"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review: Drive:The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us

Have you ever gone down a rabbit hole to find a treasure for which you were not looking?  I found this book while reading through the Amazon reviews for Mindset by Carol Dweck.  I had checked out the library copy and kept it passed the due date, incurring a fine close to the cost of the book.  I am fully convinced I needed to own this book because it is just so good.  So, while I was reading the Mindset reviews again, about to purchase the Kindle version, I came across this book.  But this is not a review of Mindset.  I've done that already.

This book is relevant to me because I am often asked at talks that I do or in helping other moms that are new to homeschooling how they can better motivate their children.  The ratings on Amazon for this book are very high. What caught my eye was this from one of the 266 reviews:
This is a great book for teachers. As an upper elementary teacher (I've taught 4th through 7th grades, primarily 5th and 6th), I've long struggled with the emphasis on extrinsic motivation. I think that and the enormous pressure to raise test scores, thus narrowing the curriculum, are doing great damage to our children. They are told what they must learn and how they must learn it every day of their education. Their curiosity and interests are not respected and they are responding accordingly with apathy. This book is a clear, readable summary of the research of motivation and clarified many things for me. It also made me think deeply about my classroom and my practice and what it is I want for my students, which is to be able to think for themselves and love learning. Thank you, Mr. Pink, for a boost before I start another school year!
It is that age group that I believe struggles the most with motivation.  And it is this time of year I need motivation. 

And so now my review.  I started this book this morning.  It is not a long book.  It is engaging, however, and my kids have enjoyed the day off due to the illness of one child (who is on the mend).  All of our book clubs and activities were canceled because he was contagious until today at 5pm.

The book starts out with the thesis that Carrot and Stick motivation is dangerous.  Study after study and example after example show the reasons why and the Seven Reasons that Carrots and Sticks (Often) Don't Work.  My favorite part of the book is the Type I Toolkit.  He spends one third of the book explaining how to create an environment that supports Intrinsic motivation over Extrinsic motivation. 
Perhaps the part that hit me hardest upside the head was this:
Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement...While complying can be an effective strategy for physical survival, it's a lousy one for personal fulfillment.  Living a satisfying life requires more than simply meeting the demands of those in control.  Yet in our offices our classrooms we have way too much compliance and too little engagement.  The former might get you through the day, but the latter will get you through the night.
I thought of this with relationship to my parenting style and homeschool environment.  While obedience is a good think, I want my children to obey me because they are motivated to do it, not because of fear of punishment.  I want my kids to learn because they are curious, not because they will get some "reward" for doing so or they will receive punishment if not successful.  I once heard someone say at a homeschool workshop that you only need to provide extrinsic rewards for a short while before intrinsic rewards set in.  I don't believe that works for my kids.  Daniel Pink also provided proof that indeed, that is the case - extrinsic rewards do not lead to intrinsic motivation! 

Please keep in mind this book is written more for the professional world, but there is really no reason the ideas he gives can not be used in the home and homeschool.  Perhaps what appealed to me the most was that he wrote this book from the perspective of a software release, which is something to which I can relate.

I am in the process of writing two new talks.  One talk is on motivation which has no title yet, but I was asked to put together for a homeschool group.  The other I'm writing because of the number of requests I have had from parents about Special Needs and Special Gifts.  This book will figure in heavily in the first talk and I can see it being extremely useful in helping our kids with Special Needs develop the mindset to grow and succeed even when it's difficult. 


Tracy said...

So if I read this book will I finally know what to do with my 8yo boy who is still challenged by the day to day basics like brushing his teeth, making his bed, changing his underwear, putting dirty socks in the hamper, not to mention finishing his school work?

The Road Scholar said...

Oh, I didn't say it would solve ALL those problems! However, it does talk about changing our perspective and understanding what drives us.
Here are the bullet points from the 10 things to do for kids:
1. Apply the Three-part Type I Test* for Homework
2. Have a FEDEX** Day
3. Try a DIY Report Card
4. Give your kids an allowance and some chores-but don't combine them
5. Offer Praise - The right way (This is excerpted from the MINDSET book by Carol Dweck.)
6. Help kids see the big picture
7. Pay teachers more intelligently (probably doesn't apply here)
8. Check out some Type I schools
9. Take a class from "Unschoolers"
10. Turn students into teachers
* Type I means intrinsic, the Three Type I test is: Am I offering students any autonomy over how and when to do this work? Does this assignment promote mastery by offering a novel, engaging task? Doe my students understand the purpose of this assignment - can they see how doing this contributes to the larger enterprise?
** FEDEX Days are days set aside each quarter to work on any project of their choosing, with whomever they like. Think of a problem they would like to solve. Help them collect the tools the night before and bright and early the next day, let them go. At the end of the day, they have to share what they've created and all they've learned along the way.

Hope that helps!!! If I need someone to run my Motivation workshop by, would you be willing to be a guinea pig?