Monday, August 2, 2010

What I Am Reading - Drive by Dan Pink

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Why I Read It 

The ability to lead and encourage a classroom well is a daunting task. As I enter my fourth year in the classroom, I am struck by how much I still have to learn. I picked up this book with the mindset that it would provide ideas for motivating my students to become independent learners. Last school year I noticed that extrinsic rewards had some accompanying baggage and I wanted to learn more about the science behind motivation.

What He Says 

Daniel Pink's overarching idea is that the current method of motivating people (rewards and punishments) runs counter what research says works best. He says that extrinsic rewards can actually do the opposite of what we intend. Promised incentives for doing something well can stifle the creative process and sap the intrinsic desire to do well. Pink says that basic rewards do have a positive effect with basic systematic processes. But, when creativity and thinking are involved, the motivators cause the subject to narrow their focus and vision. Thus, Pink says that we must alter the current motivational landscape. Instead of using "if-then" rewards we must cultivate the natural intrinsic desire to do well. Autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the three elements that Pink proposes must be nurtured.

How I Plan To Use It
I have often used simple rewards (Jolly Ranchers, new pencils, or extra recess) in the classroom as motivators to improve student performance. Reading this book has caused me to reevaluate these methods. Not only am I potentially stiffling the creative process, I am also creating reward focused students. Instead of cultivating the natural drive we all have to learn and create these rewards discourage them. In the upcoming school year I plan to use fewer tangible rewards and instead look to empower my students through autonomy, mastery, and purpose. 

  • "Autonomy is the desire to be self directed," according to Pink. I plan to foster motivation in my students by giving them more control in the classroom. When choosing writing assignments, selecting books for projects, or making presentations to display their learning, I would like to let my students have a measure of control in what they do. I know that personally I enjoy learning tremendously more when my choices are the driving force behind the learning. Whenever possible I would like my students to take ownership of their learning and explore topics they are passionate about.
  • Pink says that mastery is, "the urge to get better at stuff." Throughout a school year there are countless opportunities to get better at stuff. My plan for fostering mastery is to make learning new concepts and honing important skills a positive experience. By encouraging learning as a fun and exciting adventure, I hope to nurture an environment where each of my students strives to "get better at stuff" each day.

  • This year I will encourage my students to challenge me on the purpose of the activities we do in the classroom. The question, "Why do we need to know this?" will be an essential focus of our classroom. I hope to nurture an environment where my students know why we are doing something and want to partner alongside me toward that goal.

Pink has compiled an assortment of resources to implement the ideas outlined in the book. Not only does he explain why cultivating intrinsically motivated students is better he equips his readers to do just that. While primarily a business book, this is a great read that is practical for educators wanting to learn how to better motivate their students.

Animated Summary of Drive

TED Talk - Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation

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