FedEx Day – A Real Pink Time Experience

When we started to talk about the next topic “Assessment” in class, we watched video, called “Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, created by Dan Pink. The unique last name “Pink” suddenly caught my attention, related to his lecture’s topic, I finally realized a interesting fact that my past experience about a special class activity, called “Pink time”, in my research methodology class, should have something to do with this person. After I watched his video of TED talk, “The puzzle of motivation”, I was pretty sure that my special class activity came from his thoughts. So I decided to share a real Pink Time experience.

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Pink Time activity I went through came from a research methodology course taught by Dr. David Kniola from Educational research and evaluation program, VT. He told everyone at the first day of class that he would have a Pink Time this semester. Everyone would get the same week off to do anything they would like to do, he called it “Pink Time”. The only rule was people need to share about what they did and what they learnt from that one week later. The surprising part came next that he announced that students didn’t need to worry about the score part, since the score would be self-judgement, that students should just tell he how much points they would like to give to themselves out of 10 full points, and the reason of the certain self-judgement.

This should take off the pressure since the assessment of the assignment was always the focus of a lot of students. However, that wasn’t the case. People were panic after he explained this Pink Time activity. I still remember the the most common question that day, “You mean anything can be done in that Pink Time? Anything? Do we need to do something related to research or methodology?” He smiled and said, “Anything. There is no limitation.” Actually, at that time, I was a little bit confused too.

It took me weeks to finally decide that I would like to do interior design for my new apartment I would move in soon. That was something I always want to do and I didn’t really have time to actually do it. After I made the decision, I was very excited about it, I took the week he gave us to view examples of different designers, research on how human use spaces, figure out my needs of the functions, and analyze my new place. I even spent all my spare time that week to finish my design drawings.

At the sharing week, I brought my hand drawings of design, and intention pictures to share with the class, and I was so confident and happy to talk about my design, and the knowledge I learnt about interior design and furniture arrangements. That was the same case for most of the other students, especially the ones did something creative and unique. What impressed me the most was a student showing how he tried to make his own wine. And at the end of that semester, he actually brought the wine he made at the Pink Time to share with everyone. I also actually carried out my Pink Time design at my new place after I moved in at the summer break.

I felt so inspired and cheered by Pink Time. Just as Dan Pink said in the TED talk, it was a FeDex Day that we knew we had to deliver something over certain time. At the same time, we tend to achieve more under self-direction. I was so engaged in the Pink Time that I forgot I was in the middle of a special assignment. Here, I really want to thank Dr. Kniola to give me the chance to discover the fun of self-direction and creativity.

Dr. Kniola didn’t show us the talk from Dan Pink right away when he announced the Pink Time. I guess he didn’t want the purposeful talk from Dan Pink influence us when we carried out Pink Time. He would like to see the real situation if that fitted into Dan’s theory.

I think it was a successful experiment. Now, after I read and watched Dan’s talk, I start to look back at the Pink Time, and think more. First, it was sad that us, students were panic and confused when we got autonomy of our time. The doubt of what could we do was the result of the mind set trained by modern education. We always wait for instructions when we are carrying out the mission of learning. We always know there are a lot of limitations, and we tend to think less, especially about what we want to do and what we can do.  Second, Pink Time was a good activity to test “autonomy, mastery, purpose” in educational settings, I think when I start to teach on my own, I would like to carry out Pink Time with my students. I would like to help them see the value of self-direction and the potential of themselves.

5 comments for “FedEx Day – A Real Pink Time Experience

  1. Homero
    6 February, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing!

    I love that exercise. I used to do something similar with my first year engineering students. I called “Your Passion Project.” Interestingly, students that were supposed to do something they were passionate about and present it to the class ended up doing projects highly related to the objectives of the course. I would say less than 5% of the course presented projects related to something they liked outside engineering. Students were purposefully trying to present topics of the course thinking that it would make me happy and it was going to improve their “grades”

    It made me realize how bad was the system, and how much time we need to invest on changing mindsets, specially in engineering education.



  2. 7 February, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Dan, I really enjoyed this post! While I was reading I was thinking, “how would I use my time if I were given my own Pink Time.” and I experienced a little bit of anxiety! I like your point about waiting for instructions to carry out the mission of learning, it seems to me that when we are working toward a grade the true inquiry vanishes. This is true even for me and I am aware of it, when there are required classes to take that I may not be interested in my motto is to “keep my head down and check the box.”
    I am now wondering how much more I would learn given the opportunity to take those hours spent working on those required “check box” classes to explore more in my main focus of transportation safety (which I am truly interested in).

  3. Andrea
    8 February, 2017 at 1:54 am

    I really liked your post Dan, thanks for sharing! It reminded me also about the video from a couple of weeks ago from Ken Robinson where he argued that the current educational system is very limiting and is basically sucking out the creativity of students. I agree with Alex’s comment about what could happen if there were more freedom to choose the courses you would like to take, I can definitely relate to taking a few courses that didn’t seem to add much for me and were basically just one more box I needed to check. I understand that some people like more direction than others but what if this also comes from how it was ingrained in their brains since early childhood? It seems very worthwhile to try a different approach.

  4. 8 February, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    Thank you for sharing a fantastic idea! As I seek new ideas for replacing traditional assessment in my classes now, this resonates with what I have learned about self assessment and removing barriers to learning. This statement speaks to me: ” . . . we tend to achieve more under self-direction.” I see students waiting for instructions in my classes, and this makes me think that I need to create a new paradigm of autonomy for my students. “Pink time” will stop evoking anxiety when students are comfortable leading themselves and their peer groups, so that even if the instructor did not appear, the class could go on!

  5. Anonymous
    8 February, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    Thank you so much for bringing this example. It actually gave me inspiration to be more creative about the way I establish relationship with my students. I can picture the faces of the students who are surprised to hear that they can do anything during the Pink Day. I sometimes feel that the students are so much muted that it is hard to imagine such freedom. So, I believe such creative and liberating approach may help them to dare to step outside their thinking box, which is shaped by their experience as a student.

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