Motivation

I just finished reading Daniel Pink’s new book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Many may be familiar with his previous book, A Whole New Mind. Pink’s own twitter summary states: Carrots & sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery & purpose.

Pink sums up his own book better than I could:

“When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system – which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators – doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: (1) Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives; (2) Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and (3) Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.”

While written as a book for business, this applies to schools in so many ways. If salaries are considered adequate or equitable, the idea of merit pay, (a big topic with regard to teacher compensation around the country) according to Pink, will actually backfire and have the opposite effect. I work with several teachers who are voracious readers of children’s literature, they love sharing their expertise, and are wonderful resources for everyone. What Pink states is that if you paid them a certain amount for each book they read, their motivation for doing what they were doing for free in the first place because they love what they do will actually decrease. Same goes with students, if you reward them with stickers, gold stars, or grades, their intrinsic motivation for learning can become an extrinsic one for the reward. Alfie Kohn has been writing about this for years. What to do? Pink gives plenty of examples which I will comment on in the near future. Developing growth mindsets (a la Carol Dweck) is one of them.

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