Having just finished Part 1 of Drive, I wanted to share some of the ideas gleaned from these chapters as well as some of my thoughts about how these ideas impact education. Any misconceptions or misinterpretations of Daniel Pink’s book as well as opinions expressed here are solely my own.
Part 1 of Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, challenges us to re-examine motivational theory. Do rewards really increase performance and motivation? Through an examination of management theorists of the past such as Frederick Taylor and Douglas McGregor as well as more current researchers, Pink arrives at the conclusion that the carrot and stick approach to motivation (reward and punishment) has limited usefulness and, in fact, can work against goals of increased productivity and creativity. Concrete rewards work best when applied to routine tasks. When tasks require flexibility, creativity, and are complex, concrete rewards such as money more often harm rather than enhance performance. Pink outlines factors that lead to increased motivation for tasks more often required in today’s marketplace: a sense of the larger purpose of the work, a level of autonomy in work completion, and a mastery of the work itself. Pink further develops his motivation theory by identifying Type X behavior and Type I behavior. Type X behavior concerns itself more with “… the external rewards to which an activity leads. Type I behavior … concerns itself less with the external rewards to which an activity leads and more with the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself (77).” It is important to note, however, that these motivational factors are based on the foundation of a fair and appropriate basic monetary compensation system.
While Daniel Pink’s book is not specifically geared toward the field of education, his findings have major implications for educational policy. Teaching is definitely a complex task that requires the integration of many fields of study from the psychology of motivation to learning theory to great communication and interpersonal skills along with specific subject content knowledge. Excellent teachers are motivated by being able to devise creative and engaging ways to motivate students to learn. The sense of accomplishment derived from student success and excitement does not come from a pay check. It comes from the joy of a job well done. During a time when federal policy is encouraging merit pay/a pay for student performance system and more teachers are being required to implement “scripted” teaching programs, one must wonder what research education policy makers are examining to inform their decision making. Monetary rewards and restricting a teacher’s creativity and educated judgment do not appear to be the “solution” some policy makers believe it to be.