Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Writer's Motivation

Dan Pink’s presentation “Drive: The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us” (video shown below) discusses the science of motivation in the workplace. With the visual help from RSAnimate, Pink makes a surprising argument. 

When a task becomes more complicated than grunt work and requires some conceptual, creative thinking, exterior motivators no longer work (Pink). In fact, exterior motivators have the opposite effect. A large prize puts more pressure on an employee and reduces the chances of success. 

Too often employers find the work of their staff to be flat, insufficient, and simply bad. Offering a larger bonus only makes the matters worse. These descriptions of performance are not limited to employer-to-employee relationships. Many college professors make the same comments in regards to their students' work.

Motivation is a common topic in pedagogy just as it is in the business world. What exactly motivates students? If the grade is not a motivator, what else is there?

Just as employees, students perform better with a sense of having purpose, a sense of contributing to society, a sense of mastering a skill. When students believe they are leaving a mark on the world, they are better motivated.  With better motivation and a lack of pressure from an exterior motivator such as money or a good grade, the final product may improve immensely.

Students cannot escape the pressure grades place on performance. However, they can move the focus away from the grade and complete the task for more important reasons. This may sound like heresy. The grade is the goal; the goal is the grade! 

But the philosophy of grade-getting turns a student’s work into basic hoop jumping that Pink argues may hinder the performance.

If a student can integrate their work into a community that values the work (i.e. study groups, writing centers, club organizations) and/or believes the tasks will lead to a pride of accomplishment, then the work they produce will have much stronger potential.

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