be in the upper echelon of extrinsic rewards, but these icons didn’t start throwing passes or strumming notes with the sole goal of eventually receiving this award. They were intrinsically motivated because they were pursuing mastery in their field.

How do you think five points of extra credit or a sticker compare to a Grammy? If even these prestigious awards don’t garner the motivation needed to win them, how do we expect the meager awards we give to students to do so?

Instead, we should focus on developing skills in students that they can use to pursue their own passions, being motivated by the hunt for mastery rather than the participation trophy of mediocrity.

When students, or anyone for that matter, are engaged in this mastery quest, Daniel Pink calls this flow.

In flow, people lived so deeply in the moment, and felt so utterly in control, that their sense of time, place, and even self melted away.

-Daniel Pink, Drive p. 113

What great changes could we see in schools if classroom walls started melting and students become transfixed by learning science and becoming passionate about it?

Practically, this can happen in many different ways:

  • We can assign projects that require each student to become an expert on a topic of their choice (there’s that autonomy again!)
  • We can connect lectures and labs to real-world applications that interest the students
  • We can foster a classroom environment that is not centered on grades or other extrinsic rewards

3. Purpose

The last essential element to developing intrinsic motivation is purpose. When students know why they are doing an activity, it is much easier for them to connect to it and care about it.

Students can find purpose in achieving goals they set for themselves. We can see this in our lives as well: how great does it feel to cross off the last item on a busy to-do list? This is not an extrinsic reward; it’s only a line of ink after all, but it still motivates us to achieve and succeed.

Yet students often have trouble writing goals for themselves. They tend to either be much too easy or far too esoteric and intangible. Use this link with your students to help them set achievable goals!

Students can also find purpose in some greater cause, a local or global problem that needs a solution. When they feel like they have a stake in helping to create a better future in their community, country, or world, then they will see the science they learn not as an island of useless facts but an array of tools at their disposal to create change they desire to see.

This starts by making students aware of scientific problems that affect them. After the initial connection is made, students will be much more likely to seek out scientific knowledge on the subject (which as their teacher, you’ll be more than happy to provide). With knowledge in hand, they can be equipped to create innovative solutions or to bring awareness to issues.

See this modeled below!

Let me end by driving this point home: our students will not be motivated by extrinsic factors that reward compliance and cutting corners. When their motivation is shifted internally and they are given the chance to be autonomous, seek mastery, and find purpose, our students will truly grow, and everyone will be better for it.

Internally motivated students are priceless, so forget about the Price Tag.

Catch you later!

Mr. Larson

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Drive: Finding Intrinsic Motivation

Before diving in, it’s important to note that today’s post center’s around Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. It’s worth the read if you haven’t already!

Often times students are motivated to do well in classes so that they can get a good grade, pass the class, and graduate. The goal never seems to be about learning, but about “getting out.”

Students therefore become extrinsically motivated.

What is extrinsic motivation?

What Is Extrinsic Motivation and How Does It Work?

“The problem with making an extrinsic reward the only destination that matters is that some people will choose the quickest route there, even if it means taking the low road. Indeed, most of the scandals and misbehavior that have seemed endemic to modern life involve shortcuts.”

― Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Extrinsically motivated students are more compelled to take short cuts, to look up answers, to find ways to cheat. Students are just looking for a reward.

The goal is for extrinsically motivated students to get to the end of the task, not to understand the journey it takes to get there.

We want to shift away from this traditional extrinsic motivation in the classroom. So, if we want to shift away from extrinsic motivation, what are we shifting towards?

The answer: Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations to Lead - LeAD LABS

What is intrinsic motivation?

What Does Intrinsic Motivation Mean?

“Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.”

― Daniel H. Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Intrinsically motivated students are motivated to learn because they are interested in what and how they are learning. These students are interested in the journey more than they are interested in the end result.

Why focus on intrinsic motivation?

“When the reward is the activity itself–deepening learning, delighting customers, doing one’s best–there are no shortcuts.”

― Daniel H. Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Intrinsic motivation leads to:

  1. Persistence: Because tasks are being completed for personal sense of accomplishment, students are more likely to persist through than if they were extrinsically motivated.
  2. Engagement: Students are more engaged in what they are learning because there is a personal connection.
  3. Learning efficacy: When students are intrinsically motivated they’re learning potential increases.
  4. Better performance: When you students are trying harder, pushing further, and are more engaged students will perform better in class.

Want to learn more? Check out this article on intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation.

How to find intrinsic motivation in the classroom?

“Management isn’t about walking around and seeing if people are in their offices… It’s about creating conditions for people to do their best work.”

―Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

As teachers, we functions as managers of our students and walking around making sure students are quietly working through a work packet is not going to intrinsically motivate students. We have to create a classroom that allows students to create their best work. What suggestions do you have to create a classroom environment that helps students create their best work?

I like this article from EDUTopia that explains how to help students build intrinsic motivation and suggest you give it a read!

Is it ever worth it to use extrinsic motivation in the classroom?

Extrinsic motivation can be used in the classroom. But it’s important to understand how to use extrinsic motivation.

