The Drive Within Us

Motivation is the reason the world moves. Everyone has their own unique motivation that causes them to act in the way they do. Motivation is very powerful and can be used to do unimaginable things. Motivation is the factor that makes tomorrow a new day and leads to inspiration and inguenity.

Motivation has been looked at through many different perspectives and analyzed by many great minds to better understand what it truly means. The author that I will highlight in my post is Daniel Pink, who wrote Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Pink highlights many important components of motivation in this book which has a valued purpose for us as educators. He goes over the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and hits on the importance of intrinsic motivation. I will break down the three components of intrinsic motivation that Pink mentions and go over how they can be applied in our classroom with student interactions. We will better understand the meaning behind a student’s DRIVE!


This is the first part of intrinsic motivation that Pink goes over. Autonomy in a classroom setting applies to the idea that as teachers we give our students the ability to freely think and pursue their own personal interests.

Think about personal experiences from when you were in school. When you were forced to do an assignment by the end of class on a topic you had no interest in, how did it feel? Like you were wasting your time? Did you stare at the clock waiting to move on to the next class? This style of behavior stems from the absence of motivation in our work and is why autonomy is very important in the classroom.

This can be contradicting however when this gets mixed up with the idea that we are letting our students control the classroom. This is not true. Autonomy in the classroom stems from a strong trust between students and teachers. Teachers encourage free-thinking knowing that their students will use the structural freedom to inquire and indulge in active learning.

Some examples of autonomy in the classroom would be,

  • To promote inquiry-based learning
  • To allow for students to pick research topics for projects
  • Allowing students to grow through feedback vs penizling them for wrong answers

Allowing students to have some control over the outcome of their learning experiences hits on thier intrinsic motivation because they are doing something they enjoy. When we are told what we have to do we come at the objective with a negative approach. Promoting autonomy in the classroom can counteract this phenomenon and promote higher levels of learning.


I will start this concept off with a question. As you progress through college, what is motivating you to try your best in your teaching classes? Is it to just get a good grade? Is it to just pass at the end of the semester? For most of us, this is not the case. The reason we are trying so hard and putting so much effort into our work is that we are trying to become great teachers. We care more about that than anything else right now. We are working towards mastering our education in teaching so we can become better for ourselves.

The concept of mastering a skill can be intrinsically motivating since we have the natural urge to be the best we can be at what we enjoy doing. We want to become better and better while learning new things and this comes from within us. This style of motivation can be applied to the classroom setting as well.

We can promote mastery in the classroom by allowing students to progress over the school year on certain real-world skills that they can apply to their lives. If students feel that learning what we are teaching them will have a genuine impact on the outcome of their lives then they will respond with the DRIVE that we desire as educators.


Connecting students learning to real-world application, like mentioned in the mastery section, is a fundamental principle that needs to be applied in our lessons. When students can visualize how what they are learning is important, it transforms from “school” to their actual life.

No student wants to waste their time learning things that don’t apply to them. We have all been there before. We mentally check out and disregard anything being presented to us. We check out.

This is due to the fact that purpose is a strong intrinsic motivator for students. We must incorporate it into our classroom and we can do this by,

  • Going over how lecture can be used in the work force/STEM field
  • Showing students how learning can make them become well rounded adults
  • Expressing how world problems can be fixed through scientific thinking and how science can be used to move the world.

Goals are a great way to set up students with purpose in their learning. Making S.M.A.R.T goals will help keep students on track and allow them to visually see the progress they make on their journey of learning. It gives students more of a purpose for learning and allows them to observe growth within the classroom. This is beneficial for the teacher as well since this can be used as a form of assessment for your students. Here is a link below to a video about how to make smart goals!

We must continue to grow as teachers to find our student’s motivation and promote this motivation in their learning. Every student is uniquely motivated and this is a challenge for teachers but one that can be accomplished!

We must set our students up with an environment that lets motivation prosper. Highlighting Purpose, Mastery and Autonomy will allow for us to see our student’s true DRIVE!


  1. Hey Steven! I really liked your blog post. I especially liked your cartoon of humpty dumpty. You had a lot of helpful tips on how to increase intrinsic motivation in students. A question I have is how to stop students from being motivated by external rewards? Is this a quick or slow progress? It would be interesting to learn about the process a student goes through when transitioning from external motivation to internal motivation.

  2. Hey Steven,
    Great blog about autonomy in the classroom! I agree with you about having students progress throughout the school year on real-world applications will give students a feeling of DRIVE if they feel it will affect the outcome on their real lives. How do you recommend creating that bond of trust between teacher and student with your future classrooms?

  3. Hey Steven!
    I really liked the way you distinguished autonomy from letting students control the classroom. I agree that trust between student and teacher is an important part of establishing autonomy. I also thought the Pretzel Day was pretty funny too, nice addition!! I liked how you incorporated a good amount of questions for the reader throughout as well. In terms of using SMART goals, in what ways would you have students set goals in your future classroom and how would you monitor their progress?

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