âThe ultimate freedom for creative groups is the freedom to experiment with new ideas. Some skeptics insist that innovation is expensive. In the long run, innovation is cheap. Mediocrity is expensive â and autonomy can be the antidote.â
âTom Kelley, General Manager, IDEO
I should relate that my fundamental philosophy about teaching is âthe connection.â I firmly believe that if I connect with a child, I can teach anything, even math and science. I believe this to my core; however, a disturbing trend I have seen over the past five years is a lack of motivation in many students, going beyond the typical disinterest in a subject area or activity due to personal preference. So for me, Pinkâs book was right on time, or more appropriately, right in time.
In my first two posts, I would love to pass on some of the information Daniel Pink so eloquently shares with his readers about motivating this and future generations â and the relationship I feel the book has to educators.
Pink asserts that for numerous generations, the method for motivating students has been the "carrot and stick method," or in more terms, the âMotivation 2.0 Operating System.â Pink maintains this system is so embedded in our lives that it is difficult even to realize itâs there. The premise is basically to reward the good and punish the bad. OK, so how does that translate to the classroom? Pink believes we are âbribing students into compliance, instead of challenging them into engagement.â He states all kids begin the journey of school excited and self-directed, ready to learn, willing to be creative risk-takers. They produce work and learn without the enticement of a shiny sticker or a fancy certificate, through intrinsic motivation, ready to learn for the sake of learning. What happens to that enthusiasm?
As you begin thinking about the journey your students will make with you this year, I would like to share some interesting suggestions for educators from Drive. Pink lists ten suggestions; I would like to share four with you in this post and bring the remaining six to you next week.
Pink suggests that teachers ask ourselves these questions before assigning additional practice outside of the classroom:
1. Am I offering students any autonomy over how and when to do this work?
2. Is the task engaging?
3. Do the students understand the purpose of the assignment?
If the answer to any of these questions in no, we should rethink the assignment and alter it, or junk it altogether, because it is only wasting the studentsâ time and ours.
Have a "FedEx Day"
Give students an entire day dedicated to solving a problem or answering a question of their choice. The deal is they have to produce something tangible within 24 hours. The task could range from performing research to creating a project they must share with the rest of the class. Pink reports that companies (such as Google) are committed to this idea and relate that some of their best-known products (such as Gmail) have come from these periods of concentrated time dedicated to working on areas of individual interest. We can all spare one day every grading period to devote to giving children an authentic high-interest learning opportunity.
DIY Report Cards
Experiment with allowing the students to set goals and grade themselves. I predict the results will be that the students are much harder on themselves than you or I ever thought about being. It also provides âbuy-inâ for the students and accountability to the work being accomplished at school.
Offer praise . . . the right way
Plain and simple:
1. praise the effort and strategy, not intelligence
2. make praise specific
3. praise in private
4. offer praise only when there is a good reason for it
Help kids see the big picture
In this era of standardized high-stakes tests and âif-thenâ reward systems, kids need to understand the relevance behind what they are doing in the classroom. Give real-world examples to tie in to what they are studying. If youâre teaching scale and proportion in math class, have them build a 3-D model of their bedrooms or another room in their house. Give them a set of house plans, some stakes, and "caution" tape and have them stake out the floor plan on the playground. They have to relate to what they are learning.
I canât wait to share more of Daniel Pinkâs ideas with you next week and the implications it has had in my classroom already, just four weeks into this school year. I look forward to a great year sharing ideas and hearing from you.