Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Drive and Motivation (or start treating people like people and less like horses)

This weekend I was at the Evolving Schools for a Whole New Mind conference at Munich International School. The opening keynote was by Daniel Pink who has spoken and written about motivation.

Today I came across the animation below on the Blogging About the Web 2.0 Connected Classroom blog.

As teachers we have often been told If you reward something you get more of the behaviour you want, if you punish something you get less of the behaviour you want. However this does not seem to be the case as studies with university students in the USA and studies in rural India with small, medium and large monetary rewards as incentives for people to perform well on tasks showed:
  • Bonuses worked well for routine, mechanical tasks
  • Where tasks needed creative and conceptual thinking, a larger reward led to a poorer performance
Factors that are more important than money include:
  • Autonomy, the desire to be self-directed. People who are overly managed are compliant but not engaged.
  • Challenge, mastery, the desire to get better at something, the personal satisfaction of having a purpose and of making a contribution, of making the world a better place.
Now I have started to think about what drives or motivates me. Certainly autonomy is really important to me - most of the time I forge forward with the things that I believe need to happen. I think I am definitely the sort of person who does it first and then lets people know about it afterwards. I am wondering why I do this: I think it could be because I am reluctant to ask for something that I know is the right thing to do if I think the answer will be no. I think it is because of trust: I trust myself that I know the way forward with IT. I don't really trust an administration if they don't appear to be so current in their reading and thinking about the best way forward to give our students the skills they will need for the future. Perhaps I am also concerned that there is too much emphasis on what Edna Sackson describes as "weighing the elephant" as opposed to "feeding the elephant". Perhaps it is also due to my experience in previous schools which has led me to the absolute conviction that what I am doing is useful, has a big impact on student learning, and is the right direction to move here too. Perhaps it is because in the big picture technology leadership is a long way down the administrative food chain and that the general feeling I have is one of powerlessness to make the changes necessary unless I actually make them myself. And yet at the same time I do know and understand that effective change is only possible if the whole administration team and staff are pulling together and moving in the same direction. At the bottom of all this is the feeling that if I am "managed" and told to do something then most likely I will do it. But if I am given the freedom to do the things that need to be done I will probably be more motivated and productive because I will feel more ownership of the direction we are going in.

Challenge is also very important to me. When I first came here I knew I was taking on a big challenge - my feeling was that I had gone "backwards" about 5 years in what I could expect the students to know and be able to do, but that I knew the way forward having been there before and that I could get the rest of the teachers to move forward too. So many things that I have set up here have been done in my own time, just because I felt they needed to be done to make the learning experience better for the students. Half the time I don't know that anyone higher up even notices or appreciates many of these initiatives, or understands why some of the things I do that are so time-consuming are (I believe) so necessary. I am proud of the fact that I am making a contribution. One of the things I am most proud about is the Techie Breakie initiative as I feel too much emphasis has been placed on the infrastructure, hardware and software and not enough on actually supporting the teachers to be independent users of technology.

I am so looking forward to having a bit of time next weekend to really get into Daniel Pink's book Drive. No doubt I will be blogging more about this next week too!

Photo Credit: Ideas by H. Koppdelaney


  1. It sounds like his keynote was similar in content to his TED Talk, which I discuss here.

    I am currently in a position that offers a lot of autonomy and challenge. The third side of that triangle is "Goals". I sometimes find my self wandering aimlessly (figuratively speaking, of course) because I have not clearly articulated what I want to achieve by using all of those challenges as motivation and with all of my autonomy. My own blog serves that purpose, to a point. But I think my next step is to develop an ongoing portfolio that explicitly lists my goals and links to evidence of completion. I certainly wouldn't be doing it for appraisal or job-hunting, but it certainly will come in handy for both of those things too!

  2. Hi Clint,
    I really like the idea of linking a portfolio to your goals to show evidence of how you have worked on and completed them. I'm mulling over a lot of ideas right now about that and these will probably form a new blog post in the coming days. Thanks!