I really enjoyed this week’s foray into  the research of motivation.  Daniel Pink has an awesome TED talk that I’ve linked below, where he talks about the disconnect between science and the way people understand the relationship between reward and productivity.


Autonomy, mastery, and purpose; these are the contributing factors which ensure engagement, productivity and satisfaction in the work world.  I suppose one could argue that these are crucial in the world of education, as learning could be described as the student’s occupation.  When people are given autonomy, productivity increases.  When people are given incentive, it actually statistically is shown to reduce productivity because it narrows their focus and reduces creativity (Glucksberg, 1962).  This was shown by taking a study done by Karl Duncker (1945), and modifying it with a control group under normal circumstances, and another incentivized group.

I can personally relate to this theory.  I recently quit a job where my role was very structured.  I quickly became burnt out, feeling restricted and quickly tired mentally throughout every shift though I often only worked 5 hours at a time.  Following my resignation, I picked up an entirely different job where my hours are flexible, there is little oversight over my activities, and I have a significant amount of creative freedom.  I love this new job!  I want to stay at it for a very long time!  However, the interesting part is that I get paid quite a bit less and I am perfectly happy with it.  I would even say I am better at this job than I was at the previous one, and not because the skills I use are radically different.  I still use critical thinking, interpersonal communication, and creative skills; I simply get to choose (autonomy) how I use them and feel more fulfilled as a result.

It’s exciting that research is starting to support workplace strategies other than the traditional management model!  Although there is still the disconnect, as Pink says (2009) “there is a mismatch between what science knows, and what business does.”  I can’t wait to see how the workplace and learning environments change to accommodate the research.

In my own personal instruction, this concept really reinforces the idea that as an educator I need to foster intrinsic motivation in my students rather than expect them to be motivated by extrinsic factors.  I need to ensure that the content they are learning in my class is relevant to them, and come up with assignments that allow them to come up with meaningful solutions to issues.  In one class I recently took, the major assignment asked us to take the community we were learning in and find a problem that needed to be addressed.  We then had to come up with meaningful strategies and real research about the area.  It was interesting to see the presentations at the end of the term, and understand how each presenter had selected a topic that had some sort of personal relevance to them.  I will take that learning forward with me in my education, and future teaching roles.




Duncker, Karl (1945). On Problem Solving. Psychological Monographs 58. American Psychological Association.

Glucksberg, S. (1962). “The influence of strength of drive on functional fixedness and perceptual recognition”. Journal of Experimental Psychology 63: 36–41. doi:10.1037/h0044683. PMID 13899303.

TED (Producer). (2009). Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation [Youtube]. Retrieved from

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