Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thoughts on Autonomy...

Pink's book, Drive, describes three elements of Motivation. The first being Autonomy. The concept of autonomy is based on the fact that for individuals to truly be motivated to do their best work, conditions must be provided so that a great deal of freedom and choice is available to reach individual goals. This requires those in leadership positions to understand that individuals have different desires, so the most effective strategy to increase motivation would be to figure out what is important to individuals. Therein lies a concern that autonomy may discourage accountability. Pink (2009) states that "Motivation 2.0 assumed that if people had freedom, they would shirk--and that autonomy was a way to bypass accountability. Motivation 3.0 begins with a different assumption. It presumes that people want to be accountable--and that making sure they have control over their task, their technique, and their team is a pathway to that destination."

How does Pink's belief in autonomy relate to students in a classroom? How does the belief in autonomy relate to educators in public education? How would an educational environment based on freedom benefit/hinder student motivation and growth? How would an educational environment based on freedom benefit/hinder staff motivation or growth? What are your thoughts regarding autonomy?


  1. When people experience success and know that they can achieve, they are motivated to do so, and autonomy is a great thing because it allows those that want to the opportunity to. A system or organization populated by people with this intrinsic motivation will be the most powerful and successful because no one has to really worry about acountability as a means to "catch shirkers." Accountability in this type of system should be more geared to making sure that the people work toward the common vision and goal of the organization. Too often people experience something less than success and quit. This detracts from the individual and the organziation as a whole and leads to less autonomy as the leaders dictate specific requirements.
    This is true in the classroom too when students only do the assignment to get it done and don't/can't see the intrinsic value of the learning. The assigment gets reduced to a checklist of specific requirements rather than a student driven quest for understanding.
    Autonomy is a tricky thing because it requires a committment to quality, a drive and willingness to really work,and an ability to honestly self reflect and revise. With freedom comes responsibility, but also the greatest sense of accomplishment.

  2. How important then, is the need to ensure that students get to "experience" success? This topic seems to come up so often. When students have never "tasted" success, how can we create genuine opportunities for students to experience that feeling? It has to happen often enough in all arenas of their lives to build a strong, confident, risk-taker. This topic leads to my post on mastery. The taste of success must be met with effort so strong that small roadblocks could not hinder a person's journey to mastery...for students, roadblocks on the journey taken by someone that has not experienced much success and therefore has little self-confidence, can stop the journey dead in its tracks.