Tag Archives: Motivation


6 Feb


I have been a big fan of the author Daniel Pink since I read his book over summer Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. I loved the book, as it was reminiscent of Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s ideas on employee motivation — how the best path to success comes through tapping into peoples’ intrinsic motivation instead of trying to bribe them with rewards or financial incentives.

I share here a video online of Dan Pink talking at the TED Conference (18 minutes) about his book and the important ideas within.

He states if you want people to perform better, you reward them – that’s the American Way. Sounds too simplistic, right? Pink, in the video, makes the “evidence-based case for rethinking how we run our businesses.” Citing various psychology research studies, Pink shares evidence that suggests that financial incentives actual HARM performance for anything requiring the least bit of cognitive skill. “Incentives dull thinking and block creativity.” Rings a bell for our own education system in New Zealand.

Pink says the three building blocks for intrinsic motivation are:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

This matches so neatly with our own curriculum. What do you think?

Teach a Man…

2 Sep


To slightly amend a proverb, “motivate a man to fish and you feed him for a day; Inspire a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Leaders I admire not only motivate their staff towards a goal or wider outcome but also inspire them towards the attainment of their own goals and progression within the organisation. Clearly, as senior leaders we have a plethora of day to day responsibilities but a common goal of the best leaders is to establish a work environment within which personal growth and professional development can thrive. They actively encourage feedback and use this as a tool for personal growth and professional development.

Student Achievement and Curriculum Development

16 Sep


Curriculum development should not be left to chance.  Too many schools hope that teachers will find time to work together.  With the loss of staff development funds, changes in school calendars, the emphasis on ‘less is more, and initiative fatigue, some schools no longer make time for authentic curriculum development.  Curriculum development is the essential function of school leadership.  Whether the role is carried out by a principal, deputy principal for curriculum, a team leader, a department head, or by leading classroom teachers, the curriculum defines all other roles in a school.

Curriculum development is a rewarding process which enables teachers to have professional conversations about the intended and taught curriculum. Conversations about what is real. Pedagogy.

My personal experiences with curriculum development and observing the work of teacher teams in multiple school systems and academic research  has led me to identify the following five barriers to curriculum development: Time, Process, Tradition, Competition, and Motivation.  With proper planning, scheduling and support from school administrators, each of these barriers can be removed.

What have been some of your barriers?


28 Aug

Telling other adults what to do isn’t an effective motivation strategy. When was the last time being told what to do made you feel inspired and ready to make serious change? Probably never, because this is the worst way to get humans to change. You know what is highly effective? Demonstrating the behaviors, actions, and values you desire to see in others. However, this requires commitment and discipline from you, the leader. You have to be the person you want your team to be. Leading and mentoring is changing. Just ask Graham Henry.


5 Dec

I believe that John Keller’s ARCS Model holds valuable insight into creating an environment that can inspire student motivation to learn.  Keller identifies four essential conditions:

AAttention What will grab students’ attention, arouse their curiosity and peak their interest?  This may come from the content but it can also come from the processes we use to teach.  Inquiry, problem solving, collaborative learning and choice can be very effective in motivating students to want to engage in learning.

RRelevance What is the link between the learning and the learners’ needs, interests, and motives?  Why would they want or need to learn this?  Just like in attention, relevance can come from the content and/or the processes we use.  Students may see a direct link between what we are teaching and their lives outside of the school.  They might also see relevance in opportunities that allow them to engage with others and socially construct their learning.

CConfidence What can be put in place to help the learner feel like they can succeed in the task?  What can make them feel like they have something to contribute? This is where the teacher really needs to know the students.  Know their strengths and capitalize on them.  Know their weaknesses and support them.  Create an environment where “I think I can” is the motto.

SSatisfaction How can we celebrate the learning? the learner? the contributions that created success?  Sometimes this celebration can simply happen inside of the learner as they acknowledge a job well done.  Sometimes we as teacher need to create the conditions where this celebration can happen out loud.  Either way we need make time to honor the learning and the accomplishments of the learner.

Student Motivation

12 Oct

What makes us tick has always been something that has fascinated me. How to motivate students, staff and creating positive team culture is something which I am always revisiting. Tapola, A., & Niemivirta, M. (2008) says  that while (mental and/or emotional) learning environment affects students’ motivational  beliefs, their own motivational characteristics should be taken into account  while planning the instruction. Teaching intrinsically motivated students is very different from teaching students with strong extrinsic motivation.

This is not black and white.  We all employ both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation during our learning.  The balance is what matters. Well balanced motivation helps students to be successful in their studies.

Defining success is not easy, and sometimes we get scrambled in details and want to define students’ success as mastery of a single subject or unit, or course. In contemporary education converting meaning is more important than ever before, just to be sure that we are talking about the same concept/word/idea – and the word “success” certainly has several different connotations. We must be very careful, though, not to kill the intrinsic learning motivation by applying unnecessary power over students, and forcing them into performing according to expectations that don’t contribute to their learning (i.e. practices that benefit school more than students). Often the use of power is disguised as success – but do students really need to perform according to minor details, or should we emphasize understanding the concepts and entities, so that the learned skill is transferable and students are motivated to learn and not just pass?

To me student success means simply making myself unnecessary as a teacher by empowering my students become autonomous learners, who can work independently and who know where to find the information and guidance they need. This requires handing over the tools for learning to students, and trusting in their motivation and drive to get their learning done, but having open and honest interactions with students to be able to help when needed. This is a challenge for staff but it is not new.

Tapola, A., & Niemivirta, M. (2008). The role of achievement goal orientations in students’ perceptions of and preferences for classroom environment. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 78(2), 291-312


24 Nov

Leadership and Motivation was something of a focus of my study at UNSW in the 1990s. Some of this study has complemented some of the in school PD I have done this year and my journey in triathlon this year. Often it is about perfecting a system whereby a set of specific and easy set of skills leads step by step to dramatically improving an area e.g. swimming. You master the skills through drills, thinking through the steps carefully. Each set of drills has specific focus points that lead to successful swimming.

In being a better leader or performing better on the road or pool it is important to realise it is not about emotion. It is about doing the work. Putting in the hours. I am a great believer in Malcolm Gladwells Ten Thousand Hours Theory.

Motivation is not wishing and promising. Most people have said something like, “I wish I was…” Promises frequently follow the wishing. “Starting Monday, I am going to…” Promises that are rooted in wishing never get off the ground. This blog is an example of saying I will do something and actually doing it.

Motivation comes from setting goals. I didn’t start out day one in training and run a marathon or even 10km. That would be crazy and not sustainable.  My long term goal was to develop the ability to run a 10k race. The real long term goal was to be able to get myself to a place where I could run a sub 2 hour half marathon, then a marathon, then a triathlon and then a half ironman.  Goal setting and not emotion is the first building block of getting and staying motivated. Interestingly enough goal setting is where our school is headed next year with our students.

Motivation comes from habit.  Arthur Lydiard once said that the hardest part of training is getting changed. My trainer once told me It takes six to eight weeks to imprint a new habit. This is a common belief that I have discovered in many places.

Motivation comes from results. I find it easy to train after achieving a PB in an event. Difficult conversations are neither as difficult nor threatening after being successful.


Professional Reading

This article I found very useful for growing middle managers in schools.

Coaching leaders – the path to improvement

Jan M. Robertson University of Waikato


This article relates to this week blog if you have further interest in motivation theory.

Motivation and education – the self determination perspective

Edward L. Deci University of Rochester Robert J. Valler and University of Quebec at Montreal LUG G. Pelletier University of Ottawa Richard M. Ryan University of Rochester


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