A Note to the Teacher: DRIVE!

What drives a classroom? Daniel H. Pink, the author of New York Times best-seller, Drive helps us tackle this specific question. He uncovers the surprising truth about what truly motivates us.

Motivation 3.0

We are going to dive into Motivation 3.0, but first what is Motivation 1.0 and Motivation 2.0? Motivation 1.0 is based on survival or biological reflexes. Pink made the connection that this type of motivation was prominent during early times when humans utilized hunting and gathering prior to the civilized society. Once society began modernizing and developing a new motivation was put in place to adapt to the changing world known as Motivation 2.0. Motivation 2.0 is based on the carrot and stick model where the source of motivation came from rewards and punishments. Pink drew the conclusion that this type of motivation relies on external forces including “if-then’ rewards. Like any great thing in our world, eventually, it is time for an upgrade. Our world continues to change and our motivation must adapt. Motivation 3.0 is based on humans’ drive to direct their own lives. This type of motivation focuses on internal forces including the following: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Image from corporate-rebels.com


  • You are in control of what you do – our students are in control of what they do. Now, this isn’t a free pass for students to run wild through the halls or sleep all day because that is what they want to do. With learning, this allows students to focus on self-direction and possibly deciding topics they want to study.
  • You are in control of how you do it – our students are in control of how they do it. If one student shows a great interest in acting out or performing skits, allow them to channel that into how they display their knowledge. For example, students could act out the water cycle or chemical reactions (each student representing a part).


  • Improving your skills – students improving their skills. The desire to improve our skills and our students’ skills is the reason schools exist. (Most) students have a desire to learn and better themselves in something that matters to them whether that is to improve reading speed or understand titration.
  • Improving yourself – students improving themselves. We can all improve in numerous areas of our lives, we just need to find the area that matters to us and improve there.


  • This is when we are working towards something worthwhile. The desire to do what we do in the service to something larger than ourselves.

What does this look like in the classroom?

Increasing our students’ intrinsic motivation requires us to dig a little deeper as teachers and focus on what their interests are. You want to play into each student’s interests and allow for student choice. Allowing students to decide how they want to present or showcase their knowledge is an example of this. We want to turn our students into teachers.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

– Albert Einstein
In this short video, we see the power of knowledge when students become teachers.


  1. Brooklyn,
    I loved your blog! I think the graphic you chose that depicted autonomy, mastery, and purpose was super insightful. There is a lot going on in that picture. I really liked how there are stair steps depicting mastery because it shows that it takes steps and time to arrive at a destination. This ties in with atomic habits- where each step adds up to a large distance moved! I also like the idea you showed with the video about students being teachers. What are some lessons or units you would like to use this technique with?

    • Hi Riley! Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Some lessons I would like to use this technique with are possibly titration or acid/base. This technique could be used for almost any topic!

  2. Hi Brooklyn,
    Great overview of the three elements of intrinsic motivation from Drive. I also liked how you briefly discussed the previous motivation systems and why the latest iteration (Motivation 3.0) is more appropriate for our current circumstances. I think purpose is one of the most important and perhaps most difficult element to incorporate into classrooms because students may not always make connects between the course content and the purpose for learning it. How might you help students understand the purpose for learning science and its importance in our everyday lives?

    • Hi Lauren! Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Great question! I would help my students understand the purpose of learning science and its importance in our everyday lives by making connections through different labs. For example, if we are measuring pH of different liquids, I could have my students bring in different items or we could walk to the nearest body of water outside to collect a sample.

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