RSA Animate — Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

Daniel Pink’s talk on Motivation doesn’t address education at all. But it should. It applies directly – and it’s all the things we don’t see in the traditional school model.

Pink says three things drive motivation:
1. Autonomy
2. Mastery
3. Purpose

Are any of these three things currently honored in the traditional high school model? Nope. Not in my experience.

Autonomy: kids aren’t even allowed to go to the bathroom when they want. Bells tell them when to go where. they are penalized for not being in a certain place at a certain time. they are heavily penalized for not memorizing the type of content the school tells them they need to know. they often have limited choice of classes.

Mastery: how can you possibly master a subject when you skim over content in a big hurry to get to the next unit? When you teach all of World History in two trimesters, spending 12 minutes on slavery? (My daughter’s example.) When you teach math separately from science, when you teach all subjects as separate entities?

Purpose: Ask any high school student why they’re learning what they’re learning. Is it for the betterment of society? to improve themselves? Nope – it’s likely for a good test score, to get into college, or for those already disengaged, it’s to get through school. Wow. That’s real purpose.

Smart, intelligent, motivated kids get disengaged from school. They are smart enough to see that playing the game of working for a standardized test score isn’t enough. The game of college admissions isn’t enough. We’re making them disengage by forcing them into a setting void of purpose.

Hopefully they make it through high school with enough self-esteem left to find a place that allows them to reach their potential.