Thursday, March 27, 2014

Daniel Pink's Case for
Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose

Ted Talks provide motivation and Daniel Pink's lecture about productivity and incentives is no exception. He presents his "case" that for most tasks involving complex reasoning skills, it is more beneficial to emphasize intrinsic benefits rather than extrinsic rewards. His lecture focuses on creative problem-solving, a 21st century learning skill, not the mechanical skills that support the manufacturing economy.

Autonomy, mastery, and purpose are essential skills for problem solving.  While lower level thinking skills serve a purpose when it comes to completing the curriculum, there is more long-term value in memorable and meaningful assignments that involve higher level thinking skills used in problem solving.  (Bloom's taxonomy)

If I were to integrate Daniel Pink's model for motivation into my classroom, I would use a higher level thinking research project where students could work individually or in small groups studying a topic of their choice.  For the thesis, students focus on a topic of interest to them and present their findings to their peers as a sort of cumulative project.  I believe this would create a strong sense of autonomy, as students would be selecting something that interests them and it would likely take them far beyond the normal textbook curriculum. The one size fits all research paper of the past where all students were assigned to write about the same topic did not provide this autonomy.

Mastery could occur as students become an "experts" in the chosen topic.  Students would teach classmates about something that matters to them.  Multi-genre choices would allow them to use a variety of methods to present.  They could read a Young Adult book that has the same theme as their thesis and compare/contrast the two genres.  They could do journal writing, create posters, or make a video. If it is a group project, each team member could present different facets of what they learned in the study.  Students who were interest-ed in tats could feel a sense of interest, and perhaps even acceptance, explaining and demonstrating the art of the process.  Jane Eyre fans could talk about their favorite quotes from the novel, the time period, the costumes and ballroom dances.

This end of the year thesis project would promote a sense of purpose for students, because they would be learning about a topic for which they already have passion.  As they present their topics to other students, they would ideally generate interest for other class members to want to learn about the thesis.  If a Young Adult book is part of the presentation, perhaps other students might decide to do summer recreational reading about a book that they would not have otherwise discovered. If a video is shown about the thesis, knowledge of the topic can be absorbed by the other class members. Students will experience pride and self-confidence by sharing things that are important to them.

Much of my academic year is spent focusing on students passing the ECA in May, and as such the class has little time for adventure into intrinsically motivated learning.  The final weeks of the semester are spent allowing students to work on projects of choice that represent the desire of students to further their own knowledge of the content.  The extrinsic reward of the ECA is graduation, but focusing on analytical thinking and comprehension of non-informational text minimizes creative thinking and encourages the class to focus on only the result of passing the test and not the process of learning. Thus, this intrinsic project would allow students to explore their interest in the content area using non-fictional and creative writing.

My three goals for the year include: 100% of the students will pass the ECA, students will learn to write with voice and passion, and students will become life long readers.  It is intrinsic projects like this one that will allow the students to have the skills to follow the ROWE or FedEx model of creativity in the workplace that Daniel Pink honors in his speech.  I would judge that he won his "case".


1 comment:

  1. I appreciate that you fully express your ideas, Pat. Your approach helps me understand your line of reasoning as well as how you're applying these concepts. More than that, if offers me multiple inspirations for working through research projects with students! Have you thought of sharing any on : >