Thursday, September 6, 2012

Viewing Response to Daniel Pink's video: "Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us."

Pink, D. (2010, April 01). Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us.

I’ve always loved salt-water aquariums. They are so relaxing to watch, and it’s fascinating to recreate a marine ecosystem and watch it mature right before your eyes. I decided I wanted to start my own. I didn’t have the money to hire someone to do it for me, and besides, it would be so much more fun if I did it all myself. I was intimidated. I’d had a little, 5 gallon, freshwater tank years earlier, and the results had been disastrous. Memories of green water, algae, and sick fish tugged at the back of my mind. I knew I would have to be better prepared, especially since a saltwater tank was so much more challenging. I read lots and lots and lots of books, read them, re-read them, highlighted them, took notes on them, and typed up outlines and protocols of what I learned. I’m sort of a science nerd, anyway, but by the time I was done, I’d learned about different marine ecosystems, water chemistry, the nitrogen cycle, and other aspects of marine biology. To learn how to put the aquarium together and the actual “how to” parts, I sought out advice from experienced marine aquarists. I befriended managers at aquarium shops, chatted on aquarium forums on-line, and even joined the San Diego Marine Aquatic Society (SDMAS). Eventually, I even started a blog: Trials and Tribulations of a Reef Aquarium.

In Pink’s video, he identifies three things that motivate us: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy is the desire to be independent. For instance, I autonomy drove me to teach myself about saltwater aquariums. I wanted to be able to design it myself and manage it myself. Having full control over the aquarium would allow me to customize it to my personal desires  as well as derive more personal satisfaction out of it, providing the aquarium was successful. That ties into mastery, the urge to get better. In other words, the satisfaction I got out of knowing I had successfully learned how to start, run, manage, and maintain a saltwater aquarium was very personally rewarding. Finally, purpose, or the goal for my endeavors, also motivated me. The purpose was to create a mature, healthy saltwater reef aquarium, full of happy fish and coral. My goal was successful. I enjoyed my aquarium for many years. When I could no longer keep it due to moving into a smaller apartment, I donated it to the school where I used to work. Now it sits in the student “Homework Café” for all to enjoy.

In high school, teachers rely heavily on external rewards and punishments to try to motivate students. Extra credit, grades, prizes, and bathroom passes are examples of external rewards. Punishments are negative reinforcement to try and drive the student away from that behavior, and often include, points taken away, privleeges taken away, parent conferences, referrals, and detention. Unfortunately, neither external rewards or punishments work very well in sustaining long-term drive and motivation. Discovering what is internally exciting for students and playing to those interests is much more important. For instance, in my classroom, we try to find topics of interest to the students and tie it into the content. When teaching the scientific method to my biology students, I use sample experimental scenarios as examples. Students have to identify the different variables and controls, a very challenging task for incoming 9th grade biology students. My examples are creative and silly to make the activity more fun. I use subjects in each example that pertain to the students’ interests, based on a survey I distributed at the beginning of the year. These examples are about cars, annoying little brothers, football, parkour, and Sasquatch. If I can excite the students about what they’re learning, they will be motivated to self-teach it, making my job as a teacher much more doable.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you about the failure of external rewards in most instances. I know it doesn’t work for me. By the time we get students in high school, they have years of training to respond to external rewards such as points and grades. How do we begin to make the shift to learning for the sake of learning and to make a better life?