Daniel Pink and the Science of Motivation

In my post from two weeks ago I talked a little bit about what would make a difference for teachers and their use of technology, after I was done I went back to one of my favourite TED talks, where Daniel Pink talks about the science of motivation.  I believe that what he has to say applies not only to us as the professionals, but also to our classrooms.

I keep on coming back to this because it makes me think about my classroom.  Am I not rewarding my students with simple rewards like grades in a very complex environment?  I cannot help but coming back with an affirmative answer.  Is this limiting what my students are willing to do to learn things, because they have been conditioned that it is only the mark that matters at the end?  This definitely dovetails with what Alfie Kohn was writing about on January 28th where he was discussing the brave educators who had eliminated grades from their schools or classes.  It seems to make sense that when people are faced with more complex ideas, and certainly learning in any manner beyond rote learning, is very complex, they are motivated to do better when the rewards are less tangible.

It also applies to us as professionals.  I have been doing a lot of reading recently about the plans among some jurisdictions in the United States to tie teacher’s evaluations with test results either to reward or punish them.  After watching Pink’s video one would have to wonder if this is the right approach.  I think that Pink’s assessment that for industrial style work, the kind of learning that we’ve been practicing in our schools for the better part of its existence it may indeed provide that push.  But, is that really what we want for our students?  I would argue that if we really want to better our students and ourselves over the long-term the use of standardized tests in this fashion is the last thing we should be doing.  Ultimately we need to do better in a lot of ways, but there has to be something better than this simplistic approach.

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