Skip to main content

Boook Review: Drive by Daniel Pink

Pop Quiz:

If you want to encourage students to complete a project or assignment with creativity, innovation, and passion, what's the best tool to motivate them?

a. offer a high grade
b. threaten a low grade
c. make it a competition
d. offer a gift certificate to GameStop
e. chocolate covered iPod
f. none of the above

According to Daniel Pink's latest book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, the answer is f, as in fail. In fact, the evidence is overwhelming that all of the above carrots and sticks actually reduce performance and undermine motivation. When it comes to tasks that require problem solving or other right brain activities, people perform best when they are given autonomy over their tasks, opportunity for mastery in their field, and a sense that the task has a clear and meaningful purpose.

Those who have read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, Carol Dweck's Mindset, and Levitt and Dubner's Freakonomics will find much familiar, but Pink packages many of these ideas in a new, and even more useful form.

In the following video from a TED conference, Pink offers a brief and compelling overview of his argument. His emphasis here is on business, but educators wouldn't have to stretch too far to see how it applies to the classroom. However, the book does dedicate a significant number of pages directly to how we need to radically shift the way we motivate our students.

Recently, I applied this new way of motivation to my English students. Essentially I gave them some 20% time to work on any project of their choosing. I did encourage them to do something that was worth doing and had a greater purpose. Some examples of what they came up with:

  • Two students, disgusted with the fact that Monterey was given an F by the American Lung Association for smoking ordinances, wrote letters to the the local newspapers here and here. Since then the Monterey City Council unanimously voted to dramatically restrict smoking in public places.
  • Ten students have decided that they want to adopt a 3rd grade class at a local underfunded school and encourage them to read by giving lessons on children's books they love. 
  • Six students are planning a blood drive with a goal to break a school-wide record for pints donated. They're currently scheming to perform the most persuasive series of assembly announcements. Ever.
  • Seven students are organizing a shoe and clothing drive for Haiti.
  • Two students decided they want to be published journalists. Look for their first piece to be printed in Off 68 within a couple weeks.
  • A couple students are working to build a certain Yurt
I suppose I could have spent the past week teaching post-modern deconstructionism.

Popular posts from this blog

Assignment #1: Introduce Yourself

As I mentioned in my previous post, the first thing I do in class is have my students write and deliver two minute introductions. Obviously it gives me a sense of their writing and presentation skills, but more importantly it allows me to know who they are. Here's the prompt I give them:
Your first formal assignment is to compose and present a short introduction so I may better get to know you. I'm only looking for a two minute introduction. I would like you to type it out and then read it to the class. Make sure you save your work somewhere because I'm going to ask you to post it in your portfolio (more on that later). I'd like to get a sense of who you are and what your voice is. Not sure what to write? No problem ... here are some ideas to help get you started: What are you passionate about?What are some of your goals for the year? For your life?What is the most important physical object in your life? (take a photo of it and bring it to class)What is your greatest f…

A letter to my students and parents about the 20% Project

Dear Students and Parents of the York School 10th Grade Class,

I hope you all had an adventurous and energizing summer. I wanted to write to introduce myself and let you know a little bit about one of the unusual projects we’ll be taking on this year in English III.

In 2011 we began The 20% Project in English III. This is a major project-based-learning assignment that spans the entire school year and encourages students to pursue a creative interest they would otherwise not experience in our academic program at York.
Before I get into the details of the project, I want to explain why we’re asking students to participate in this activity. For over 20 years a trend in education has been gaining momentum that suggests the role of the teacher ought to shift away from an industrial model where the teacher stands in the front of the classroom to dispense knowledge through lectures, and the students sit to consume the information. Rather than being the “sage on the stage” as some …

It's time. Turn on 2-step Verification in your Google Account

If your Google account happens to be one of the billion Internet passwords The New York Times just reported to have been amassed by a Russian gang, then your docs, your mail, and your puppy photos are in the hands of a ... well ... Russian gang. Unless you have 2-Step Verification turned on.

We have no idea if any of these passwords are actually Google accounts, but really it makes no difference. The password system for proving that you are you is completely broken. Almost all passwords are weak even when websites say they're strong. If your password doesn't look like this ...
8.;=>#qH->8'6Mv  ... it's weak.

If it does look like that, then it's only secure as long as the Russian gang or any other hacker hasn't stolen it.

So far, the best way to protect your accounts is to use 2-Step Verification.

With 2-Step, access to your account requires not only something you know (password), but also something you have (your phone). After you have it turned on, each …