Int. Education

Autonomy, Purpose, Mastery

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dan pink drive book

I’ve been reflecting a lot on Dan Pink’s new book Drive and thinking about how this applies to education and the work we ask students to do. My wife recently took 10 Middle School students on an Operation Smile trip into the mountains of Thailand near the Burma boarder. The Middle Schoolers spent their time playing the kids who came there to get surgery done. It’s a moving experience…the kind that shapes you as a person. When the students get back they are given one assignment…..reflect on your experience.

Autonomy: Take as long as you need, and use the media that you want. Purpose: Share your experience with others. MasteryYou can reflect anyway you want: Essay, blog post, video, presentation, etc.

One student decided to write an essay that I hope she decides to publish on her blog….it will bring a tear to any eye. And then there is Brian. The lone 8th grader on the trip who decided to express his emotions and reflection using video. I get asked by teachers how do you have students use media and make it a reflection not just a retelling of what happened? The answer, I believe, is in giving students a purpose. A meaningful purpose to reflect that is bigger than a grade, or an individual assignment. Yes…I’m going to make you go to Brian’s Blog to view the video in hopes that you too will be so moved by his creativity and message that you leave him a comment or pass along the message of Operation Smile to others.  

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. As always you bring the power of authentic learning into a framework that makes sense. Inreally enjoyed Daniel Pink’s book and found he articulated a number of concepts I intuitively thought made sense and Pink articulated the concepts so well. Autonomy, mastery and purpose are indeed powerful motivators!

  2. What perfect timing! A group from my school just met to discuss the book and we talked about just this. Brian’s video is so amazing! What is amazing for me is that he “gets it.” His video is a “true” reflection of his trip. You can clearly see his passion for digital story telling.

  3. Jeff, I love Pink’s ideas and I am always looking for ways to include this in education. If students had these three key things in their education, the problems with our education system would be significantly lessened. Love your examples!

  4. Hi Jeff — you are so right in saying that this type of work provides students with a meaningful purpose as well as an authentic audience to share their work with. Thanks for sharing this great link.

    BTW — we haven’t started our individual blogs yet, but we have a class response blog
    that has been really rewarding for myself and the students.

  5. Hey! I’m Carlis Howze in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I really like Pink’s ideas on education. I’m usually the one looking for ideas to implant things in the educational setting. Great!

  6. Pingback: 19 Top Ideas for Education in Drive by Daniel Pink | Connected Principals

  7. Pingback: Presentations in the High School English Classroom

    • Yes….a great video that all teachers should watch. The book is great as well..recommend it to everyone.

  8. I’ve been reading about Slow Pedagogy and the Slow movement, and I find that your assignment resonates a lot with the principles of Slow. Autonomy, Purpose and Mastery effectively gives the learner the responsibility of learning for themselves – but this takes time… a commodity that many schools aren’t willing to invest in.

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