Motivation by Dan Pink. A lesson for schools?

At this time of the school year in Australia, with holidays beckoning, motivation of our students is a hot topic. This is an interesting video of a TEDtalk about motivation. Dan Pink ,when looking at the puzzle that is motivation, starts with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think.  In fact, they are probably counter-productive.

What he basically goes on to say is that the extrinsic motivations (carrot and stick) approach often doesn’t work because they narrow the focus. They work best where there are clear guidelines and a single destination, simple tasks. In a world where creativity is needed you need more intrinsic motivation. So what does this mean for secondary education, where you want students to learn, to create, to analyse and make meaning for themselves, to develop their skills across the board and understand what works best for them.We often hear people talk about the world outside school where our young people will have to be problem-solving adults, where many jobs they will be asked to do are not yet created. What does this mean for schools in light of Dan Pink’s points? I would love to say that we are creating young people who do things because they matter, learn because they are interested in learning,  not just for some extrinsic reward (be it a certificate, gadgets,chocolate or other food forms), that we are, by example,  creating young men who do not ask “what is in it for me” before doing something. I’m not sure we are there yet. Motivation is an interesting concept. Have businesses got motivation wrong, and schools, that are increasing being held to business practices and standards, also?  This is an interesting talk that goes against many traditional thoughts and business and educational practice with regard to motivation.    

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