Misconceptions of Motivation: The DRIVE to Succeed

Welcome to Misconceptions of Motivation 101!

In this short online course, we are going to debunk the most common misconception about motivation in and outside of the classroom. What is that, you may ask? Continue through this short course to discover the answers.

Daniel H. Pink, author of DRIVE, gives a new look on the ins and outs of motivation.

Module 1:What Personality Type are You?

What is motivation to you? Do you define it by the want to do achieve an action to be self-satisfied, or maybe wanting to reach the finish line for the medal at the end? Most people think one way or the other.

If you want the medal at the end of the race, you have a Type X personality. You most likely:

  • Want to be given a due date to finish something by
  • Work to get the best grade
  • Have the goal of impressing others with your work

If you want to achieve self-satisfaction by learning something or doing something, you have a Type I personality. You most likely:

  • Want to master new things
  • Work to understand something fully
  • Work creatively to self-satisfy

So, what is the difference between Person X and Person Y? A Type X person needs some sort of extrinsic motivation to complete a task. They require a reward from outside of themselves to be motivated. A Type person only need intrinsic motivation to complete a task. They only require internal DRIVE to work harder.

Module 2: Wait, What is Internal Drive?

Module one introduced you to two types of motivation. Hopefully you have an idea of what type of motivation you require. Now, it’s time to learn in what ways all humans are motivated.

  1. Biological Motivations include:
  • Naturally having a need to survive
  • Striving to eat and drink
  • Naturally working to reproduce

2. Outside/Extrinsic Motivations include:

  • Working to gain money
  • Wanting to impress others
  • Striving to win a competition

Biological motivations and outside motivations were the only known drives for a very long time. However, they do not explain why all humans do what they do. Why do people work on puzzles for days just to finish it? If there is no medal, money, or grade alongside of it, why do it? The answer is internal motivation and drive.

3. Internal/Intrinsic Motivations include:

  • Working for a self-made pat on the back
  • Working to just completing the task
  • Being satisfied by accomplishments

Think more about what motivates you the most out of these three options. Reflect.

Module 3: What are the Elements of Internal Motivation?

Humans naturally hold three elements of intrinsic motivation. These include autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Continue the module to learn more:

  • Autonomy refers to the ability to make your own choices based on your own free-will. Being autonomous allows for independence from outside sources, and self-made decision making.
  • Mastery refers to gaining the utmost knowledge for a subject, action, or topic. You have mastered a topic once you understand completely.
  • Purpose refers to an innermost reason for completing something or learning something.

Humans want to be independent. They want to master their terrain. They need a purpose in doing things.

Watch this video explaining these three elements more in depth.

Which element is most prominent in how you think? Continue to reflect.

Module 4: So, What is The Misconception Here?

Oh, almost forgot to get to the main point of this course! Think about this scenario:

  • Three employees from a company are pulled out from their normal job and are asked to create a new product. The employees are offered big money if they can come up with something great.
  • Three other employees are pulled from their daily jobs and asked to complete the same task. The difference? They are not offered a reward.

Which group of employees is going to create the better product, or work more efficiently?

Most people would think that the employees expecting the reward would come up with super spectacular new products at a fast rate. Do you agree?


Well, there is your misconception. Intrinsic motivation allows for people to be more creative, successful, and efficient. There is no pressure of outside rewards. The only thing on the mind of the unrewarded employees is that they get to work towards something in a creative way. Their actions inhabit the ideas of mastery, autonomy, and purpose. The rewarded employees may not have these elements at their finish line.

Module 5: Implementing Internal Drive Within the Classroom

Based on the content of module 4, you now know that intrinsic motivation is the most productive form. It outputs the most creative and well thought out work. I’m sure you want this in your classroom, right?

Here are some ideas for encouraging intrinsic motivation within your science classroom:

  • Do not make assessments all high stakes. Students will focus more on the grade as a reward.
  • Encourage learning a topic to be the reward. Get students excited about learning something difficult.
  • Encourage creativity through autonomy. Allow for students to create their own versions of representations and projects to explore their learning.
  • Give a purpose to what you are doing within the classroom. The goal for learning the subject is not to check it off the list. Applications of the topic can be used for the rest of your students’ lives!

Lesson plan examples to encourage intrinsic motivation could include:

  • Allow for students to make a creative powerpoint about periodic trends instead of a high-stakes exam. Give them certain topics they need to cover, but keep the directions vague. They should present these in front of the class and be ready to answer questions from the class and teacher to show what they know.
  • Before beginning a lesson on evaporation, condensation, and sublimation, explain how it is necessary to the water cycle. Lead a discussion about why the water cycle is so important to life and chemistry. Students will be thrilled to apply chemistry to real life situations.

Congratulations! You are now certified to go about life thinking about intrinsic motivators. Hopefully you are more well-informed on why you must think about these topics in the classroom, along with how you can put your own twists on seemingly extrinsically motivated activities.


  1. I think that is a really good question Margaux, but honestly, I don’t think I know the full answer to that. From my observations, some students are always going to be more malleable than others once they reach their late teens. Knowing this, it should be made an effort to implement intrinsic motivations into your classroom under the assumption that at least a certain number of your students would be reached. Students enjoy habits. If they are used to all extrinsic rewards and have been for a while, it will take more effort to break a habit like that. However, if a student is exposed to both, intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, their habits may not be as difficult to morph. Keep using intrinsic motivation within the classroom to at least reach the subconsciouses of students. They may not think that it is benefiting it, but based on “Drive”, we all know it is.

  2. I really liked how you structured this as an online course to talk about all the different aspects and work through all of the concepts. I thought that was very clever — good job 🙂 I think many people after reading through it would realize that they are really extrinsically motivated and may be swayed to rethink how they operate. Do you think it is possible to actually teach people to become more intrinsically motivated in schools by high school or do you think that by then the students will be set in their ways?

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