Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Conversation with Dan Pink

I wish I could claim that I had the conversation with Dan Pink the other night. Instead, I listened, live, to an interview and Q & A session with Dan Pink through Classroom 2.0 (see badge lower on the left of the page). Dan wrote A Whole New Mind a few years ago and recently published Drive. He writes about thinking and motivation.

Thanks to an online colleague, David Britten (, I have here a selection of quotes from Dan Pink, some with my commentary afterward.
  • "Fostering self direction is the key to improvement in performance."
    • Sometimes we call this teaching students to be responsible. Really this is more about motivation. Pink says that there is no one who is totally unmotivated (I agree). Our job as educators may be to find out what motivates a student and then to make that motivation work towards important learning.
  • "Mastery requires regular feedback."
  • "Conversation changes the world."
    • I had a great conversation recently with a parent who, at the end of a meeting about her child, said that the best way to stop bullying would be to pass a more specific anti-bullying law. 
      • I shared with her that I thought laws won't make a difference. Bullying actions are bad, and the kids know it - they know right from wrong. I think the key to dealing with bullying is to have a consistent message between home and school: bullying is bad. Stop it. While sometimes punishment works, more often than not much other work is needed to really change a child's behavior.
      • The mother responded thoughtfully that she had never thought like that.
    • I am certain that the parent left my office with a somewhat different picture of what motivates some bullies and some ideas about ways to resolve the situation.
    • I mention that encounter with the parent to illustrate the immediate (albeit small) power of a simple conversation.
  • "Grades should not be the end of conversation, but the beginning of one."
    • Many parents and students place enormous significance on grades. While they are certainly important, I believe that the feedback about the standards is far more telling. Think about it;  the grade is one overall score. A grade does not tell you much about the student. Doctors used to use something like a grade: you are sick or he has xxx. Today, doctors, instead give you a great layer of detail about your white blood count or show you the x-ray to see for yourself. While some may not want to know all of the details, most appreciate understanding what is going on. Standards on the report card are like the information that the modern doctor gives. Your teacher gives a great amount of detail about a subject. We have broken down the major content areas and tell you some level of detail about each important standard. The grade is just the beginning of the conversation; the standards on the report card tell much. Of course, talking directly with your teacher and your child will give the most information and cannot be overlooked as the most important conversation.
  • "Days end question: Was I better today than yesterday?"