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'No Easy Answers': Dan Pink on Student Motivation

Editor's Note: This is the fifth post in a series called "A Look Back." In it, I'll be highlighting a particularly insightful response an educator has provided in a past column.

Past posts in this series have included:

'Stop Hiding Behind the Factory Model of Teaching': Rick Wormeli on Differentiation

'The Importance Of White Students Having Black Teachers': Gloria Ladson-Billings on Education

'Educators Get Transformed From Life-Changers Into Wardens': Chris Emdin on Urban Schools

Don't 'Veer Off-Course': Roxanna Elden on Finishing The School Year Strong

Today's "A Look Back" features a response contributed by noted author Daniel Pink about student motivation.

It comes from a column headlined Several Ways To 'Motivate' the Unmotivated To Learn., which also includes a video response from Professor Dan Ariely and suggestions from a number a number of other educators.

You might also be interested in an interview I did with Dan titled "Teachers As Persuaders": An Interview With Daniel Pink, as well as other posts on Student Motivation & Social Emotional Learning.

Dan's latest book is When: The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing:



I'm not sure there's any single bullet solution to this problem. But there are a couple of things teachers could do—both of which take on the issue of "why." The first is to probe why the student isn't motivated. Is he bored by the topic? Worried that he doesn't have the ability to master the material? Irritated about something else going on in his life? I'm not suggesting turning teachers into therapists—but trying to surface the source of the demotivation might help us remove it as an obstacle.

Another is to examine "why" from a different angle. I'm convinced that some students aren't motivated to learn particular subjects because they have no idea why they're learning it. Authority figures tell them how to do something—but never explain why they're doing it in the first place. Connecting today's material to what they've already learned, what's happening in the wider world, what the student is already interested can offer context that's otherwise missing. Again, there are no easy answers to this one. But these might help a little.

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The opinions expressed in Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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