Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I'm almost through with the Dan Pink book "Drive" now and I certainly have a lot to think about. My most recent thoughts are about the chapter entitled Purpose. You see it's not enough to have autonomy and mastery, because one of the most important factors in determining how successful anyone is is also having a sense of purpose - the most motivated people are those who are working for a cause greater than themselves. It is this sense of purpose that makes us feel a sense of achievement when we reach our goal.

There are two sorts of goals: profit goals, for example to make money or become famous, and purpose goals such as to make the world a better place, to help others, to learn something new and so on. Strangely enough, when people achieve their profit goals it doesn't make them any more happy or satisfied than before, therefore they just tend to increase the size of the profit goal in the hope of feeling better. Whereas when people achieve their purpose goals they tend to feel happy with their achievements.

As teachers perhaps we can learn from this. If we are encouraging our students to strive for profit goals, for example getting the highest score on a test or the highest grade on an assignment, maybe achieving this will not lead our students to feel any better about their performance or their learning. Last week in the EdChat on Twitter several people wrote about the problem with giving grades. Kelly Tenkely wrote:
The problem with grades is they don't give students information they can use to keep learning. What would give them that info?
Edna Sackson wrote:
Assessment informs further learning. If there's a grade at the end, is that the end of the learning?
Joe Bower wrote:
Being motivated by grades is not a learning style to be tailored to. It's a problem to be solved.
and Mike O'Hara wrote:
Grades turn school into a game. School is a place of winners & losers, not a place of learning.
The real issue seems to be that when students are motived by extrinsic factors (grades, test scores and so on), they end up not being truly satisfied and therefore their motivation will eventually wane. When students are motivated by intrinsic factors and see a purpose to their learning, they are more likely to be successful in the long run.
Photo Credit: Helping Hand by Rishi Menon

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. And I think that in primary schools, kids are motivated by learning for learning sake. In PYP schools certainly, they see the purpose of their learning. Their inquiries take them to learning that interests them, which is motivating in in itself. Not sure about other countries, but in Australia, the emhphasis is much more on grades, once they get out of primary school. And that's when we start getting many more unmotivated kids because grades are not motivating in themselves.