All Articles Education Dan Pink, on 3 ways to increase motivation in schools

Dan Pink, on 3 ways to increase motivation in schools

2 min read


How can schools motivate teachers to excel and engage students in learning? Not by using the tired carrot-and-stick approach, said Daniel H. Pink, author of  “A Whole New Mind” and “Drive.”

Pink, who spoke at Thursday’s opening general session of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Conference, offered teachers in attendance tools to move away from carrots and sticks in the classroom and in school systems.

Pink, whose work focuses on using behavioral science to challenge conventional wisdom, said schools and other organizations need to focus on three things to increase motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Today’s management is designed for compliance, and schools and teachers should be more focused on engagement through self-direction. “You want to dial up autonomy over time, teamwork and technique,” he said.

Pink highlighted several companies, including Google and Atlassian, that set aside time for employees to work on whatever project they want. Those companies found that some of their best ideas are generated during “free” time.

Pink said some teachers have successfully allocated such time in their classrooms and that such autonomy could also lead to better professional-development days for teachers.

Motivation also depends on feedback and subject mastery, Pink said. Teachers and students desire to get better, but they receive feedback too late in the process, in a society used to nearly immediate feedback. He suggested that teachers regularly review their performance and that they have students create a list of goals for themselves to guide their learning.

Most organizations, including schools, go overboard on how to do things, but they often don’t explain the purpose. “If people don’t know why they are doing it, they are going to do it less well,” Pink said.

Teachers might need to work hard to relay the purpose of schoolwork to students. However, Pink said, teachers don’t have that problem for themselves. “You do it because you have an incredible sense of ‘why.’ … You have a ‘why’ bigger and more important than anyone in the country,” Pink said.