Our First Stop? Daniel H. Pink’s Drive
It is imperative to note that although this blog post draws heavily from Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink, this is in no way a review nor simple summary. Instead, I aim to expand upon ideas put forth by Pink while focusing more heavily on the implications in the scope of education.
Based on the three core “Elements” behind which Pink constructs his argument for a shift to intrinsic motivation, we are able to deduce three guiding questions. I find it easiest to remember these questions as a motivational MAP.
- Am I being engaged enough to seek out opportunities for further MASTERY of the subject at hand?
- Am I providing myself with enough AUTONOMY to foster genuine interest in my work or hobbies?
- Does a lack of PURPOSE lead me to feel the need to ask: “Why do I bother doing this?
What this means in the classroom…
A simple rewording of these questions leads us to a much more relevant query for the classroom. However, do not forget to ask yourself the aforementioned questions in order to assess your own levels of intrinsic motivation. We should want the best for our students, but that also involves wanting the best for ourselves.
Our classroom-oriented questions can be remembered as:
- Are my students being engaged enough to seek out opportunities for further MASTERY of the topic?
- Am I providing students with enough AUTONOMY to foster genuine interest in their topic?
- Does a lack of PURPOSE lead my students to feel the need to ask: “Why am I learning this?”
The topic of mastery may seem to be already at the heart of the educational experience. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Often students are simply subject to soulless assessments forgotten by the time the next chunk of subject matter needs to be tested. I feel as though “mastery” should not be seen as the accomplishment of mastering a topic, but instead the desire to seek that level of understanding.
“People can have two different mindsets, she says. Those with a “fixed mindset” believe that their talents and abilities are carved in stone. Those with a “growth mindset” believe that their talents and abilities can be developed. Fixed mindsets see every encounter as a test of their worthiness. Growth mindsets see the same encounters as opportunities to improve.”Daniel H. Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
As students learn and progress through a curriculum, the driving force should not be centered around scoring well on the tests at the end of each unit. As educators, we must instead work to cultivate a mindset where the improvement of the student is revered, rather than just their performance on an assessment. That desire to be the best that they can be should be something that we aim to encourage in each of our students.
Providing students with autonomy is often misconstrued as giving the students complete free reign, but we can give students varying levels of autonomy based on the lesson we have planned. If you ever worry that your lesson plan is too rigid or has too many hard lines, ask yourself this: Is this something that my student has sought out or expressed overt interest in? If not, how can I allow them to bring their own twist to the topic or process in order to boost their motivation? It is hard to avoid slipping into the maw of extrinsic motivators if each of your lessons does not include some level of student autonomy.
The OWL Model is one such example of a way to increase student autonomy. Kate Baird and Stephanie Coy discuss their experience implementing an “Observe – Wonder – Learn” Model here in a February 2020 edition of NSTA’s Science and Children publication. Despite the aforementioned journal being catered towards elementary educators, I feel as though the benefits of student autonomy fostered through the OWL model could be applied to any classroom.
“Purpose” is another key element that seems to often be misconstrued. Despite likely having good intentions, I feel as though the opinions of family members, educational staff, and even the general public can sometimes interfere with a student’s definition of purpose. A student’s sense of individual purpose is far more important than a societal demand for a certain profession. Additionally: if a student does not feel individual purpose within the classroom, they may feel the need to ask the dreaded question…
The UC Berkley Greater Good Science Center has a wonderful article about the development of a student’s sense of purpose and the benefits of such development. They touch on both the benefits of purposefulness within the realms of mental health and academic performance.
TLDR: Too Long Didn’t Read
Intrinsic motivation is centered around three key elements: Mastery Autonomy and Purpose. In order to encourage the development healthy intrinsic motivation within both ourselves and students, we must constantly seek to include these three elements within our life and our lessons.
Special thanks to Daniel Pink and his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Miami University || Class of 2023
College of Education Health and Society || Integrated Science Education Major
College of Arts and Sciences || Environmental Science Co-Major
Secretary || NSTA, Miami University Chapter