The Business of Education

Today’s business industry is pretty uniform. Workers come in to the office at 8 A.M. and leave at 5 P.M. like clock work. There is very little room for creativity and personal growth. School is pretty similar. Teachers are supposed to teacher a specific way and students are supposed to learn from that way from 8 A.M. to 3 P.M. Don’t get me started on how school starts too early (let me sleep in at some point in my life, please), but there is still a huge problem on how schools are run like a factory.

Extrinsic Rewards

  • What are they?
    • Rewards that are tangible
  • How are they used in schools?
    • Stickers, grades, reward tickets, gift cards, homework passes, and other things like this
  • What is the issue?
    • When we give students extrinsic rewards, they might always expect it. I know in my personal educational career I study for a test because I know I want the good grade which is an extrinsic reward. Students might also work harder if they know there is candy if they “win.”
    • When a classroom runs fully on extrinsic rewards, students may not fully absorb the information they are getting

Intrinsic Rewards

  • What are they?
    • Rewards that are not necessarily tangible, but more related to emotion
    • Pride in a task
  • How are they used in schools?
    • Giving students well timed praise about improvement and other great things
    • Students own pride in doing well on something
  • What is the issue?
    • Issues can arise when verbal praise is about “being smart” or things like that

So, which one is better?

It depends. If the task is repetitive or boring, you might want to rely on extrinsic rewards. The extrinsic reward, like candy, will help them power through the task. Overall, intrinsic rewards are better because they help foster. When students do well on something, they can feel pride. They remember that sense of pride and work on other tasks to be able to feel that again.


  • What is autonomy?
    • Leaving people to do what they want
  • How can we use this in the classroom?
    • By letting our students be more creative.
    • Let them find a topic within the unit and let them role with it
  • But what about standards and teaching everything?
    • You can do it. Students will learn the needed information even if they focus in on something they love.


Type I Behavior

In Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, he discusses a type of behavior that is fully centered in autonomy. He calls it Type I behavior. This behavior can only be fully met when a person has complete autonomy over their task, their time, their technique, and their team. This is something that is often overlooked in schools today. Many teachers tell students what to do, when to do it, when it’s due, and how to do it. When you give students more freedom on what they’re doing, they are more likely to want to learn and are more likely to retain it.

Reaching Mastery and Grit

Can students reach mastery while utilizing autonomy? Of course! When students are more engaged in their learning because it is something they are interested in, they are more likely to want to try and become a master in that subject. The thing with mastery is, you never can reach it. You can get closer and closer, but you can never fully reach it. It is like an asymptote. You never fully reach the line. In this process, you discover mastery takes grit. You have to understand that you can never reach the peak, accept that, and keep pushing to learn more than you did before. The students who have more grit, are more likely to keep pushing to learn. This also has to do with how interested the students are in the topic they are studying. They are more likely to use their grit on something they think is interesting.

Lesson Plan: Building Cladograms

  1. Show students the picture of the Pokemon cladogram and talk to them about how you can see these kinds of relationships in real animals.
  2. Teach students about cladograms and how they are built. This can be done with lecture or have them work in teams to discover how this is done by doing readings or other research
  3. Have each group present their findings briefly and address any misconceptions or missing information
  4. Have each student write down 10 of their favorite animals on a sheet of paper
  5. Tell them they are to make a cladogram out of the ten animals they selected without doing any research. This is to be based on characteristics they can visibly see
  6. After they complete this, tell them to pick their top 5 animals and do further research on them
  7. With their new research, have them create a new cladogram using traits that distinguish them
  8. This activity lets students learn more about their favorite animals and helps them learn about how traits can be used to distinguish relationships between species.

(yes, I still play pokemon go)


  1. Katin,
    I’m really glad you asked how I am going to balance intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. To be honest I am not completely sure yet. I think if a task is pretty menial, like learning Latin roots or something kind of boring, I will be using extrinsic rewards. In my AP biology class, we had weekly quizzes on the Latin roots. We would get a grade and move on. But I think it would be fun to have a 100% club where the people who get 100% on all of the quizzes get a little trophy at the end of the quarter.
    The majority of my motivators are going to be intrinsic by helping the students feel like what they are doing is important and meaningful.

  2. I love the connections you made to the “business world” and the methods in the classroom. The part where you posed the question as to which form of motivation in better and then explained that there is no right answer and that different kinds of motivation can play different roles in student learning. I love the graphic on eating the candy bar and making it “intrinsic”- hilarious! Your lesson plan idea was very well laid out and you included lots of key components that will enhance the Type I behavior in the classroom, such as allowing for them to choose their favorite animals and make it more relatable for them. Great ideas.

  3. I love your lesson plan with the pokemon cladogram! I think it’s a really clever way to get students excited about evolution and take control of their own learning. Your tweets and cartoons did an excellent job of supporting your points as well. Also, I think your point about how extrinsic motivation isn’t inherently bad is really important to keep in mind. Extrinsic motivation can be useful to keep students going along if used sparingly. Excellent job!

  4. Shay,

    I thought your blog did a good job of highlighting the most important concepts in Pink’s book. I liked that you compared a menial job’s work day to a schools work day. It is a problem that we treat schools as a factory for students to learn. I think your descriptions of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. It was good that you said that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation has its place in the classroom. The addition of your sections on autonomy, type I, and mastery help get your point across. I really liked your lesson plan with Pokemon. I think that students can relate to Pokemon. It can help motivate students to learn intrinsically. Your social media post and pictures went well with your post. How do you plan on balancing intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in your classroom? Overall, I enjoyed your blog post.


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