Motivation: Lessons from Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink's work is required reading in my edutopia.

My personal Drive copy is plastered with handwritten notes in pencil.  I am certain there is a positive correlation between the amount I write in a book and a book's sustenance.  Mr. Pink, hats off to you for your collection of research, your infused interpretations and "toolkits." Turning theory into practice is relatively easy for self-proclaimed "busy" people like me because of them.

...Evidently, not too busy to keep up a blog each week.  Do you believe Upcycled Education receives about 500 page views a week?  All you, lovely educators and allies....thank you.

Though, I could blog for the next ten weeks about Pink's work and Drive, I will share with you just a few highlights as I really want you to read Drive.  By the way, if you purchase your own copy of Drive, fill out this form and Daniel Pink will send you a free, signed bookplate to insert into your book.  See mine?

According to Pink, motivation has three essential elements:  autonomy, mastery, and purpose. For humans to be intrinsically motivated (motivated from within oneself), all three must be present and balanced.

Pink defines autonomy as the ability "to act with choice" and "direct your own life."  Do your students have autonomy over the following Ts? Parents, do your kids?
    • Time - Do your students have control over when they complete a task, lesson, activity or assessment?
    • Task - Do your students have control over what task, lesson, activity or assessment they choose to complete?
    • Technique - Do your students have control over how they complete their task, lesson, activity or assessment?
    • Team - Do your students have control over who they work with to complete their task, lesson, activity or assessment?
My guess, if you are in a traditional public school setting, is "no" on most of the Ts above. 
By the way, Montessori schools get yes-yes-yes-yes on all four Ts above. 
 How's that for fostering autonomy in our youth?


Pink states mastery is "becoming better at something that matters."  The trick here is finding out what matters to your students and then figuring out how that relates to teaching and learning.   In other words, what contributes to their flow.  If you missed our discussion of Flow Theory last week, start there since flow is essential to intrinsic motivation.  For educators, we must employ all our tools to learn about our students:  interest inventories, online surveys, face-to-face conversations, journals, calls home, etc. Like big businesses do, the more we know about our "client" or "customer," the better.  By the way, mastery is NEVER an easy street.  Be ready for lots of Piaget's disequilibrium.  Michael Jordan didn't get great at basketball without zillions of days of practice, right?  Same with our students. Ask yourself...

What do your students want to master? 
What do you want your students to master? 
Is there an intersection or commonality between the two?

I heard Jonathon Mooney say that he worked with a student who was a successful drug ring leader.  This student said he "wasn't good at anything."  Mooney responded, "You run a successful 50 person drug ring and you think you aren't good at anything?  Man, we just need to find you a new product."

Pink states that "humans, by their nature, seek purpose - a greater cause and more enduring than themselves."  Here's what you need to know about purpose....
    • Money doesn't buy you purpose.
    • Purpose typically shines through when students feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves - a school community, a team, a club, a caring classroom, a loving family, etc.
    • In the 21st century, there are new models of social entrepreneurship that mix business with social purpose.  Think TOMS shoes, Project 7 gum, and my future small business, Cloth with a Cause.  A girl can dream of using her social entrepreneurship skills, can't she? Many students this century are familiar with these new models of business; how could you discuss "purpose" using these models?  Could you find models that relate to your content area and infuse them in your lessons?  Additionally.....
How can you help students identify their purpose? 
Have you started dedications with your students to foster purpose?

Believe me, this is just the tip of a lovely, awesome, fresh iceberg of Daniel Pink's, Drive.  Treat yourself to this must-read book to explore motivation.  Of course, it's your choice :)