This RSA Animate video, “Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us”, from Dan Pink clearly challenges the transactional approach to motivation that we find in education. In behaviour management, raising standards or in staff management the motivating phrase usually begins, “If you do this then…” or the corollary, “If you don’t do this then.” This has led to the insane situation where we now offer cash incentives to students so that they will try to do better in their exams. Teachers who stay in the profession for the moral purpose are condemned for not trying harder for the money. Many teachers use complex extrinsic reward systems to encourage children to work hard, be kind or even to eat their school dinner.
This video shares research which shows that people actually do worse when they are presented with the transaction to try harder for greater reward. Unless it is a mechanical, low cognition task then people do worse when they are offered greater rewards. This makes sense from a natural point of view. Babies and young children are instinctively motivated to learn and explore but when they arrive in school they are offered rewards to learn. Is this because educators don’t actually believe that what they are providing would be motivating?
In the video Dan Pink suggests that there are three things more motivating than money: autonomy, mastery and purpose. If we can bring these to our school and into the lives of the children then perhaps motivation won’t be our challenge anymore.