From the beginning of time, what has been the source of our survival?  Motivation for survival.  The origins of motivation can be traced back thousands to millions of years in fossil records.  As a biologist, my goal is to break down and find a reason behind this thing called “drive”.

What is drive? Drive is our motivation.  This is what gets us to do our daily tasks and succeed.  From researcher, Daniel Pink, he has done extensive work on what “drive” is and how it effects people.  He is an expert on the different classifications of drive.


There are two different species of drive, and they are known as:

  1. Intrinsic motivation
  2. Extrinsic motivation

What’s the difference between these two species?  Well, intrinsic motivation is an inner desire and emotional yearning that one wants to strive towards.  On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is an outside type of reward system who wants to gain external gratification.

There are also three sub-species of intrinsic motivation that help us to further identify the species:

  1. Autonomy = the freedom and desire to control any aspect of your life.
  2. Purpose = the reasons for our existence and overall personal life.
  3. Mastery = the desire to perfect a task in your life.

Where is “drive” today?

The population size of drive is extremely disproportionate today mainly because of the exponential growth of extrinsic motivation.  Today, in classrooms especially, extrinsic motivation is overused.  Rewarding extra credit, grades, candy/food to students has created the overall drive to be at an unwanted size.  External praise isn’t always good for students; in fact, it’s what causes this rapid decrease in intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation should be implemented to save its species population.  How can we do this?  Help revive the sub-species to make a come back in classrooms.

  • Help bring back student’s interests into the lessons by getting to know what they’re truly passionate about.
  • Eliminate busy work and include opportunities for cooperative learning with different student-led activities.
  • Guide students through their work so they can feel their personal growth in the class pay off.

We need to help our students strive to their different motivational needs.  By cutting the external praise/rewards from your curriculum and allowing students to find their passions, we can revive the intrinsic motivation species back into our lives.

Students will really go above and beyond if you teach them about what they’re truly passionate about!


  1. I liked how you gave background about where our motivation comes from initially and how it has evolved from the beginning of time. I also liked how you talked about busy work and trying to eliminate that. So often in middle school and high school we would be assigned busy work and that did such a good job of killing our motivation to want to learn the subject. If you are going to assign work, make it interesting and make sure the students are learning something! What are your opinions or thoughts on homework (since it is typically more busy work oriented)? Do you think the fundamental idea of how it is assigned be rethought or restructured to foster more intrinsic motivation for learning the subject?

    • Margaux,
      Giving a solid background to your post is a good way to start off (I think)! Busy work can really stunt a student’s desire to learn and I think it can be very unnecessary. My personal opinion on homework is similar! I would only ever assign it if it was beneficial to the student’s outcome and knowledge of the subject. Not to just keep them busy. Making homework oriented around personal growth and content knowledge should be changed. Instead of receiving a grade for correctness, homework should really be done to see if the student is understanding the content outside of the classroom on their own time. It should not be given to make students robots to your classroom.

  2. Hello Michael!
    Excellent post! I like how you tie it into biology. You are correct in saying that for so long, the human race has had to have motivation to survive. If you think about it, every animal must have intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to survive! Great connection! I like how you mention that it is important to teach students how to be passionate about a subject. This allows them to gain purpose, mastery, and autonomy. What I like to do is give students choices. Adolescents love getting the choice of what to put their attention on. This is intrinsic motivation. They are interested in a subject, so they find out more and more about the subject. I like your suggestions of how to foster creativity in your classroom. I have found that busy work doesn’t work well at all because it doesn’t incorporate the 3 essentials: autonomy, purpose, and mastery. It doesn’t give students a choice to study what they are passionate about, it doesn’t foster creativity, and it doesn’t give a purpose to why students are learning things. Busy work doesn’t do any of these things. I will try not to do this in my class. I will put the principles of this book into practice to help my students to succeed and discover what they are passionate about. Great Post! Very well organized and short and to the point!

    Delaina 🙂

    • Thank you Delaina!
      When I was thinking of this post, I wanted to make it creative and tie in something that I loved (evolution!). Giving students choices on what they want to learn and do is important to their education. Fostering creativity is going to be a challenge, but there is no doubt that you will be able to do it! Keep up the good work!

  3. Michael,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog! I like how you started it off with the origins of motivation, and then brought it back to present day. I’ve never thought about it like that before reading the book Drive, or your blog for that matter! I also like how you give an initial definition of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Because you did that, it clears up any confusion one might have between the two.
    If I were to give you any advice, it would be to maybe give an example of a specific lesson plan or activity that doesn’t include any form of external motivation, which would require the student to run of intrinsic motivation!

    • Thank you Katie!
      I appreciate the advice, thinking of some of these specific lesson plans for intrinsic motivation only is very difficult! Maybe we could work together and talk on how we can increase our use of intrinsic motivation in our science classrooms!

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