Samantha Rodgers' blog

Dan Pink: Drive – What motivates us

I think that most educators would have a copy of Pink’s Drive, the surprising truth about what motivates us.

It knocks on the head what we thought about extrinsic and intrinsic motivations.

When Pink introduces the study by MIT (among others) about motivation and incentifying performance, the clip and the book, get interesting. Mechanical skill hold true to greater the incentive, the better the performance, but tasks calling for only rudimentary cognitive skills did not improve performance, it lessened it!

This has huge implication in the education sphere where learning necessarily entails the use of  ‘cognitive’ skill. ‘Rewards just don’t work that way’.

The three factors that Pink identifies through the research that lead to better performance and personal satisfaction are:


Autonomy: The desire to be self-directed. How often in schools do we provide this opportunity? Pink also notes that if we want engagement.. then self-direction is the better motivator. SHould we do as Pink suggests and say to students: You probably want to do something  interesting- let me get out of the way!


Mastery: The urge to get better at stuff, and at the same time, making a contribution. People learn musical instruments, donate time to charity and add to companies like Wikipaedia, not for money, but because its fun, its challenging and you can make a contribution. How can we make learning more like that. What needs to change? This leads to the final point… we need…


Purpose: The desire to work towards something that you believe in… often about making the world a slightly better place to be. Grades as a motivator can be powerful, but should they be the goal of learning?

We have a lot to think about and a lot to get moving on, especially in our role of educators.