Thursday, April 10, 2014

On Thinking Pink

The first general session keynoter at the ASCD conference I referenced last week was Daniel Pink. Mr. Pink has written a number of best-selling books that might be considered business books, but have a broad appeal because the topics are broadly human. Education has been one of those crossover fields for his work, which is why he was asked to speak to 9000 educators is L.A.

A Whole New Mind, for example, is about the importance of combining linear, logical left brain thinking with intuitive, creative right brain thinking given the current set of economic, political, and global challenges. There are obvious implication for school systems that prepare those new, whole minds.  Drive is about how autonomy, mastery, and purpose are far more motivating than the carrot and stick, no matter how big the stick or how many carrots are offered. Again the target audience is business managers who need to motivate employees, but the implications for teachers who need to motivate students are inescapably present.

His most recent book, To Sell is Human, is also about motivation and was the basis of his ASCD talk. The key paradigm shift in business has been from a world in which sellers had an advantage for knowing more about their products than consumers--hence: Buyer Beware--to a world in which consumers have as much information about products as the sellers from whom they purchase. He calls this information parity and the same phenomenon exists in education.  We hear it all the time in focus groups as students wonder out loud why they need to go to school and sit in classes to learn information that can easily be learned anywhere at any time online.

This shift requires a new approach for anyone who is trying to convince anyone else to "buy" what they are "selling"--whether it's a washing machine, an opinion, or that doing your math homework will help you be a successful person. I will leave it to your reading of the book to learn about that ABC approach, but the A stands for "Attunement". Or if we can let go of the A, which sets up a great mnemonic, what can be called "Perspective Taking".

Mr. Pink's point is that a key to motivating our students in a world with information parity is that we need to become adept at taking on their point of view, of seeing what our classrooms look like from their side of the desk. Indeed, this is the core of QISA's work and what we believe is the game changer in the school change effort. It is what My Voice and iKnow My Class surveys are all about. It is why we conduct hundreds of student focus groups every year. It is the driving force behind our MAAP. It is why we insist that our Demonstration Sites give students a seat at the table where meaningful decisions are made. It is why student voice has become a movement in education such that it is becoming a key component in teacher evaluations.

Do students have a voice in your school? Are you prepared to listen and attune yourself to their point of view? According to Pink you need to consider what students think if you want to motivate them.

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