What is “Drive?”

What gets you up in the morning? What makes you do the things you do? These are the types of questions that I asked when it comes to the idea of “drive.”

So, what is “drive?”

The idea of “drive” goes back until the beginning of time. It’s the basic motivation that is the reason we respond and do certain things in day-to-day life.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

In the above infographic, it shows the main differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic: The desire to do something because you want to. Students often don’t come in intrinsically motivated until a topic genuinely interests them. In the classroom, this is what is what teachers want to guide their students towards.

Extrinsic: The desire to do something because you get rewarded or punished. This is typically how most students start off in the classroom. They are driven by grades and extra credit and not the desire to learn topics due to their own curiosity.

In the above video, it talks about how teachers can guide motivation in the classroom for all students.

In Daniel Pink’s book DRiVE, he talks about three main components that go into what drives human beings.

  • Mastery: Wanting to get better at a certain skill
    • Students that want that mastery will want to be the best at it and perfect the craft until they can’t anymore. The gratification of mastering something is satisfying for everyone, including students. Intrinsic motivation typically motivates someone to want to master a topic.
  • Autonomy: Self direction
    • Students want control over what they are learning, I mean, so does everyone. Giving students that opportunity to take control will feed their autonomous drive and will in the end, intrinsically motivate them to want to learn more.
  • Purpose: The reason 
    • Students will ask, “When will we use this in real life?” or “What’s the purpose in learning this?” and expect you to have a concrete answer. They want this confirmation to feed their drive for purpose. If students see the purpose for what they’re doing, they’re more likely to commit to it whole-heartedly and want to go even further into a subject.

Ways to drive intrinsic motivation in the classroom:

  • Bring in the student’s interests to the lesson to engage their curiosity
  • Venture off into the margins of your lesson plans to bring the real world into the classroom
  • Do hand-on lab experiments to show the relationships between concepts
  • Add fun demos that the students can create and be a part of

Students are going to take away so much more if their intrinsic motivation tops their extrinsic motivation. Once the students aren’t so worried about their grades, their curiosity will take over and drive the rest of their learning!


  1. Kacey, I really like the quote you posted. It really helps to suggest the monetary rewards is far from the only way to motivate. Your explanations of the three motivators (autonomy, mastery, purpose) was really well done. “Students will ask, “When will we use this in real life?” or “What’s the purpose in learning this?” and expect you to have a concrete answer.” I always wanted to know why I was doing what I was doing so that really speaks to me. Thinking about motivation, how do you motivate yourself to do good work?


    • Peter,
      Personally, depending on the topic or what I am trying to complete, mastery is what drives me the most. The feeling of nailing something on my own (autonomy) is a rewarding feeling that I hope to instill in my future students. I am also slightly extrinsically motivated with grades, rewards, etc., but I am working towards being more intrinsically motivated, overall!

  2. Kacey,

    You give good insight on what motivation/drive is. Your infographic about extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation is a good visual on the main differences of each! If I were you, I would try to incorporate some personal things that do AND do not motivate you in your life. Don’t stop being great, and keep slaying these posts.


    • Micheal,
      I like your idea in having things to work on when it comes to my own motivation. Those are some things I will definitely start thinking about more. Your feedback and recommendations only make me better! Also thank you!

  3. I really enjoyed your blog post! I think that your explanations of mastery, autonomy, and purpose are really well thought out and applicable to the classroom. I especially liked how you talked about purpose and having an answer to when students ask why they need to learn something. So often, students will ask that and the teacher won’t have a solid answer and that will just kill the desire to learn it. Why do you think many teachers don’t think about these answers beforehand? Do you think the teachers have a lost a desire to see a purpose in what they are doing as well?

    • Margaux,
      First of all, thank you! And to answer your questions, I would say that maybe teachers do think of these answers beforehand but when it is actually asked, there could be limited time so the teacher brushes it off as not important or just makes them figure it out on their own. I think that teacher education is heading in a different direction and is asking more of future teachers to be prepared so that students can be lifelong learners and not just dread the idea of school. With that said, I don’t think that teachers have lost the desire but more or less just lost their own way in the ever changing education system, if that makes sense. I think all teachers have drive and purpose to make their student’s critical thinkers but some might just have different ideas or views on what that actually is. I hope this answers your questions!

  4. Hello Kasey!
    Great post! I like how you break everything up for me, it is easier to read. I did not do that in my blog, so next time I will try what you are doing! Great points as well. I like how you relate autonomy into the fact that students should have some say in what they are learning. I believe this, strongly. Adolescents (I use this word to sound smarter. lol) love having choices! They like to be in charge of their learning like anyone. I like how you mention traveling to the margins. This is where the action happens. When I am a teacher and we start a new unit, as a class, we will list questions that we have about the topic. We will then answer them as the class goes on. Students can research them as well. This, I believe, would be a way of going into the margins. What do you think? The video you shared is very interesting as well. I love the quote by Albert Einstein. I agree with Pink that intrinsic motivation is most important and by meeting the three basic needs that you mentioned (autonomy, mastery, and purpose), students will find that their intrinsic motivation to do something will outweigh any punishment or reward! Great post!

    Delaina 🙂

    • Delaina,
      First off, thank you! And I really like your idea of collecting questions that students have! I think thats a great way to keep their motivation up and their curiosity flowing. It also gives opportunities to make it a student-led thing, which is something I think they could really enjoy. I would definitely classify it as going to the margins!

  5. I find it super important as to how you explained “purpose” within the context of a science classroom. It is very common for students to learn things strictly for the test or exam. That is not an intrinsic purpose by any means. Knowing this, how do you go about switching that students’ mindset? Why is knowing about cells important, or knowing about different biomes? What about equilibrium? How would you explain the importance of science subjects to an extrinsically motivated student? The goal is to push them towards intrinsic motivation and create a purpose.

    • Kate,
      I think that I would start by seeing what interests them, then see how that could tie into different science subjects. It could be a form of inquiry where they can explore topics and see how they relate to them and the world around them. I think that if students can see how their favorite things tie into science, then they will understand more and hopefully be driven by their own curiosity to explore the topics further!

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