Key to improving public education is aligning our practice with what scientists have discovered about human motivation. Daniel Pink, in his 2009 book, Drive, is the latest author to summarize these scientific findings and discuss their implications for enhancing public education.
People are motivated, in part, by what social scientists call “intrinsic motivation.” Intrinsic motivation refers to drives beyond basic survival needs, and Pink identifies three he says should guide teaching and learning: autonomy, mastery and purpose.
People have a natural desire to be autonomous and self-directed. Teachers and students who feel a greater sense of control over their teaching and learning, respectively, experience greater success than their peers who feel less control. Researchers have also found that students who attribute academic performance to hard work, a variable they control, are more successful than students who attribute academic performance to innate intelligence, a variable they cannot control.
This need to be self-directed is one reason school choice is so essential to school improvement. Teachers, students and parents are more motivated and satisfied when they can choose their schools.