a DRIVE towards Intrinsic Motivation

How to Promote Intrinsic Motivation - TeachHUB

DRIVE by Daniel H. Pink

Despite prior beliefs, monetary incentives for human learning is not motivating us like we thought. Daniel Pink dives into what really motivates humans in life, and his discoveries are pulled from scientists such as Harry Harlow. In his book DRIVE, Pink explains how intrinsic motivation is the best way to motivate people longterm, emphasizing the importance of autonomy, master, and purpose.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us: Pink, Daniel H.:  8601420442870: Amazon.com: Books

Why Strive to be Intrinsically Motivated?

Humans work best long term when their working towards something because they want to, rather than if they have to. In DRIVE, Pink describes times when monetary incentives (such as money, prizes, etc.) are appropriate for motivating humans. It creates a fair and baseline opportunity for everyone involved, and can be useful with an outcome or goal is aiming to be predictable or expected. Other times where extrinsic motivation could be appropriate is when it would be beneficial for those involved to receive praise or feedback. However, Pink stresses the importance of becoming intrinsically motivated when learning or preforming a task for many more reasons. Intrinsic motivation fuels creativity, provides an individual with the energy to continue a task longer, and promotes long term thinking.

Application to a Science Classroom (lesson plans)

About Intrinsic Motivation and 10 Evidence-Based Reasons to Build it in  Students | by Paul Thiebaut III | Medium

Ideally, it is every teacher’s dream to have their students want to learn. Students should be focused more on why the composition of an atom can differentiate one element from the next, rather than be worried and asking “is this going to be on the test?” One way teachers can promote a new way of thinking for their students is by incorporating intrinsically motivated activities in the class. Here are some ideas to get you started…

Project-based learning

  • Encourage students to pick a real world issue or topic that they are interested in (relevant to science topic being taught in the class) and allow them to explore it. This allows students to take ownership of their learning, having autonomy inside of the classroom.
  • Promote critical thinking skills throughout this process. This would also be a good time to bring in how to detect reliable sources when researching more about their topic.
  • Allow students to present their findings to the class, sharing what they found that may have surprised them along the way.

Socratic Seminars

  • Before hosting a socratic seminar, it may be important to allow students time to research their stance on a given topic before participating in this activity.
  • Allow students to participate with the teacher being primarily a facilitator in this case (for a science classroom specifically, students can discuss and share their ideas on how climate change is affecting earth’s ecosystems, providing solutions that students can bounce ideas off of)
  • This activity allows students to engage in thoughtful, research-based discussions regarding real issues in the world that may interest them, influencing them to be intrinsically motivated in the process.

Creativity and Intrinsic Motivation

Beth Hennessey shares similar ideas with Daniel Pink discussed in DRIVE. She explains how she has firsthand witnessed her young students become less creative and motivated in her class as they got older. She states how, “motivation and creativity go hand in hand,” sharing the ideas that Pink shared when describing the importance of intrinsic motivation. They both also recognize that extrinsic motivation is not always bad, especially when there is work that needs to be done on time. Hennessey stresses in her TEDTalk that is creativity is the goal however, intrinsic motivation is what teachers and students alike should strive for.

TeachThought on Twitter shares an infographic for students and teachers alike! It’s an easy guide to help future/current teachers understand what are motivators for them in the classroom and help each other become more intrinsically motivated.

#scienceteaching #EDT431


  1. Hey Maddie! I enjoyed reading your post, the balance of images and and text was done very well. You had some great ideas on how to foster intrinsic motivation in the classroom How do you plan on facilitating the topics chosen by students? Will you give them a list of topics to choose from or will they have to develop them independently? If so will you have to approve them?

    • Thanks Maya! I would have students try to focus on topics relating to the lesson that the class is focusing on for the time being. Not only will this help students grasp a better understanding of the content they are coming into contact with, but explore some questions that they may have. Yes, I would consider approving their topic of choice just to make sure they are on the right track. I would want them to have more of an open ended topic to help further their exploration!

  2. Hey Maddie, really good post! Your title is creative, I enjoyed the TED talk you included, and I think some of your lesson ideas are really solid. The socratic seminar is an especially good concept. I can see exactly how these could really motivate students research and discuss topics on their own instead of for a grade or prize. One question I have for you is when you introduce project based learning as a intrinsically motivated lesson, how will you still incorporate assessment and hold students accountable for their work? Will you still grade students to ensure you can gauge their progress, or will you use a different method?

    • Hey Max, I’m glad you enjoyed the TED talk too. When incorporating project based learning as a class activity, I do still think it’s important to hold students accountable. One way I can think about doing this is by grading them on having reliable resources, gauge how much effort went into the project, and maybe the accuracy of the findings they are presenting. While it is important to have students build a project that they are interested in, they should also be able to receive credit that is recognizable throughout the school and district.

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