Monday, April 20, 2015

Problem, probe, product, pronto

My biology class this year is designed around the thesis Daniel Pink outlined in his book, Drive: That the best way to motivate people is not with carrots and sticks, but with autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

I'm trying not to use threats of poor grades and penalties to keep my students working. Instead, I'm focusing on giving them as much choice as possible, allowing multiple attempts for mastery, and making assignments as meaningful and interesting as possible.

So how's it working?

I've been pleased with the quality of their work, and with their desire to revise it for a better score. And I'm hoping they are learning about quality and perseverance. But their motivation and engagement levels vary. There are really good days, some pretty good, not so good. And we've fallen behind the curriculum.

I'm convinced I can get a higher and more consistent level of engagement, and do it without threats and penalties, if I can just keep the levels of autonomy, mastery and purpose high enough.

Maybe this is too idealistic, but 1) I'm not sure the traditional model is any better, and 2) Pink's book was pretty convincing, and I'm figuring if there's a problem here, it's not with Pink, but with my implementation.

So here's my latest tweak:

I started thinking about the mastery part of motivation and what exactly I could hope they would want to master.

Here's what I came up with: Our goal is to master the process of researching a problem, learning about it, and then producing a product, and doing it quickly.

it to produce a high quality product. If they can master the skill of researching a concept or problem, learning quickly, and then producing a quality product, they will have a killer skill for the future.

I'm hoping this is something they can sink their minds into.

Let's see.

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