Games and grading III: Dan Pink and motivation

How can we know how to motivate students for different kinds of tasks?

One reason, perhaps the primary reason, that teachers explore connections between video games and education lies in their longing for students who display gamer-like motivation. What Shakespeare professor doesn’t want students as eager to construct Renaissance London as SimCity?

In his TEDTalk on motivation (a precursor to his recent book Drive), Dan Pink outlines some social scientific studies of motivation. Pink summarizes his argument in this short CNN piece:

In laboratory experiments and field studies, a band of psychologists, sociologists and economists have found that many carrot-and-stick motivators — the elements around which we build most of our businesses and many of our schools — can be effective, but that they work in only a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances.

For enduring motivation, the science shows, a different approach is more effective. This approach draws not on our biological drive or our reward-and-punishment drive, but on what we might think of as our third drive: Our innate need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

In particular, high performance — especially for the complex, conceptual tasks we’re increasingly doing on the job — depends far more on intrinsic motivators than on extrinsic ones.

If I want my students to focus on their own “complex, conceptual tasks,” I need to consider ways to activate their drive to “create new things,” and I want those things not only to be the occasional essay but also initiatives that shape the classroom experience fundamentally.

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Games and Grading II: Dan Meyer

I present to you a games and grading post that is about neither games nor grading!

Dan Meyer gave a TEDTalk on his approach to secondary mathematics education: the talk is well worth watching, and it provides a good introduction to inquiry-based approaches to teaching.

I’ll return to Meyer’s talk as I continue this series of post, but for now, I’ll pick up on its literary side. Meyer quotes Deadwood creator David Milch, saying that bad television

creates an impatience, for example, with irresolution. And I’m doing what I can to tell those stories which engage those issues in ways that can engage the imagination so that people don’t feel threatened by it.

This is John Keats’s version of that sentiment:

I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, on various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason . . . .

I find repeatedly that writers on new media reinvent Keats’s wheel. Is Negative Capability the signature skill of the contemporary workplace?