A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation | Video on TED.com

Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation | Video on TED.com

Dan Pink compares the effectiveness of extrinsic motivators (carrots and sticks) versus intrinsic motivators (autonomy, mastery, and purpose) in business. I wish every educator sees this video, because it could spark a revolution. Educational Leaders have been taking their cues from business since the roaring 90's (i.e., No Child Left Behind), and a carrot and stick approach has become the dominant model in education. Dan Pink's case for moving away from the carrot and stick approach toward autonomy, mastery, and purpose should cause Educational Leaders to pause and reconsider how we measure student and teacher performance in our schools.

Any classroom teacher who has seen that "deer in the headlights look" has seen how easily children are overwhelmed by performance pressure. Fear has become, perhaps, the dominant motivation in schools, and I think fear is the answer to Mrs. B's question, "I'm not sure what happens to students after they leave Kindergarten." The key to helping students become independent learners is to help students overcome their fear of failure.

Lucy Caulkins methods for teaching children how to write are designed to help students become independent learners. My little Kindergarten friend Ethan wrote me a book as a going away present, which I need to scan an share because it serves as evidence of everything Dan Pink is talking about.

As a teacher, had I not been intrinsically motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose, I would have never have taken on the challenge of becoming a long-term sub in a Kindergarten class. I got to witness Ethan's brilliance in spite of external motivators, which would have led me elsewhere.

Notice how Ethan solves a series of problems: what is a story that matters to me? what details should I include in my picture? what is the initial sound? what is the ending sound? how should I stretch out the sounds that I hear? how do I keep different words separate? When should I use upper and lower case letters? Ethan is a child who is thriving because of intrinsic motivators, not because of performance pressure.  He did the pictures and words all by himself because he had a story to tell.  That's what Poetic License is all about!

In early October, Angeline's wrote about how her mother had problems with an umbrella.  She was learning to write in a meaningful way, and felt safe enough to express herself the "best that I can."  By the time I left in December, Angeline was writing complete sentences all by herself.
Intrinsic motivation is the answer to Mrs. B's question, "why are Kindergarten students so happy?" In Kindergarten, education is intrinsically meaningful to students. As external motivators are take over, education loses much of it's intrinsic motivational appeal.  No wonder there's so much learned helplessness in our schools.

When we consider the 21st century world for which we are preparing children, and the kinds of tasks that children will need to be able to perform, Dan Pink makes a strong case for changing the way we do business.