  • Use it sparingly; it should not be the only form of motivation in your classroom
  • Make it a surprise; when students don’t know it’s coming they can still find intrinsic motivation
  • When students need short term motivation; extrinsic motivation can help motivate students towards one specific goal
  • When it can lead to intrinsic motivation; Saying things like “You made a really good point,” “The work you did was very strong,” function like extrinsic motivation, but can lead to intrinsic motivation.

How will you find your intrinsic motivation and help your students find theirs?

See you next week,

Ms. Brennan

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Stepping Outside of the Known and Into the Margins

Some of my favorite memories as a kid were family vacations at the beach. On a sunny day, we’d pack up the beach bag with towels, sunscreen, and toys, and head to the ocean. Between leaving the hotel and reaching the beach however, we’d have to walk through the grassy sand dunes, the transition space between the beach and the main land. Sometimes this space was paved with a boardwalk, other times, you would walk through the uneven sand and tall grass.

Grassy Sand Dunes On Beach by Dan Brownsword

Close your eyes and think back – do you have a memory like this one? Or maybe one similar, like approaching the edge of the woods to go for a hike?

These in-between spaces are what we call margins. They are present in nature all around us, in all types of ecosystems and environments.

“These areas are places where diversity in species exists, where life is often riskier for its inhabitants, and where species have the freedom to flourish and experiment. Margins are those areas at the edges of ecosystems and bioregions.”

Ann Haley-Oliphant

However, the margins are not just regions in the natural world, but it is also a rich metaphor for teaching. Margins are a space in the classroom that is full of diversity, unexpected discovery, change, and risk. There is a relationship between the “center” of the classroom and the outside margin. Part of being an exemplary teacher is stepping into that zone, so how do we do that?

Let’s Teach in the Margins

First, it’s important to define what the “center” of the classroom is if our goal is to step outside of that. Key characteristics of the “center” are:

  • A lack of individuality between students. Students simply adopt the same behavior, obedience to the teacher, and typical day-to-day procedures.
  • Constant scarcity of time. Teachers are constantly pressed for time, only wanting to complete the curriculum and lessons they have planned in advance, and give students strict chunks of time to work or explore.
  • Limited to textbook-based instruction. Have you ever been in a class where the teacher only teaches from the book? The subject matter revolves around tight guidelines and rarely goes beyond that.
  • Surface-level discussion. While there is room for discussion, they tend to be teacher-led and lack depth or authenticity.

Now, what does teaching outside of “the center” actually look like? Here’s my top suggestions for teaching in the margins in your classroom –

  • Focus on facilitation, not domination. It is so important to facilitate opportunities for students to make connections between the course content, themselves and their interests, and other disciplines. Be okay with not leading every activity and give your students a chance to express themselves in the classroom.
  • Initiate student-led discussions. Having your students practice asking scientific questions can spark new interests, spur on research opportunities, and help them grow in their ability to form arguments. Use Socratic seminars or student-created presentations that help engage the whole class.
  • Incorporate inquiry-based activities. Inquiry is critical for many areas of teaching science, but especially as you step into the margins and become student-centered, inquiry-based activities can be extremely useful to continue a stimulating, thought-provoking classroom environment.
  • Be willing to move away from planned lessons. As a teacher, leave extra room in your class periods to follow the students’ lead occasionally. If they ask a question that is a bit of a stretch from the material, explore that with them!
  • Connect science (or any subject) to the outside, real world. Use every opportunity to bring science to life for students! Physically go outside with students, bring animals and plants into the classroom, or have students explore independently at home or in the community.
10 Teaching Strategies to Help Students Listen - TeachHUB

Margins or “teachable” moments – what’s the difference?

This is often a common misconception about using this metaphor in the classroom. While both margins and “teachable” moments are present in the classroom, there is a time and space for both. The purpose of the margins is to promote learning and curiosity through investigating questions that are often student-initiated and may not have a clear cut answer. Entering into this space means that the teacher learns with the students as they cooperatively explore and engage with the course content and beyond.

On the other hand, “teachable” moments are mostly times in the classroom that there might be confusion or questions, and the teacher answers and instructs without further exploration or student input. Teachable moments often take less time or effort by the teacher and tend to answer a student’s question without examining other potential possibilities. There is less engagement with the whole class and is mostly teacher-centered.

Instagram photo from National Geographic @natgeo

This photo was posted on Instagram by National Geographic, check it out here. It shows California firefighter Brett Watkins traveling the fire line, cleaning up any unburned brush to help stop embers from spreading the fire to other sections of the Lassen National Forest. When I saw this photo, it made me think of the margin-like space on the edge of a forest that I mentioned at the beginning. However, this forest is on fire, and a brave firefighter is stepping into it.

Going to the margins can be out of your comfort zone and even frightening, but the pay off is so worth it. It can lead to conversations with students and learning opportunities students will remember forever. Being the teacher that hears students questions, engages with them, and helps them seek out the answers can have a significant impact on students’ lives.

You can go to the Margins too!

Thanks for reading, see you in the margins! I’ll be back with another post soon.

-Miss Creeden

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