Motivation 100 Years Later
In 2010, business guru Daniel Pink wrote a best selling book, Drive, about the three elements of motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. He argued that those elements can garner higher performance and create satisfaction in our lives. His book seemed to break new ground, but over a hundred years earlier, Maria Montessori was beginning to implement the exact same three principles in her educational philosophy. Her insight has been confirmed not only by authors such as Pink, but by a vast number of other luminaries in the field of motivational psychology.
Montessori predicted that:
“If education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man’s future.”
She was convinced that traditional schooling with its lectures, uniform tasks, and rows of desks was destroying children’s inherent drive for learning, along with rendering them artificially silent and immovable. In her 1946 book, Education in a New World, Montessori wrote:
“Education is a natural process carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words, but by experiences in the environment.”
Based on this theory, our aim at MMS is to create a learning environment so rich with opportunity that children are able to follow their own drives and to master the skills they need succeed. School is a place where children should make use of their knowledge and plan ambitious projects. Conceiving and undertaking these projects gives children tremendous self-confidence, along with valuable and marketable skills.
Montessori told teachers the following:
“Little children, from the moment they are weaned, are making their way towards independence.”
We teach children concepts that they are ready to learn. They do not have to wait for others to "catch up" if they are ready to press ahead with harder work. We also do not pressure them to move ahead before they have mastered skills necessary for more difficult tasks. Teachers are encouraged never to do for children the tasks they can succeed in doing themselves. Doing so can block progress toward the autonomy that ultimately brings children confidence and courage to try newer and harder things.
Providing a classroom setting in which children are given reasonable autonomy to practice and master skills at an individual pace leads to a rewarding feeling of mastery, independence, and a growing sense of freedom.
As adults we think of a "sense of purpose" on a grand, almost spiritual scale, but for a five-year old, a sense of purpose could be learning about Picasso’s Blue Period or having a short conversation in sign language. For older students, it could be learning to play basketball or the guitar or coding a playable game to provide awareness about malaria prevention to their peers in Africa.
“One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.”
Indeed one only has to walk around our school or playground to see that the freedom to pursue interests and create brilliant work has created a remarkable and harmonious learning environment.