About motivation – thoughts on Dan Pink’s talk

I feel I’ve been resonating a lot with the topic motivation. Last week I was pondering on the talk by  Mike Wesch, Cathy Davidson, and Randy Bass  that later evolved into a discussion about how to motivate students. This week Dan Pink gives me an unusual understanding of motivation. He convinced us that what motivates us depends on what task we are to perform. The reward system usually works pretty well in terms of simple straight forward tasks. However it does not have its place in more complicated tasks that would require cognitive skills. How does that tell us about the impact of assessment on students? I guess whether a grading system will benefit students depend on the topic of the course. If it’s a math course, it’s about right or wrong. Then the grading does do its job of assessing a student’s ability to do math. If it’s something like literature review or designing course, then it does not make sense to have grading. It might even restrict students’ creativity.

5 thoughts on “About motivation – thoughts on Dan Pink’s talk”

  1. I’m interested in hearing a little more on your statement: “If it’s a math course, it’s about right or wrong.” Sometimes I feel like in math is also needed to promote critical thinking, creativity, and thinking outside the box.

    Do we really need the standard test with only one right answer to identify if a student learned math? What would happen if instead of tests we create alternative ways of evaluating math knowledge like oral presentations, or case studies?

    I’m not saying that what you said is wrong, I just want you to elaborate a little more and convince me that this is right, or in the other hand, to think further about the possibility of having different assessment strategies in math.

    Thanks for sharing, looking forward to your answer.


  2. I agree with that we should use different methods to motivate student in different classes. If the materials students need to grasp in the class are basic and only about right or wrong, grade is the most effective way to stimulate student to memorize these materials.

  3. I think you are definitely right about assessment needing to be unique as individuals and classes are all unique. However I think grades also serve as a way of communicating how students are doing to people outside of the classroom. Parents, employers, and even peers all want to have an easy way to see how you measure up and grades a good way to quickly communicate that information. I think grades are okay, but the assessment leading to that grade needs to be carefully considered (exams, projects, group work, ect.).

  4. Without assessment, there needs to be other avenues for feedback. If my advisor never read my lit review then I would have never improved my writing. Granted, he never put a letter grade on it, but at some point it was deemed “complete.” I think the culture of teaching to the test is what has to be changed first. My question is who will do it first? Primary or higher ed?

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