Journal Reflection of “Drive” by Daniel Pink

Mary Kuchta

South Dakota State University

Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose

Autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the three elements that Pink discussed in chapters four, five, and six. I found it very interesting to read this section of the book because as soon as I finished it, we discussed many of the same concepts in our math meetings at school. We got in a discussion about homework and homework completion. Getting students motivated to complete homework can be a huge task and this related directly to what Pink discussed in chapter four.

Pink discussed how a six-month-old or a one-year-old child is curious and self-directed. This is so true; I have two kids, a two-year-old and a one-year-old, and they want to learn and try everything. I also have two nieces, one is in kindergarten and the other is in sixth grade. When I ask the kindergartener what she learned today in school, she will tell me every little detail for about an hour. When I ask the sixth grader, she usually answers with “nothing.” So, why does it seem that when students move on in school, they become less motivated and curious to learn? When do the students learn to not be curious? When the eighth grade math teachers got together, this was exactly the question we were trying to answer. Students were not interested in completing their homework or learning new concepts. We were running into problems of students rushing through the assignment, throwing numbers on a piece of paper, right or wrong, and handing it in. They didn’t care about whether they understood the material; they just knew that they had a deadline to meet. So, they learned that as long as they hand something in, the quality doesn’t matter.

Pink gave a great example in his book about ROWE. This was a test that CEO Jeff Gunther tried. He turned his company into a results-only work environment. He gave his employees the freedom to show up when they like, they just have to get their work done. I brought this up to the math teachers and we came up with an idea. We decided to give the students the freedom to decide when they want to do their homework. The students would be given one week to do a small list of assignments. So, instead of doing an assignment each night, the students would be given the freedom to choose when to do them. The only deadline is for the assignments to be done by Friday. We decided to make a video of our lessons prior to class and the students would have the ability to watch the lessons on their own time and then do their homework in class. Our hope was that this new approach would allow us as teachers more time to assist the students when they are trying to use and apply the information. This method of teaching is called flipped teaching and is growing in the education world. Now in my classroom, I have the students work in groups. I go over some questions at the beginning of the class period and I answer individual questions during work time. I have the students’ grade their own assignments and I allow them to fix any mistakes that they make. I do look at all the assignments before they are handed in so I can determine what they know and help with any misconceptions they may have. All I tell them is that honesty is the best policy and this is designed for them to learn.

As this was implemented into the classroom, some students really struggled with learning how to manage their time and come up with a plan, but most of the students began to utilize this process. They liked the idea that if they had a basketball game, they didn’t have to have their assignment done the next day. I had students start to come to class with questions marks beside certain problems that they didn’t know. They then asked their group members or me. I started to see better homework completion and the students began to care a little more about their learning. It was nice to see how a simple idea could transform my classroom. The other math teachers that tried it also experienced similar results. It is still not perfect. But there is improvement. Pink says it best. ”People must be accountable for their work. To achieve this end, people want to be accountable - and that making sure they have control over their task, their time, their technique, and their team is a pathway to that destination.”

As I had students start to take more ownership for their homework assignments, I started to have more students try to become masters of what they were learning. I have a particular student who sometimes will fix one homework assignment three times to try to get it right. This young lady works hard and according to Pink, she has “grit.” “The path to mastery-becoming ever better at something you care about-is not lined with daisies and spanned by a rainbow. If it were, more of us would make the trip. Mastery hurts” (Pink, 2009). This describes this young lady. She struggles so much in math and she hasn‘t passes a math class since 6th grade. Sometimes this young lady is in tears because she is so frustrated, but she just keeps trying. It is amazing to watch and help her get through a problem. This is just one success story. I still have students that don’t want to become masters and they don’t care about whether they understand the math or get it completed, but I keep trying to reach them and help them to be more than they thought they could be.

The third element that Pink discussed was purpose. When I read that chapter, I thought more about my life. There are many times that I think about whether what I am doing is truly making a difference in the world. There are times when I go to work, stand in front of a group of eighth graders, and try to teach them something they are not interested in learning. Sometimes, I wonder if what I am doing has purpose. Then all of a sudden, I have a student that started to understand something or showed some excitement because they learned something. Those are the moments that motivate me to keep going and to keep trying new things. I put in extra hours because I care. I have many flaws as a teacher, but having purpose helps me to improve. Pink says it best; “We”re designed to be active and engaged. And we know that the richest experiences in our lives aren’t when we’re clamoring for validation from others, but when we’re listening to our own voice-doing something that matters, doing it well, and doing it in the service of a cause larger than ourselves.” (Pink, 2009)


Pink, D. (2009). Drive: The suprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.