Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Drive by Daniel Pink: Classroom Connections

"We're designed to be active and engaged.  And we know that the richest experiences in our lives aren't when we're clamoring for validation from others, but when we're listening to our own voice--doing something that matters, doing it well, and doing it in the service of a cause larger than ourselves."

-From Drive by Daniel H. Pink

I recommend that educators read Pink's book, Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  The book will challenge you to improve your school practices and projects for the benefit of all students.  This is also an excellent book for a study group discussion.

Pink discusses the "mismatch between what science knows and what business does." Earlier this year, at system-wide institutes, I heard both Ellin Oliver Keene, author of Mosaic of Thought, and Dr. Austin Buffum, co-author of Pyramid Response to Intervention: RTI, Professional Learning Communities, and How to Respond When Kids Don't Learn decry the same mismatch, and prompt educators to seek science-based strategies for teaching and learning.

Drive will become a resource book for me--one I will revisit again and again for specific ideas and exercises.  Part three of the book is a toolkit, a "guide to taking the ideas in this book and putting them into action."  There's a specific section in the toolkit for parents and educators as well as a reading list of fifteen essential books.

When I return to school in the fall, I will carry forth the research, ideas and practices prompted by the Drive quotes below.

Classroom Culture:
  • "The starting point, of course, is to ensure that baseline rewards--wages, salaries, benefits, and so on --are adequate and fair."  
  • ROWE (results-only work environment) is about "creating conditions where people do their best work," a "partnership" between employer and employees. 
  • "By creating conditions for people to make progress, shining a light on that progress, recognizing and celebrating progress, organizations can help their own cause and enrich people's lives."
  • Self-determination theory (SDT) "argues that we have three innate psychological needs--competence, autonomy, and relatedness.  When those needs are satisfied, we're motivated, productive and happy."
  • Pink relays Douglas McGregor's perspective: "taking an interest in work is as natural as play or rest, that creativity and ingenuity were widely distributed in the population, and that under the proper conditions people will accept, even seek, responsibility."  
  • ". . .our basic nature is to be curious and self-directed" and "If, at age fourteen or forty-three, we're passive and inert, that's not because it's our nature.  It's because something flipped our default setting."
  • There's a mindset for mastery. "Mastery is impossible to realize fully," but "mastery attracts precisely because it eludes."
  • Pink quotes Carol Dweck, "Effort is one of the things that gives meaning to life.  Effort means you care about something, that something is important to you and you are willing to work for it."
Project Design:
  • "Fixating on immediate reward can damage performance over time" while intrinsic motivation, creativity, is a pervasive motivator particularly when a person reaches "flow." 
  • Pink's supports creativity days (projects) when employees (or students) "decide what you will make"--autonomy over task.  Days like these are "urgent in an economy that demands nonroutine, creative, conceptual abilities--as any artist or designer would agree."
  • "Different individuals have different desires, so the best strategy for an employer would be to figure out what's important to each individual employee."
  • Those who work towards mastery "in the service of some greater objective can achieve even more. Those deeply motivated people--not to mention those who are most productive and satisfied--hitch their desires to a cause larger than themselves."  "A brief reminder of the purpose of their work doubled their performance."
  • He defines mastery as the "desire to get better and better at something that matters," and he confirms that mastery does not come easy.  "Only engagement can produce mastery" which "has become essential in making one's way in today's economy."  Now "we have way too much compliance and way too little engagement." 
  • He encourages clear objectives, quick feedback, not too easy--not too difficult tasks, and turning work into play.
 Self-Direction, Schedule and Routines:
  • "If-then rewards" can reduce depth of thinking/performance. "Carrots and sticks" generally limit learning.  
  • Only routine, algorithmic tasks benefit to a degree from "if-then," "carrot/stick" rewards.  Those tasks also profit when people understand the "rationale for the task," "acknowledge that the task is boring," and are allowed to complete the task in their own way. 
  • "The more feedback focuses on specifics--and the more the praise is about effort and strategy rather than achieving a particular outcome--the more effective it can be."  Pink's research supports "now-what rewards"--rewards given after a job is done well, a kind of "bonus" reward.
  • He also supports autonomy over time and quotes Ressler, "No matter what kind of business you're in, it's time to throw away the tardy slips, time clocks, and out-dated industrial age thinking."  
These notes do not give justice to Pink's book, but the quotes will provide me with a check-list of practices and ideas that I can integrate into my classroom culture, projects, schedules and routines when school starts in the fall.

Please don't hesitate to add comments to this thread that discuss Drive with greater depth or broader connection to classroom life.  It's a challenging task to integrate the concepts, theories, research and philosophies related to education, hence I welcome your thoughts.

Tomorrow, I'll have the opportunity to listen to Pink speak.  I'm ready.

Note: With wit, humor, respect and confidence, Pink emphasized the points above during his talk to NBPTS teachers.  He emphasized the innovation that comes from creativity sessions also known as FEDEX days or genius hours.  He also emphasized mastery, autonomy and purpose as the three critical categories for motivation. After his session, it was suggested that the criteria could be thought of as a MAP to lead motivation or AMP to power motivation up.