Sunday, July 11, 2010

Intrinsic motivation in Chinquapin

As Chapter 1 of Drive explains, Motivation 2.0 works by rewarding people for doing a good job, punishing them when things are not working, and keeping a very close eye on them. As we can see by reading the novel, this sort of structure is being less frequently used in business and replaced by a self-driven motivation. My question is, wouldn't this also work in Chinquapin?

People who work using intrinsic motivation do jobs that are interesting- non-routine work. These people are self-motivated, and therefore they need to be less monitored. I saw Chinquapin take a similar direction last year with the addition of a new rule- high school guys on the high honor roll didn't need to attend night study hall. Instead, these guys did their homework in their own dormitory, and, every now-and-then, on their own beds. As the year culminated, these students did pretty well.

Now, I don't know if Ray, who came up with this idea, had read Drive before, but this new rule showed a perfect example of how intrinsic motivation works. The students were were not monitored, and still managed to have positive results on their tests and quizzes. They were not monitored, forcing them to be self-driven and to work at their own pace . This privilege set up a "purpose maximizer" environment. Students were able to turn on their stereo and find more creative ways to do their homework, making the task more enjoyable.

I know there are many other ways to add intrinsic motivation to Chinquapin, but the positive result of this "experiment" by Ray could lead to Chinquapin being run by a new "operating system", something I definitely wouldn't mind.


  1. So, even though it was homework (extrinsic carrot-and-stick work), it felt more intrinsic because you had some autonomy in deciding how to go about it, where you wanted to be, etc. Do you think you did better this way -- or at least enjoyed your homework more? Did others? Do you think this creates intrinsic motivation in others -- or is it extrinsic?

  2. What are some other things we could do at Chinquapin to encourage intrinsic motivation?

  3. Susan, I definitely enjoyed doing homework in my dormitory. I think in a way it does create intrinsic motivation in the students because they have more autonomy in how they handled their homework. Even though they still had to do their work, the way one can control the environment and setting makes the experience more enjoyable.

    Jeremy, well first of all I see Chinquapin taking encouraging that with the new Senior Seminar. Every one has to do their own project, but they get to choose what to do. I have a feeling that they will feel more intrinsic motivation as they start enjoying their project.

    Also, a good way to encourage intrinsic motivation is by setting up an ejoyable environment in certain scholastic fields. I know it's something very hard, especially since many students don't find schoolwork enjoyable, but there can be certain tasks that many students find as more "play" than "work". For example, during creativity week many students would rather describe their activity as "fun" rather than "work".

    The biggest difficulty with this is that not all students can fit in that type of environment. Some may have the word "boring" stuck in their heads whenever they hear anything related to school. The only way to counter that is by making them enjoy school. I know a lot of teachers at Chinquapin are trying their best to make work more enjoyable, non-routine, and creative. Another major thing is something many could consider risky- making students have more autonomy in either: A- how they go about their work, or B- the type of work they do. I just think that a lot of things could get complicated and maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.

    I still haven't gotten far in the book, but from what I've read, this is all I can come up with.

  4. Hey Marcos,

    I think that's a great idea that you had about giving autonomy to students in the classroom. This is an idea that Susan actually talked to me about, but what if teachers gave students some control over what they learned in the classroom?

    Pink cites many examples of companies giving their employs "20% time" when they can work on any project they want. These companies have been very successful partially because employs have more autonomy over their tasks, time, techniques, and team.

    What if teachers brought that idea to the classroom? Perhaps for one class a week (or even half of a class) students were could be allowed to pick a topic that they want to learn about, and then the teacher could lead a discussion/class on it.

    Do you think giving the students more autonomy would cause them to be less "bored" as you say?

    How do other students feel about getting to choose your own material?

    I hope you're enjoying the summer!


    P.S. I haven't met all of you yet, but I'll be a new teaching fellow at Chinquapin next year, and I'm really looking forward to joining your community. See you soon!

  5. Hello Aumlya,

    I think that giving the students autonomy in the classroom can have a positive impact in the way students deal with schoolwork. Of course, teachers have to be careful when making choices like that because some students may react negatively.

    Teachers have to make sure that most, if not all, students are actually interested in the subject they are dealing with. When students are told to make up a project or do research on a field that they find no interest in, they tend to get lost and not make much progress. On the other hand, I feel that students who are actually interested in the subject or area can come up with some really good work.

    The teachers have to make sure that the students will enjoy what they are doing, but it's also up to the students. Students have to be willing to put in their part too, because as much as teachers try to make school fun, teenage stress will always be around the corner. I'm very sure that Chinquapin students are the right ones for this type of deal, though.

    I hope that you're enjoying the summer too!
    See you at school!

  6. Marcos- I like the point that you made about projects and research needing to really hold students' interest to be worthwhile. After reading Drive I think projects are one area I could definitely adjust to encourage more intrinsic motivation.

    Creativity Week and Teen Read Week also came to mind as potential opportunities for an intrinsic love of learning to flourish. I'm wondering if there are there ways that we can improve on these or perhaps incorporate them more throughout the year?

  7. Marcos, how do you feel about exams that give you options of which questions you want to answer, so long as you accumulate the minimum number of points to show mastery of the content?

  8. @Amanda- I'm sure that there could be something done to tweak those activities around the school year.

    @Anonymous- I love taking those kind of exams. For biology last year, our teacher gave us an exam that was of that sort. I feel like it lets the students actually show what they are learning instead of trying to simply answer a question so they won't get points taken off.

    Also, the fact that they are accumulating points is important because the students are then recieving points for showing they understand the content, as opposed to taking an exam where they worry about not getting points taken off. I think that the fact that they are in an escalating grading system is psychologically better.

  9. Well I ageree with what you have to say Marcos. Giving students the option of choosing what they wish to learn and how enriches the learning experience. I thgink that being given the opportunity to work without having someone there to remind you that it's work really decreases a feeling of distaste.

  10. I totally agree with integrated some intrensic motivation into Chinquapin. We already have a bit but I think that it should be expanded in a kind of trial for the senior class. Give us a chance to prove to Chinquapin that we can remain just as motivated, if not more, with more freedom to control our education.