Friday, July 2, 2010

What motivates you, me and students?

As a human being I am inclined to believe that we are self-motivating and self-driven. We yearn to explore and discover as much as possible about the magnificent world around us. We derive our energy and power from our self-motivation and drive, and without this ability to discover and explore on our own, we will most certainly become zombies.

Now, to some people, becoming a zombie might be really cool, but I refuse to live my life with a zombie state of mind. Merely floating through existence with no purpose or reason is not a viable option for me and many others. So, the question is, how do we make sure people continue and don't lose their self-motivation and drive? As much as it saddens me to say, I feel at times we are preventing the natural course of our existence by stifling our love to explore and discover. When we think about some of the best and most creative inventions throughout time, I would be willing to bet most were created out of shear curiosity and inquisition. Parents, teachers and administrators, think about some of your best childhood memories... were you allowed to do whatever it was on your own? Were you able to do whatever it was well? Did whatever you did have some kind of purpose or reason? I would be willing to bet you answered yes to these questions.

The human brain and psyche are widely complex, but Daniel Pink has isolated three main factors that allow us to be self-motivated and driven: autonomy, mastery and purpose. As with most things, it starts with education, and as educators we need to give our students the autonomy to master information and tasks they feel have a purpose and importance to them. A progressive idea being used by companies to challenge and motivate their workers is to allow them "free time" to work on something in which they are interested. Why can't we try this in the classroom? Why can't we give our students a set of guidelines and let them discover and explore something they feel is important on their own? The carrot and stick model is dead when it comes to really fueling drive and motivation. Let us now concentrate on ways of tapping into our natural state of discovery and exploration. Let us tear down the walls and release the fury of self driven motivation.