Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pink's Drive... a biology teacher's review.

So I've been reading Daniel H. Pink's book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  My curriculum teacher said "you'll love it," and I kind of thought, "suuuuuure," and started reading.  What a cool book it turned out to be.

My fellow students in class know what the book is about, but for students of mine who are curious, here's the tweet from Pink: Carrots & sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery & purpose.

Autonomy is defined as freedom from external control or influence; independence.  I find that high schools in particular are lacking in this part of "motivation 3.0."  Motivation 3.0 is the "upgrade" from carrots and sticks (reward and punishment) that presumes humans have a "third drive:" to learn, to create and to better the world.  I started thinking about autonomy and this human drive to be such last night when I was writing some homework.

I am going to start asking myself a few questions as I create homework in the future (from page 175 in the book):
  1. Am I offering students any autonomy over how and when to do this work?
  2. Does this assignment promote mastery by offering a novel and engaging task?
  3. Do my students understand the purpose of this assignment?
I want to be able to offer my students autonomy over the assignments, but I think that as a teacher, I hesitate to give up a certain amount of control.  How can I give students more autonomy over their homework?  How can I turn the work into learning?  How can you, the students, claim more autonomy?  What would you have to do to prove that you can be autonomous?

Honestly, I can say that some of my assignments definitely do not promote mastery.  Section review questions and vocab are really just about rote organization of information that we've done in class.  Other assignments, such as colorful essays, are a different way of showing that you have mastery of a subject.  Do you have any ideas for some engaging tasks that will show that you have mastery of the topics we cover?  I know that not all of you find biology to be your favorite subject, but how can autonomy and engagement improve your enjoyment of the science we cover?

What about purpose?  What is the purpose of each assignment I hand out?  I think the general consensus in my classes is that I'm just giving you busywork and forcing you to do pointless homework that you don't like.  Well, disliking the homework aside, I always have a good reason for the assignments I give out.  Even though section review homework does not wholly promote mastery, as it is pretty simple, it does have a point!  The more you expose yourself to the vocabulary, the more likely you are to understand the higher level assignments! 

One final point about the book is Pink's discussion about Type X and Type I behavior.  Type X people are "extrinsically motivated" by things like money, grades, and other external rewards of activities.  Type I people follow a different approach to life built around "intrinsic" motivations like autonomy, mastery and purpose.  These types of people still think that money, grades and other external rewards are important, but they have a different drive.  Type I people have an innate desire to direct their own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better for the world they live in.

Something I knew before reading this book, but didn't realize, was that I want each and every one of my students to be Type I.  I didn't have a name for it like Pink, but I knew that I wanted my students to go on and do good things in the world.  And before you get out into the world to do those good things, I want you to learn.  Your goal throughout your whole life should be to learn.  Something in this book that will stick with me for a long time is this: "With a learning goal, students don't have to feel that they're already good at something in order to hang in and keep trying.  After all, their goal is to learn, not to prove they're smart."  Pink is citing another book, Self-Theories by Carol S. Dweck, that I intend to read soon.

Too often, students think they need to prove something, and they think the only way to do it is to get the good grade.  I sincerely want all of my kids to take a look at their learning, and really push themselves to learn the things I teach, and not just memorize the information for the good grade on the exam.  If your goal is to prove your intelligence to anyone, then you're not learning.  If your goal is to "get through" the class, then you need to figure out a way to enjoy the class and get something from it.  This should be true in everything you do in your life!

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading this long post, Mrs. M. Thanks! I too found Pink's three keys—autonomy, mastery, and purpose—fascinating and I believe, accurate. We all want to work relatively in an autonomous manner; we all want to be good at something, and' it needs to have purpose in the world.